Four Surprising Things I Learned at a Bra Fitting

When it comes to bras, it’s all about getting the right fit and having a little fun

by Susan Swimmer
INTIMACY bra fit stylists
Photograph: Courtesy of INTIMACY {bra fit stylists}

I believe in the power of good undergarments, whether they’re providing support, smoothing my look, adding sex appeal or, the holy grail, all three. I have quite a collection, and it should come as no surprise: As a longtime fashion editor, I have a robust wardrobe, which in turn requires a bevvy of underpinnings. Let’s just call it an occupational hazard.

Recently I was treated to a proper bra fitting by the lovely folks at Intimacy. They have 16 stores across the country and know what they’re talking about. Bra-fit specialist Valery Sheppard sized me up and had me try on no fewer than a dozen different styles. Turns out I was making one of the biggest mistakes most women make: The bras I’ve been buying are too big around my rib cage (just to review: The bra’s number, such as 32, 34 or 36, corresponds to the circumference of the rib cage; the bra’s letter—A, B, C—refers to the cup size). So, OK, great that my cups don’t runneth over, but not great that I was missing out on loads of support. Here’s what else I learned:

Most women's bra size changes six times in her lifetime. Thanks to normal body shifts like weight fluctuations, pregnancy and menopause, your perfect size is pretty much a moving target. Hooray! The good news? If you follow the recommended washing instructions (hand wash in cold water; use soap with no alcohol), you can expect to get two years of regular use out of your bras.

Your bra should fit snugly. Not let-me-show-you-my-back-fat tight, but fitted. Rule of thumb is actually a rule of two fingers: You should be able to slip only two fingers (no more, no less) under the strap at the small of your back. As for the cups, no spillover! Your breasts should be flush with the front edge of the cup.

A new bra should have stretch room. When you buy a bra, it should fit (as described above) when it’s hooked at the widest point (most bras have three hook settings). That way, as the bra naturally stretches, you'll be able to cinch it by moving to the next set of hooks.

Resist the same old, same old. Um, take a look see when you next find yourself in a lingerie store or lingerie department. What’s that you see? Lots of pretty colors? Exactly my point. Especially in the fall and winter, when we’re all bundled in layers of black, gray and navy, wearing colorful underpinnings is just plain fun.

Next: Sexy but Subtle Fashions for Every Age

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