Fashion Tips, Features, How to Wear
By Lauren Bravo on April 27th, 2010
You can’t build a house on bad foundations, and nor can you build a killer outfit without the right underwear. With 70 per cent of women wearing the wrong size, the nation’s breasts are in distress.
Not having a live-in Gok Wan to hoist ours up in front of a three-way mirror, it can be easy to forget all about them and let those bras fray, straps sag and our boobs spill over into unwelcome territory. Then there’s the fact that whatever our age, going for a bra fitting will always make us feel like a gawky 13-year-old, blushing beetroot while our assets are fondled by someone resembling Mrs Beeton.
But with underwear as outerwear a massive trend for summer, what better time to reclaim control of your chest? Start by going for a free in-store fitting (we love John Lewis and Debenhams for their motherly service and huge range of lingerie brands), or failing that, measure yourself using the guide below.
Bra (left), £30, Monsoon.
Start by using a tape measure to measure all the way around your rib cage, under your bust, at the place the bottom bit of the bra would sit. Make sure it stays level all the way round, not slipping down at the back. Then look at your measurement in inches – it it’s an odd number, add five. If it’s an even number, add four. That’s your band size (otherwise known as “the unflattering bit”. But don’t be tempted to vanity size; most people who tell you they’re a 28F will be LYING).
Next, measure around the fullest part of your bust and compare it to your band size (the rib measurement + 4 or 5) to determine your cup size. If the bust measurement is the same as the band size, you’re a cup size A. If it’s one inch more, your cup size is B. Two inches more makes your cup size a C, three inches more makes a D, four inches makes a DD, five inches makes an E, and so on through F, FF, G and beyond. If your bust measurement is smaller than your band size, you’re probably measuring wrong. Or a boy.
Trying them on for size:
Wear something fairly representative of your wardrobe when bra shopping, so you can see what will work best under your clothes. If your wardrobe is an army of plain white t-shirts, don’t go shopping in a corseted cocktail dress and wonder why you only buy lacy half-cut balconettes. Also, don’t go to a fitting wearing an empire line dress, which you will then be forced to tie round your hips like an apron in an attempt to hide your modesty in front of the nice fitting lady (that was the voice of experience, in case you didn’t catch it).
When trying on bras, do them up on the loosest hook to make sure there’s room for inevitable stretch. Make sure the central band sits flat against your body, and that you can comfortably fit two fingers underneath the straps and back band. If the underwiring is digging into your armpits, try a demi-cut style that sits lower under your arms. Check for double-boob (too small on the cups), back-boob (too small on the band size, or bottom band too narrow) and belly-boob (straps too long or fabric too stretchy). A good bra should be like a building society – reliable, unlikely to collapse, and generates interest on your assets.
Bra (right) £7, Matalan
Different types of bra:
The most everyday of your everyday undies (excluding those knickers with the rip you save for ‘those days’), the humble t-shirt bra is a top drawer staple. If you wear t-shirts, that is. Made without a raised seam so it won’t show under clingy fabrics, this bra tends to be function over fashion, and often pretty uninspiring – however, figleaves.com comes up trumps with this subtly sexy nude number.
Balconies will always be associated with romance and beauty, and their namesake bra is no different. It will lift and separate your god-given two, giving you a heaving, shelf-like bosom the likes of which Juliet would be proud to woo Romeo from. Classier than a push-up, and equally flattering to big and small boobs alike, balcony bras are an aesthetic winner. But be warned, they’re not the best option for jiggle-reducing. Or sport.
Check out the view from this Miss Ultimo balcony.
Vintage underwear has never been so hot (apart from when it was, well, new) and the longline bra is one of the chicest ways to bring a little pin-up to your underpinnings. They serve a great practical function too, by creating a smooth line right down to your waist, in a move I like to call “back boob begone!”. And if you don’t fancy donning someone else’s old bra, there are plenty of gorgeous new longlines to choose from in the shops – this FrostFrench number is a particular favourite.
Like chilli sauce and glitter eyeshadow, push up bras are only to be used sparingly. We’re a long way from Eva Herzigova’s infamous Hello Boys campaign – these days it’s more a case of Coo-ee Boys, Over Here… Under this Smock Top and Military Jacket. But it’s still a rare woman who doesn’t have a boob-booster tucked away somewhere in her collection. For cleavage with class, try a Princess Tam Tam creation like this one from ASOS.
It’s the bra men will never understand the point of, but minimisers can be a saviour for girls who don’t always want to flaunt their wares. Under androgynous outfits, ruffled blouses and shift dresses, a good minimiser will streamline your silhouette and offer more support than Arsenal’s home terraces. This sheer bra from La Redoute is proof that minimising doesn’t have to mean mundane.