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Six Tips For Finding the Perfect Bra

Starting in sixth grade—when my chest essentially tripled in size—and until very recently, I have dreaded bra shopping. The novelty of the garment was lost as I began to, ahem, blossom, and I became obsessed with the idea of flatness. Most days I left for school wearing not just one, but two, sometimes even three sports bras to fake the sleek look of my peers. (Thank goodness I wasn't allowed to watch R rated movies. Had I seen Boys Don't Cry, I may have even tried some unfortunate maneuvers with an Ace bandage.)

It didn't help that every trip to the lingerie department left me frustrated and befuddled. The sales clerk would measure my chest, send me to the fitting room with my "size," and leave me to my own devices. I found most things I tried on to be unflattering and, even worse, uncomfortable. There were a few times I thought I had found "the bra" and excitedly purchased it—but within a few weeks it would stretch out and look saggy. Back to the sports bras.

After nearly seven years of this, when I left for college, I was determined to find a solution to my dilemma. Because surely, I was not so abnormally shaped that there was no bra—seriously, NO BRA ANYWHERE??!—that made me feel good. Given the wide variety of specialty stores in New York City, I found more palatable options than before, but still, I was always tugging, adjusting and lifting. It was not until I happened upon the Upper East Side outpost of Intimacy, a lingerie boutique known for its personal service and a wide variety of sizes, that I finally found some answers.

Inside, a sweet sales clerk took one look at me, pulled a bunch of options and walked me through all of them in the dressing room. (I know it sounds weird to be in such close proximity to a stranger while you are topless, but it helps so much to have someone there, adjusting straps and explaining fit. Trust me on this.) Within five minutes, she had me out of my 32C cups and into a 30D, bringing over a decade of agonizing to an abrupt end.

Shocked at the simple solution (and thrilled by how great my chest looked!), I was eager to learn more. Recently, I had a chance to sit down with the founder of Intimacy, Susan Nethero (or as she is also known, "The Bra Whisperer") to discuss the six steps to finding the right bra for you. Here they are:

1. There is nothing wrong with you. Like me, many women are prone to believing that they have bizarrely shaped bodies and are to blame for their ill-fitting brasseries. "99 percent of the time there is nothing wrong with your body," says Nethero. "It's about finding the right bra size or perhaps style of bra, depending on what is going on in your life."

Think of your undergarments like anything else in your wardrobe: something that can be tailored to meet your needs. Would you pass up the perfect pair of jeans because they were too long for you? No, you'd get them hemmed. Worry first about finding a cup size that fits your breasts and then, if the band feels too big, have it altered. Intimacy offers free alterations on all their pieces and, if something you've previously purchased stretches, they will also take it in for you.

2. Doesn't feel right? Don't buy it. "If it is uncomfortable then you know you have a problem. We know about 65 percent of women come to us for comfort related reasons," the lingerie expert told me. "That's the first sign: if your bra is uncomfortable then you know that it's not fitting you properly because the parts of the bra that are supposed to be providing stability, aren't."

A major cause of discomfort is underwire. If the underwire hurts, then the cup is probably too small. Go up a size and, as we mentioned before, if the straps feels loose, have it altered. Straps that constantly fall down are another red flag.

3. Back fat is bad. And not just because it's well…back fat. "The majority of women should not see any back fat—that's a sign that the bra is not fitting you properly," the lingerie guru explained. "You should also not be pillowing out of the top, no 'spillage' out of the top or underneath the cup."

4. Get the tightest band possible. "The most common mistake women make when shopping for bra is buying a bra that is too big around the body," Nethero insisted. "90 percent of the support that comes from the bra being firm around the body." She explained besides being tight, this part should also be "level or lower in the back by as much as one inch and angling up to the front," to provide the correct amount of lift and support.

5. You can't lock yourself into one cup size. Just because you've always been a 36C doesn't mean you'll be a 34C (even) if you lose weight around your core. You might be a 34B, 34C or a 34D, depending on whether or not you also lost weight in your breasts.

6. Make time to get fitted. Various brands and styles will wear completely different, so it's essential that you get yourself in a store and try them on with the help of an expert. "A lot of women don't even try on a bra before they buy it, they just buy a size—that's a bad thing to do," Nethero warns. "A lot of times a women will buy a bra for comfort to start and after a couple of wearing all the sudden the bra stretches and becomes too loose. As a consequence, the bra becomes uncomfortable."

To find an Intimacy location near you, plus more information on bra shopping and brands, visit Myintimacy.com. And below, share your own advice and stories—bras are tricky...we need to learn from each other!

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