Maybe – as they say – clothes make the man. But I firmly (no pun) believe that under-clothes make the woman. Supporting “the girls” properly trims away visual years and pounds, improves posture and takes strain off your neck and spine. It makes your clothes fit better and look more expensive. But it isn’t always as easy as you might think.
Because bra fit is more exacting that garment fit, even a slight weight gain, loss or shift can make a big impact. It is often said that 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size.
The most common mistake: a too-large band (the number) and a too-small cup (the letter).
- When the band is too large it creeps up in back and droops in front, providing little or no support.
- When the cup is too small, you get the “double-bubble” effect – one shape within the bra and a second bubble of soft tissue above the cup.
Measurements can help define your correct size.
- Start with a snug measurement of your rib cage, below the bust. Add 5, then round down to the nearest even number to determine your most likely band size.
- Next measure your full bust and subtract the band size. Each inch of difference equals a cup size (1” difference = A cup, etc).
- But measurements don’t tell the whole story. Like shoes, each bra fits differently, so trying on is a must.
Look for styles with the cup design you need.
- For firmer tissue a demi-cup can work fine.
- For softer tissue (from maturity, weight loss, recent pregnancy) a full-coverage cup provides more flattering shape.
For maximum support, choose underwired styles. In the correct size, you won’t feel the wire. And no, it won’t set off alarms in airport security screenings.
Consider the visual effect you want to create.
- To appear smaller-busted, choose a minimizer style with a seamless, rounded cup designed to redistribute breast tissue slightly side-to-side and minimize forward projection.
- To look fuller, choose a maximizer style with a seamed cup and good side coverage to push tissue toward the center and increase projection.
- To ramp up cleavage, find a push-up style with padding in the lower half of the cup. (Or you can add removable booster pads to the good bras you already own.)
With an assortment of possibilities in the dressing room, try on each one and evaluate for comfort and lift. A properly-fitted bra should feel so natural you forget you have it on. It should close comfortably on the second hook, and it should lift your bust so the fullest point hits halfway between your belly button and that little hollow at the base of your neck. The higher your bust, the longer your torso appears and the slimmer you look.
For the final test, slip a body-skimming lightweight T-shirt on over the bra. Its outline will immediately spotlight fit problems you might overlook when focusing on the bra alone.
I have a couple of personal favorites to recommend – a bit pricey, but oh, so worth it. Both are available to order online, but I strongly recommend an in-person fitting instead:
- The Vanishing Back Full Coverage Front Closure bra from Soma Intimates (soma.com) uses no-seam edges and front strap adjustment to keep the back beautifully smooth under even the most lightweight blouses. Most Soma sales associates do a great job of helping you find the proper fit too. I think of this store as Victoria’s Secret for grown-ups.
- Ruby Ribbon (a new direct selling company) offers a tank that does so much more than you’d ever think a tank could do – lifting, supporting and separating, with the plus of smoothing your midsection too. And the underarm rides high enough to smooth and control any soft tissue (my publisher calls it “fluff”) in front or back. Comes in Regular and Full Support versions. I find mine incredibly comfortable, and would’t wear anything else under my matte jersey dresses or tops. To find a representative near you, email email@example.com or phone (650) 525-4141.
If you have other favorites, by all means share them below …