It's typically the first and most important garment we put on, but rarely a thoughtful purchase. In fact, one in three women never try on a bra before buying it. Big mistake! I tapped Kimberly Caldwell of Linda's Bra Salon in Manhattan to find out how to buy and care for this wardrobe basic.
Prioritize Your Bras
The right bra can make you look slimmer and even give your outfit a more expensive, more polished look. Caldwell says ignoring your bust line, while focusing only on your clothes is a no-no. "If you're wearing the right bra, your outfit can look a thousand times better," she says. "But if you're wearing the wrong bra, it can look terrible. I've been fitting bras for eight years and have seen everything…A woman will come in with a $500 dress on and a terrible bra," she says. A bra doesn't just need to look good. More importantly it has to lift and give you a great shape.
You don't have to invest in a dozen bras at once. Start small with one to three bras, says Caldwell. "Start with jus a couple of good basics, which for most women means a couple of neutral-colored t-shirt bras - maybe one or two in black. See what you love the most then come back in and invest in more," she says.
Get Fitted Regularly
When shopping for a Bra, Caldwell says it's important to get a fitting every six to 12 months. "A lot of women think if they come in and get fitted, that's their size forever. That's not true," says Caldwell. She reminds shoppers that bras are like jeans. Every brand and style fit differently.
"More importantly, we're women. Our bodies change all the time." You bra size could change because of pregnancy, menopause, hormonal changes, surgery or weight fluctuation. Caldwell says even if you haven't experienced any of those things, you should visit a store anyway to be refitted because manufacturers sometimes change their sizes, as well.
And for those of us with bras more than a year old, Caldwell says they're likely past their prime. That's because bras are made predominantly of elastic, which has a life span of about six to 12 months. You can replace your bras at the same time you go for a fitting - a free service at most shops - but Caldwell also has tips for measuring yourself at home.
You want to start with your bra on and measure firmly around your rib cage, directly underneath your breasts. The tape measure should be horizontal around your body and shouldn't droop in the back. This is your underbust, or band measurement. Every band needs to be snug but the larger the bust you have, the tighter the band needs to be. Therefore those with a smaller bust should add two to three inches to their band measurement, while those with a fuller bust should add zero to two inches. Then, with your bra on, hold the tape measure firmly around the fullest part of your bust. Make sure the tape measure is taut and straight. This is your cup size measurement. Most bras come in even sizes so, if you come up with an odd measurement, go up to the nearest cup size.
Finally, subtract your band measurement from the bust measurement and count each number as a cup size, starting from A. For example, let's say your bust measures 35 and your under-bust measures 30. Do the math: 35-30 = 5. Count up from A, B, C…and you get a bra size of 30E. It may sound larger than usual. but Caldwell says after a proper fitting, the most common bra sizes at Linda's are F's and G's.
Hand Launder Your Bras
To best preserve your bras' lifespan, you'll want to hand wash, then air-dry. "For the detergent, you really should not be using your basic stuff on it," says Caldwell. "Use something that's specifically made for silk and lingerie." A tip: Use baby shampoo in a pinch and always avoid petroleum-based detergents. The most important rule is to never place your bras in the dryer. Let them hang dry, instead.
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Store and Wear Properly
After they're clean, it's best to store bras stacked face down in a drawer to help them keep their shape. Never crush, twist or fold one cup into the other. You'll end up denting one cup, ruining its shape. And you may not believe it, but there's even a right and wrong way to put on your bra. "It's really important that you're starting with your bra on the loosest hook," Caldwell advises. Then as the bra stretches- which every bra inevitably will -move on to the next hook. Once you get to the last set of hooks and the bra starts running up your back, it's time for a new one.
Take Care of Your Investment
Finally, bras are worth the investment - but how much do you have to pay for quality? At Linda's, Caldwell says most bras go for $55 to $85 - although they can range $26 to $126. For women who don't feel like spending big bucks on a piece of clothing that's relatively hidden, Caldwell has some advice, "Bras and underwear are called foundations for a reason. They're the basis of your everyday wardrobe so it's important to invest in good quality bras but, more importantly, to take care of them. It doesn't matter if you spend and $150 or $20 on a bra. If you don't take care of it, you're ruining your investment."
As always, we want to hear from you. What are some of your best lingerie tip? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, and use the hashtag #finFit.