Like a lot of women I know, I don’t like bra shopping. They’re expensive, they’re annoying, and they only last maybe a year if you’re lucky. So a lot of us just get the cheap ones. For me, it’s been cotton Jockey bras for ages.
A few years ago, Jockey screwed me over with an order, and after a run being overcharged on my bill and not getting what I’d ordered for months, I said to hell with them and started getting my underthings elsewhere. I tried Hanes, but their bras were all weird, and while I did finally manage to get decent underpants, I slacked off on new bras because, well, the crappy ones I had were $25 and they held the girls up. Good bras, I knew, cost $50-$75 easily.
Except as I’ve learned, no they didn’t hold the tatas.
Bras are like anything else, they don’t fit two people the same way, and so while there are all these guides like ‘The center of the bra should touch the valley between your breasts’ they don’t actually apply to all of us! Some people have round boobs, others have pointy ones. And just like two people the same height and weight are able to be totally different shapes, so it is with your breasts. Oh I know, it’s all stuff we should know just by thinking about it, but we don’t.
Lesson One: Bra measuring is an art, not a science.
I broke down recently and asked my mom for help. How do you find a bra? She said she’d had good luck at Nordstrom’s, and that they always have ladies on hand for fittings. So I sucked up my pride and went to Nordies. “Hi, I’ve never been fitted for a bra and I need help.” The women smiled, in an encouraging way, and escorted me to the back where I was summarily divested of shirts and measured. There was a pause when she saw my crappy bra and I said, “Yeah I know. That’s why I’m here.” The band size I’d gotten right for years, so that was encouraging. My cup was off by two sizes. Those of you who’ve met me should think about that for a second.
Lesson Two: It’s not actually about the size.
Once she had my size she hustled off to find some try-ones. The in-house brand is Wacoal (Neiman Marcus uses them too) so naturally that’s what they tried first. The problem, as I found out, is that any cup size after a D is guesswork. That is, if you thought women’s dress sizes were insane, wait till you check out bras. They don’t have the same standards within the same company, let alone different. Some use DD instead of E (and DDD instead of F) to make you feel better (protip, bra companies, it doesn’t, especially when you go D, DD, DDD, G). So there’s a lot of trying on and her going ‘No, it’s too lose here.’ before finally you hit a brand that mostly fits. And “mostly fits” is as good as most of us get, unless we get custom made bras.
Lesson Three: The right bra makes a large cup size look smaller.
When I finally got fitted and found some that I liked, and looked good, I put a shirt on and regarded myself. “I look smaller!” I announced, surprised. It turns out that a good bra will make your cup size appear smaller, because it’s supported correctly. So that threw me for a loop and I did ask how that worked for women with smaller breasts. Apparently a good fit will make the smaller breasts look larger, and the larger smaller. I didn’t have any practical demonstrations of this, but I figured Leslee the Bra Lady knew what she was talking about.
Lesson Four: Color is good.
I’ve only had white bras (except my sports bras) for years. Now I have black, white, nude and a magenta sort of one. I tried blue and purple, but they looked silly. So why is color good? Nude is better than white for under non-black shirts. White is fine for white shirts, but looks bad under black. Black is good for the dark shirts. And color? Well, that just looked really nice on my skin so I figured why the hell not. I’ve been assured it’ll look nice under dark-but-not-black. I was wearing a baby-blue shirt at the time, so I didn’t really have a chance to check.
Lesson Five: Don’t use woolite.
This was a shocker. Woolite, good for delicates, right? Wrong. It wears out the rubber. Also, don’t dry your bras in the dryer, hang ’em up. But the soap matters too. Get the stuff for baby clothes (All Free & Clear, Ivory Snow, and Seventh Gen Baby are all good ideas). They tossed in a bottle of their brand for half off, so I’m giving it a shot first.
Overall? Get fitted.
Save your ta-tas ladies. Nordies also has a special fitting room and what not set up for cancer survivors, so if you’ve only got one boob, they’ll make it comfortable. My new bra has me sitting straighter, which is making my back pop all over the damn place! It’s kind of nice. The downside is that after years of being ‘used to’ where my crappy bra touches my skin, I feel all weird with the new one. It makes sense, your skin gets used to being poked and rubbed by your clothes in specific places. When you put on a new shirt, it takes a while to get used to it. Ditto the bras. I’m sure I’ll be fine.