Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Case for the Basics, #2: A Good Bra

Here's the second in a series of essays about “the basics” that I'll be covering this week. Read on...

I am not the first person to tell you how important it is to get a good bra. By now you've probably heard all the reasons why you should get yourself fitted properly for one, so if you haven't done so already I definitely recommend going to your nearest lingerie store (or at least the lingerie departments for Macy's or Neiman Marcus), armed with a tape measure and the judgement of a good friend, and get yourself measured by a professional bra fitter ASAP. (There are also independent bra fitters in Honolulu, too, but you may have to ask around; some of your better bridal shops may be able to make referrals.) It won't be an easy process, but once you get that out of the way you can at least get a measure of your peace of mind back.

Come to think of it, isn't peace of mind part of the reason why we ladies wear bras in the first place? It doesn't matter if you're big or small, practical or frilly, mature or youthful - there's always a need for our breasts to feel supported and protected, like they're part of us instead of just part of our bodies. Let's face it, the bra is one of the few garments in our underwear drawers that manages to uphold our decency and modesty while still retaining the physical essence of our womanhood. A properly fitted and styled bra, regardless of the price, is a measure of how we honor our bodies as part of our selves.

If you already have your proper bra measurements done, and you realize that you won't be able to get a decent bra in your size at any other store, you can always turn to the Internet. Unlike panties, the band size for your bra will remain consistent, regardless of which style you choose, and the returns are easier if you try it on and don't like the look.

Remember those scenes in the period movies or romance novels, where the heroine has to hold on to a pillar while her ladies-in-waiting push and strap her into a corset? Well, a good bra is supposed to do exactly that, but effortlessly and without the extra hands. As your mother will tell you, a good bra is meant to help you maintain good form and posture, especially for your back and shoulders. A good bra is supposed to work against gravity and not shimmy and droop under your breasts by the end of the day. Even if it is strapless.

If you're looking for a sports bra, it is definitely important that you find one that reduces the bouncing as much as possible. But that doesn't mean that you should find one that causes you to throw out your shoulder when you're putting it on - or taking it off, for that matter. If you're a D-cup and the tag on that sports bra specifically tells you that it's best for a B or C, don't even try to force your way into it. Same principle applies to the purchase of other bras as well. Think about it: What good is the sale price if you'll need the Jaws of Life to set your girls free?

If you're in the market for a maternity bra... well, I'm no expert (hello, childless singleton here), but I've met numerous mommies here in Honolulu who say that maternity and nursing bras make great baby shower gifts. Personally, even though I've probably attended my own fair share of bridal showers, I still don't think I'm at that point where I could guess someone's exact bra size, sight unseen, so I guess your mileage will have to vary on this one. But if you are a mom, do try to get fitted as often as you can, because otherwise you don't want to keep assuming that you'll stay the same size up there forever.

A good bra is meant to give you a clean line under your clothes. And by “clean line” I mean that you should be able to put a shirt or dress over it and still look like yourself, as opposed to making you look flabby or overstuffed. One of the reasons why I don't wear "minimizer" bras owes to the fact that taking a few inches off my ta-tas makes them look like man-boobs, especially when paired with the pot belly. Not. Sexy.

The bra should not pinch unnaturally and create unsightly bumps or rolls of flesh where they don't belong. The bra should also not squish your breasts or make them look like tumors, gourds, meat products, reptile eggs, props from the last Alien movie, or the naturally ripe fruits of certain tropical rainforest plants that look like they could fall from their branches and cause massive stinkage once they've been cracked open and stomped into the ground by clueless pedestrians.

Under no circumstances whatsoever should you ever allow your bra to show through your shirt. A tank with highly visible straps may be cute if you're young and fit, but on anyone else it looks cheap and desperate. The same goes for the visible outlines and everything else that your bra is supposed to prevent in the first place. Think about the first or last few times you've seen somebody with prominent nips or visible lace outlines poking through their shirt. Chances are, more often than not, it wasn't a pretty sight - unless you're a fetishist about this sort of thing, in which case I'll have to refer you to your nearest spiritual counselor.

(Which reminds me: Is it true what I've heard about guys who actually get turned on by visible panty lines? Because, ew. And they deserve to be pitied.)

The best bra should not only give you uplift, separation, and support, but should also distribute the flesh around your chest in such a way that puts meat on your ribcage and softens the edges around the clavicle. It is also very important for a bra to support your breasts in such a way that they consistently point straight forward and not in two different directions.

You know you've got a good one when your chest and cleavage looks healthy and full all over from the neck down. You know you've got a bad one when... heck, just open a copy of Vogue, Cosmo, or even Lucky, and tell me that those xylophone-chested models are wearing any kind of support other than duct tape or boob petals.

If you have to wash your bras, and handwashing them is not an option, I have two words for you: lingerie bag. Make sure to close the hooks before you put them in so they won't get tangled.

And, like everything in fashion, no matter where you get your Good Bra, it's always a good idea to get more than one in your size - assuming, of course, that you have factored the purchase into your budget. As the wise women in my family would say, it's not like anyone's going to care what you paid for it, because you're not going to wear it outside. And if you meet someone who does care that much about your undies, well... ahem. And ahem. And... oh, you get the idea. Point being, there's no point in going broke over underwear, that's all.

With the right bra, you can be more than confident about yourself - you can be confident about your sense of honor and decency.

But if you have to, disregard these rules at your own risk - and in the privacy of your bedroom, please - if you intend to "torture" Alejandro Sanz (or any hottie of your choice) with your improvised sexy dance moves.

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