As you get older, you need your bra to work harder, but do you really know what to look for?
When a woman has small or firm breasts she doesn’t generally give the design of her bra much thought – she simply chooses styles, materials and colours that she enjoys wearing. But when you hit 40 and your breasts begin to lose their firmness, you need to become more knowledgeable. The structure of a bra is what becomes all-important, not the colour or the trim.
Onward and upward
In the UK, women’s breasts are getting bigger – up about 1.5 inches since 1950, and the average size has gone up from a 34B to a 34E in just ten years. But many bras – even in large sizes – are designed for young, plump breasts and do not necessarily offer great support for a more mature bosom. Getting older generally means an end to plunge styles, cut-away styles and skimpy little straps that don’t do any work – at least for daily wear – and the switch to designs that provide more uplift under your clothing. This needn’t mean frumpy, but it does mean you have to work harder to find bras with beautiful fabrics, colours and finishing details – like this pink bra from La Redoute, which has some of the hallmarks you need, including wide, supportive straps.
If you want a good bra, you’ll also have to pay for it. Well-made bras require a lot of steps in the manufacture, which means they’re not cheap – they don’t come in packs of two or three for a tenner. They are an investment and should be treated as such – expect to pay £23 upwards (quite a lot upwards) for a well-designed bra, but don’t begrudge it – it is money well spent.
Many years ago, a designer told me that she always bought French bras because they had more pieces and were more supportive, and I’ve found this to be true. My local lingerie shops stock great, pretty bras in a huge range of sizes, while French brands such as Chantelle and Aubade produce fantastically beautiful bras which are nevertheless supportive, as does the La Redoute catalogue under its Best and Taillisime ranges. French bra manufacturers seem to have the knack of combining a supportive structure with beautiful details.
However, brands that are readily available in Britain such as Triumph, Playtex, Miss Mary of Sweden and Glamorise also make very good bras that, although perhaps plainer, give real support – don’t dismiss them just because they’re brands your mum wore. This petrol-blue minimiser is from Miss Mary of Sweden and shows that the kind of bra that is more common in Britain – quite plain and smooth – can be greatly enlivened by an interesting colour – you don’t have to stick to boring old white.
My basic tip here is, if you want a simple bra for every day, look for a British or US brand, and if you want a lingerie bra with very pretty finishing, look for a French one.
Many women with large breasts like a minimiser bra, though it’s not my personal preference. Minimisers basically work by squashing your bosoms and redistributing them around the sides. Personally, I feel it’s better to hoick your boobs up and forwards, but minimisers can give you a good line under clothing, provided it’s not too fitted.
Where to find bras
If you don’t have access directly to a manufacturer such as Rigby and Peller, online shopping is the way to go. Figleaves, Female First and Bravissimo are good UK sites, but the most informative bra site I’ve found is Her Room. Look on here for photos of particular breast issues (tits far apart, close together, etc) and follow the links in the side panel. Each bra sold on this site has comments from the Her Room fitter as well as customer reviews, and even shows you which bra will go with which-shape tops. However, this US company cannot yet ship to Europe – you’ll have to content yourself with using them for information only.
Next, Bra savvy part two – design basics.