Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday: Just for the Girls

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!


*carrie* said...

I watched an Oprah show years ago where she hosted a "bra boutique." It was fascinating!

This has been tricky for me having gone through 2 pregnancies (and nursing!) in the last few years. There have been a few changes. =)

I chickened out on getting a fitting, but I did take a friend's suggestion, and like you finally shelled out extra to buy two quality bras at VS!

Gretchen said...

Bra shopping ranks right up there with swimsuit, jean, and water heater shopping. I. don't. like. it.

I have had the store measure me, which can be eye opening (and humbling). :)
Oh, and just because you measure a certain size this year doesn't mean your "girls" will be the same size next year, thanks to gravity and weight gain/loss. Just sayin'.

Jennifer said...

Loved, loved, loved that you moved up two whole stripes! Hilarious! But it makes such a difference, doesn't it? I felt like I'd lost some significant weight when I moved on to a proper fitting, supportive, non-nursing bra.

OhioFamOf4 said...

I've never been comfortable with trying a bra fitting, but now that I've had two kids and my first mammogram I don't really have anything to hide from anyone any more, lol.

Katrina @ Pics, Pages & Purls said...

Yes, bra shopping not the funnest! However every woman should get "measured" yearly to make sure nothing has changed. I actually don't ever have to go bra "shopping" again. One of my dearest friends sells Essential Bodywear; where they do private fittings and such. They have bras, underwear & other under garments. :)

Christi @ Writing the Waves said...

I've never done that!

I just usually go the cheap and easy route, but it is probably time to do a real fitting, and buy a quality bra. It just doesn't sound like much fun...and I would so much rather spend the money on something like a pretty lamp! :)

Angie said...


I'm been a little nervous about getting measured but I think you've convinced me to do it once I'm back in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

jen medeiros said...

Oh my....I take the cheap route, too...Target....and usually as quickly as possible. It just seems like a HUGE chore....and more often than not I feel like I should be over where the training bras are...if you know what I mean. So with that said...I need to put on a brave face, find a "Mammy" and get myself measured for a "good" bra. Thanks!

SZM said...

I have been sized at Nordstrom and regularly purchased pricy bras there..now I am back at Target + TJ Maxx....but in the size the Nordstrom Mammy told me to get :)

Kendra said...

I worked for a year at Victoria's Secret so I know all about bras. Even how to measure myself as they change over they years, and change they do! I swear by VS bras. Only wear VS bras. They're expensive but they hold up so well if you take the right care of them. Being a woman sucks. I'd love to go without but what can one do!

Elizabeth said...

I think I might be the only one who doesn't hate bra shopping! I just feel (and look) so much better when I'm wearing the right size:) But nursing bras are the worst. I'm throwing them away as soon as the baby's done nursing.

Jill said...

I cannot believe you didn't write your new size in big red font. Mammy would want you to. And no before and after pictures? :o)

Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt said...

You crack me up with your "brawsing" hahahaha

I never did find a good nursing bra until Adelaide. Funny thing, I still wear it. (Well, I'll be nursing again anyway, right?) Have TONS of them and they fit perfectly. So why fix something that ain't broken (even if it has clips)?!

Lisa said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to comment to tell you how much I love it! This post especially was wonderful, and yes-I am guilty of wearing the same size for years and have probably been doing everything all wrong. I'm going to go find a "mammy" for myself!

As a side note, we used to live in Boulder and I miss Colorado! So beautiful.

Unknown said...

whale straps.... love it... AND so true!!