Can Good Fit Be Bad News for a Big Bust?

Never! You would expect that answer from a big bust shirt maker, wouldn't you? But at a private fitting two weeks ago, I discovered why some busty women have a different answer.

When my customer put the shirt on in the photos below (we'll call her Jane, and she gave permission to use these photos), I couldn't help rhapsodizing over the way it skimmed her large bust and displayed the curve of her waist. She, on the other hand, couldn't help obsessing over the number she had glimpsed on the size tag.


We busty women often size up to fit our large chests, so the size we wear is rarely our "true size". However, it’s a new experience to wear clothing designed specifically for a high bust-to-waist ratio. Jane knew she had gained weight, but until she tried the shirt, she hadn't realized how much. She decided to wait to buy a shirt until after she tries the Whole30 diet in October.

Our appointment made me realize that other women with large chests face the same dilemma: Buy something that looks amazing now, or wait to lose weight? I asked two experts for their opinions on the subject, as well as a few women on the street via Twitter.

Dr. Lucie Baker, a global body image consultant who uses scientific research to help clients overcome body image dissatisfaction, had this to say:

My first reaction is... oh no! Not the Whole30 fad! … but that’s another topic!

Of course, there is no straight answer. If the person intends to lose a substantial amount of weight then it is better to wait. But as I said, the amount of weight lost really needs to be substantial to make a difference.

UK lingerie blogger Cheryl Warner finds Dr. Baker's advice to be true in her own life, having recently lost 28 pounds. In response to my question on Twitter, Cheryl tweeted back, "How much weight we talking? . . . because really you need to lose a significant amount in order to change dress size. Or at least I do?"

As Cheryl suggests, the effects of weight loss can be specific to an individual. Dr. Baker surmises that it could take a good 20% drop in overall weight to lose an entire bra cup size. On the other hand, some busty women find their busts are the first to shrink with weight loss. Since Jane is in the latter category, waiting could mean the difference between an M and an L in Campbell & Kate bust sizes.

Another factor to consider is seriousness about adopting new eating and exercise habits. Figuring out a healthy new menu takes a lot of time--some Whole30 followers even make their own catsup. Same with deciding how to accommodate a fitness routine. Writer Autumn Whitefield-Madrano admires Girls Gone Strong for declining to accept her into their coaching program after discovering that her book launch was imminent because they knew how busy she would be, and successful fitness hinges on having enough time for physical activity. Waiting to buy clothing that fits without committing to new habits can lead to a frustratingly sparse closet, while buying clothes that are too small, merely hoping to fit them one day, can lead to a deceptively full one. As the irrepressible Sarah McGiven tweeted in response to my "buy or wait" question, "I always buy it. That's why I have a room full of clothes I've never worn!"

Style Strategist Carol Davidson, who has been transforming women's wardrobes for 17 years, takes the following approach with clients trying to decide whether to buy now or lose weight first:

I encourage my clients to dress the body and weight they are today – not five pounds from now or five years ago. And yes, this means investing in themselves along the way with new clothing that fits, flatters and makes them feel fab. Taking a stand on “I deserve to look good while working toward my goal”  is important. Not only does it promote a more positive self-image, it rewards progress along the way. It also begs the question, “Why would I wait for weight loss when I can look and feel amazing now?”  This need not involve a whole, new wardrobe. Just a few key pieces can do the trick.

Writer Allison Churchill echoed Carol Davidson in her tweet: "Buy it. Everyone deserves to look great all the time!"

If Jane has enough clothing to make her look and feel great today, then waiting is fine. On the other hand, if she finds herself limited to "getting by" pieces that don't bring out her best, then it's time to follow Carol Davidson's advice and invest in a few key pieces that will make her "look and feel amazing now". A great-fitting shirt is a wonderful place to start.