I do not belong to that poor benighted class of women who could burn bras in the 60s and actually feel like they were liberated. Unfortunately, most bra manufacturers (including the ubiquitous and near-useless Victoria's Secret) only cater to a small range of rather unexciting sizes, which makes them worse than useless to me. (Worse, I say, because either the saleslady looks at you blankly when you request a size they don't carry, or she says blithely, "Oh, we'll just go up a band size and it'll fit!" Ladies, if you ever hear that from a saleswoman, RUN.) So I was pleased that the WSJ ran an article yesterday on better bras for larger cup sizes, a theme near and dear to my heart.
One of the worst things a woman can do for her figure or her posture is wear a poor-fitting bra, and I say this as someone who wore the wrong size for 15 years. Wearing a bra that fits correctly is a revelation and a joy and suddenly reduces a lot of stress on a woman's shoulders and back. And your clothes fit better, which is a not-insubstantial perk. If you can afford to eat nothing but beans and rice, that's one thing. But most American woman can find it in their budgets to invest (and it is an investment: in your appearance and in your health) in a good bra or two.
A well-made bra tends to cost more than $50 and often closer to $100. Why so much? Bras are engineering challenges that have been compared in the industry to suspension bridges. In a bra, the wires, straps and other engineering features redistribute the weight in the bra to the band around the torso.
...Good bras can have more than two dozen working parts. Seams support stress points and create shape. Rigid stays prevent the fabric under the arm from crumpling. Stretch lace at the top of the cup looks decorative, but it has a function as well: It ensures a smooth fit even when a woman's breasts aren't exactly the same size. The straps don't actually support the weight in a bra, but they do need to be firmly anchored into the band to distribute tension.
All that engineering is the reason that most lingerie stores advise washing bras by hand. Even putting bras in a lingerie bag won't protect them against machine detergents, which take the life out of lace, elastic and other materials. A good bra should last for at least two years, says Jenette Goldstein, owner of the Jenette Bras shop.
...When a woman with a chest circumference of 32 inches buys a 36-inch bra, the band often rides up in back, leading to sagging in front. "It's the see-saw effect," says Ms. Goldstein. "The more you crank the straps, the more it pulls up in back."
Let me say this to the nervous: a mis-placed idea of modesty is no excuse to wear a bad bra. Good support is not immodest; it is prudent and elegant. If a woman's goal is never to have a man think about you, she can certainly achieve that by wearing an ill-fitting bra. But ugly has never been synonymous with virtue.
Check out the slideshow after you read the article. That last bra is so fabulous I might have to buy it, even though I'm about to be relegated to the ghetto of the (well-fitting) nursing bra.