BRASSIERES have become such a big and important part of the corsetry business in the past twenty years that in many stores they have been allotted a special section to themselves in the Corset Department. Many customers with normal or slight figures can satisfactorily choose brassieres without much relation to the foundation garment worn on the lower part of the body; but wherever the natural line is not in itself trim and well held, it becomes important to consider the bust support as intrinsically part of the general body corsetry, and to choose it to mould the upper part of the trunk uniformly with the lower part, with line unbroken and with no gaps through which soft flesh may escape in unsightly and uncomfortable bulges.
For two reasons, the careful choice of a brassiere and its even more careful fitting are of prime importance. The one is health; the other is beauty. It happens that, at the time this book is being written, the two are not in conflict, for fashion demands a silhouette running as closely as possible to nature, with the bust given due prominence in its true shape and firmly moulded. It cannot be simply fashion's eye which, in looking at busts in such form, pronounces them beautiful! Surely at all times, to any eye not blinded temporarily by a stupid and ugly fashion, such balanced and graceful curves as nature designed for the female breast must be beauty in the absolute! And as for health–well, common sense and undivided medical opinion both stress the rightness of the present-day fashion in busts.
The breasts are not, as quite a lot of people suppose them to be, composed partly of muscle. They include no muscular tissue at all in their composition and have no bones for support, but are made up of gland tissue which forms ducts for the accumulation of milk, of connective tissue, which binds the glands to the chest wall, and of fatty tissue, which surrounds the glands and gives the breasts their rounded contours.
FIG. 39. TYPES OF BREASTS, AND THE BRASSIERE SHAPES TO FIT THEM SO AS TO SUPPORT FIRMLY AND CORRECT ANY WEAKNESS
There are, certainly, muscles and ligaments which help to hold the breasts firm. But these muscles are in the shoulders and neck. They are quickly affected by the weight of the mammary glands. A sagging bust causes pain and tiredness in the shoulders and in the nerves which come from the spinal cord in the region of the neck. The drag of the unsupported breasts may overstrain the muscles and ligaments, and the way to relieve the pain is to lift the breasts and support them so that the weight is taken from the muscles and given to the brassiere, which acts as a sling or pocket (Fig. 39).
Good posture, good tone in the flesh and skin, and general health should ensure firmness and shapeliness to a normal bust. But if the skin tone is weak, or the health is poor generally, or too much flesh has formed on the bust, then the breasts will sag very easily. Continued sagging stretches the skin and the tissues beyond the point of recovery, and the damage is done. It may be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to get the bust back into shape again.
But if a bust which is too heavy or too weak to retain its high, pointed position naturally, is given the support of a brassiere, sagging and all its train of discomforts and ills may be entirely prevented. The right supporting brassiere will even go a long way towards repairing harm already done; but it is better far to prevent it from ever happening.
A dropped bust may be an outcome of child-bearing. From early pregnancy, when the mammary glands first begin to develop, great additional strain is put upon the tissues of the breasts. Lack of care at this time, all through pregnancy and the period of lactation after the baby is born, can be highly dangerous. A brassiere may not entirely prevent the drag, but it will certainly help.
Some readers will remember the years immediately following the 1914-18 war, when it was fashionable to be flat-chested. At that time some women were foolish enough to bind themselves flat in tight bodices which pulled the breasts down and pressed the nipples in. They did themselves irreparable harm. The muscles and ligaments trying vainly, against the unnatural tension of the binders, to hold the breasts up in their natural place were soon defeated. They gave up the struggle. They became so overstretched that they lost the power to recover, and the women were left with pendulous busts which no brassiere, when fashion came back to its senses again, could completely correct.
in perfection, and by Nature, the breast swells in a smooth straight line from the firm tissue of the chest to the nipple, and thence gracefully curves backwards to the chest wall below. Most of the fleshy tissue is below a line drawn through the nipple, whereas in a dropped bust the flesh above the nipple has stretched downwards and the nipple, instead of pointing forward and giving what the fashion of the late nineteen-forties delicately calls an "accentuated" bustline, droops forlornly towards the floor.
The women who were young in the nineteen-forties and took advantage of the high-line fashion in brassieres will have better busts in middle and later years than the generation before them. Older women of to-day are still suffering from that tight-binding fashion of the nineteen-twenties, when some of them even used sticking plaster to hold their breasts flat! The nineteen-forty girls who, from the earliest development of their figures, have for fashion's sake held their young breasts firmly in the place Nature intended, must have done the best thing possible to maintain the healthy tone and natural firmness of their flesh, skin, and ligaments. They will never have cause to regret it.
A brassiere, correctly chosen and fitted, should hold the bust firmly. Insufficient support is not much better than none at all, as it leaves the way open for muscular strain. If the fitter thinks of the brassiere as a sling, designed to take the weight of the breasts and redistribute it over the shoulders and chest, instead of allowing it to drag on the spine at the neck, she will see what the job is that the brassiere must do.
The breasts naturally tend to grow heavier as a woman grows older, and particularly so if she bears children. Increasing flesh does not of itself imply either unhealthiness or weakness, but it does put additional, in time excessive, strain upon muscles and ligaments, and so is a potential cause of trouble. But to give the added support of a properly selected brassiere is to preserve the health as well as the shapeliness of the full bust–and it is worth pointing out that a well developed bust can still be a shapely one! Saleswomen should take pains to make their overweight customers accept the truth of that. It is only when the big bust sags, gets out of shape and out of its natural place, that its size begins to mean unsightliness. A mature figure, while still well proportioned and well carried, with the bust and the waist defined, can be extremely good to look at.
The health of the big woman and her good appearance go together in this matter. The heavy-busted woman is very liable to "tired" pains in her neck and shoulders, and may not always associate those pains with the size of her breasts. A correctly fitted brassiere may completely relieve the nervous and muscular strain, and make all the difference to her general feeling of well-being.
The process is curative, too, as well as merely corrective. Once the muscles and ligaments are relieved of strain, they have a chance to recover some, at least, of their normal health and tone.
The bust that is already dropped should be fitted with an uplifting brassiere, and preferably one with a band underneath the bust cups. The band need be no more than two inches deep for a slim figure, but for a larger figure may need to be about five inches deep.
Brassieres should always be fitted next to the skin, so as to make sure that the cup fits the breast and gives whatever degree of uplift is necessary. The breasts should be fitted into the cups, then the shoulder straps should be adjusted so that the breasts are lifted and the weight moved from the skin and chest tissues to the shoulders.
For a very heavy bust, it is better to choose a brassiere with a built up shoulder or very wide strap, as a narrow strap tends to cut the skin and cause a great deal of pain.
When a corselette, or all-in-one garment, is being fitted, special attention should be paid to the fit of the bust section. Trunk lengths vary to such an extent that it is impossible for manufacturers to design corselettes to fit every length of figure, but to fit a corselette that is too short in the trunk is sure to cause trouble at the bust. The tendency is to pull the too-short garment down so that it is comfortable over the hips and thighs, which are so much less yielding than the bust; but it will then drag the bust down and flatten it. The corsetiere should always make sure, therefore, that the corselette fits well at the bust, and gives an uplifted line, as well as coming down comfortably over the buttocks and thighs.
A fairly common trouble among women, particularly nursing mothers, is mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary glands. Some brassieres are designed, to meet this condition, with a small pocket fitted in the lower section of the bust cup. This allows accommodation for a very soft dropped bust, and cradles the bust so as to help in bringing it back to its original line on the body. The shoulder straps of such brassieres must be carefully adjusted so that there is no sagging.
The first necessity in accurate fitting of a brassiere is to make sure of the customer's measurement. It is a doubtful method to ask the customer what her size is. Her idea of it may vary considerably from the tale the fitter's expert tape measure will tell. Besides, there are more places than one to measure.
The place the corsetière will measure is across the fullest part of the back and directly under the arms in a line with the nipples, but her trained eye will take in other measurements as she works. She will in particular note the relative size of the customer tinder the bust, and may prefer to measure this accurately also with her tape, for it is important. While taking the measurements, the fitter should stand at the side of the customer, so as to get a more firm hold, drawing the tape snugly around and using her eyes busily so as to note her customer's type and any special characteristics. The measurements should be taken either from the side of the bust or in the centre depression between the breasts, as described in Chapter VI. The fitter can talk to her customer, too, and find out what ideas on the subject of brassieres the customer has.
Ordinarily, brassieres are made with six inches difference between the actual bust measurement and the measurement of the band under the bust, but the human figure varies greatly in this proportion, and the most satisfactory fittings may be obtained from brassieres made with varying cup sizes. The spare, bony type of woman may have a large band measurement but little flesh on her bust, while the slenderframed Latin type, with slight bones, may have a very well developed bust. Entirely different shapes in brassieres are needed for these two types.
This is where the skill of the corsetiere has occasion to show itself. She should develop her eye and her understanding until she can be quite unerring in her choice of garments for the different types who come to her for fitting.
She must note, first, whether the customer needs a brassiere with large pockets or with small pockets–depending upon the size of the customer's bust in proportion to her frame.
She must decide whether the bust is upright, or sagging, or pendulous, and choose a brassiere with fight or very firm uplift features accordingly.
She will have discovered, in measuring, whether the flesh is firm or soft, and will select the brassiere with the most suitable degree of control or moulding quality or resiliency.
She must observe whether there is excess flesh which needs to be smoothed away from one place and redistributed and firmly held in another, without bulges in the wrong places.
She must be sure to consider also the customer's general style in dress.
These points all noted and absorbed into the fitter's mind, she will select two or three suitable brassieres and begin to fit a garment on to the customer. The first matter to which she will give her consideration is the fit of the bust cup to the breast. The cup must be the correct size. If it is too big, it will not give sufficient uplift; if it is too small, it will not give enough support and the flesh of the breast will bulge over the garment. It is therefore necessary for the corsetiere to be able to recognize the various bust developments and choose the garment accordingly. Many good brassieres are now made in three bust-cup sizes, termed variously Junior, Medium, and Full, or, by the Americans, A (Junior), B (Medium), and C (Full).
A very small bust development will normally not call for a brassiere with band fitting over the diaphragm; but even a small bust, if dropped or sagging, should be given this extra support, which helps to hold the brassiere in position and prevents the breasts from slipping from under the cups.
A large, heavy bust will need the support of a deep cup, and needs also a longer brassiere with a band of three or five inches' depth. This band not only helps to hold the breasts, but contains any surplus flesh collected on the diaphragm and across the shoulder blades at the back.
There must be no sagging of the cup; nor must the flesh bulge over the top, under the arms or across the back. Remember that superfluous tissue cannot be squeezed into a smaller area than it needs! A tight garment does not–it cannot–reduce the amount of flesh. It only squeezes parts of it into the wrong places, where it is bound to look worse than if left alone.
But a garment of the correct size can–and should–tidy up an untidy figure. There is a peculiar thing about fatty tissue. It grows in spots on a woman's body, thicker in one place than in others, instead of covering her evenly with a uniform layer. A well fitted garment can even out these spots of tissue, can mould the flesh to a smooth and pleasing contour.
The secret of success in dealing with superfluous tissue in this way is to make sure that the garment covers a big enough area. A toosmall brassiere on a big woman will cause bulges of flesh all round it. But if a garment is chosen to
cover a much larger surface, the fatty places can be held securely between the areas where the tissue is firmer.
FIG. 40. TELL THE CUSTOMER TO BEND FORWARD AS SHE PUTS ON HER BRASSIERE
If a short brassiere has been fitted and a bulge of flesh appears below it, a brassiere with a small band may be enough to correct it.
If a brassiere with a short band has been fitted along with
a belt, and there is a roll of flesh around the waist, the situation probably calls for a longer brassiere, with a band of three to five inches which will fit over the top of the girdle and leave no gap for escaping flesh at all.
When putting the brassiere on to the customer, it is well to ask her to lean forward slightly and let the breasts fall easily and naturally into the cups before the brassiere is fastened. Then give a downward tug at the centre back to pull the garment into place (Fig. 40).
The next step is to adjust the shoulder straps–and if they are not made adjustable, the fitter should pin them in the correct position and have them stitched before the customer takes the garment away. It is particularly important that the straps should be adjusted to a comfortable length, because if they are too long the cup, and the breast inside it, will be allowed to sag, and if they are too short, they will cut into the flesh on the shoulders–a mistake which can cause an excessive amount of pain. See that the nipple is in the exact centre of the bust cup and the lower seam of the bust cup fits snugly under the root of the breast.
If the customer has sloping shoulders from which the straps slip, it may be necessary to move the position of the straps inwards towards the centre of the back. In some cases it is more satisfactory to fit the customer with a brassiere with built-up shoulders.
A built-up shoulder may also be found more comfortable by many customers with large, heavy breasts, as the weight is spread over the shoulders and there is much less likelihood of chafing or cutting the flesh on the shoulders than if a narrow strap is worn.
Good sense, knowledge of her stock, and care in fitting are all that is needed to ensure that the customer is given a correct fit. But there is still the question of style and elegance. Nothing but natural good taste can help the fitter in judging this. Some women are made to look better by bringing the breasts closer together, others by giving them more separation, some by accenting the bust contour, others by softening it. Most customers want style as well as comfort from their corsetry, and the good fitter will see that they get both in due measure.
One word of warning on the subject of "uplift." A great deal has been written in this chapter about the benefit gained from lifting up a dropped or sagging bust. But the corsetiere should never be dogmatic. If a heavy bust has been carried low down for many years, to lift it suddenly high and throw the weight of it back on to the heart may be harmful. The customer may feel acute discomfort from constriction in breathing, and if there is any weakness of the heart, serious trouble may be caused. The process of raising a heavy bust should in such cases be carried on by gradual stages.