Pamper the Girls: 5 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Bra Shopping

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There are countless details to discuss when it comes to bras. I believe little bits of wisdom are best so I want to focus on encouraging you to look at your current state of affairs with some important things in mind.

If it’s true that the right bra can make you look 10 years younger and 10 pounds slimmer, we need to drill down and find out how this works.

Essentially, shape and positioning are the culprits. Our breasts consist mostly of glandular tissue when we are young. Youthful tissue is firm and keeps its shape but that all changes as we age. Hormone dips take their toll. Women’s bodies lose estrogen during menopause. The glandular tissue is replaced by fat, which is more soft and pendulous. This is what causes our breasts to sag and lose shape as we age. This is why finding the right bra is key to feeling and looking our best.

A woman’s bra needs to change as her body ages. Other things like weight loss or gain (5lbs or more), a change in your diet or exercise regime, or any kind of breast surgery make you a prime candidate for a bra shopping expedition. Quite frankly, if it’s been more than a year since you were fitted, it’s time to treat yourself. Yippee!

Here's what every woman needs to know about bra shopping.

1. Surrender to the measuring tape

I highly recommend visiting a lingerie boutique. This allows professionals to do what they do best. They'll assist in the measuring process and recommend the styles and cuts you need to try. Word to the wise: Make sure you shop early in the day so you’ll get the very best service. 

2. Be picky about fit

You are looking for your dream bra so expect to spend a lot of time in the dressing room. Sizes are not consistent and styles and cuts vary.

When you land on one you like, ask yourself a few basic questions. Is it supporting you in every way? Is the bra holding your bosom where it needs to be, resting midway between your shoulder and your elbow? Nothing ages us like saggy boobs.

You need a cup that houses your entire breast. You don’t want flesh bursting out of the top, under the band, or out the sides. It should encase your breast.

Check out the gore, or the section between your breasts. It should be flat against your chest. If it’s being pushed away from you, either the cups are too big or the band is too big.

It is the band that is supposed to do the majority of the heavy lifting, not the straps. The band should feel snug but not tight. It should sit level across the narrow part of your back below your shoulder blades. It’s recommended that you fasten the band on the middle or loosest hook because over time, the band will stretch. This way you can tighten it accordingly.

Straps are supposed to do only 20% of the work. If you are constantly trying to lift “the girls” by your bra straps, you’re not in the right bra.

3. Scout out your second skin

A skin tone bra is an absolute must. Shop around and find something as close to your skin tone as possible. The goal is that your bra will hide beneath a white tee.

4. Stock up on must-have bras

Every woman needs a minimum of three everyday bras: two skin-toned and one black. The two most useful and versatile bras are a t-shirt bra and a convertible bra.

A t-shirt bra

Key to this bra is a sleek surface. It should be seamless and absolutely void of embellishments, seams or stitching. I personally like the shape created by smooth molded cups.

A convertible bra

This is the bra you’ll need for strapless garments, halters, and one-shoulder tops or dresses.

The bras I purchase most work beautifully under my T-shirts and have straps that can be adjusted or removed so it isn’t necessary to purchase multiple bras for those unique needs. In my books, that’s just smart.

5. Consider bonus bras

Depending on your lifestyle, clothing needs, and size, you may elect to purchase an enhancer or a minimizing bra. They do exactly what you’d expect. One adds a bit of “umph.” The other can take you down a cup size—or two.

As an aside, sexy lingerie is great fun too. The color choices and styles abound these days. If you can afford to splurge and knowing you’re wearing beautiful things underneath your clothes gives you joy, by all means. Go for it.

Marilee’s unsolicited professional opinion

I’m going out on a limb here, and some of you might not agree, but I don’t think it is ever necessary or in good taste to have your bra straps showing. That’s why strapless bras and racerback bras were created. Undergarments are not meant to be seen. That’s why they’re called “undergarments.”

One more thing (and I say this with a twinkle in my eye.) Please reconsider wearing a colorful or black bra under a white or light-colored top. I don’t care what popular culture says. In my professional opinion, it’s not particularly stylish or beautiful.

Your homework

Go through your lingerie drawer and pull out all the bras you currently own. If there are some that are frayed or out of shape, just throw those puppies away!

If there are some that you have not worn in a while, ask yourself why. Is it time to get rid of those too?


What has been the biggest hurdle for you around purchasing a new bra? Is it the process? Do you find it all too up-close-and-personal? Is it the price? Good lingerie isn’t inexpensive so it can feel like you’re laying down major cash. Is it finding the right fit? Do you just end up frustrated and walk out of the store? Or do you buy way too many bras in too many colors, but none of them seem quite right?

Maybe now's the time to give yourself the gift of some new bras. Don’t be afraid to invest in what you need. It’s hard to put a price tag on the assurance that comes with knowing everything you wear over your bra will look fabulous.