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Published: Sunday, 3/25/2007

Expert advice on choosing the right bra

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
FEA dillards16p 7 03/016/2007 BLADE PHOTO/Lori King 34DD bra on mannequin at Dillard's at Southwyck Mall. FEA dillards16p 7 03/016/2007 BLADE PHOTO/Lori King 34DD bra on mannequin at Dillard's at Southwyck Mall.
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Grab-and-dash purchasing works fine for bananas and laundry detergent.

Not so much for bras which is one of the reasons why eight of 10 women are wearing one that s the wrong size, according to the lingerie industry.

We re in a very bad habit of running through the store saying I need a bra. I ll take this one. It s cute. Here s my credit card, says Liz Smith, director of retail services for Wacoal, a manufacturer of intimate apparel for women. You would never do that in a shoe department. You ask for someone to bring your size. Even if you take it off a rack, you walk around in it.

In lingerie we have the habit of thinking our size doesn t change, she adds in a telephone interview from her office in Suawnee, Ga. We grab and go. We don t try on before we buy.

In fact, Mrs. Smith says, our bodies change all the time as we age, gain or lose weight, have children, start or stop exercising, and go through menopause. Five to seven pounds will change your bra size, she declares.

The women who are wearing an ill-fitting bra which may have been the right choice when they first bought that size decades earlier typically have the same two problems.

The band is too big and the cups are too small, says Heather Seelig, one of six certified fitters at Dillard s Southwyck. Those miscalculations are made by women in all age groups, she adds, admitting that she, too, was wearing the wrong size before she got into the retail lingerie business.

Most women are shocked at how different they look once they re wearing the right size bra, adds Melissa Benson, regional sales consultant for the Le Mystere brand, during a stop in Toledo for promotional events at Dillard s. They have a much nicer shape.

Among them was Pam Wofford of South Toledo after her first-ever bra fitting showed that she needed a slightly different size than the one she had been wearing. It feels like I have better coverage, she said.

And Linda Butler of Temperance was stunned when her fitting found that she had been wearing a significantly bigger band size than she should have been. It was an eye-opener, she said. I m ecstatic I came.

Mrs. Benson and Mrs. Smith both say that proper bra fit is about comfort and appearance, not health. An exception would be if an underwire is poking the body, for example.

In addition to comfort, a bra should provide support, lift, shape, and containment, according to Mrs. Smith. A bra should do all of those things. You should not feel by 3 o clock in the afternoon that you want to rip your bra off your body.

Department stores offer professional fittings as a free service. While many women may feel too rushed to spend the time on it, Mrs. Benson says some women don t have a bra fitting because of modesty. Or, as Mrs. Wofford explained, I just found the size I thought fit.

A bra with a loose band might feel more comfortable, but it s not giving you the support you need, Mrs. Benson explains. You never want to be able to pull it out more than two inches in the back, she says. If the band is that much too big around your chest, You re going to fall forward rather than being lifted.

In other words, you re going to sag.

And when the cups are too small, it is especially unflattering under T-shirts and clingy tops.

It s not a quick process to find a good-fitting bra, Mrs. Benson acknowledges, advising that shoppers need time and patience to find the right one.

Manufacturers don t make it easy for us: I could put you in one size bra with one vendor and another size bra with another vendor, because they all are constructed differently, she says. Even within a single vendor s collections, there could be differences in fit among various styles the contour bra with a seamless, molded cup; an underwire bra with soft, stretchy cup; sports bra; strapless bra; Y-back (also called T-back or racerback) to wear under tank tops; and a fashion bra, for occasions when you want to feel extra pretty and feminine.

Mrs. Smith advises that over time, a woman should build a bra wardrobe that includes an unlined seamless bra, contour, T-back, strapless, sports bra, and fashion bra.

You need to have one that works with everything, she continues, suggesting that when you find it you buy three two in a neutral shade and the third in black or a fashion color.

Then rotate the three one to wear, one in the laundry, one in the drawer. That will carry you through a year, she says, based on the rule that you should get 100 wearings and 100 washings of a bra. Wear it once, then wash it. So many women don t do that, Mrs. Smith says, explaining that the longer it goes without being washed the shorter the life span because perfumes and body lotions break down the delicate fabrics.

Mrs. Benson suggests women think quality, not quantity, when buying bras. Buy one good bra that s well-constructed versus a bunch of inexpensive bras that are flimsy and will stretch out, she says.

Once you find one you love, take good care of it. Mrs. Benson recommends you wash it in a lingerie bag on a delicate setting with a lingerie liquid or powder, then re-shape it and air-dry.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.comor 419-724-6126.



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