8 Bra Myths Debunked by Expert Erica Windle from A Sophisticated Pair
Last updated on : March 30 2016
A Brief History
In our line of work undergarments matter but most importantly bra choices. A bra has the ability to define, shape, and lift your bust line. When properly fitted, your bra gives you confidence, grace, and lovely curves. Over the years bras have evolved with women and gone from simple polyester covers to methods of support, style, and definition. In fact the history of bras is largely interconnected with the role of women.
As the world began to embrace feminine proportions the bra took on newfound purposes and was decidedly an undergarment designed and constructed to cover, promote, lift, reveal, modify, and conceal breasts. The first recorded and recognized bras were corsets in the 14th century. Corsets pushed breasts up and provided bountiful mounds that presented cleavage. In addition to pushing and lifting breasts, corsets cinched the waistline which gave bustlines the appearance of being more full.
By the 19th century various alternatives began to appear. Rather than requiring a woman to endure the discomfort of a corset, simple bras gained popularity. Bras with straps allowed women more comfortable and reliable support and began to pop up in retail stores around the 1930s. As the years have passed bras have become not only an intentional and a vital part of every fashionistas wardrobe but also some of the most attractive pieces.
Today bras comes in an array of styles, colors, designs, and construction. Whether you need a strapless bra to wear with one of our sexy sweetheart bandage dresses or a deep plunge bra to pull off one of our draped dresses your options are unlimited but your choice matters. Various companies have sought to educate women on the purpose, proper fit, and intention of bras but mostly fail to truly touch on issues that real women face.
Our Bra Expert
We set out to find a bra expert to help us debunk some of the most common myths about bras. We asked Erica Windle to share valuable insight into various types of bras as well as other random knowledge you need to know when looking for the perfect bra for your dress. This guide is designed to give you true direction, confidence in your body, and encouragement to invest in a bra that works for you.
Bra Expert Erica Windle is the co-founder of A Sophisticated Pair. The lingerie boutique is located at 1143E St. Mark's Church Road, Burlington, NC 27215. The family owned shop carries an abundant variety of bras with an emphasis in supplying difficult to find bands and cups. Erica began the shop after years of struggling with ill fitting bras that caused poor posture, back pain, and a lack of confidence. Her passion for women’s intimates has enabled her to not only provide proper fittings to women but educates them on the importance of a good bra. Erica taught us a lot - but mostly that a bra has the ability to transform the way you see your wardrobe and give you the confidence you need when you need it most.
Erica, what would you say is the most important type of bra for women fashion today?
Is it wrong to say “a bra that fits comfortably?” I find that is really the most important and challenging aspect of being a bra fitter. Some people have little issue with finding a lot of styles they like and which are comfortable, but others, especially those in sizes outside the mainstream, can really struggle with finding the best option. However, beyond a proper fit, I think t-shirt bras have become essential for most women.
Fabric thickness has become thinner, and we receive the most requests for smooth cup bras which disappear perfectly while also providing discreet nipple protection. While these are obviously important for many women, I still believe it’s more important to find a bra which fits, feels comfortable, and provides the shape you want than to ensure it magically vanishes under clothes. I know I would personally rather show a seam than not have the shape and support I need.
We sell a ton of strapless dresses. What is the key to wearing a strapless bra and getting the support you need?
First, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not everyone can wear a strapless bra. At least right now. Most strapless bras are only made up to a US H cup, and even higher cup options often fall apart from a fit perspective past this point anyway (except the Curvy Kate Luxe which is fantastic).
With a bra, you often receive about 80 percent of the support from the band, but the 20 percent you receive from the straps can sometimes be enough that the strapless bra fails to give the lift and shape. Even people in smaller cup sizes often struggle to find a strapless bra which works well for them. With that in mind, there are some key factors to consider when shopping for a strapless bra:
- Look for bras with silicone gel lining the interior, especially if they line the upper cup. Unless you have a silicone allergy, the gel grips the skin and keeps the bra in place as you move. Side stays on the wings are also helpful to keep tissue lifted and the bra anchored. Other nice features include attachable straps, padded cradles (the part of the bra surrounding the underwires), and a less rigid molded cup for better shaping.
- Consider the necklines and fabrics of your dresses and tops. If you wear a lot of low cut clothing, you’ll need a strapless bra with a plunge shape to ensure it does not show. Furthermore, some strapless bras use boning in the cup or seams to give a better fit, so if you wear thinner knits, you may want to look for a smooth cup bra instead.
- Examine the top of the cup. If you have softer, bottom heavy tissue, a very open upper cup creates fit issues whereas if you have full on top breasts, a strapless bra with a very closed cup may create overflow no matter the size.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the issue with a seamstress familiar with intimates. Sometimes a bra that may fit you well is only available in a sister size. A good seamstress can tighten the band for you or even add darts to change the cup shape. If you really want to wear a strapless bra, alterations could make it possible.
In your expert opinion Erica, how many bras should a woman have in her closet?
I recommend people have a minimum of two bras because you need to be able to rotate them to preserve their shape and longevity. However, I think beyond those two, it’s up to the person’s individual taste and budget.
The more everyday bras you have in rotation, the longer they last, and I personally prefer to have at least four to give me adequate time to wear and wash them. Depending on lifestyle, some people also benefit from having specialty bras in addition to everyday styles like strapless bras, sports bras, and leisure bras. I don’t like to give any hard and fast rules because everyone is different and should find the right balance for their needs and wallets.
What are the top 8 myths about bras and why?
Underwires cause cancer.
The 1995 book Dressed to Kill by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer initiated a panic that underwire bras, especially tight fitting ones, correlated with a higher risk of developing breast cancer. According to their hypothesis, underwires trapped lymphatic drainage in the breast tissue, leading to cancer; however, the claims have never been scientifically proven, largely because the original study failed to exclude any other risk factors for women, such as hereditary and weight. However, the damage was done with many women permanently swearing off underwire bras for fear of developing cancer later in life.
Every woman needs a beige, black, and white bra.
A throwback to a time when basic colored bras were the only ones available, modern shoppers do not need to stock up on neutrals when building a bra wardrobe unless it suits their personal preferences. If you wear light-colored clothing and want the bra to be discreet underneath, a bra in a color as close to your skin tone as possible helps, but that does not necessarily mean it must be beige, white, or black. Think outside the traditional neutral trinity and look for a larger range of colors like blush pink, cappuccino, mocha or even less traditional ones like lavender, eggplant, and olive. For mid-tone and darker tops, nearly anything works underneath so let your personal tastes run wild!
Bras should totally disappear underneath clothing.
Modern fashion trends have seen a slew of “underwear as outerwear” incarnations which allow you to highlight your favorite lingerie pieces, including bras, but the idea that people cannot have a seam or strap showing underneath their tops should be banished. Customers should feel free to buy the bras that fit them best and make them feel the most confident without worrying that they will be judged for their decisions. The T-Shirt Bra frequently promoted by style gurus can be plagued by fit problems and is often only available in a limited range of sizes. Expecting everyone to find one in their size that fits and lifts so they can wear a tee shirt without alerting anyone to the fact they are wearing a bra is pretty ridiculous.
A DD cup is HUGE!
Whenever a customer sees their new size, most are totally incredulous that they could need a cup size higher than a D or DD, but it’s quite common. The media and more than a few memes have perpetuated this idea that cup sizes correlates to an actual breast size when in fact cup sizes mean nothing without a band size to give them perspective. A 30D and a 38D are in no way the same size, so it’s impossible to use the cup size letter to indicate how big or small breasts are.
Bra straps provide support for the breasts.
The bulk of the support for the breasts comes from the band of the bra. The more you tighten the straps of the bra, the more long term issues it creates on the shoulders, including permanent grooves and even nerve damage. The straps should be adjusted to pull the cup of the bra against the breast without digging or pulling too tightly. If you let the band of the bra do the bulk of the work, then the tissue is lifted from the bottom rather than pulled up from the top. It’s more comfortable for your shoulders and for your back.
Buy a bra on the middle set of hooks.
Buying a bra on the middle set of hooks seems like a great idea because you can move up or down depending on how you feel that day; however, in the long term, buying a bra on the middle or, worse yet, the tightest hooks means when the band of the bra stretches you have fewer hooks to use to keep the band firm. If you start on the loosest set of hooks, you typically have at least two more sets to go down as the band loses elasticity. If you are between band sizes, I recommend trying the smaller band size with a small extender to give the band time to break in without sacrificing months of wear.
There is only one right way to measure for a bra.
Bra fitting can be a contentious issue with many advocating for conflicting sets of measurements and techniques; however, I have become a firm believer in the nearly five years we have been open that there is no one technique for measuring for a bra which always works. When I work with clients, I always like to ask them questions about their current bra and their fit preferences because I find that’s a better place to start than with a tape measure. Some clients prefer a firm band and will opt to buy bras in the size their ribcage measures while others need a looser fit and size up for comfort. You need to find the size which feels best for you, regardless of whether that fits someone’s “best way” to fit for bras.
A bra must always fit perfectly.
When I first opened my store, I was very adamant about perfect fit, but as I have been open longer, I realize that a perfect fit may not always be possible, and in some cases, isn’t completely necessary. There are certain fit quibbles that do not detract from the comfort, look, support, or longevity of a bra but that may not fit the textbook definition of perfect. And those are okay! I know this flies in the face of what most bra fitters will tell you, but some issues shouldn’t dissuade you from buying a bra you love. Furthermore, medical issues like sensitive ribs, hernias, and spinal problems can also necessitate relaxing the perfect fit in order to ensure comfort.
The key to loving your closet and everything in it is stocking up on the intimates that give you the support, shape, and definition you need. Rethink your bras and consider your fashion basics. Remember to rotate your bras regularly to protect the elasticity of each and supplement with various styles to accommodate your lifestyle and day to day activities with a sports bra, strapless bra, or a t-shirt.
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