A bra is the most definitive piece of clothing you will ever wear. It actually defines the age we live in - where would the 50's have been without pointy, 'atomic war-head' bustlines, the 60's twiggy look without, well, no bust at all, the 70's without t-shirt bras, the '90's without the push up bras that give even an AA bust a hint of cleavage? I'm not sure what happened in the '80's, maybe the outrageous shoulderpads drew our eyes away from the bustline for a whole decade!
Whether or not you feel you want to force your breasts into fashion, there is no doubt about it, a well-fitting bra is the number one essential to any outfit. It is the foundation on which the rest is built. It is worth taking the time to get it right, I mean it's not like we go bra shopping on a weekly basis - although who knows, maybe the bras of the 2010's will be disposable!
Now although I am not into laying down rules, this is one area where I have some pretty clear guidelines to recommend about bra buying and wearing.
- When bra shopping, take the time to try them on. Even if buying the same brand you always do, you never know, you might have changed size. And never assume an 18D is the same between brands, or even models under the same brand.
- Use the shop assistants to help you. It saves you having to get dressed again every time you want to go and fetch another bra. Don't be self-conscious, they're probably just as scared of you as you are of them, and it's what they're there for anyway so be polite but make 'em work for their dosh.
- If you want to buy a fashionable bra, which these days means plenty of cleavage, just make sure your head rules your heart. If the look suits you and you can buy a bra that does this and fits you well, go for it. Don't compromise or you'll never feel confident wearing it.
- A practice that you want to avoid is buying underwire bras and taking the underwires out. Underwire bras are designed to support you using the wire. Without the wire, they can't really do their job. There are plenty of brands and models that are designed to do this without wires, and therefore are a better bet.
- If, like me, you prefer underwire bras but they break on you, just replace them. Underwires are available at most haberdashery departments - if they don't have your size ask them to get it in - I know at least one commonly used wholesale supplier in NZ who can supply them with up to 24DD in underwires so they have no excuses.
- Ensure the bra is comfortable. Bend forward and use your hands to position your bust in the bra well and truly. A good way to do this is to ensure your nipples are in line with each other and more or less positioned in the fullest part of the cup. If it digs in under your arms, feels like it would rub, or the diaphragm will curl up, or the cup will slip upwards when you raise your arms, forget it, try another one.
- The bra should give you a good shape - the way to find this out is to put your top clothes back on over it - a t-shirt is good for this. Can you see any bulging over the top, any lacy lumps or ridges? Does the bra lift and separate in a way that suits your idea of what a bra should do? With an underwire bra, do the wires stick outward in the middle when you bend forward? If you don't like the way it makes your bust look, try another one.
- There was a saying in my teenage years - if you could hold a pencil in the under crease of your breast, you needed a bra. I wish! I could hold an entire pencil case, as it is I use my bras as a secret place to store tissues, money, business cards, even my wallet! Seriously though, if you do consider yourself to have a large bust, it is a good way to check if a bra is giving you enough support. The cup should sit so that you can't hold a pencil under it.
- Over time and wear, bra straps stretch out and the adjusters slip. Keep an eye on these and make sure you adjust them regularly. This alone can do wonders for your bustline.
- Lastly, look after your bras. Follow the laundry instructions in them, and if you wear underwires, don't put them in the dryer - it costs about $100 to get a guy to come in and fix it if an underwire works its way out and gets stuck in one of those little holes - I know from bitter experience! And if they really are machine washable, pop them in one of those little zip up lace bags. Washing machines cost more to fix than dryers.
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