My grandmother had a go-to saying for rocky times: "Do you want a dinky button or a chest to pin it on?" My mother and I crack up whenever we think about it because we're busty. I’ve learned to love my curves, but finding a high-quality bra, which costs an average of $50, always makes me feel like the main character in a horror flick. Luckily, five bra specialists have shared their bra-hunting tips and tricks, which makes finding and stretching the life of my bra a cinch.
1. Get a bra check-up
According to Susan Nethero, the “Bra Whisperer,” 85% of women strap their girls into brassieres that are the wrong size. Nethero strongly recommends getting sized by a free professional fitter before hitting the lingerie section. Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret, Women Within, Macy’s, Dillards, JCPenney, Von Maur, and most mom and pop lingerie shops provide free bra fittings. However, Nethero emphasizes that one fitting isn't going to cut it. You'll need regular "bra check-ups" whenever your weight fluctuates by 10% or more, which often happens when you're pregnant, nursing, dieting, pubescent, or menopausal.
Take your own measurements with these 3 easy steps:
1. Stand up straight and relax. Grab a soft measuring tape and place it right beneath your breasts. If you get an odd number, round up to the nearest even number. Congratulations: You've found your band size.
2. Put on a bra and measure the fullest part of your bust—the area across your nipples. The measuring tape should go around your entire back. To make sure the measuring tape isn’t dipping down in the back, you can take your measurements in front of a mirror.
3. Subtract your bust size from your band size. The difference is your cup size, which is based on the following guide:
0 = AA
1 = A
2 = B
3 = C
4 = D
5 = DD
6 = DDD
2. Your cups should be front and center
Once you discover your real brassiere size, it's important to find an undergarment that provides support and positions your breasts correctly. Nethero says that your bra should lift and center your breasts midway between your shoulder and elbows. You don't want to carry your breasts low and wide or outside of your body's frame. Courtney, a professional bra-fitter and co-owner of the fashion blog Fry Sauce and Grits, adds that the fabric between your cups should lay completely flat against your skin.
3. The bra should fit snugly around your frame
Women often associate looseness with comfort, but a bra should always fit snugly around your frame. Nethero says that 90% of a bra's support actually comes from the band while only 10% comes from the straps. Courtney adds, "The bra band is like the foundation of a house and the straps are like its frame. Both are really important. If the foundation isn't sturdy, your straps won't be able to support the house or ‘girls’ alone." The experts' advice—you should only be able to fit two fingers under your bra's band. The back of the bra should be lower or level with the front, so you'll get the stability you need to move throughout the day.
4. Account for fabric stretching
Most bras are made out of flexible materials, like spandex and cotton. With normal wear, they'll become stretched out. Nethero recommends buying a bra that fits best when it's latched in the last hook, so you can tighten it as it stretches. Carrie Hauser, a bra-fit specialist at Nordstrom and blogger for XO Jane, says that each bra has only about 100 wears.
5. Pay attention to the seam
The seam may not provide the bra's primary support, but a supported cup with a horizontal seam lifts your breasts and makes them look fuller. Nethero notes that many women opt for seamless "T-shirt" bras because they're terrified the seam will show through their clothing. However, a bra's seam is basically invisible when you wear dark-colored fabrics.
6. Wear the right kind of top when you shop
Even though you're buying for an item that goes under your garments, it's essential to wear the right kind of top. Nethero says that you should leave high-collared and baggy shirts hanging in your closet. Instead, she says you should toss on “a fitted shirt when trying on bras so you can see the…effects [the] bras can provide." If you have a dress or shirt with a plunging neckline or made out of clingy material that makes finding the perfect bra a nightmare, bring the item with you and the store’s bra-fitters will help you find a snappy solution.
7. Strapless bras can be a little trickier to fit
A strapless bra should hug your frame without pinching your breast. Nethero says that most women will need to go up a cup size. She also suggests looking for a strapless bra that has a silicone grip strip, which will hold the bra in place. HerRoom's founder, Tomima Edmark, adds that strapless bras are more comfortable if they have a wide band, boning under the arms, and deep underwires.
8. Having more bras will save you money
Hauser has a saying, "Good bras are always worth the money." If you have multiples of high-quality bras, you'll have to replace them less often, which means in the long run you'll save bundles of money. Hauser also recommends buying and rotating seven or more bras. You should wear three one week and then wear four the next.
9. Follow the care tag instructions
Following the care tag instructions will help your high-quality brassieres last longer. Experts recommend you hand or machine wash each bra with a gentle soap after two wears. Nethero says that you should never put your bras in a dryer. Likewise, if you're going to stick your bra into a washing machine, make sure you use a netted laundry bag; it'll prevent the bra from stretching and twisting. Plus, it'll protect the bra's hooks from clasping and ripping other articles of clothing.
10. Busty girls can wear fashionable bras
According to Karen Bromley, spokeswoman for the Intimate Apparel Council, the fastest-growing segment of bras is DD and over. Nethero says that demi and semi-demi bras have shorter underwire, less upper-breast coverage, and wider straps, so they give "a fuller-busted person the opportunity to wear something that’s youthful, sexy… [and supportive].”
This is a guest post by Cherese from Maryville, TN.