I confess: until recently, I had no clue what my bra size was. For as long as I can remember, I relied on my mother to buy my undergarments. I'd wear my bras to death—until the wires ripped through the seams and the hooks broke off. Bras were the ugly stepchildren of my wardrobe, the least considered and most neglected. They aren't any fun, I thought, and since few people will see them, what's the big deal?
Boy, was I wrong. Last month, I finally submitted to a bona fide bra fitting after revealing my—ahem—dirty laundry to a horrified Marie Claire editor. Even before I had disrobed, my expert fitter pointed out how my underwire number was doing me no favors: Because the straps were so worn out, they were clearly straining to contain my boobs. ("The hammock effect," she called it.) The back band was riding up—the telltale sign of a too-small bra—and (gasp!) backfat oozed from underneath. My ill-fitting bra had added a good 10 pounds to my frame and made me look top-heavy, though the fitter told me that my bust size was actually pretty standard. After a few minutes with the tape measure, she declared me a 40D, not the 38C I'd been wearing for years. Then she handed me a bunch of ooh-la-la bras (red! leopard print!), all designed for fuller figures, and had me try them on. The difference was dramatic: Just by changing my bra, I looked like I'd dropped a full dress size. After all these years, I finally learned that the best crash diet is a proper bra. Go figure.
Ladies, let me pay it forward with some bra-fitting tips to help keep your girls in line: First, the straps should be taut, not tight. If your shoulders hunch forward or the straps leave deep red grooves in your skin, loosen them up a bit. But not too loose: Your breasts should rest halfway between your elbow and underarm—no jiggle, no bounce. If you're spilling out, or they're squished together, Anna Nicole—style, your cup size is too small. (Leave these tarty looks in the Boom Boom Room where they belong.) Your bra should fit comfortably on the first hook. If that's a struggle, toss it and move up a number size. And get over any hang-ups about three- and four-hook enclosure bras. Sure, they're not the sexiest accoutrements, but they provide critical support. Besides, over the last few years, bra makers have vamped up their plus-size lines, offering sturdy yet super-feminine options for busty girls. While every woman should own a basic nude bra—nothing works better under a crisp white shirt—she should also go ahead and splurge on some frilly unmentionables. They are instant confidence boosters, and confidence is sexy, no matter what you wear over it.
If you've got a special slimming bra that works miracles, be sure to tell me about it! Visit marieclaire.com/ashley