Bras for all: Matching your bra to the blouse

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Guess what turned 100 this year?  The modern bra turned 100 years old in May, so to celebrate the beloved bra and to match blouses to brassieres, this week's column is all about bras. Bras for all of the many styles that hang in your closet.  What to wear under there can be perplexing.  For example, some bras are made for a strapless top, but will still gap in all the wrong places.  When this happened to me at a recent party, I found myself frustrated that the bra didn't fit the blouse, so I went shopping to see what's in and what's functional in this season's undergarment attire.  Read on to find bras for all!

First Up:  A Couple of Bra Basics
Sorting through the sea of bras that covered the racks, I felt overwhelmed when it came to selecting the right bra that would work best for my bust, my clothing and my budget.  So, I did some research to try to streamline this business of bra browsing, fitting and shopping.  I highly recommend visiting Nordstrom for a fitting session.  Simply call one of their stores and the lingerie department will schedule an appointment to measure you.  Then they show you the best bra for your bosom.  This is also a great idea if you have a tween who is ready to purchase her first training bra.

I also pulled out my favorite undergarment book, The Lingerie Handbook by Rebecca Aspen.  Her book explains how the right bra can transform a women’s wardrobe and overall look, not only boosting one’s bust, but one's self confidence as well!  Aspen's book's explains the three components of bra sizing.  They are the band, the cups and the straps:
-Band size is your ribcage size.
-Cup size is your breast size and it is relative to the band size.
-As the band gets bigger, the “U” of the cup size increases in width.
-If you go up in band size, then you may need to go down in cup size.
-Straps are meant to support the band, not the entire bra. 

Do get measured by a professional like the Nordstrom's lingerie ladies.  Do it yourself and you won’t get an accurate measurement because as your pull the measuring tape around your chest, your back will bend in and the sizing will be inaccurate.  Ok, now that we have gone through bra sizing, let's go shopping!

Blouse:  Tank, Halter & Strapless
Best Bra:  Bandeau or Convertible Bra & Pick-Me-Ups Tape!
Let me start by saying that I believe in buying expensive quality bras that will last and give your girls the ultimate in comfort and support, but since so many of us have to cut back right now, I am including some budget bras that passed my test.  For only $12.99, I found the Bandeau Bra at Stein Mart.  Strapless, lightweight and comfortable this bra beat out my expensive convertible one because it didn't gap under my arms. Removable pads are also included and this piece supports without an underwire, which was the problem with my convertible bra. 

I did miss the lift that the thicker convertible strapless bra gave me, so I found the perfect accessory at The Purple Skirt in Ahwatukee.  Pick-Me-Up breast lift tape by Pure Style looks odd and takes some getting used to, but they definitely give breasts a boost!  Each box will run you $17 and comes with three pairs of disposable tape.  So, the tape could be worn under a strapless dress to give lift or under the Bandeau as well.

I do really like and recommend a good convertible bra.  Victoria's Secret sells a new one called the Miraculous Multi-Way Bra.  At $55 for a solid color or $59.50 for a print, this bra isn't cheap, but can be worn four different ways.  It works under styles that include strapless, halter, crossback and even one-strap, plus it includes special padding that can add up to two cup sizes if you so desire. 

Blouse:  Deep low cut V-neckline
Best Bra:  Plunge Bra, Demi Cut or Adhesive Bra
Have you ever worn a low cut number that felt so sexy until you looked down and realized that you bra was peeking out?  It has happened to the best of us, so they make a bra for that.  Look for what is called a plunge bra that features a low cut middle section that is shaped like U.  The midsection extends pretty far down so that the middle of the bra can be placed really low.  I found one at Victoria's Secret called a U-Plunge Push-Up that sells for $42.00. 

Another bra style to know about is called the Demi Cut, which is an underwire style that is made with half the material of a full coverage bra.  In fact, "demi" means half.  Since the top of the breasts are exposed, this flatters a low cut or squared collared cut.  A sexy bra made for sexy styles.

Blouse:  T-Shirts and Fitted Sweaters and Tops
Best Bra:  Seamless with Full Coverage
Maidenform makes a bra that is designed for wear under your favorite tee called the One Fab Fit T-shirt Bra.  I found mine at Stein Mart marked down from the $32 price tag to a reasonable $18.  In The Lingerie Handbook, author Aspen says that that the trick is to look for seamless with full coverage.  In tees and tight sweaters, avoid the Demi Cut because it will show the lines where the bra is cut lower as opposed to the fuller cups that smoothly cover the chest. 

Blouse:  Barely There Material White or Sheer Blouse
Best Bra:  Flesh Colored or Cami
Every gal needs a flesh toned bra.  White, black and fun prints are important to have, but make sure that you have at least one natural colored brassiere in your bra box.  For sheer styles, which continue to be popular, the flesh colored, seamless cut is a must or your beautiful top becomes tacky.  Aspen does say in her book that you can have some fun with a bright colored patterned camisole underneath as well.  And don't worry if your flesh fitted bra isn't your exact skin tone, just as long as you come as close as you can.

The Bag Your Handbag Bra:  Cleavage Caddy!
Just when I thought I had covered every bra that exists, I hear about a bra that replaces a purse called the Cleavage Caddy.  No need for a handbag with this unique creation that is a bra made with built-in pockets for your credit card, ID and more!  The Cleavage Caddy is an insert that anchors to your own bra and it comes in a variety of colors.  Each one sells for $29.95 at cleavagecaddy.com.

Blouse:  First Timer Tween Tops
Best Bra:  Bralette and a Professional Fitting
As I mentioned earlier, Nordstrom's provides complementary bra consultations and they have a lot of experience with the first timer tween set.  Some little ladies can't wait to strap on a first bra,  while others find this bra business to be uncomfortable on the outside and the inside!  So, start with a consultation and with a soft bra that is made for that first figure. 

Nordstrom's recommends what is called a bralette which has no under wire and very little padding unless she is an early riser and needs the wire for support.  This bra allows her breasts to grow comfortably without restrictive padding.  However, there are bralettes available with more padding and your tween may require a bit more to adequately cover her new growth.  Something I hadn’t thought of that the Nordstrom experts shared with me – showing up to school in a bra with extra padding appears that she grew overnight allowing for unwelcome comments.  Nordstrom recommends the Wacoal Bralette that sells for $22.00.

So, now that you are armed with some serious bra basics, grab your bag and take your breasts on an enlightened shopping trip.  Hopefully, your bra shopping will be uplifting now that you know which bras to buy to get the best support for your two breast friends…sorry I just couldn't resist the lingo!  But you know, we should look after our chest like we would a good friend because on most days you can't leave home without a bra, so make it a good one, girls!