In which we talk about boobs...
Several years ago, when Oprah Winfrey still rocked our mid-afternoons with book clubs and hot topics, The Big O set off a firestorm -- a Bra Revolution -- with a segment on proper bra fittings that included fittings for her entire audience, courtesy of Nordstrom. The takeaway from The Big O's Bra Extravaganza: Most women are wearing the wrong size undergarments. Online articles back up that claim, estimating that 80 to 85 percent (!) of women are walking around in ill-fitting lingerie.
The solution: Professional Bra Fitting.
First, where to go? A quick Google of "bra fittings Houston" reveals no shortage of options, including Nordstrom and various boutiques like Intimacy, My Bra Boutique and Top Drawer Lingerie. Intimacy was so busy on the day I stopped in that they were booking appointments, but I was able to score fittings on a walk-in basis at Nordstrom and at Top Drawer at Uptown Park.
At Nordstrom I worked with Masha, who measured my torso to determine the band size, and then grabbed a "fitting bra" to determine cup size. I was wearing a bra two inches and a full cup size too small. "Eight out of ten women wear the wrong-sized bra," said Masha. "You should get fitted once a year to make sure you are wearing the right size." A few other tips from Masha:
- Bras vary between styles and manufacturers, so you really need to try on any bra before you buy it.
- Bras come with three sets of hooks, but when you buy it should be comfortable on the largest setting. Over time the bra will stretch, and you'll use the next two sets of hooks to tighten the fit.
- Washing by hand is best, but you can wash bras in a lingerie bag in the washer. Use a mild detergent, like baby shampoo, to protect the lace and elastic; regular detergent is too harsh.
- Do not wear a bra two days in a row, as the elastic needs time to shrink back into place. Three bras give you a good rotation: one wash, one dry, one wear.
- All breast tissue should rest inside the cups, and the center point between the cups should hit you in the center of your breastbone.
My experience at Top Drawer Lingerie was different. Mary Kathryn ushered me into a dressing room and had me remove my top and bra. She took a glance at my naked torso and came back with several bras for me to try on. "Are you like, the bra whisperer?" I asked. Mary Kathryn smiled and chalked up her ability to size breasts at a glance to twenty years of experience. She added, "Sometimes they call me the Bra Nazi. I've heard them all." To try on bras Mary Kathryn had me put my arms through the strap, bend over, kind of shake-and-shimmy myself into the cups, and then stand up straight from the waist -- like a sun salutation in yoga, only with a stranger standing behind me, staring at my boobs. Namaste.
Mary Kathryn estimated me to be a full cup size larger than Masha at Nordstrom, but her picks were from an entirely different brand, so the variation made sense -- it's true, you really do need to try them on. Ultimately all of my bra band sizes were 32, but my cup size varied depending on style and brand. Oh, boobs! You're so tricky.
I did a lot of bra shopping, but only purchased bras at Nordstrom and Top Drawer -- I think I set a record for "number of strangers who saw my boobs in one day." (Not counting that one time in college.) I also set a personal record for "amount of money spent on undergarments in one day," but here is one truth about a proper bra fitting: it's a difference you can see, and feel.
You Want: A one-stop-shopping experience
Go To: Victoria's Secret
Once the girls at VS measure you, you're shopping only one brand so there are fewer size variations than when you shop multiple brands. The only downside: you're at Victoria's Secret, which is basically like shopping at a nightclub. SO BRIGHT AND SO LOUD.
You Want: A variety of brands, sizes, and price points to choose from
Go To: Nordstrom, or another department store that offers bra fittings (Macy's and Neiman Marcus both offer fittings; Neiman Marcus also has a handy guide to bra fittings on their website.)
You'll likely spend more time in the fitting room at a department store because more brands equals more trying-on, especially if you're selecting from different styles: demi-cup versus t-shirt bra versus strapless, and so on. You'll have more affordable price points to choose from, as well.
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You Want: A high-end, boutique experience with a luxurious feel
Go To: Top Drawer Lingerie, or similar
This is the perfect place for a bride-to-be to find her wedding/honeymoon lingerie, and a super-fun stop for the whole wedding party to have some fun together. You are going to pay top-dollar for your undies, but you'll have perfectly-appointed dressing rooms, complete with cozy robes for in-between wardrobe changes. If you usually buy your underwear at Target, be prepared for some sticker shock.
And if my husband asks, I did NOT pay $70 for a single pair of panties -- it's a typo.