Understanding Undergarments

By Kiana Karimkhani


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Kirsten Livingston has worked at Victoria Classic Lingerie, located on Fort Street, for 10 years (jokingly referred to as the “newest” on staff). Her boss and co-workers have 18+ years of experience in the lingerie business, and bra fittings are the shop’s specialty. Their racks of bras range in colour from black lace to leopard print to, the most popular choice, nude; it can be overwhelming to know the proper fit for you.  

A specialty shop can be a good place to start, especially if you have individual needs that deviate from the “norm” (many department stores don’t go beyond a DD). Women typically come in and say, “I’m [a particular size] and I’ve been it for years,” but Livingston notes that sizing has changed, even in the last five years. No woman is just one size because every bra company has different specifications.

The two main issues customers have when they come in are that their bra’s band is too big and the cups are too small. When you try on a bra, it should be on the loosest settings available. Then, as the bra inevitably wears, it can be tightened appropriately. One way to test if the bra is fastened properly is to slide the bra straps off; the bra should hold in place relatively well without the straps for support. For comfort sake, one finger should fit under the straps and two at the back of the bra – you should not be able to tug the band too far out and fit “a grapefruit through there,” says Livingston. The band should be as low in the back as it is in the front and the underwire should fit at the crease between the body and the breast. There has to be enough material in the cup to encase the breast tissue and give a smooth transition from bra to body. If one of those elements is missing, it doesn’t fit and you need to go to with another option (a different size combination, style or fabric).

Livingston says the majority of women she fits have some degree of breast asymmetry, whether in size or shape. This can be an area of frustration, as there aren’t two different cup sizes for a single bra. If this is an issue, she says to fit the bra comfortably for the larger breast to prevent it from spilling over the top of the cup. If concerned that there is a noticeable discrepancy between the two breasts, the smaller breast can be filled out with padding (breast pads can be found in foam, silicone or gel form) or the tried-and-true method of using tissue paper to narrow the gap.

If sagging is an issue, Livingston recommends the brand Chantelle. It’s been on the market for 30 years and is made of a thin, but firm fabric (when the bra is laid out on a flat surface, it still holds it shape). It has an underwire, but it’s not a push-up; a properly fitted bra should give a push-up effect. If women still want more of a lift, Livingston recommends trying a Freya Deco bra.

Wacoal is a brand that the shop’s older clientele gravitate towards. As women age, their shoulders tend to slope, and Wacoal’s straps are closer to the neckline to prevent them from sliding off. Wacoal also has a larger back, which helps to smooth out the bulges in that area. A lot of women want a thin band because they don’t want it to show through their clothes, but the thinner the back, the more it cuts into the soft tissues. A general rule of thumb is the wider the side, the less compression there is and the less it will cut (which makes any bulges less apparent).

If the appearance of bulges is a major concern, Body Wrap Shapewear (the Canadian equivalent of Spanx) is a must-try item. It works particularly well under dresses, as it goes from right below the breast to mid-thigh. There are no seams or lines, just a nice smoothing effect that, Livingston jokes, “Reminds you to suck in your stomach.”

Regardless of age or size, Livingston says every woman who comes in is trying to accentuate or conceal some part of their body. That soft, squidgy bit near your armpit? Yes, most women have it and want it to go away. What is most important is finding something that’s comfortable and allows you to feel like your best self in it (without the impulse to tug at your underwire every hour). 

 

INSPIRED SENIOR LIVING - JULY 2016

 

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