I’ll never forget the moment my parents realized that their little girl needed her first bra. I was about 8 and my family was out in public, eating dinner or something, when my very boisterous grandmother turns to my mom and at the top of her voice says, “So, when you gonna get that girl a brassiere?”
My first reaction was “what the heck is a brassiere?” and my second, after they explained to me what my grandmother meant, was red-faced, crawl-in-a-hole-and-die embarrassment.
Truth be told, my mom had been talking about bras with me for a while, but I was a tomboyish kid growing up. I preferred to romp around in the mud and help my dad build derby cars more than baking with mom and playing with Barbie. I had no desire to develop breasts in any way, shape or form, and the idea of wearing the pink, frilly torture devices full of foam and wires that I had often seen my mom folding for my older sisters, horrified me – grandma screaming about it in front of complete strangers was just icing on the cake.
And I’m not the only one. Plenty of girls at that age aren’t aware that they need a bra until mom, or in my case grandma, points out their baby’s “budding bosoms.” Others aren’t interested in them regardless and some can’t wait to make the leap into womanhood.
With so many opinions and options out there, it can be difficult for parents to decide that the time has come to get their daughter into her first bra. And parents that choose to ignore the necessity, or let their daughter figure out the process on her own, can set her up to be one of the nine out of 10 women in the wrong size.
So, how can you tell when the time is right and what do you do once you’re surrounded by C-cups and underwire? Lisa Hamill, a manager at Harp’s in Birmingham, and the granddaughter of the shop’s original owner, weighs in.
Broaching the subject
Typically, most girls will not realize that they need their first bra. Instead, Hamill says, mom almost always notices the development first. And when mom does, it’s time to start looking.
“As soon as you notice that they need one (get one).” Hamill says.
Luckily, kids these days can be spared an awkward conversation about “brassieres” because many girls are encouraged to play sports and wear sports bras way before a regular bra is needed.
“A lot of times, you’re getting a sports bra before a regular and that’s kind of the introduction,” she adds.
However, it is still important to keep the child’s comfort level in mind and delicately bring the subject, especially with little girls.
And if you’re a single dad who’s uncomfortable with the subject, don’t just muddle through the conversation. Find someone the child is close to that is comfortable enough to talk to them.
“Find a store like Harp’s, bring your daughter in and leave it to an expert, (or) find a friend, aunt or grandma to bring them in,” Hamill says.
If your child wants one but doesn’t really need one, Hamill recommends saving the money and buying a cheap bra from Target until you see they are ready.
Girls that don’t get sized can suffer from issues as minor as marks on the body to bruises and back problems, Hamill says.
Some girls can even become self-conscious because of an ill-fitting or wrong style bra.
“You wear bras like you do shoes. There are certain bras that go with certain dresses and sometimes you do need a good bra for when you’re going out,” she explains. “If you’re wearing the right undergarment your clothes look much better and you can really change your face with the right bra.”
Getting your daughter her first bra can and should be a positive experience, but you really want to find a shop that offers bra sizing for your daughter’s first time.
“You go to the mall and everyone goes to Victoria Secret,” Hamill says. “(But) if you’re going to do that you need to know your exact size first.”
Any person at any age can be measured for a bra. It can be intimidating for kids, but if mom is upfront with the child and the shopkeeper it can be a more comfortable experience. And sometimes professionals can even just eyeball the child.
“If you see that the bra strap is riding up high, or if the breasts are pushed up so high that it looks like there are four, the cup is too small and you need to get a new one,” she explains.
Girls should also be taught how to put a bra on: by bending over and pulling the tissue forward and up, instead of down. And they should never be sent on their own to buy off the rack.
“Parents should be proactive in what their kids are bringing home,” Hamill says. “Little girls especially can’t do it on their own. They don’t know what the right style is for them. It’s almost impossible for a teen, middle-aged women or a 20- or 30-something to pick a bra that is not too high or too loose with no material gapping …”
There are two bras that every woman, even a beginner, should have, Hamill says.
“Everyone needs a nude basic bra and a black bra,” Hamill says.
Girls tend to shy away from underwire and padding, instead opting for a bralette, which has replaced the now obsolete training bra, until they feel comfortable with something around their bust.
The purpose of a first bra, Hamill says, is to hide the nipple and make the child feel secure.
Outside of that?
“You really just want your daughter’s bra to have the proper fit and you want them to last,” she says.