Size yourself up. Think you already know your bra size? You may be shocked. Start your search by taking new measurements—and don’t assume that department-store salespeople will measure you correctly. Instead, go to a boutique that specializes in bras, like Intimacy (which has stores nationwide) or your local old-school lingerie shop. Or just do it yourself: To measure the band, tightly wrap a tape measure around your ribs, directly under your breasts. Then take a second measurement by wrapping the tape snugly around your back, under your arms and straight across the top of your chest. If the numbers differ, take an average of the two. To measure your cup size, place the tape measure on your sternum, between the breasts, and extend it out over the widest part of the breast to the point where it connects with your rib cage. Four inches is roughly an A-cup; five inches, a B-cup; six inches, a C-cup and so forth. If your breasts differ, go with the larger size.
Don’t skip the dressing room. Bra sizes vary from brand to brand, so you really have to try them on. Use our tips beside the illustrations above to make sure you get the best possible fit.
Pour and shake! There is a right way to put on a bra—whether you’re in the dressing room or your bedroom. We call it the “pour and shake” method: First put your arms through the straps, then lean forward while holding the sides of the band (or the closures, if it’s a front-fastening bra) and let your breasts fall into the cups. Pull the band taut, then stand up and fasten it at the widest setting (if you have a choice), because it will stretch over time. Shake a little, then readjust as needed to settle yourself in. This will ensure that your breasts point outward, not downward, for the perkiest projection.
Don’t hate on underwire. If you are a B-cup or bigger, an underwire bra is an absolute must, because it shapes the breasts, provides unbeatable support and slows down sagging. Underwire should comfortably surround the bottom and sides of the breast; if it is painful, go up a cup size. If you’re still anti-wire, look for brands like Wacoal, which uses more flexible boning instead of underwire.
Pull a disappearing act. When it comes to materials, silky bras are the most versatile because they’re not only smooth (we’ve all seen a bumpy lace bra under a body-con dress: disaster) but they’re also the least likely to catch on your clothing’s fabric and make it bunch or wrinkle. We like nylon-based fabrics because they’re breathable yet slippery enough to be discreet. Just make sure you buy it in the right color. Which brings us to our next point:
Find your shade of “nude.” Much like the peachy crayon formerly known as “flesh,” the color “nude” does not translate for everyone. Unless you happen to be stark white or jet black, neither of these hues will disappear under sheer clothing. So if you’re going for subtlety, opt for a tone that’s closer to your actual skin color. Calvin Klein, Only Hearts, Eres, Wacoal and DKNY all carry a wide range of skin-tone shades. Interestingly, the closest we found to a hue that universally disappears under white or sheer clothing regardless of skin color is a purply beige called Maquillage, created by British lingerie brand Bodas. It’s pretty miraculous.
Going strapless? Go smaller. Strapless bras play by their own set of rules. Lacking shoulder supports, they need to fit extra snugly so your breasts don’t sag (or, worse, come flying out at an inopportune moment). For most women, the trick is to buy one cup size smaller than your normal bra size. Look for a strapless bra with underwire, a wide band and a defined space between the cups to separate your breasts—unless you want to become known as the Uni-Boober.