Whether for exercise, work, nursing, comfort or seduction, most women – from almost A to double J – possess a rainbow of bras for a variety of occasions. It hasn't always been this way, though.
The bra began its evolution a century ago to become the garment we know, love – sometimes hate – and wear today. In the early 1900s, the corset was still the standard for fashionable women. The tight-fitting dresses and beauty standards of the era demanded ultra-tiny waists, and cinchable corsets made this look possible.
In 1907, French dressmaker Paul Poret designed a line of looser, less form-fitting dresses. And with them – God bless him – he introduced a smaller, less constricting undergarment. Alas, the brassiere was born.
Fast forward 100 years, and Oprah Winfrey reveals that 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. The show's makeovers were incredible: droopy breasts were transformed into buoyant ones; torsos rippling with back fat became silhouettes as sleek as porpoises. And now – as Oprah's powerful word tends to do – women are flooding local lingerie shops to find a good fit.
Jennifer Loerich, the store manager who specializes in bra fittings at Candice's Boutique on Montgomery Rd., says there's a few tell-tale sign that you're part of that staggering 85 percent. "The signs would be seeing the breast tissue coming out the bottom of the bra, the bra may creep up your back and you may see tissue bulge out the top of the bra," she says. "These would all be signs of a bad bra fitting."
If you have any of the above, you'll want to get fitted. Loerich says you'll want to go to a place that has private fitting rooms and bra fitters on staff, such as those available at Candice's Boutique.
Proper sports bra fitting is important too, says Katie Rhodes, a West side-based physical therapist. "Prior to my pregnancy I just wore two or three sports bras to prevent the bounce, but when I jumped to a 32E/F, I had to get fitted," Rhodes says. "It has been the best decision of my life. The girls don't giggle and I am a ton comfier."
So, hands down, a bra fitting is necessary. But if the sound of a bra fitting makes your knees weak with images of public nudity and a bevy of bra-fitters poking and prodding your breasts, Loerich says it's nothing like that. She says they do take a measurement, but it is a private situation if you go to a place with private fitting rooms.
"With this measurement they will be able to tell you what bra size and body type you are and what bra will work best for you," she says. "They will then explain and teach you what to look for in a bra that will suit your needs."
If you're still apprehensive about the bra fitting experience, you can go online to sites like www.brasize.com where there's a do-it-yourself guide to measuring yourself and a bra calculator that will give you a reasonably accurate indication of your size.
Once you do figure out your bra measurements, then you have a completely different hurdle: cute – but tricky – summer tops. For those, Loerich says, you'll want to get a bra that is a little lower in front to accomidate the tricky cuts, but still give you a smooth look. There are also some bras that have detachable straps so you can wear it the standard way, or convert it to a racerback or strapless bra.
And something else that sticks out just as bad as stray straps is the color of your bra. For example, just because you wear a white bra under a white top doesn't mean it won't scream "Hey everyone, lookie here, I have a white bra on!" Because it will. Instead, wear nude or other hue of bra that best matches your skin tone. Also, black lingerie is best worn under black garments.
If your garment is too tricky for those tips, don't fret, you still have options. Loerich recommends stickies – adhesive-backed fabric stickies to cover your nipples – for garments such as low back dresses. "Because low back bras are hard to find, I don't recommend them for everyone because everybody has a different shape," she says. "What may work for someone may not work for the next person. So it really depends on the body shape and the size cup and the look they are trying to accomplish with the outfit or dress."
Loerich says Candice's offers many other products, such as backless, strapless self-adhesive bras, breast prostesis and post-surgical bras, hair prosthesis and compression garments, as well.