Ok, male readers-- just stop right here. This one's not for you. Ladies, read on.
How much would you spend for a bra? And what would make it worthwhile for you to spend a lot?
I personally have not spent a ton of money on bras in my lifetime, compared to the average woman, I suppose. I have always found wearing one extremely torturous-- and I mean EXTREMELY. I have some back pain issues that make it really uncomfortable to have anything digging in back there. I also hate the feeling of something tight around my chest. I also don't like anything itchy and scratchy, or with little sharp spots. And I have the kind of shoulders that straps always slip off of. In short, I'm just very sensitive to all the things about bras that a lot of other people seem to take for granted as something you just have to deal with.
Fortunately, I've often been able to avoid wearing a bra altogether. I've always been on the small side, so a camisole was a fairly viable substitute. But there are times when a camisole just doesn't cut it. And for those times, I have searched high and low for bras that would work.
Here was my list of necessary features:
- Straps that wouldn't slip down, so preferably a racerback style
- Straps that wouldn't dig in
- No lace or anything remotely itchy
- Lightly lined/padded cups for "modesty"
- Preferably a front closure
- No sportsbra mono-boob
- No underwire jabbing into me
I found some bras at the Gap that were close-- a racerback style, front closure, light padding. The had underwires but I was able to cut them out with a pair of sharp scissors. They were almost bearable to wear but the straps had a little metal loop and stitching where they joined the cup-- totally unnecessary and totally itchy. I bought two anyway, but then over the years I had them mostly sitting in my drawer, I seemed to gain some weight and was suddenly a B cup rather than an A.
I bought another style at the Gap that was pretty good for comfort, but the straps were always falling off my shoulders. It was actually meant to be a convertible bra that you could wear with the straps crossed over, but since the closure was in the back, it was almost impossible to get into without either all sorts of contortions or a friend to help you out.
I bought many other bras along the way and had bra-fitting ladies make sure I was buying the right size. I did research online. I tried sportsbras, despite the dreaded mushing effect. Nothing worked.
And then... Bra-llelujah!
That's what it's called-- the SPANX Bra-llelujah! Full Coverage Front-Close Underwire Bra. Oh my god, it was different! The straps are wide and soft and stretchy. The chest strap is wide and soft and stretchy. The cups are padded and comfy and even though it has underwires, they don't dig in. There's one little place on the chest strap where there's a bit of decorative stitching that I wish they'd left out, but it's not too itchy. It closes in the front. It's my dream bra! I went shopping with a friend who wears bras that would drive me up the wall and claims she can forget they're on, and even she went bug-eyed when she tried on the Spanx bra, saying how comfortable it was. But here's the only thing that bummed us both out a bit-- it costs $62.
Most of the bras I've bought were probably in the $20-30 range. I think once I may have spent closer to $50. I'm don't think I've ever spent $62. But I did not hesitate for even a second before I bought it.
I can't help thinking that the woman who founded Spanx is brilliant. The bras aren't their main claim to fame-- it's the "shapewear"-- but she's obviously realized that comfortable undergarments are something that is very valuable to a lot of women. This isn't to say that price isn't an issue at all-- but she also started an lower-priced offshoot line called "Assets" that is sold at places like Target and Loft. Those bras didn't look quite as comfortable to me, but if I have a chance to check them out in a store, I will.
There's one other thing you may be thinking: "that Spanx bra may be comfortable, but it isn't the sexiest-looking thing..." All I can say to that is... no, it isn't. I guess if your intention is to have someone want to rip your bra off, it doesn't matter how comfortable it is while it's on. But on the flip side, I'll probably look sexier while wearing the Spanx bra because I won't constantly be squirming and breaking out in hives and grimacing in pain.
I only just recently bought the Spanx bra, so I'm still waiting to see how it will hold up under repeated washings-- if it doesn't, I may start to regret the $62 more. And it does have some competition from another bra I bought the same day, which is now my #2 runner-up comfy bra: Warner's Womens Invisible Bliss Front Close Bra. It's only $32 and a little cuter, though still not quite Agent Provocateur material. And with bras costing around $200, that's where you should go if you want Spanx to seem cheap.