July 11, 2011

A Proper Bra Fitting - My Experience

I believe a woman should be fitted for a bra every year. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, weight loss and gain, changes to our exercise routine, childbirth and nursing and so much more. Getting properly fitted for a bra does not mean heading to your local Victoria’s Secret to have a teenager who works 4 hours a week try to figure out your size and get you to buy a bra at that store, even if your size isn’t in stock. Getting properly fitted doesn’t mean trying to measure yourself at home and cross your fingers that your online purchase fits.

What it means is going to an expert who can measure you, and then offer you a few styles and brands to try so you can find not only your band and cup size, but the specific type of bra that gives you the best shape, support, and style.

I have been putting off being fitted for far too long; the last time I was fitted was a little over a year before I got pregnant. Since then, I lost weight, carried a child, nursed it for over two years, gained weight, and lost it again. My breasts were sitting like deflated water balloons in my molded-cup bras, they were obviously the wrong size and on top of that, stretched out and in need of replacement.

My community parenting group scheduled a bra-fitting party at A La Mode in Annapolis, Maryland and I jumped at the chance to go. I had been meaning to be fitted but kept putting it off… too busy, not enough money, too lazy. The event was yesterday and it was amazing.

A La Mode Intimates in Annapolis 
Click for a larger version (and to see my mom being rung up at the counter!)

I had heard of A La Mode before, but never visited. They have a new location at the Annapolis Towne Center and it is gorgeous. Bright and airy, yet romantic. The sales area is broken into little rooms which made shopping more fun, and you felt less on display when fingering a lovely charmeuse camisole or reading about nursing bras. Through curtains is their lounge. They set up a lovely little spread for us of brie with crackers and grapes, wine and ice water. They had a couple chairs, a couch and coffee table that were surrounded by gigantic fitting rooms with large mirrors and flattering lighting.

Rebecca assisted me; she whipped out her tape measure and in about three seconds flat had measured me over my shirt. From that she brought me a bra to try. I didn’t look at the brand, I didn’t look at the size, I just tried it on. And I was amazed. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, younger. I had a waistline! Then I looked at the tag…

When I was last fitted, they said I was a 38D. When I got pregnant, my breasts grew and I made the decision to go to 38DD. After Emerson was born, I seemed to be at 38DD and stuck with the same bras. As I have lost weight and stopped nursing, my breasts shrunk. I bought a 38D but kept falling out of the top, and it irritated me under my arms. I went back to my 38DD bras which looked crazy, but at least were reliable.

This bra was a 36F
F as in Frank
F?!?! 
How could that be? I have these deflated, smaller breasts! An F?? But this bra was a perfect fit, it almost felt as though I wasn’t wearing a bra, it was so comfortable. Rebecca informed me that different countries have different bra sizing methods. The US goes from D to DD and then skips E for F, but Europe skips DD and goes straight to E. In the UK they use both single and double letters. This means that a bra from Wacoal, a bra from Elomi, and a bra from Chantelle may fit the same but have different cup letters on the label.

Rebecca checked the bra on me, informed me that the straps shouldn’t really be doing the support (which I do, tightening my straps in an attempt to lift), the bra itself will do the work. She showed me how the band should sit low on my back, not up near my shoulder blades – this prevents your skin from pouring over the bra, and also helps with support. She asked me my bra needs (something that is invisible under thin knits, something that won’t show when I wear a scoop neck, and something that gives me a great shape) and came back with a couple more bras to try. I am a fan of the molded cup and she brought me some of those, as well as a couple other types I may not have considered. I got plenty of time to try on by myself, I didn’t feel as though a salesperson was breathing down my neck, yet if I just said, “Rebecca?” she was right there to bring a different size or color.

 Me in my original bra

 
Me in the bra I purchased

I had two bras that I loved, but unfortunately they didn’t have either in a skin color.

The Winners:
Fantasie Moulded Smoothing T-shirt Bra. Very basic, but gives amazing shape. No lace, no frills, no nothing so it’s invisible under knits. Incredibly comfortable, with incredible lift. I fit a 36DD.

Fantasie Ava. Another simple t-shirt bra, but with a bit of lace detail and pretty straps. Again, I fit best in a 36DD.

I don’t need two black bras right now, so I chose the one with the thinner, less-decorative straps (makes more sense for summer with sleeveless tops). A La Mode will let me know when the bras are back in stock in skin colors.

I went to be rung up… and remembered I needed a strapless bra. Since Rebecca had helped me try on a good dozen different bras, it was easy for her to guess which styles and brands would work best for me. She handed me a skin-colored strapless and I tried it on. Did you know that there are strapless bras out there that are comfortable? I put on my shirt and came out into the lounge to show the other women in my group. “THIS IS A STRAPLESS BRA!” I exclaimed, and they all ooohed and aaahed because really my bust looked almost as good in this strapless as the Fantasie bras above. On top of that, this strapless has straps that can be attached, so you can make it a one-shoulder, criss-cross back, halter or standard bra.

I tried on another strapless, but it didn’t compare to this one in regard to fit and comfort.

THIS is a strapless bra!

The Winner:
Simone Perele Velia Strapless Plunge in Praline. I wanted a strapless that wouldn’t peek out of a sweetheart or surplice neckline and this one did the trick. I tried it last night with my new Gap maxi dress I was going to return because it can’t be worn with any bras I own. Now the dress looks adorable and I am still uber comfortable!

Now this strapless is more than I have EVER paid for a bra… but to have a strapless that is invisible under thin knits, hides under plunging necklines and is so comfortable that I am wearing it all day today as a standard bra… sounds like a worthy investment to me! Also with researching online, I found that A La Mode’s prices are competitive with what I found at department stores and online boutiques (I paid the same price for this bra as it is listed on the Simone Perele site Bare Necessities, Neiman Marcus, and HerRoom).

The benefit of going to a bra boutique or lingerie department of a higher-end department store is you will find an educated bra specialist, and a large variety of brands and sizes. When you visit your nearby Victoria’s Secret, all you have to choose from is Vickie’s bras. Your breasts are just like every other part of your body – unique. What may be Holy Grail jeans to one woman may be terribly unflattering on you; the same holds true with bras.

Bras aren’t cheap. As Rebecca said yesterday at the bra fitting, “You get what you pay for.” Before Bonnaroo, I was desperate for a bra and went to Target and got one from their Gillian and O’Malley line. It itches, it makes my breasts look a bit square in shape, and come the end of the day I can’t WAIT to get it off. I have purchased bras at Frederick’s of Hollywood that lifted my breasts practically to my neck, but I found them horribly uncomfortable after a couple hours, and they would fall apart after a few months (even with proper laundry care). A bra that properly fits, supports, and is comfortable will completely change your figure, your posture, the way your clothes fit. This morning, I wanted to wear a light-colored top and put on my old nude bra. It was… fine. I then tried the new strapless and I looked as though I had lost ten pounds and was five years younger. Seriously, this is the difference between and okay bra and a great bra.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself fitted, and get yourself some quality bras. You won’t regret it!

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post; A La Mode did not contact me or know I was going to write this post.

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47 comments:

  1. Fantastic - I recently went for a fitting myself. And now, I'm properly kitted out too. Amazing what a few minutes for yourself can do. (And I'm a huge fan of that Fantasie t-shirt bra too - although it's not the best for my shape. I need more seaming and construction for support. I have big breasts but a relatively small back) 

    And now that you know your size, you can purchase off the internet! 

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  2. Wow, the difference is HUGE!  This is so timely for me - I just weaned my guy and these shriveled water balloons need some attention in a big way :) 

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  3. Awesome! You look great! I get fitted every year and it makes a world of differnece. I've had good luck with Fantasie bras, but I think my favourite is Freya - their sister line. They also make bathing suits :) I'm definitely going to try that strapless you mentioned.

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  4. I went (was dragged) for a bra fitting at Nordstrom's last fall. I discovered that rather than the 38C I had been wearing for years I was actually a 36DD. Oops. I will say that though most of my bras are now Wacoal, my very favorite strapless is from Vicki's. Nothing gives me more support thanks to a serious band that has thick elastic bands woven into it and four hooks. That bra means business and I love it!

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  5. Looks great!
    You know over the years, I could almost swear there has been something like vanity sizing in bras too now! I'm very thin, have not changed in cup size either, and have in recent years found B cups and even a C cup here and there that fit me! Makes me feel great, but kind of ridiculous when considering my actual body's real size...

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  6. I think that Victoria's Secrect engages in vanity sizing.

    I've dealt with many women who've had breast surgery and gotten refitted and the biggest shock is almost always that their proper band size is smaller than what they'd thought.
    It takes some getting used to wear a bra in a smaller band size as it often feels tight and uncomfortable.  That's how it holds you up without relying on the straps so much.

    My take is to get fitted, buy a few bras and make sure you're willing to stick with the new size.  Then shop the Internet and get some more at a lower price.

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  7. Gahhhhhhh, I so need to do this. Like, YESTERDAY. I'm particularly in the market for a good strapless bra so I can finally wear some of the super cute maxi dresses that are all the rage. I've been meaning to check out Nordstrom's or the specialty bra place everyone around here loves.

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  8. Yep, you look higher, firmer & thinner. 

    I have a friend who lives on a relatively small budget but only buys La Perla underwear which costs a bomb. She audited my underwear drawer a couple of years ago and it was quite confronting! Since then, one of my tests for when I need new underwear is "Would I be embarassed for Michelle to go through my underwear drawer right now?"...  Sometimes you feel like you don't really NEED new bras, but then when you try on some new ones and put on your old one again in the fitting room, you realise how tired and saggy it is!

    I feel like I've spent far too much money on underwear in the past couple of years - pre-pregnancy, then maternity bras, then post-pregnancy... and now I'm pregnant again and back in maternity bras! I had ugly maternity bras last time which I couldn't bear to see myself in again so I have bought three lovely new maternity bras to get through a few more months of pregnancy and hopefully another year of breastfeeding after that. It seems sickeningly expensive to buy nice underwear but it definitely makes you feel better about your body. 

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  9. allison%drwebsolutions.com7/11/11, 8:38 PM

    YAY! I *just* visited Jenette Bras (http://jenettebras.com/) in LA last weekend.  LOVE her motto: "The alphabet starts with D." I also LOVE Adrienne at Adrienne Clarisse near Chicago (http://adrienneclarisse.com/).  It's SO frustrating to go into a department store when you have a small band size and a large cup size...I've never found a proper bra that way! 

    Both of the stores mentioned above are absolutely wonderful and have fantastic staff.  Neither place let me leave the store until we were all happy!  I know the boutique places will probably take the same care with you unlike VS. Having a professional fitting is really, life-changing.  For anyone hesitating, take your wallet and go get fit. Then when you buy your lovely, gravity-defying bras, for goodness sake, take good care of them! Hand wash and air dry! They will last a good long time!

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  10. Tara Incognita7/11/11, 9:43 PM

    Ha ha, I *just* went to VS about two weeks back to get fitted.  I actually ended up with some great bras.  HOWEVER (and this is a big however) one of them does not have adjustable straps.  So, mid-day, when my body has warmed the bra and it feels like my boobs are getting lower, I can't adjust the dang thing.  How did I not notice this?  Oh, well, see, I went with my 15-mo-old.  So it's just a nice reminder to shop for things without one's children.  

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  11. Good bras are an investment, and I also love, love, love my Fantasie bras!! You will never go back, Allie!

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  12. I have the first Fantasie bra you listed. I was also measured at a 36F and was shocked! That bra is amaaaaaaazing! Absolutely love it! Pricey, but so worth the investment.

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  13. Also, you look fabulous!

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  14. Hmm, does this store have nursing bras I wonder?  Because I want to make sure I get the right size!  My whole goal this summer originally was to work on my weight and to end up being able to splurge on new undergarments.  Apparently God only heard the new undergarments part.  Damn.

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  15. Heather Arnett7/12/11, 9:29 AM

    I cannot believe how great that strapless bra looks! I will definitely check this store out as soon as I can allocate some money to the bra budget!

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  16. These new bras make my shriveled water balloons look like they did five years ago. Seriously, get thee to a bra fitting!

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  17. Yay you're pregnant again, congrats Gervy!!!  And really, a good bra makes cheap clothes fit better, so it's an investment! :)

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  18. They do have nursing bras, they had a whole section and while there a woman due in a couple weeks was being fitted for them!

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  19. I am glad you were... I'm still shellshocked!

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  20. I'm a long (loooong) time reader, but I don't think I've ever commented before. You are my fashion/wardrobe/weight-loss hero!!! Every day when I read your posts and see your most recent photo, I am *amazed* by how wonderful you look (even the days you say you weren't feeling well). And I'm not even just talking about weight-wise, as I thought you looked great pre-WW.
    This post came at a great time--I've never had a bra fitting (other than a VS one, which I'm not quite sure counts for me...) and my mom just gave me money for my birthday to *go out and get one*. I'm so excited!! I'm a little nervous though (not sure why)... In a way, it seems a waste of money since I'm in the process of losing weight and I hope to get pregnant again soon. But---I keep reminding myself that *today* is the day to make changes, not once I feel like I've lost enough weight/had all my children/etc. Thanks for a great, inspiring post!

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  21. Yaaaay Erin!  And honestly I held off too because I was nervous for some reason.  Take or wear the type of top you usually wear (this orange tee was stuffed in my purse for this purpose), know no one will need to see you naked, and that you are doing a GOOD THING for your body, your self esteem, your soul.  You deserve this, and you deserve it now! <3

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  22. I desperately need to do this! I'm pregnant again and KNOW my breasts are going to change sizes about a million times between now and those first few weeks after my milk comes in, so it's not worth it to invest in bras at the moment (learned that the hard way the last time around...) but after the baby's born I need to get myself to a bra fitting!

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  23. Allie,
    Have you ever been fitted at Nordstroms? I keep hearing rave reviews for them, and wonder if it's worth the longer trip to Annapolis, though this place sounds great! Just need to heed your advice to do this NOW and not wait for the (slow but steady so far, yay!) weight loss.

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  24. I have been fitted at the Columbia and Annapolis Nordstrom locations, three times in total.  One time was amazing (Annapolis), one time was... okay but I felt rushed and then discarded when I didn't want to purchase 50 bras (Columbia) and one time was crap by a crappy salesperson (Annapolis).

    This isn't the only bra shop in the area, there's a ton in the MD/DC/VA/Baltimore region... Yelp is a great place to get reviews and know if a place is worth your time and travel. :)

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  25. I was lucky enough to purchase a LivingSocial coupon for Sylene in DC, another high-end bra and lingerie store, and I totally agree that a high quality bra makes all the difference. Thank goodness I had a coupon to take some of the pain out of the splurge :)

    My bra needs are at the complete opposite end of the alphabet ;) and they found me two beautiful nude T-shirt bras by Wacoal and Donna Karan. I really need to go back and get another one of each.

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  26. I can vouch for Sylene in DC (Friendship Heights, on the border with Maryland just south of Bethesda; it's Metro accessible).

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  27. Ellen Lewis7/17/11, 5:26 PM

    Great article! always surprises me that women pay so much for their shoes and can't see the how a great fitting bra enhances their outfits just as much!

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  28. Hi Allison.  I had to chime in because I LOVE Jenette! She's so great - I've never meet her thought, but we've talked via phone.  If you have a small band size, check out Thin & Curvy's blog too. She's a 28 band & write a ton of review for bras and clothing that fits. 

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  29. Thank you so much for this post!  It inspired me to replace my 5 (+?) year old bras!  I went to Nordstrom and got fitted by a pro - she was great.  I bought 4... because they were on sale!  They are so pretty and they are working miracles on my gals.  Love it.
    Also, I have to share this... yesterday a Mom at preschool told me "you are always dressed so fashionably...".  I guffawed loudly, because that is SO NOT how I see myself.  But I realized that I really have made great strides moving from Mommy-clothes to a more put-together look.  I am really grateful to you for sharing your knowledge and encouragement here - it's been such a help to me!

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  30. Oh Kitterlee, I am so glad to read this! Isn't it amazing how much
    difference a properly fitting bra can make? And how nice to get that
    compliment, sounds as though you're mastering your personal style. You go
    girl!

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  31. I need to check out Sylene, I hear nothing but rave reviews about that place!

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  32. I just bought another Fantasie in the skin color!  LOVE!

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  33. Oh so true, it's so touch to shop with them.  This is why i do most of my shopping online!

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  34. Very well could be since there's vanity sizing in everything else these days :(

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  35. I just ordered a Freya tankini top after your suggestion.  Not the right style for me, but having a properly-fitting bathing suit is AMAZING!

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  36. This advice also applies to any male 'blessed' with breasts.  Though I'm not overweight mine flopped inside my shirts till my wife insisted I go and get fitted for a proper bra. I was so embarrassed at first but the fitter helped me choose and found a Fantasie Gabrielle which supports me and doesn't show under shirts.  My greatest amazement came when she told me I was 38DD!  I'm so much more comfortable now.  Here's to all the skilled bra fitters in the world.

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  37. Thanks for the post. It's amazing the range of stories people have when having a fitting. One of the more amusing ones here:
    http://aemayer.com/blog/2011/08/bra-fittings/

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  38. Thanks so much for this review.  I hit Nordstrom last night for the molded cup tee shirt bra and LOVE it.

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  39. how do you find a decently priced place that does professional bra fittings, all i can seem to find around me are nordstroms and victoria secret

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  40. I would check Yelp.com. I'll admit bra boutiques are rarely reasonably priced - they are small and independent so they can't accommodate discount prices. But you can always buy only one bra like I did and then buy the rest somewhere cheaper. Bridal boutiques, maternity shops, swimwear boutiques and places that sell formalwear may also know of local bra boutiques. Good luck, and do know Nordstrom isn't a bad choice, they are very knowledgeable and they often have sales (like right now!).

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  41. no wonder boys find girls so icky

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