Okay...let me start off by steering the handful of male readers I have away from this post. It's not anatomically applicable.
It's about bras. Yes, bras. And I thought ketchup was a weird word.
For years and years and years, I've been buying bras off the clearance rack at JCPenney or TJMaxx or Kohl's or Target. I have a hard time spending money on something so............utilitarian. Last fall, I realized I was sick and tired of cheap, ill-fitting bras and set off on a quest to buy a good one. I decided to try Dillards because their selection is ginormous and because once upon a decade or two ago, I found a brand there that I liked and has since been discontinued.
I rode the escalator up to the the bra department and started browsing. A sales associate (let's just call her Mammy)(because I have a twisted sense of humor and I like to laugh) asked if she could help me and I politely said, no thanks, I'm just brawsing, er, I mean browsing, and continued about my business. I guess I looked clueless because she came back a few minutes later and asked me if I knew my bra size. I thought to myself, Of course I know my bra size, Mammy. I've been wearing this size my whole life. But I looked at her and said, "Yes, I guess so, I mean, I think so. No, I guess I don't really know. I've worn this size my whole life".
She looked at the bras I had gathered to try on and said, "I think we need to measure you because I'm VERY sure you're not the size you think you are". I didn't know whether to cringe or smile, but I dutifully followed her over to the "measuring" station. The results were quite surprising.
Here's some of what I learned that day that I want to share with you. I'm guessing a lot of you already know this so just smile and nod and pass it on to the people in your life who have never had a proper bra fitting!
Knowing your bra size is VERY important to finding the right bra. Turns out I've been wearing the wrong size for years and years and years. Do your bra straps slip? Then your bra is the wrong size. Does your bra hurt? Then your bra is the wrong size. Does your bra rub and chafe? Then your bra is the wrong size. Is there spillage? Gaping? Slipping? Sliding? Then your bra is the wrong size. Seriously, I thought that was just stuff women had to live with but it's NOT! I let Mammy measure me that day but if you're not really comfortable with someone doing that you can use a guide like this one.
Decide what kind of bra you need and how much you want to spend. Oh my gosh. There are zillions of different makes and models and fabrics and colors and price ranges. Convertible bras (with straps that can be configured and concealed depending on your top). Underwires. Bras that minimize. Bras that maximize. Tank top bras. Camisole bras. T-shirt bras. Bras that slim and smooth. And on and on and on. An in-store fitting will let you take full advantage of knowledgable ladies like Mammy. It's their job to help you! I bet she helped me try on two dozen different bras that day after listening to what I needed and how much moola I was willing to spend.
Don't wear the same bra every day. They hold their shape better if you alternate, plus they just last longer. And if you've been wearing the same bras for years and years and years like I was, then you should probably toss them. They're really not meant to last years and years and years.
Don't wash your bras in the washing machine. Wash by hand with mild detergent and lay flat to dry. And never, ever put them in the dryer. It damages the elastic and shortens the life of your bra. I'd been washing and drying my bras incorrectly for years and years and years.
When you buy a bra, it should fit comfortably when hooked on the last set of hooks and with the straps in a looser position. Over time the elastic breaks down and that's when you'll need to take advantage of the inner sets of hooks and tighten the straps. I'd been doing that wrong for years and years and years.
It's not realistic to assume that your bra size stays the same year after year after year. It doesn't.
I've already told you that it's hard for me to shell out more than clearance tag prices for functional undergarments. I ended up buying two bras that day for a total of $75. Pricey, but TOTALLY WORTH IT! Plus, now I know what size I (should) wear and how a bra should fit and can buy from the clearance rack with confidence from now on!
I can tell a HUGE difference in comfort (no more straps that slip!) and in how my clothes fit as well. Huge difference. I happened to have on a striped shirt the day I was shopping and Mammy told me proudly as I was leaving that I'd moved up TWO WHOLE STRIPES with that bra on (yes, I wore it out of the store). Oh, that Mammy was a funny gal.
PS: Oprah has a lot of information on the bra topic here. Very informative stuff!