Getting to the Root of the Problem

I’m no fitting expert and have never claimed to be, but I’ve tried on a LOT of bras on both myself and other women and have developed quite an eye for what makes a ‘good’ bra for me and a lot of other women, and what doesn’t.

I have recently had a huge clear out of my lingerie wardrobe, first getting rid of the ones which are clearly not my size or that I’d fallen out of love with, but secondly I made myself try on everything that was left (admittedly still quite a fair pile – oops!) and only kept those that truly FELT amazing.

It’s gotten to a point that I will point-blank refuse to keep a bra just because it fits me ‘okay’ or just because it’s sexier than Dita Von Teese in a leather catsuit. It has to really lift and support me, and there’s something that I noticed whilst trying on fourty (ok, fifty) or so bras last week.

For me, it’s all about the way the cups are constructed. It probably goes without saying that different brands can fit very differently (sometimes even bras within one brand can differ hugely), and some just seem to ‘work’ for you, and some not so much.

For me, the ones which feel best – and the one’s I’ll buy again and again and again – not only fit beautifully but really lift my breast tissue from the root of my bust, or otherwise known as ‘breast root’.

As someone who has a bottom-heavy bust, that’s where all the bulk of the weight is and bras which aren’t constructed to literally pull it all up from there are the ones I finally let go of in my brutal bra clear out.

I have a theory, and I’ve called these bras ‘root-lifters’. They have superior cup construction (for my shape at least) andΒ  help balance my otherwise rather pear-shaped knockers. Let me demonstrate:

A ‘root-lifter’: The Freya Jolie

The bra has very soft cups, but the way it is constructed gives pretty stern support. The lift seems to come from directly beneath the breast tissue and with the help of the wires and straps, lifts the weight of the breasts upward and round. There is separation, but it is mild. The effect is ‘your boobs, but better’, and a comfortable distribution of weight.

A ‘boulder holder’: The Curvy Kate Princess

Now this isn’t meant to mean the traditional meaning of ‘boulder holder’. It doesn’t mean it’s ugly, it doesn’t mean that it’s a full cup monstrosity that your granny wouldn’t be seen dead in. It means that for, me, these bras seem to support and hold your bust in place, as opposed to lift from the root. Curvy Kate bras are prime examples of this. As you can see from the diagram below, the weight is distributed towards the sides of the cups a lot more, and the support is a lot more wide set.

Yes. I realise this is hardly a scientific test, but you can see what I’m getting at and the way the bra cups are constructed to encourage a different type of fit.

Let me now try to describe to you, again via very primitively illustrated images, in my opinion how another two bras from these two same brands fit and lift me – showing where I find that most of the support is coming from.

The ‘root-lifter’: Freya Sophia

The ‘boulder holder’: Curvy Kate Romance

All of these images were taken on the same day, from the same angle, and are all 30FFs, yet you can (hopefully!) clearly see the difference in shape and construction.

With a ‘boulder holder’ bra, I find that a lot of the weight of the bust remains in the cup area and is not distributed so well to the band and straps. The bust therefore feels heavier and not so well lifted and supported, particularly for bottom-heavy breasts like mine.

The lift in a ‘root-lifting’ bra is also a lot more ‘upward’, which prevents the dreaded ‘East-West effect.

The best ‘root-lifting’ bras and brands: Freya – my favourite for comfort being the ‘Jolie’, Claudette’s ‘Neon Dessous’, Cleo by Panache’s ‘Marcie’.

Can anyone else identify with this theory? Or have I gone a bit nuts?

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59 Replies to “Getting to the Root of the Problem”

  1. Interesting! The Freya Sophie seems to be cut differently, but all the other bras have the same cut, am I right? I wonder if this phenomenom is because the cups seem to be attached to the straps higher in the root lifter bras. This is something I miss in the CK unpadded bras: I feel like I’d get more uplift if the cups would form a V shape and attach higher to the straps, making the pressure and lift more even.

    1. They’re all essentially three-part soft cup bras, but the position of the centre seam and the positioning of the straps seem to be two of the main differences. x

  2. Not nuts at all. Is there a difference in construction between the root lifter and boulder holders? For instance, are most root lifters 3-part cups and most boulder holders 2-part cups? Or is it simply the way the cups are shaped to distribute the breast tissue within the cups?

    1. Ha just mentioned this in Bra Nightmares’ comment. All are three-part soft cup bras, but the position of the centre seam and the positioning of the straps seem to be two of the main differences. The way the cups are constructed seems to encourage lift from the bottom as opposed to the side and centre. x

      1. Yes, the main difference is the position of the straps and bust highpoints/ vertical bottom cup seam. The Freya bra fits your petite frame better because the straps and bust highpoint is set more narrow. This gives more uplift and a nice shape (no east-west shape).

        1. Indeed, it looks to me as though the “root lifters” have a less generous cut in the hem of the fabric reaching from gore to strap. This means that when the bra is worn the fabric is stretched more, and that extra pressure along the seam means it can take some of the weight. I encounter this issue in many bras because I’m narrow shouldered and petite. I often find bras of this style have no pressure on the upper cup hem so it creases and provides no support. Slightly tightening the hem by taking it in at the gore seems to help, but it is only part of the story because I think generally it means the whole cup is cut for someone with a wider frame than me, so there is still not enough tension throughout some areas of the cup.

  3. I agree 100% with this. Plus I always find the non-padded CK bras really separate my boobs – and as you said they just hold me in place, they don’t give such amazing shape and uplift as other brands. I also struggle with CK anyway as I find their 28 backs to be too big. Gorgeous brand though. πŸ™‚

    1. Made exactly the same experience with CK Princess (lacking uplift and far too big 28 back). Such a shame for the pretty design! And also, the CK Romance is tragically beautiful…

  4. Interesting. Maybe the root-lifters are deeper? I’m not seeing a difference in the photos–I couldn’t predict where you would draw the lines–but I do know that my Curvy Kate Portia gives me a different shape from my Freyas.
    Do you think what determines boulder-holder vs root-lifter would differ from person to person?

    1. Hi – I definitely think it’s possible. Or at least, some bras ‘work’ better for me and not others. For instance, Becky much prefers her Princess to her Jolie, and finds it suits her shape much more. There is no such thing as a ‘better/worse’ bra in theory. x

    2. This was what I was thinking too. As someone who also has bottom heavy breasts I find that bras that are deeper on bottom give me much better lift and are significantly more comfortable. Those that are too shallow on bottom (even though they fit) tend to have the underwires slide down so not only is there less lift but they poke me in the stomach when I sit!

      Freya doesn’t work quite as well for me because the cups are so tall but Fantasie really is one of the best options for me as well as Ewa Michalak because there’s so much more depth on bottom on both of them.

  5. Oh my gosh, yes! Thank you for this post – I have this exact same problem. I’m only a couple months in to my bra journey, so I’m still trying to figure out what I need in a bra and which styles work for me. I will definitely check out the styles you mentioned, though! (Needless to say, if you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them!)

  6. I notice a huge difference in bras that really lift from the bottom versus just kind of cradling. Cleo’s Marcie (I see we’re in agreement there) is the most current bra in my rotation that does it (as did Cleo’s Chloe and Freya’s Pollyanna before her). In bras that are constructed differently I sometimes find that even if the fit and size are “correct”, I’ll still have to scoop myself back into the cup and yank the wire up at least once a day, if not far more frequently. Now that I know how to fit myself, I’ve started actively seeking out bras that really provide this lift.

  7. Curvy Kate Bras are more wide set on the straps which makes the bust sit flatter but also causes the cups at where they meet the straps to rub. upper bust towards the arm. Panache used to Guilty of this . the lower section of the cup is not as deep as Freya and generally the top section is to shallow..some Freya bras are guilty of having this shape of cup too. BUT YOU ARE NOT NUTS. we at Body Talk see this everday when we match our ladies to the correct bras for they,re shape and size .

  8. new to your blog and it made me think that I really must get better bras for myself, this will be my goal for 2013 πŸ™‚ btw, the black bra in the middle picture, what brand is it? x

      1. If you happen to have Panache Porcelain, are wires on Loretta more narrow or not? Or how much wider compared to Deco?
        (Have an eye on this bra like 3 month, but still can’t decide)

        1. Hi, so sorry but I haven’t tried a porcelain in my correct size in about 4 years and can’t really recall the fit. If you like, I can try get hold of one to review? X

  9. Wow, this is really interesting and something I’ve never really thought about in these terms. I think Curvy Kate’s styles act closest to traditional minimizers. Minimizer bras are hugely popular in the U.S. (Wacoal’s #1 bestselling style is the Awareness Underwire and it acts similarly to the CK bras in the appearance of the breasts) and many, many women reference this particular type of construction when they shop with us. They describe a bra that looks “natural” and feels like “them”, but minimizers also flatten or smooth the top while cradling the bottom. Definitely not a lift-rooted/front and centered approach!

    It probably comes down to what appearance you like and what your shape/fullness/position is. I’m not bothered by the minimizer effect on days when I’m running around, but I’d never wear one under a pretty dress (then it’s Deco-time!). I also have tons of fullness in the middle so the root-lifters above, even in the right fit, pinched a bit at the gore and gaped ever so slightly at the very top of the cups.

    Such an awesome blog post. And, of course you’re nuts. πŸ™‚ That’s how we like you.

    1. Haha thanks, I think? πŸ˜›

      And yes I think the different types of fit are kind of the beauty of all the different bra brands – there’s something for everyone in theory x

  10. We are boob twins! I have the same shape; lower fullness and wide set. We suit the same bras. My absolute favorites are the Jolie and Marcie! I actually picked up the Marcie after seeing you review it and love it. Thanks for all your insight and reviews. And I definitely agree with this post. I always look for bras that push UP from the root instead of pushing IN towards my body. I’ll continue to follow your blog and keep my eyes peeled for more reviews. πŸ™‚

  11. thank you so much for this post. I also am bottom heavy and really did not love any of the bras I bought until I met Claudette’s neon dessous and fell in love. So I will be making a note for myself of the others you mentioned and give them a try as well. Thanks again!

  12. Yeah I’ve notice this with different bras. I actually like cups with multiple vertical seems, I feel like they give a lot of lift.

  13. Thank you for this great post! It made me considering to buy Cleo Marcie and thus reading different reviews. Bras I Hate & Love’s ( review and her distinction of “full band[s] that extend[…] underneath the cups” vs. “partial bands” made me think that perhaps, the secret of a root-lifter lies less in the way the cup is constructed than in what kind of band the bra has, or the way it is built into the whole thing. Evidence for this is that the Claudette band seems to continue underneth the cup whereas it kind of doesn’t on Curvy Kate’s Princess (or the band is too closely attached to the underwire). But as I don’t own any of the root-lifters you suggested I can’t test this hypothesis further. What do you think?

    1. I’m not sure there’s any particular equation that makes something a ‘root lifter’ – it’s more about they way it feels. If it feels you’re being pushed up from the root, it qualifies! For instance the examples I gave above match your description, but there are moulded bras and padded bras which also do it for me and many more people. Root lifters aren’t anything set in stone, they’re a way of life! πŸ˜› x

  14. Hi,
    I have bottom heavy breasts but not so very wide set. I dont live in UK so cant get fitted. Theres something wrong with every bra. Either its too snug, the band too big (between 28 and 30 bandsize) some 28gg cups are too big, some 28gg cups fit, some 28 bands too snug, some fits fine.
    Someone please save me. I just spent another Β£20 on a bra from the UK and it looks like I have been whipped where the band is and the marks wont go away. The centergore of the bra isnt snug on the skin and is actually resting on my breasts.
    Can someone please help me. I am going bananas here:(

    1. I wanted to add that I think (not sure at all) I have lower full breasts and close set.

      (In balcony bras or halfcup bras I have to go up one size to GG but if I buy a GG cup in a fullcup bra its too big where the cup starts up on the breasts, I suppose this means I am bottom heavy? And the center wire always seem to dig into my breast tissue thinking my breasts must be close set?)

      1. Actually just had another thought and may it be that I am full on top with close set breasts? But there is distance between my breasts its just that the distance is about 1-2centimeters.

        1. Hi Sara.

          Thanks for commenting! Can I ask or assume that you’re unable to get a fitting where you are?

          I suggest you check out my blog post which will hopefully help you determine your breast shape. If you’re unable to get fitted nearby, I highly recommend a Skype fitting with Butterfly Collection or take advantage of their great bra fitting calculator

          Unfortunately there is no magic wand which will solve your problems, and as no bras fit the same it’s always a case of researching reviews and trying on for size. Please feel free to email me any questions or if you think I can help with anything

          Or of course you can leave comments or reach me on Twitter and Facebook. x

  15. I think you have a really good point! I’ve seen bloggers talk about the different seaming/construction before, but pointing out the differences between two bras that “have the same construction” is really nice! I’ve been wondering why Curvy Kates just didn’t seem to suit me (their soft cups, anyway), and this helps tremendously. The Cleo Marcie is my current favorite bra too (can’t wait for it to come out in electric blue!!!) because it gives me such great support and shape.

  16. Thanks for a very interesting post. I struggle with a bit of a fat-roll just below my bust, wich I get in most bras, and I know its created when bras dont lift me enough.. Freya bras seems to have the best construction for me to get rid of this little fat-roll, because they really get lifted and i feel like “in contact” with the bra from below somehow.. need to try the “marcie” to. I think i would like the shape of this one a lot..

    1. I always try before I buy now, and I look for this uplifting, root lifting shape and feel. Otherwise I forget about it as I know – no matter how pretty it is, I will always reach for one that fits and feels best and it will just sit forgotten at the bottom of my lingerie drawer… x

  17. I haven’t been able to find a CK soft cup that fits… or, for that matter, a Freya soft cup. My go-to size is a 34F, but I’ve tried everything from a 34E to a 32G in multiple styles, nothing seems to work exactly. But I do have a totally root-lift-tastic 3-part soft cup from Figleaves, and the difference to me seems to be that the centre vertical seam is closer to the gore and extends past the apex of the breast – so the top section is quite small, as if its there to shape, rather than support. Looks most like the Jolie in construction. So it gives a lifted, rounded look without compression. I suppose it feels more like a 2-part vertical seam cup in the way it supports, (eg cleo juna) than a traditional 3 part, so maybe that’s where the lift comes from?

    1. I will have to try this bra from Figleaves! Can you link me to it please?

      Also, as I said in a reply above:

      “I’m not sure there’s any particular equation that makes something a β€˜root lifter’ – it’s more about they way it feels. If it feels you’re being pushed up from the root, it qualifies! For instance the examples I gave above match your description, but there are moulded bras and padded bras which also do it for me and many more people. Root lifters aren’t anything set in stone, they’re a way of life!” x

      1. It’s actually their basic lace balconette (yay for multiple colours):

        although I have had another from their Just Peachy range that fits similarly:

        I have a theory about root-lift though. I get the feeling that root-lift happens when I’m in a bra that has the exact right ratio of band size to cup width to cup depth. The first bra I linked to is practically perfect in every way in my go-to 34F. However, if I put on a 34F Freya soft cup, the cups might fit ok-ish, but the back-band is too loose, so no root lift. If I size down in the back, the 32FF back would fit, but the FF cups are deeper than the F cups (although the same width), so still no root lift. For a shallower cup, I could try a 32F, but then the cups would be too narrow and dig in at the sides, so no root lift.

        Whatever the theories are on equivalent volume or cross grading sizes, the shape is what really counts for the fit and support. I’m pretty sure there is some matrix of band-size, cup-width, and cup-depth, that determines “shape”, along with a raft of other factors like seam-placement, strap-placement, gore-width, gore-height, apex-geometry, fabric-elasticity, underwire-angle… part of me wants to do the maths, but considering we’re trying to support pairs of uniquely asymmetric semi-solid masses that fluctuate in shape and size at least on a monthly basis, it’ll probably be quicker to just keep trying bras on and seeing how they fit. Do you reckon the bra engineers have algorithms for all this nonsense?

  18. Do you feel like these bras are too wide apart from the central gore? I’m also a 30FF and I’m 5’00” with broad shoulders, but a petite frame. That lift and separate function isn’t really working for me – the lift is there, but the separate part means my boobs are too far apart! In a few Freya bras, including Freya Sophie and Jolie it’s like they’re pointing in two different directions. (with the exception of Freya Deco which fits kinda ok, and is a plunge bra). nearly ALL Freya and Panache bras I’ve tried have the central gore way too high. What are your thoughts on this and support?

    1. Hi Lena,

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have close set breasts – am I right? I find the opposite is true. For me, the Deco doesn’t suit my wider set breasts and bras like the Jolie are perfect! It’s all about finding what works for you. Have you tried Ewa Michalak plunges? x

  19. Oh, I totally agree, and I’ve just had that light bulb moment, you’ve just shown me why I never get on with Curvy Kate bras! πŸ˜€

    I’m also a 30 back, but vary between a HH and J cup, so I can totally agree that you need the lift that doesn’t weigh heavily on your shoulders. The minimizer effect is what I think is largely responsible for CK and some Panache (not tried a Cleo) rubbing the centre gore painfully on my ribcage.

    If you are pulling the breast tissue apart and back too much, it angles the wires back against your body and can make them rub, especially if that’s concentrated on one area, rather than the whole length of the wire.

    Pushing the tissue up and forward stops the wires having to do anything more than maintain the shape and integrity of the bra, which is what they are really there for anyway? It should be the shape and build of the fabric of the bra that does the work of supporting the breast in the cup.

    Once again, bravo Freya for getting it right for me (and not having changed it over the years), and bravo IYC for explaining it all to us! πŸ™‚

  20. After trying a million bras built like these, I had come to the conclusion that I just can’t wear bras with this particular three-part construction (a sloping rather than horizontal midline in the cup, creating a kind of U leading up into the straps, with a restraint panel at the inner-upper edge of each breast). For me, the sturdier outer panel flattens the outside of the breast even while I get roundness at the inner breast. The outer flattening points the nipples in opposite directions (is THAT what everyone means on all the blogs by “east-west”???). The surrounding sizes are all wrong, so the size is accurate…is it possible that this structure just doesn’t work for softer breasts that can’t really fight the pressure of that U-shape? Or would you suspect that your root-lifters would also work for this problem?

  21. What a fantastic article! I too have bras which fit both these categories and, although I had never put my finger on what the difference was, I sooo prefer ‘root-lifters’ as they make my figure look a lot better.

  22. Excellent comments Feu, and very interesting column IIYC. Any views on the flexibility of the material used? For instance, too elastic (microfibre?) and support function is reduced. Too unyielding (cotton?) and roundness / curviness can be compromised. Knickers are so much more straightforward, don’t you think πŸ™‚

  23. THANK YOU FOR THIS SITE. This post is spot on for me. I’ve really struggled to find something that pulls me forward and up instead of outward to each side, so this helps quite a lot. I’m a dedicated fan of your blog now!

    Ashley (36FF in case you want to know where your readers are coming from πŸ™‚

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