Asian-chested is not an oxymoron

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Why the Bilingualism? / Parts of a Bra 胸圍的結構

Why am I putting Chinese posts in an English-language blog that only proficient English-speakers/readers will easily navigate?

One of my goals in maintaining a multilingual environment is to facilitate exchanges and conversation between people of different languages. For example, I am much more comfortable in English than in Chinese in most topics of conversation, but Mom is in the opposite situation. If I want to talk to her about bras, I need some basis in Chinese terminology and customs, but my Chinese isn’t at the level where I can google (or baidu; is that a verb yet?) in Chinese and navigate without aspirin (as such, anyone notices any humiliating Chinese language-y mistakes, please do let me know!).

With CurvyHK, however, I’m hoping to provide an English-language path to information in Chinese, so that readers can pass on and distribute information to other people who are more comfortable in another language. This aspect of the site is for people in my type of linguistic situation:
“Mom! You should check this out!”
“(in a different language) Hon, I have no idea what this means.

I also realized that I’ve been making up Chinese terms for bra (and breast) parts when there is definitely an established vocabulary out there. Subsequent to that realization, I decided to brave Chinese Google and find out what Chinese communities and companies have to say about bra construction! (…and I’ll go back to the published Chinese post and edit in the proper terms)

Below is an English/Chinese bilingual breakdown of the different names of the structural parts of a bra.

Parts of a Bra 胸圍的結構

A. cup 罩杯/胸杯
B. center gore 胸心
C. underwire 金屬托
D. wing/side panel (refers to the fabric that makes up this section) 側翼
E. band 背帶
F. strap 肩帶
G. clip 調節扣
H. closure/hook 勾扣

Review: Jusco in Megabox/ HK in general

In Megabox’s Jusco (Hong Kong; end of the line on light bus #48; alternatively, free shuttle between Megabox and Telford Plaza(Kowloon Bay MTR)), I asked for 32DD, 32E. They stocked no lower than 34s; the saleslady gave me 34C and 34Ds and showed me the fitting room (she wasn’t pushy, but I was a pushover), saying “These are the same. Trust me.” Of course, they weren’t, and of course, I didn’t buy anything, but that’s the experience.

My impression of Hong Kong bras in general–they have plenty of lingerie stores (I saw numerous Wacoal and Triumph specific retailers, among others, although I think those two are actually under Japanese companies) but I doubt they carry a proper range; Marks and Spencer, the British department brand, makes 28 bands but the HK stores only carry down to 32 at best, and of course those are only A. Popped into lingerie stores whenever we happened to pass one to ask if they carried 32DDs, popped right back out when they said, “What? Uh, no.” with that confused, I-don’t-know-what-you’re-asking expression. I wonder what would happen if I went in now to ask for my current, even more “outlandish” size! (On my next visit to HK, maybe I will! It’ll be fun.)

I didn’t make a point of asking for fittings, but since HK is known for their pushy pushy salespeople, I fully expect that they’ll size you in whatever they have in stock.

Perspectives: On bra-blogging as a Chinese-American/Hong-Kong-American

In order to put together posts in Chinese, I’m asking for a lot of editing help from Mom. Besides the “I’ve never heard of this” and “I can’t believe people think so hard about these things” and “Are you serious?” lines, I’m also getting several anecdotes about Chinese culture in general (in terms of attitude towards this genre of topic) and about the women in our family.

When CurvyHK was just a thoughtbaby, before I started putting it together, I overheard Mom on the phone with my eldest aunt. My eldest aunt is a really impressive lady: smart, skilled and efficient (all the virtues HKers prize most). She also has four (mega-adorable) granddaughters, so she’s passed many of those life milestones I’m going to trip over in the future. In addition, she’s worked with clothing and people all her life. This must mean she’s well-versed in the whole business of bras, right?

Well, that conversation that I overheard was about me learning all this fascinating stuff about bras on the web. I joined in the subsequent call and the three of us tried to figure out her bra size over the phone (Let me tell you: an arduous endeavor with limited chance of success).

According to traditional norms, East Asian women, whether they are in Asia or overseas, are still expected to be modest, to figure things out on their own, and to keep mum about taboo topics such as the womanly aspects of being a woman (ie, bras, breasts, menstruation cycles and sex, just to blast a few out there). I’d always assumed that this meant quiet, subdued conversations between mother and daughter, between sisters, or between two close friends. Not at all! Apparently, if you’re in a strictly traditional home, each new woman is stuck with the task of rediscovering gravity and reinventing the wheel. Take me, the least conventional female member in all my extended family: I learned about breasts, menstruation and sex in my public school fifth grade classroom during a special section “Human Growth and Development”, and I learned about bras by rushing in and out of JC Penney’s with my mom (or, if we’re talking about proper learning, not even three months ago from NYC bra boutiques and online bloggers).

This whole situation gave me a heads-up. If this was new to my aunt, who I feel is more likely than most other women in Hong Kong to understand and be well-informed about bras and the wearing of such things, then maybe this thoughtbaby has the potential to actually be important and helpful!



點擊可放大! 移動滑鼠到格上可看到更多解釋。

1. 胸圍的背帶(band)在後面被肩帶拉高。(背帶太大。)

2. 胸心(center gore)不貼著身體(在胸骨的位置)。(背帶太大。)

3. 金屬托不貼著身體。(背帶太大。)

4. 腋下有賤肉。(背帶太大,罩杯太小,或沒有把軟組織撥進罩杯内。)

5. 乳房的軟組織擠出罩杯之外。結果可能好像有四個乳房的樣子。(罩杯太小。)

6. 肩膀,腰背痛。(背帶太大;因爲背帶承托不住乳房,重量都靠肩膀和腰背托起。)


How to Determine an Ill-fitting Bra

(The final group of pictures are from around the internet. All photos of bras, as well as the bra-related product, are taken from JCPenney’s online catalog; I figured that they probably allocate less money for Photoshopping compared to what Victoria’s Secret has in their budget. Plus, Victoria’s Secret has been torn apart pretty well by bra bloggers already, and we do need to help keep up their reputation for providing bags that become popular HS textbook covers!)


1. The bra band gets pulled up by the bra straps and rides up your back. (The band is too big.)

Left is ill-fitting (bad), right is quite good.

2. The center gore (the part of the bra between the cups) does not lie flat against your body–often described by bra bloggers as “flush against your sternum”. (The band is too big.)

3. The underwire (for wired bras) does not lie firmly against your body. (The band is too big.)

4. Breast tissue escapes to the side, creating an impression of “underarm fat” or “armpit fat”. (The band is too big, the cup is too small, you haven’t scooped your flesh into your bra cups, or any combination of the above.)

5. The cups can’t contain your breast tissue; flesh spills out of the top, sides, or bottom, which might result in a “quadraboob effect” if the top of the cup divides each boob into two :(. (The cups are too small.)

6. You have pain in your shoulders and/or back. (The band is too big; since the band isn’t supporting your breasts as it should, the weight hangs onto your shoulders and back.)
(It’s a little hard to find a picture of this, but if you need to use the below products because of your bra then you probably have this problem.)

Okay, I might be getting a little silly with these last ones.

Notice that most of these problems are that the band is too loose; this is the case for most women. The fitter who helped me at Journelle said this: “Since you’re used to wearing a band that’s much too loose, a proper-size band might feel really tight. As long as you can hook it and breathe, though, it’s not too tight.” has this advice: “If the band is leaving an imprint the way socks and underwear do, that’s fine. If the band is leaving bruises, it’s too small.”

Review: Kaori’s Closet

Review: Kaori’s Closet
(their website; their facebook; yelp)
Kaori’s Closet is a small bra boutique in Manhattan, just on the edge of Soho; not hard to spot if you have the intersection. It might have felt like my older sister’s room, if I had an older sister who was a super feminine girl obsessed with underwear. It’s prettily designed and very comfortable. I was the only one there at first, but a few other customers wandered in when I was finishing up.

When I marched in, the salesperson cheerily asked if I needed help. (She was one of two on the floor; the other worked in the back and around the floor with other customers while I was in the store.)

This was my first time buying a bra on my own (yeah… I actually never really went shopping for anything before college. Even in college my purchases were mainly food and books and more food.) so I wanted to go “I’m totally lost in here, save meee” but was able to keep my cool and say “Yeah, that would be great.”

They have one small fitting room in the store. The doorway is covered with a long two-layered curtain and secured with velcro; the doorways face the windows/street, but the salesperson will ask for permission to come in and carefully maneuver so that the outer curtain keeps you safely concealed from Houston. There’s a poster on the wall, next to the mirror, with diagrams and directions on how to bend and scoop and adjust your bra correctly. The salesperson did explain how to go in a hook farther as the elastic wore out from washing.

I told her what I needed–a bra for this purple shirt–and she measured me with a tape (in the fitting room, shirt on but jacket off (yes I wear jackets in NY summer; I like to be warm)). She informed me that I was 32DD or 32DDD (depending on bra design, size fluctuates; it was good that she understood that); I’m no longer 32, so either I was 32 at that point when she measured me, she had an accurate measurement with no ridiculous adding of inches, and then I just had a good healthy re-migration of tissue, or she measured me incorrectly (but since the bras she gave me to try were all pretty tight, I doubt it?), or she didn’t have sub-32s in stock (again, the 32s I tried were pretty secure).

The objective was a bra that did not show under a dark purple shirt that had armholes that went below where most bra bands begin to show, so she brought me lots (lots!) of black, dark, and nude bras in a good variety of sizes. For some designs, she brought me the identical bra in two sizes; a good sign indicating a knowledgeable and considerate bra-fitter. They (the bras) were all gorgeous and, uh, all pricey.

As far as I recall, the bras ranged from around $50s to $90s, mostly at the higher end of that. This was a specialty retail store, products  at retail price, so I was armed with expectations of that range from Yelp.

I ended up with a 32DDD (32E) bra, nude with elaborate black netting and lace, and removable padding (which I opted to removed right away… I still don’t hesitate about some of these things).  Arguably my favorite so far; it’s a Japanese brand narue. The salesperson suggested the matching underwear but didn’t push.



Incidentally, I was there during their 4th anniversary celebration and got a flowery hairpin gift. I’m clumsy with hair ornaments so it wasn’t particularly useful (the pricetag indicated that the thing was $12, though o_o) but it was really sweet.

Two implications of the bra being Japanese: a, there is hope for Asian brands, particularly Japanese because this that I have is Japanese and Japan has always been pretty ahead in merchandising and products, but b, opportunities to explore the brand or similar brands are much diminished since I can’t read or access many Japanese resources, and Japanese products are mostly very very expensive (although high quality!).

While looking for pictures (I took pictures with my own camera but at this point am hesitating to post pictures of my underwear online) I found narue on Yahoo!Japan marketplace. Maybe someday I’ll ask a friend to help me figure that out? Because seriously, this is a awesomely beautiful and comfortable bra.

First Forays

I’m not sure which bra-fitting experience I want to categorize as my first one, or my first “good” one. Certainly not my mom saying “I guess you need a bra now”, taking me to JC Penney’s and going “well, when I was your age, I was about this size. Let’s go with this one.” I came out of that with a 32A or 34A, most likely.

Much better than that was the time in Thailand; we were there while visiting some relatives and wandered into the lingerie section of a department store. The girls there were comfortable and seemed knowledgeable. Despite not being able to communicate (my aunt and cousin did the interpreting for us non-Thai speakers) I have to say it went really well (comfort-wise). The girl who helped me first eyeballed me and then measured me with her hands (I think. She put her hands against the side of my bust, kind of the way they lift up puppies for scrutinization in the movies. Except she didn’t lift me up, of course–although that would make an incredibly awesome bra-fitting story.). I came out with 36Bs. Okay, not at all accurate… I might (or might not, I lack any sense of spatial perception) have been chubbier than I am now but definitely not 36 inches. Maybe they use the +4 rule there.

Between that and my next fitting was me blundering through several years of the following ideas:
“Maybe my bras are funky because they’re bras and that’s the way bras feel.”
“Maybe my bras are funky because they’re old. I’ll buy a new one in the same size.”
“Maybe my bras are funky because I’ve outgrown them. Outgrowing means, like as in clothes, I need to up my size.” And I’d go up a cup size. (Thank goodness I didn’t up my band size.)

Then, college graduation started looming over my head. I don’t think I actually realized that none of my bras fit; I just wanted something nice, and maybe stayed hidden under this really nice shirt I liked but never dared wear because my bras always showed under the lace sleeve. So I went to Yelp and looked up stores in Manhattan that sold bras and also did fittings (and with good reviews). The good ones were very pricey, but I reasoned that bras seem pretty important, so I’ll splurge on a good one if it turns out to be worth the expense.

Since this is an overview of my bra-wearing life, I’ll just summarize the differences in decision-making and bra-fitting and leave the review-like aspects to separate review posts. I went with Kaori’s Closet because it had good reviews and was close to where I was. Also, they sold Japanese brands and were presumably staffed by Asian salespeople who might have more experience with Asian customers. I approached the store with my shirt in tow. The salesperson measured me with a tape and gave me several bras 32DDD (32E). I knew to scoop but she explained hook-tightening over time.

This was the most comfortable thing I’d ever put around my chest, so I decided, this is worth it, and I’m in Manhattan anyway–this is as good as I’ll get in the US for expertise on this kind of thing. For a second fitting, I went to Journelle. Also close to where I was, and with good reviews. The salesperson here congenially asked (of my normal wrong bras) “they ride up in the back, don’t they? It’s because the band is too long.” She also went over hook-tightening. I came out of here with the same 32DDD (32E).

These two bras came at high prices but I got great bras and an education, and even better than that, a curiosity to learn more. After these trips, I dove into bra-fitting blogs and learned about the horrific situation of bra sizes and wearing habits worldwide, bra companies, cuts and styles of bras and clothing, and whatever other subjects bra bloggers touched into. Hooked!

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