Ask Belle: An Over-the-Shoulder-Bolder-Holder

May 14, 2013

Hi Belle,

I appreciated your post on underwear. Can you do a similar post on bras? I know it’s time to graduate from VS Pink but am overwhelmed by the sheer number of options in the Bloomingdale’s bra department. 

Thank you, M

Studies show that the majority of women are wearing the wrong bra size.  Even more women are wearing the wrong bra shape or are wearing bras that have long since passed their prime.  Good bras improve posture and help you look better in your clothes, so why are so many women ‘meh’ about finding the right bra?

I firmly believe that every woman should have a professional bra fitting at least once a year.  (Coincidentally, the fine ladies at Wacoal will be measuring me this evening.)  I recommend going to a local lingerie boutique (like Coup de Foudre) and having yourself measured, or stopping by a Nordstrom or Macy’s for a fitting.  You can even do it yourself with a flexible tape-measurer, some basic math and a how-to guide (hey, it’s better than nothing).


Calvin Klein Perfectly Fit Multi-Way Bra ($46)

For every day, I like smooth seamless bras in nude.  You can wear them with any fabric (thin or heavy) and under any color clothing.  This multi-way bra from CK can be worn four ways, has the thinnest racerback on the market and clasps in the front, which I think adds a bit of oomph to the cleavage.

I also wear this plunge push-up from Victoria’s Secret a lot, it’s comfortable and gives just the right amount of push-up.  In other words, it gives you some believable lift without creating a situation where you move but your breasts don’t.  It’s one thing to push-up, it’s another to wear three inches of padding on your chest.  If you need that much lift, but a pair of inserts (cutlets) or a gel push-up bra, so at least they bounce when you walk.

As for strapless bras, I searched high and low for a strapless bra that gave me the right shape (not too flat, not too conical), and found this convertible bra from Le Mystere.  It doesn’t fall down, so I don’t have to pull at it all night, and it doesn’t pinch.  Also, if you need a strapless and backless bra, I like the Fashion Forms sitck-on bra with underwire lift.

Lastly, it’s no secret that I like pretty lingerie.  On days when I feel ‘blah’, wearing pretty underthings makes me feel a little better about life.  Lacy and racy underpinnings are an instant confidence booster.  Wearing lingerie for yourself is empowering.

For sets that don’t break the bank, I like Elle McPherson intimates, b.Tempted by Wacoal and Eberjey, for more relaxed/casual pieces that are still pretty.

Now, if you’re a specialty size, I can only offer what knowledge I have gleaned from reading years of reader comments on the subject.  Petite ladies should check out this post from my blog-friend Jean at Extra Petite, and then check out The Little Bra Company.  Ladies with larger cup sizes should check out this blog post on the best brands for fuller-chested women.  Also, past commenters have touted Her Room as a great place to find bras online since the sizes go up to 58I.

If you have a bra you like or a store you adore, leave your thoughts in the comments.  Thanks!

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  1. Addison says:

    I LOVE the Body by Victoria demi cup with memory foam. For my size, a push up bra is too much for work, but I still want them to look their best. This is the best bra I’ve found for getting lift without in your face cleavage. Plus they come in cute prints in addition to solids

  2. Karin says:

    I love the Wacol Halo bra. I believe Nordstrom has the best personnel for bra fittings. Once you know what type works for you , you can look for sales, etc. Wacol also makes the best sports bra – IMO.

  3. Jill H says:

    How long does the adhesive last (lifetime-wise, not for one wear) for the Fashion Forms stick-on bra? I have a ton of backless dresses that I’m dying to wear this summer, but no good bra to wear with them and this seems like a great solution! I just wonder if the lifetime of the bra is worth the $50?

    • Belle says:

      I’ve worn mine a few dozen times and it looks like it’s new, still sticks well. Years ago, I had the first version and wore that for two or three years with regular summertime wear before I decided to toss it. There are maintenance instructions in the package so you know how to wash it properly, which is key.

  4. heather says:

    2 cool new tools for supporting the twins-
    Trueandco dot com has a great quiz feature and offers a program that you put a $50 deposit on a box, choose the items to fill it (bras, panties, loungewear, etc.) They ship the box to you to choose and pay for what you like. Return the things you don’t and you won’t be charged for them. (panties are sealed and for appearance only. If you open them you bought them)
    Also Herroom offers a “Know your breasts bra finder” that asks about not only size, but shape and how they hang to help you find an ideal bra for you. Click on their Bra Fitting center image on the upper right corner of their homepage, and it’s in the center of the page it links to.

  5. amanda says:

    I’ve had very good experiences shopping at Intimacy ( I go to the Boston store, but I know they have a bunch of other locations. The sales staff are always helpful, knowledgeable and super professional. They usually have enough options in stock to keep my happy but not so many as to be overwhelming… and of course, once you have a fitting and get a good sense of what size and style you should be looking for, you can go online to find more options.

    • EBT says:

      I second the Intimacy recommendation! I’ve been to both the Atlanta and NYC stores and am planning a trip out to Tyson’s to visit the DC area store soon.

      My all-time FAVORITE bra is the Marie Jo Avero. It’s on the expensive side, but a) it comes in my (relatively obscure) size and b) I’ve never had such extraordinary support and comfort from a bra in my life. Also, it is pretty.

      • EBT says:

        Also, once you know your size/style, you can troll ebay to get that expensive bra for a little less (even when it’s brand new with tags).

    • Danielle says:

      I third the Intimacy recommendation. I’ve been buying my bras at the Boston location for 5-6 years. I was told for years that I was a 38DD when in reality I’m a 36F or G depending on the maker. The difference in how I look and how my clothes fit is incredible. It isn’t cheap, but if you take care of what you buy it will last way longer than other lingerie you might buy. I also got a great Anita sports bra for my boot camp classes there, it keeps my girls where they should be. 🙂

  6. phoebe says:

    I second the suggestion of true&co. I wear 32A (a hard-to-find size) and the bras I have bought from them are the best-fitting bras I’ve ever owned. AND they’re gorgeous.

  7. NS says:

    this is so timely! thanks for your CK suggestion. I’ve been looking for good push-ups that add volume but are seamless for office wear.

  8. Leah says:

    For locals with odd bra sizes like me (32DDD, yikes) I adore Coup de Foudre by Metro Center. Make an appointment, tell the woman what you want and she measures you and brings you tons of options. No pressure to buy, but I love going in at least once a year, getting a fitting and coming out with a new every day bra.

  9. Stephanie says:

    The best places I have found in the DC area for bra fittings are Trousseau in Vienna and Nordstrom. I am a 34GG so going to stores that actually sell my size helps with getting a good fitting. My favorite brands are Panache and Freya which are both british brands and are avaialable on many websites, including ASOS.

  10. LeslieJeannene says:

    I love Trousseau in Vienna ( – they are pricey but their bras are beautiful and they are great at sizing/fitting. Also, the women there are experts, you walk in and they can almost tell you everytime what size you are and don’t make you feel self concious when you are getting sized (which has happned in the past) they carry a great variety of all sizes and are willing to order additional sizes if needed.

  11. Anon says:

    I always go to Nordstrom for my fittings. If you go there for a fitting, I recommend calling ahead to their personal stylist department to make an appointment for the fitting. They will set you up with a manager or a very experienced associate. That is much better than just showing up and taking whoever is available.

    • Sam says:

      I’ve never set up an appointment at Nordstroms but haven’t had any problems with whoever was available. I did have to wait a few minutes while they finished up with other customers, but no big deal.

      It truly is amazing how important a fitting is. I used to wear a 36A (using my own measurements), then was fitted for a 32B (per Wacoal). I recently went in again, and I’m a 30D (per Calvin Klein). A salesperson will know what styles/brands/sizes to put you in because they know their products.

  12. a says:

    I definitely agree about seeing a professional. And I would definitely not consider Victoria’s Secret staff to be professional fitters. For years, multiple VS fitters told me I was a 38D, and my college roommate who worked at VS for 3 years and had a larger chest than me was dead sure that she was a 38B. 2 yrs ago I had a fitting at Intimacy in Tysons and found out I was a 34F. Intimacy really knows what they’re talking about and has a great selection of BEAUTIFUL European lingerie- which fits better, is more well made, and looks prettier than American stuff. And, even more surprising, my 34Fs are dantier and smaller than the VS Ds, which are massive and ugly.

    I definitely recommend Intimacy for at least sizing, and helping you discover what brands you like. (LOVE Chantel and Freya), then I suggest shopping online at Nordstrom or Figleaves, which is wayyyyyyy less expensive than Intimacy, who pretty much never has a sale. A few good things about Intimacy though, if something on your bra breaks, they will tailor it for you (it used to be free altering for life, then they really ticked me off and started charing $8-20 depending on the repair, even if you bought it when they said “free for life”), and they offer free bra-check up every 6 months. Once, a junior fitter sold me a poorly fitting bra, and when I came back for the check up, the senior fitter noticed and exchanged it for the right size at no cost to me.

  13. Sharon S. says:

    I was not thrilled with my experience at Coup de Foudre but I think that is because I have basically no chest (size 32A). The selection for bras in that size is extremely limited. So, while the saleslady was nice, I ultimately was unhappy with the bra I purchased.

    I’ve had MUCH better luck with the SK push-up bras. And they come in adorable patters. You can get them for about $20 at Nordstrom Rack.

  14. LadyMacbeth says:

    How many bras should you have? I’ve heard wildly different answers. Also, are there certain basic bras that one should have (e.g. a nude, a white, a black, a strapless, etc)?

  15. Anon says:

    How is Soma not on this list? Fantastic quality, a million fits and sizes, and every associate I’ve ever spoken to, in locations all across the region, has known what they’re talking about.

    • chelsea says:

      I second your rec for Soma. They always have bras in my size 34DD in a range of colors and styles and often have good sale prices.

  16. darley says:

    There is no better bra in my experience for plus size/large breasts than the PrimaDonna Deauville. I wore it religiously as a 42G and while being a 36G has expanded my options somewhat, it’s still in the rotation. The only drawback is it’s 130 bucks, but in G cup territory the money is so worth it.

  17. Alaina says:

    Victoria’s Secret (and many other places) know nothing about fitting bras. Victoria’s Secret is probably the worst in perpetuating incorrect bra sizes and trying to shove people into their minuscule range of sizes.

    Many places are still using the +4 method, which is completely inaccurate nowadays since there is elastic in bras now. I’d been wearing a 34B, but it turns out that my bra size is actually a 30DD. The problem with adding 4 inches is that the band ends up being too big and the cups too small. My bras fit amazingly better now that I have the right size.

    I realize that some people will fit into those sizes available at Victoria’s Secret and elsewhere, but the majority of us do not.

    I don’t know if it’s okay to link out to Reddit, but this subreddit is awesome and is what opened my eyes to correct bra sizing:

    • anon says:

      Agreed. I get a yearly fitting at a various local shops, Nordstrom, or Bloomingdale’s, who all confirm I am holding steady at 30D (the past 5 times I’ve checked). Then, I go to VS out of curiosity. Every time, they say I am a 34B.

      Herroom has the best online selection, imo. I like Bare Necessities too.

  18. KH says:

    Just like at VS, inexperienced Soma staff WILL let you walk out the door with the wrong size and style. Both VS and Soma are guilty of putting customers in whatever sizes and styles they have, not what size/style you need. After being fitted at Intimacy and Livi Rae, I have never gone back to Soma.

  19. Ginger R. says:

    I agree about VS. I also think they engage in vanity sizing.

    I had a good fitting at Sylene’s in Chevy Chase. I bought a bra there and then used what I learned about my correct size to fill out the rest of my bra wardrobe at less expensive places. My general feeling is that the proper size band is tighter than what most women think it should be. But, once you adjust they do fit better.

    • Alaina says:

      Getting the correct size was such an eye opener for me! We have this idea that anyone who wears a D or bigger cup has large breasts, but I sure as heck do not. Anyways, time for me to stop bravangelizing. 😛

  20. Erica says:

    coup de foudre is THE best in DC. Just saying.

  21. elz says:

    Nordstrom for fitting and good, solid brands. I have a weird/hard to find size and Soma and VS don’t work for me. My favorite brands are Chantelle and Simone Perele. I find good deals at local lingerie stores, Nordstrom Rack, Herroom, and Bare Necessities. I agree with everyone above, a good fit is key & life changing!

  22. MBM says:

    I agree that every woman ought to know their size but once that is done, pending a weight loss or gain, I’m a total advocate of bargain hunting. I just went to Marshall’s (yes, Marshall’s) and picked up TWO La Perla bras in my size for $25 each – the original price tags was still attached and rang in at the tune of $120 per bra. You never know what you’re going to find so you can’t go in with an agenda, but if you’re game for the hunt, it can be fun (and thrifty). Also a great place to pick up underwear – most of which is under $2.

  23. […] And do not go to Victoria’s Secret, where the measurement system is notoriously inconsistent. Belle at Capitol Hill Style recommends Coup de Foudre, for DC-area ladies, as a reputable place to learn more about your […]

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