Monday, March 14, 2011


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.


Anonymous said...

I've always had a terrible time finding bras, too, mostly because I'm irritated by the hooks and can't stand underwires. But even though I'm not too endowed, I don't exactly want to just hang out! Plus I don't want to spend much on a bra, especially since half the ones I buy end up sitting in a drawer because they're comfortable in the dressing room but I can't stand them after an hour of real life!
In the past I've had good luck with maternity bras (not that I've ever been pregnant!) because they're super stretchy, and last year I found this one at Walmart of all places, where it comes in a bunch of crazy colors (lime green, orange, purple!, plus "nude") and was only $10! Now I have four of them and it's all I wear.

Kerry said...

I have large breasts and typically have to spend $60-$80 to get comfortable bras that support and fit. The best place I've found for deals is, which is a British company that sells to the US--the Brits know from big bras. They have some deals. But seriously, if you want quality in bras in bigger sizes, it usually costs.

psychsarah said...

I'll second Kerry's comment. There's no way I can get away with a $20-30 bra. It just ain't happening. Minimum $60 if I'm lucky, and they're always foreign (e.g., German, French, British). Somehow North Americans have yet to figure out that there's a market out there beyond DD.

Glad you've found something comfy-an uncomfortable bra can ruin your day!

Anonymous said...

I'm very flatchested. So most of the bras in my range are quite structured (rather than the soft, non-cuppys ones). Which suits me, because I also have kind of prominent nips that need a solid layer to hide them. (I've been getting chest eczema of late and going bra-less as much as possible, but they made it kind of hard in certain shirts.)

Bra shopping sucks! I don't see the point in spending more, because I invariably still have the same problems - straps that fall down, bands that are too tights, bulging cups, etc. UGH.

Jen K said...

Yes! I bought two Spanx bras in black and tan over a year ago and they've held up nicely for me after repeated washings. I love them.

Anonymous said...

I have larger breasts and have found that bras in the $20-30 range didn't provide enough support and quickly wore out. I purchased two bras for $60 and they lasted a long time.

I just purchased a sports bra for nearly $80 (I've blocked out the exact price, lol). It provides the support I need unlike the other sports bras that have no support at all.

I'd rather have a few bras that work rather than dozens of cheaper bras.

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Anonymous said...

I have the Assets line front-close bra from Target, and although it fits perfectly and overall is pretty comfy, the adjustable straps are really bizarre - you know how convertable bra straps have that little hook so you can move the straps around? Well the inside of the strap has all these little slots and there's hook on the end so you slide the strap until it's the right length and then slide the hook into the nearest slot. Mine doesn't stay in the little slot so it's constantly unhooking istelf and sliding down to the longest length, plus that metal hook is always poking me. I can't imagine who thought this was a good method, but they were wrong!

Anonymous said...

I've been buying $11 Gilligan and O'Malley bras from Target. I like the style, the fabric, how they fit. Problem is I'm very small and they don't have my size. I've been making do with one size up for years, but lately I've decided that at my mid 30s, it's ridiculous I don't have properly fitting bras.

So just yesterday I ordered a couple of $50 bras from Wacoal petites. I really hope they fit. But I've found that the way I wash bras, in a mesh bag in cold water, they last for years so I think it's worth it.

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Anonymous said...

Victoria's Secret cotton bras. Comfortable, , stretchy, plain yet in multi colors. On Sale = cheap!! I am almost 60 years old & have never been so comfortable in a bra as I am since discovering them a couple of years ago. I have about 20 of them in all colors!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Like you, I'm on the small side with shoulders that cause the straps to constantly slip down and I find wearing bras is torturous. I've been wearing camisoles (with or without built in bras) for the last number of years now. They are much more comfortable than bras and provide what I need. For coverage, I just need to insert soft bra pads under the camisoles and it would provide soft cup-like look and conceal the nips. This works well most of the time.

And of course there are cases where I just have to wear a bra. I will check out Spanx. Comfortable bras can save your day. Thanks gain!

Jason said...

I bought my girlfriend a Victoria's Secret giftcard for her birthday. I was just on the phone with her right now talking about it...weird how I came across this site tonight of all times.

Anonymous said...

Like one of the other comments stated, once you hit a certain size $20-$30 bras just don't exist unless it's a freak sale. My dilemma is having a fairly larger than average chest size but a fairly small frame. The one brick and mortar store that actually has more than one bra my size if any at all is Nordstrom. That should tell you what price point I have to start at. I too tend to search online for my bras. However, as you have found with those you purchase, no two bras of the same size are anywhere near alike. So the time to exchange bras back and forth by mail is not time I have.

I'm very glad you've found some you like. And thank you for sharing! I will take a look at the Spanx myself as an option. $60 is a pretty good price point for me. (sadly enough)

Anonymous said...

As the most recent commenter pointed out, some of us dream of finding comfortable supportive bras at that price point. I'd count myself incredibly lucky to find that--I do a lot of my bra shopping through (at 32F/32G) and I always overorder and return everything that doesn't work. If you get a chance, I'd recommend paying a visit to a shop called Intimacy--they are fantastic with both fitting and recommending styles and brands of bras that might work for you.

Cathy Anderson said...

If you have trouble finding a bra that fits, you have got to try just my size bra style 1979 !! It gives just the right amount of support without being binding. Love it!