Going out to buy daughter’s first bra – aka: The Shopping Trip They Will Remember For The Rest Of Their Life – is high pressure stuff.
And like the strappy garment itself, when it comes to how to handle the experience there is most certainly not ‘one size fits all’.
Your daughter may be all too keen to get herself kitted out (even before she needs a bra) or she may fall into the opposite camp, preferring just about anything to having a total stranger measure her up for her first cup. Either way, your approach as a parent will make all the difference.
BEFORE YOU BUY
Like most things in life, a little preparation makes things easier. Assuming your youngster has already been wearing a crop top, as most girls today do at the very first sign of any changes, you’ll need to move her onto a bra when any slight support is needed. She might tell you it’s starting to feel uncomfortable or be self-conscious about her nipple showing through a top.
Chat to her and ask how she feels about getting a bra, telling her about being measured. Explain that she won’t have to completely undress and will be able to keep her T shirt on if she’d feel happier that way. It might help to leave her to mull it over for a little while.
It’s also useful to look online at the different styles and shapes available. This will help her feel more comfortable with the idea, and also help you decide which shop might suit her best. “But never ever measure yourself,” says Claire Franks, founder of The Intimate Apparel Consultancy, which advises the underwear industry. “Always get a professional fitter to do it for you. Getting a good bra is not just about the size, it’s also about the fit.”
At many of the main High Street retailers, such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, you need to make an appointment to get measured. If you choose an independent retailer, and many are real experts in their field, phone them up first to see if they stock first bras. Members of The Lingerie Guild are a good place to start.
ON THE DAY ITSELF
Make it an occasion to remember, booking in lunch or at least a tasty treat. If your daughter is less than excited about getting her first bra, you can still make it a special day without going overboard on the whooping and cheering front.
Allow plenty of time to get measured and try on lots of different styles to find the ones that fits the best. Some retailers have just one or two teen bras while others have almost too many to choose from.
Above all, make sure daughter actually likes the bras you buy – otherwise she’ll remember the experience for all the wrong reasons (author’s note: I speak from experience!). Tomboys, for example, may hate anything with a bow but be persuaded by a teen sports bra instead, such as these options from Royce Lingerie.
If you get measured in one store but then end up going to another to buy a bra, remember that like women’s clothes sizes, the fit may differ from one shop to another. If possible get your daughter measured again.
“Avoid anything wired to start with while the breast is developing,” says Claire. “The breast tissue is growing quite quickly and you don’t want the wire being in the wrong place.”
So you’ve bought a few bras and you’re still speaking. And you got a squishy piece of cake out of it too. Success!
Like a pair of school shoes, you need to continue to make sure your daughter has the right fit as she grows. “I recommend going back to be measured at least every term,” says Claire. “It’s important to get into the fitting habit as her size and shape is likely to change throughout her life.” Remember her shape may even change week to week as her hormones kick in, so finding a good fitter is gold dust.
Also encourage her to look after her underwear. “Hand wash it or wash it on a gentle cycle inside a pillow case,” says Claire. “And don’t forget to readjust the straps after every wash.”
Mel Hunter is a freelance journalist specialising in parenting, mental health and consumer issues. She is also mum of two tweens, a daughter aged 12 and a son aged nine, who has additional needs.