Ah, the bra! Remember the excitement (and the embarrassment) of getting your first one? Did yours have crossed tennis racquets between the boobs or the flower? We’ve come a long way, babies, from those first bras, and most of us are now looking for lingerie designers to give back what time, babies, and gravity have stolen. But, let’s face it, finding the right bra is not an easy task! Underwire or no? Lined cups or not? Why is it poking me in the armpit? Why are they so darn expensive? Last week I talked to a real-live bra expert, and we answered all of your bra-related questions and then some! I’m pretty knowledgeable about the subject, but I was blown away by all there is to know about finding the perfect bra, and then taking care of your investment.
First, let’s get to know the expert: Juli Marton is an Independent Representative and Certified Bra Fitter for Essential Bodywear, a company that revolutionizes bra fitting by making it fun, affordable, and stress free. Her passion for making women look and feel good in their clothes began over twenty years ago working as a bra fitter for a retail store and continues today. After trying the product and seeing fantastic results, Juli started selling Essential Bodywear in 2010 after leaving the Media industry to spend more time with her growing family. A native of Reston, Virginia, Juli graduated Keene State College in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in Management. She currently resides in Fairfax, Va with her husband and two children.
Juli and I covered all of your questions, I and I learned so much in our time together—she’s a wealth of information!
Because there was so much to cover, I’ve divided the information into 2 sections-Fit and Care
Its estimated that 85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, so fit seems to be a good place to start! A good-fitting bra is essential for dressing well, as it provides a good foundation for whatever you’re wearing. With the right fit, Juli says, a bra should be so comfortable you forget you have it on! No more tugging at straps, digging underwires out of sensitive places, or cups gapping at the top.
Juli says the best way to find your size is simply to leave it to the professionals. Don’t worry about the old measuring rules that say you should measure under your breasts to find band size, and then around your breasts, subtract the smaller number, carry the one, and divide by seven (I might have made some of that up—I was never very good at math). Here’s why: When you raise your arms to measure yourself, your rib cage expands, making the measurement for band size incorrect. A bra fitter will be able to fit you with your arms at your sides, giving a more accurate measurement.
According to Juli, most women are wearing bras with too big of a band and too small of a cup. When the band size is too big, your breasts hang lower than they should. When your cups are too small, your breasts get squished. Low-hanging, squished breasts? Not exactly the look we’re all going for, I’m sure!
When was your last professional bra fitting? Most of my clients cringe when I ask this, because it’s been awhile! For the record, you should get a professional fitting once a year, OR when you gain/lose 10 or more pounds OR after you’ve had a baby. Juli recommends waiting 2 months after having a baby if you’re not breastfeeding, or until you’ve stopped breastfeeding to get fitted.
A FB fan asked how to get a good-fitting bra if your boobs are different sizes. Juli told me that almost everyone has this challenge to varying degrees. The trick is to fit the bigger one, and then fill the cup of the smaller breast to match (if your unevenness is that noticeable). Fabric stores sell bra pads that add either a half or a full cup size. Also, look for a bra that has a lot of structure—a flimsy cup will show the size difference more.
Another accessory Juli swears by is band extenders. A lot of women fall between band sizes—a 35, for example, instead of a 34 or 36. An extender can make the smaller size fit perfectly when it’s new, and you can take it off once the band stretches out a little. When you invest in a great bra, invest in the little things that help make it fit perfectly.
We also talked about how to properly put a bra on (yes, there is a right way—or at least a “better” way). Juli told me the correct order is straps over your shoulders, hook in the back, and then scoop and swoop. Say what? Scoop & Swoop—this means bringing the breast tissue in and up. Reach in to your cup, and cup your breast underneath (that’s the scoop). Swoop your breast tissue straight up toward your shoulder—not toward your chin like you may have been told (there’s the swoop!). For those of you who do the hook in front, then twist around method, our expert says to avoid twisting in the same direction every time. This puts a lot of stress on one side of the bra and stretches it out unevenly.
How do you know if your bra fits well? Here are a few things you can look for: A well-fitting band will lie parallel to your waistband. A band that is riding up is most likely too big. It should also be snug, but comfortable. A band that leaves marks is too small. Your nipple line should be halfway between your shoulder and your elbow. Check your cups—they should lie flat at the armpit. If the cups are bagging, they’re too big. If they’re folding over, they’re too small.
The piece between your cups should lie flat against your breastbone.
A reader asked if it’s ok to go to a higher end store, like Nordstrom or Trousseau, to be fitted, and then go somewhere less expensive to buy the bra. Juli doesn’t recommend this, for a few reasons. First, sizes may not be the same between brands. When a fitter sees you in different bras, she can make adjustments. Juli also advises us to invest in our bras—a good bra can be found in the $60-$80 range. Lower end bras are made for young women, she says. Juli told me that as we age, our breast tissue gets wider…and cheap cups just aren’t made for that!
We got a few questions about strapless bras—mainly “Is there such a thing as a good strapless bra?”. Juli asked us to keep in mind that on a regular bra, the band is responsible for 80% of the support, and the straps the remaining 20%. So, when you wear a strapless bra, you’re going to be losing 20% of the support right off the bat. With that said, she gives the following guidelines for finding the best strapless bra: First, look for a wide band to maximize support. Try going down a cup size to see if that helps. Also, look for a rubber lining along the edges of the band that will help keep the bra in place. She also recommends bringing a solid color top to try on over the bra so you can see if there’s buckling or bunching anywhere.
Other fit questions I received were about plus size bras and back fat. Juli claims everyone has a little back fat. The trick is to get a wide band that fits properly—another reason to get professionally fitted! For plus size bras, quality is key, Juli says. Cheaply made bras just aren’t going to cut it. She also recommends visiting a specialty store that carries a wide variety of sizes, as plus size doesn’t necessarily mean big boobs, and traditional stores tend to only carry bigger cup sizes for plus size women.
Finally I was asked about different types of bras—underwire vs softcup and padded/lined vs, unlined. Juli told me that mostly it comes down to preference. Underwires are going to give you more shape, and will make your breast more round instead of teardrop. As for lined and padded, Juli recommends a thin padding or lining to give more nipple coverage.
The first thing to know about caring for your bras is what kind of a bra wardrobe you need. Too few, and they’re going to wear out faster.
Juli recommends having 2 types of bras: T-shirt bras (the fewer seams the better) and a strapless bra (a convertible bra will give you more bang for your buck!). She says we all should have at least 3 t-shirt bras—One to wear, one to wash, and one waiting. Color counts too! Invest in two beige/nude bras, and one black one. Note—white bras didn’t make the must have list! You’re better off with beige, as you can wear them under everything.
Our expert advises replacing your bras every year, or 100 washes if they’ve been taken care of well. To take care of them well, hand wash them or use a lingerie bag. Make sure the hooks are fastened while the bra is being washed. Never dry them in the dryer—the heat is too much for the elastic. Also, don’t hang them by the strap to dry (or ever). That causes one side to stretch out. Instead lay them flat or hang them by the center.
You don’t have to wash your bra each time you wear it, though. Juli told me you can wear your bra 3-5 times before washing depending on how much you sweat. However, don’t wear the same bra 3-5 days in a row! Bras need to rest between wearings. Like a good pair of leather shoes, wearing them every day will cause them to stretch out faster. Give your bra a break and let it regain its shape before wearing again (24 hours will do).
Storing your bras properly will help them last longer, too. Julie recommends we avoid the “flip and fold”, which is where you fold the bra in half and nest one cup in the other (I admit to being guilty of this when I travel). This is a great way to cause creases and folds in the cups that won’t go away, effectively ruining the bra. Instead, stack them in your drawer so they rest on top of each other.
Hopefully you learned as much as I did from our bra expert. She was so much fun to talk to, and I can't wait for our big bra event in September!
I want to thank everyone who submitted questions on the Apple & Pear’s Facebook page. You asked such great questions, and gave us so much to talk about! And a huge Thank You to Juli Marton from Essential Bodywear for taking the time to chat with us about this very important topic! If you have questions that didn’t get answered, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll make sure it gets to Juli.
Now, here’s the really fun part! Leave a comment below—your biggest bra challenge, something you learned from this post, or was it tennis racquets or a flower…anything really! I’ll randomly draw a winner to receive ½ off a bra at next month’s bra event. Save the date-Sept 19-for a great night of food, fun, and fittings!