How to Buy a Bra

A brand-new bra is one of life's simple pleasures. At least it should be. According to the internet it's not for a lot of you because the internet says that more than half of all women are wearing the wrong bra size. Ouch! I consider myself a bit of a bra expert - I started wearing a training bra in the third grade so I've been wearing bras for a looong time. And during my college years I worked for Victoria's Secret and ended up helping hundreds of women over the years find a bra that ACTUALLY FIT. My favorite part of that job was hearing women say how much better they felt in a bra that fit!  True story: one time my great-aunt broke her leg and I bought her a push-up bra to cheer her up. It worked!

1. Find a great bra fitter.

Notice I did not say "go get measured by whichever random person is working in the lingerie department that day" and I did not say "measure yourself according to instructions you found on the internet". You might get lucky and find the right size this way, but if you are a D-cup or larger, you probably need an expert. How can you find a great fitter? You can a) ask your friends & family for recommendations or b) call the lingerie department (this could be Victoria's Secret, a specialty bra store, department store, etc.) and ask who their best bra fitter is and when they are working next, so you can come in then and ask for them by name. In my experience, the best bra fitters tend to work during the day and do take a break for lunch, so keep that in mind. A great bra fitter will have a lot of experience fitting a lot of different sizes and body shapes - and honey, she's seen it all, so don't feel embarrassed about your armpit fat. (I can't tell you how many women asked me about their armpit fat - YES almost everyone has it, and NO it doesn't look bad!)

2. Think about what you want in a bra - and don't be afraid to ask for it.

Don't know the difference between a demi and a balconet? That's okay if you don't know the lingo - a good bra fitter/salesperson will still be able to help. Just tell her what you like about your favorite bra, or what your ideal bra would do. At VS we used to use the phrase "what do you want your bra to do for you?" There's no wrong answer - it could be "look bigger than an A cup", "minimize these crazy girls", "no show through when the air conditioning kicks on", "hold these 42-longs up", "make me feel sexy", "be invisible under white tees" or any number of responses. Be sure to mention any problems you're having - like straps slipping off your shoulders, or if you're concerned about back fat (hey, it happens to the best of us!). Maybe you're looking for something that won't show under t-shirts, or maybe you're looking for something lacy. With so many bra options these days, giving specifics can help narrow down your search quickly.

3. Try on, Try on, Try on again.

From my own experience, I can tell you that bra measuring is NOT an exact science. Some people are easy to fit - you measure them and the size you come up with fits great. Others, you may have to try on a few different sizes to find the one that fits. True story: I once measured an older woman whose daughter brought her in. I measured her as a C-cup, gave her a bra in her size to try on. Too small. D cup: too small. Finally we got her in a DD cup, and as her daughter put it when we "rolled everything up where it should be" we finally found the right size!

Once you've figured out your size and a few potential styles to try, it's time to head to the fitting room. If it's been a while since I've been bra shopping, or I'm trying a new brand, I always grab two sizes per style, just in case. I usually grab my normal size and my "sister size". What is a sister size, you ask? Simply put, it's the size you will get the most similar fit in, if you go up or down a band size. For example, if you measure at a 34D, but that feels too tight, try on a 36C. Or, if you measure at a 34D and the band feels too loose, you should try a 32DD.

If you aren't sure if it's fitting right, please ask the bra fitter. This is why step #1 is so important. An experienced fitter will quickly be able to tell if it fits, and help adjust your bra to get the best fit. Getting a comfortable fit could be as simple as tightening the straps or loosening the band. It's really hard to adjust your own bra straps once it's on, and any bra fitter is happy to help.  It may feel awkward to have a complete stranger see you in your underwear, but think of it like the doctor's office: this person is just doing their job, has seen many different bodies and almost nothing will phase them.

I have found that sizes run slightly different depending on the brand, and can definitely run different depending on the style. For example: sometimes boob spillage (technical term) means you need to go up a cup size, but sometimes you just need to find a different style that covers the breast differently. Maybe you need a deeper cup, a cup that stretches a bit as opposed to a molded cup, or one that cups up higher on the sides. So don't despair if it takes a while to find what works - take note of what you like and don't like about each bra you try on, and soon you'll find what looks best on you. Sometimes it just takes patience and trying on a lot of bras, and a good fitter will guide you through the process.

Speaking of bra styles, that really needs its own post, so watch out for that soon!

Ordered bras online or can't find the bra fitter? See my post about common bra problems for tips to help you get the right fit on your own.

4. Keep your receipt in your bra drawer.

And while you're at it, keep the tags on and wear the bra around the house for a couple of hours before cutting them off. Bras are kind of like shoes. Sometimes it seems like it fits well in the store, but then you get it home and after wearing it around for a few hours it becomes clear that it just doesn't fit. Maybe the band starts riding up because you really do need go to down in the band size -- or the opposite, you realize it's just too tight even on the loosest hook. Or maybe it rides up when you bend over. Or maybe it rips the first time you wash it. All of this is really frustrating when you just shelled out $50 or more for a new bra. Check the return policy of where you bought it, but most places will let you exchange a bra that you're not happy with if it is within a certain period of time, even if you've worn it. Just ask nicely and bring the receipt. True story: sometimes associates are hesitant to do a return for you because it counts against their sales for the day. I still remember the day our sales were approximately negative $300 due to several returns and no sales yet and my boss was coming in soon - I started to panic inside, obviously! If you start out by saying "exchange for a different one" rather than "return/refund" you'll put them at ease and probably find it easier to get what you want.

I hope you enjoyed today's class at Fashion School! Be sure to comment below or contact me with any bra questions - I might feature your question in an upcoming post!

And if you like it, be sure to pin it!

And click the image to see my other post about bras:


Common Bra Problems (and how to fix them)

Bras. If you wear 'em, you've had problems with 'em. Bad bras are frustrating, unflattering, uncomfortable and downright depressing. Good bras are uplifting, flattering, comfortable--but almost impossible to find. With so many different sizes and styles to choose from, it can be hard to find one that works. But don't fret-today I've got some basic fixes for some pretty common bra problems. And stay tuned in the coming weeks for more posts to help you find the right bra for you!

Bra problem #1: Straps slipping off your shoulder

Possible causes: Wrong size bra, wrong style for body type, sloping shoulders

First try: tightening the bra straps. Tighten them before you put on the bra, or have someone help you after you put it on. I usually start with a little tighter knowing it will slip during the day a bit.

If that doesn't work: Time to replace the bra. If the bra is older than 6 months, it's time for a new bra. Bras do stretch out, especially if you're bigger than a B cup.

Still not working: You need to find a different style. Try a racerback bra. A full coverage might work, but definitely avoid balconets and demis.

Bra problem #2: Bra rides up in back. 

Possible causes: Wrong size band, bra is stretched-out, straps are too tight.

First try: Try loosening the straps a bit and tightening your band hooks. If you're already on the smallest set of hooks, read on.

If that doesn't work: If simple adjustments don't work, it's likely time for a new bra. Since I know I'm in the right size, this usually tells me it's time for a new bra. Bras do stretch out over time, and it seems like the bigger your breasts are, the faster it happens.

Still not working: You need a different size and/or style. Most likely you need to go down in band size, and you may need a style that provides more support from the band and less from the straps.

Bra problem #3: Double bubble, spillage, whatever you call it - boobs comin' out the top.

Possible causes: Wrong size (durr), wrong cup style for body

First try: Make sure you are in the right size, spillage is often caused by a too-small cup size, but if your band size is wrong it can throw the whole thing off. Also, don't forget to adjust when putting your bra on in the morning - make sure the girls are situated into the bra. One trick: bend over after you put on the bra to help get them in all the way!

If that doesn't work: Try a different style. Some have more "coverage" than others, even if they are the same size. A full-coverage style is going to come up a bit higher and help prevent overflow. Online shopping tip: try searching for "full-figured styles" or "perfect coverage" to find a full-coverage bra.

Still not working: Molded bra cups are great for wearing with t-shirts, but for busty girls, it can be hard to get a proper fit. Try a style with seams on the front - they will help give a nice, natural shape and reduce the amount of "spillage".

Bra problem #4: Underwire is poking you -- or poking out of the bra!

Possible causes: wrong size, wrong style - probably both, cheap bra, or just time to replace.

First try: It *might* be a manufacturer's defect, in which case try to dig up the receipt and take it back where you got it - depending on the retailer's return policy, you might be able to exchange it for a new one. I recently did this when it happened about 2 months after I bought a bra, and since I had the receipt I was able to exchange it for a new one. If your bra is over six months old, it's just time to pony up for a new bra.

If that doesn't work: For the love of diamonds quit shopping in the tween/teen bra section. This includes the PINK bra collection from Victoria's Secret, the entire Aerie brand and the Xhiliration brand at Target. The prices are attractive, but the sizes and fits are designed specificially for still-in-puberty bodies - if you've had a kid or two, your breasts are going to need the structure and support that a bra from the juniors' section just can't provide.

Still not working: Have I mentioned that you need to get the right size? If you have too-small cups or too-small band, your breast is probably pushing on one side of the underwire, which makes it poke out the other end. Or you could be in the right size but another style or brand would work better with your exact dimensions.

Hope you enjoyed today's class here at Fashion School! If you have a bra dilemna, be sure to chime in below in the comments - I'll answer your question in our next class!

And if you like it, be sure to pin it!

Click image below for my follow-up post with tons of tips for bra shopping:

Linking up to:

Classy Yet Trendy Wednesday Linkup

{all images via victoriassecret.com)


Summer Must-Haves for Moms {Fashion Buying 101}

So this is my 4th summer as a mom and I think I'm finally getting the hang of having a summer routine. I have two boys, ages 1 and 3, and it seems like everyone's happiest when we've spent some time out of the house - particularly if there's water and popsicles involved! Here are some of my favorite picks for getting through the summer months with your kiddos - and you can find them all on your next trip to Target!

Summer Must-Haves for Moms

Toddler Batman Rash Guard, $12.00

My sons seem to have inherited my fair complexion and I'm always worried about them getting sunburned. For us rash guards have been a great solution, and Target seems to have the most inexpensive cute ones. I would buy one size up on this style - if it ends up being a little big, you'll be able to get an extra swim season out of it next year!

Toddler Girls' Rash Guard Set, $14.00

Usually you find more rash guards for boys than girls, but this girls' rash guard set is FREAKING ADORABLE. I love the extra sun protection without sacrificing style.

Perfect Beach Tote, $9.99

Last summer I found the PERFECT tote bag for lugging around our summer stuff. I'm not sure what I love more - that the see-through mesh allows me to find everything quickly and easily, or that the front pocket is deep enough to hold everything in when I inevitably drop it or tip it over. The bag's waterproof design is especially perfect for the beach or pool, and I used it for all our snacks for our cross-country road trip last summer. This giant bag is worth every penny at $9.99, but I've seen it on sale for $8 or on one of their buy-one-get-one promotions.

Babyganics Mineral Sunscreen, $9.99

So my oldest son takes after me in the fact that he is pale (see above: rash guard), but takes after his father in having super-sensitive skin. Around age 2 he started breaking out in a terrible rash every time I used sunscreen on him. I tried several different brands before buying this one from Babyganics, and he has not had one rash with it. It's mineral-based, and therefore a little hard to rub in at first, but it's tear-free and as far as I can tell it does it's job to keep sunburns at bay.

Simply Balanced Fruit Strips, $2.99

In the summer it is essential to keep snacks on hand while we're out and about. Granola bars are great but anything with chocloate is going to melt. I love these fruit strips because they have NO corn syrup and NO artificial dyes so I can feel good about the mcnuggets they had for lunch. They're also a safe bet for sharing at playdates and playgroups.

Contigo Striker Water Bottle, $9.99

My kids are always trying to steal my Contigo Addison water bottle so I finally got them their own water bottles. They're pretty leak-proof and dishwasher safe, but you shouldn't put any liquids but water in them. Ours have survived being thrown and dropped A LOT so they are my top choice for our summer hydration.

Room Essentials Sprinkler, $2.99

This last pick is more for the little kid crowd, but I can honestly say this sprinkler is the best $3 I've spent in a long time. My boys LOVE running through the sprinkler and at this price I can buy another next year if this one doesn't last. Another great pick for summer playdates!

*Prices listed are correct and items are in-stock as of the date of this post. Confirm prices and promotions before purchase. Remember you can almost always save at Target by waiting for sales, using coupons and/or Cartwheel, and saving 5% with your Target card.

{This post was in no way sponsored or associated with Target. Just an honest review from a Target-shopping mom.}


A Fashion Book Review: Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible {Fashion as Literature 101}

I've always found the history of apparel and fashion fascinating. For a world history class paper in tenth grade I chose the topic of medieval vs. renaissance fashion; for a french class paper the next year I wrote a paper about Christian Dior's "new look". While growing up my favorite part of the American Girl catalog was the historical costumes each girl wore, and you know my favorite part of visiting the Smithsonian was the First Ladies Inagural gown exhibit. :)

Even as an adult you will find me wandering to the fashion section at my local library - sometimes even with my toddlers in tow! Like most fashion lovers, I'm a huge fan of Tim Gunn, so of course when I saw "Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: the Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet" at the library I had to bring it home with me.

If you're not sure who Tim Gunn is, you most likely know him from his role on Project Runway and his famous lines "Make it work!" and "Thank you Mood!"

Remember him now?

And you know, it some ways, it was kinda like the bible! Gunn divided the book into chapters such as "T-Shirts: From Underwear to Everywhere" and "Capri Pants and Shorts: The Plague on Our Nation", and, like the bible, some chapters are long, and some are short. Some spoke to me more than others. Some parts were a little dry (have you ever read Numbers from the Old Testament?) and some were filled with juicy stories and gossip (Genesis is the original soap opera to me). There are practical "how to wear ____" sections throughout the book, but it mostly focuses on the historical evolution of today's most prevalent fashions.

Speaking of fashions - one of my favorite paragraphs in the whole book was from his introduction where he addresses critics who prefer the term "style" over "fashion".

"I love the word "fashion." That's why I'm using it in the title of this book. Fashion is about change and about creating clothes within a historical context. To me, dismissing fashion as silly or unimportant seems like a denial of history and frequently a show of sexism--as if something that's traditionally a concern of women isn't valid as a field of academic inquiry."

I think Gunn really hit the nail on the head. Fashion has always been my passion (see above) but I know many do see it as unimportant or even irrelevant. But Tim Gunn shares my views on the subject. This won't apply to all readers, of course, but I found myself nodding along while reading. Gunn and I seem to share the same views on faux fur (we are for it!), cargo capris for women, and how what we wear is what we project to the world. When I read this next gem, I wanted to frame it and put it on the wall (I still might...)

"I've found that many people are afraid of taking a hard look at what's in their closets, because fashion is scary to many people. It shouldn't be. Fashion is fun and thrilling--andit's something that concerns everyone who gets dressed in the morning, not just an elite crew in Manhattan."

History books can often be dry but this book is full of fun and interesting tidbits about fashion history - and nearly every page features full-color photos of famous moments in fashion history (think Madonna's cone bra and Marky Mark's underwear ad in the underwear chapter and Jennifer Lopez's infamous belly-baring dress in the dress chapter). I loved reading so many of Tim's personal anecdotes--he has had such an interesting career!

To sum it up--I loved the book. While it's not exactly a thrilling page-turner or a great beach read, I think any fashion fan would enjoy sitting down with this book.  Sitting down and reading a chapter or two would be a great way to relax at the end of the day so I think it makes the perfect coffee table book or a wonderful gift for the fashion-obsessed person in your life.

Cost: $16.00 (paperback) $12.00 (kindle) or Free (request it if your library doesn't carry it)

You'll like it if: You like fashion and find history interesting, and if you like Tim Gunn!

Pass on it if: You only read fiction books or really really like your cargo capri pants.

Pick one up at: Amazon, your local bookstore or your local library.


How to Wear Bright Jeans {Fashion Styling 101)

One of my favorite pieces in my closet right now is my turquoise skinny jeans. They may not go with everything in my closet since they are quite the pop of color, but I know that they are a pretty versatile and I can wear them in multiple seasons. Today I'll share two ways to wear bright jeans - one way to wear now for winter and wear later for spring.

The formula: bright jeans + long black tunic + patterned scarf + black boots
Why it works: The dark top and boots tone down the brightness of the jeans and add a bit of sophistication to the look as a whole. The scarf adds a pop of pattern without competing with the real star of the outfit. 
Rockstar Jean, circa 2013 {Old Navy}
Irma Top, 2015 {LulaRoe}
Floral Print Scarf, circa 2011{DownEast Basics}
Riding Boot, 2014 {Macy's}

The formula: bright jeans + white lace top + metallic flats + metallic clutch + delicate necklace
Why it works: Lace is always on-trend and you can't go wrong with classic white. Metallic accessories tie it together and keep it fresh for spring. You can always mix metals, but try to keep it to two and use contrasting ones (like silver + gold or pewter + copper) If you're like me and need more coverage for the arms, throw on a boyfriend cardigan in a neutral color.
Rockstar Jean, circa 2013 {Old Navy}
Lace Lover Tee, circa 2011{DownEast Basics}
Bow Clutch, circa 2011 {DownEast Basics}
Xhiliration Metallic Flats, 2014 {Target}
Silver Necklace, circa 2008 {Express, I think}

Some detail shots of this outfit:

and for your pinning pleasure:


Winter Wear 101

Welcome to our first class here at Fashion School! Today's class is an introductory course covering essential pieces to get you through the winter season. I really don't like winter weather, but I DO like winter fashion! I love being able to wear multiple layers without overheating and some of my favorite fashion pieces just can't be worn in the warmer weather! The tricky part about winter wear is dressing warm enough without a) looking like a marshmallow and b) having a completely separate wardrobe for each season. These five fashion essentials will help keep you warm without adding too much bulk, and will also make it possible to wear some of your favorite spring and summer pieces during the colder months!

Winter Scarf

No winter wardrobe is complete without a scarf! Besides the utility of keeping your neck warm, a scarf can add a pop of color or pattern to an outfit. Scarves are fairly inexpensive, and a great way to try out a new trend without breaking the bank.

Ankle leggings

Leggings have become a bit of a controversial subject lately (see: leggings as pants debate), they can definitely be a versatile wardrobe staple. I generally layer mine with a pencil skirt or knee-length dress. I find this combo warmer than wearing jeans in the winter (so cold on your legs!) and as a bonus I get to wear some of my summer skirts and dresses all year long! You can wear ankle leggings tucked into boots or even with flats as shown above.

Riding boot

One of my favorite things about cooler weather is that I can pull out my beloved boots! Boots are definitely an investment, but definitely a worthwhile one. Classic riding boots can be worn with skinny jeans, leggings, tights, or even bare legs. My favorite is the aforementioned leggings-and-skirt combo, but they are great with dark denim as well.

Long sleeve tee

A lightweight layering tee is a great way to add warmth without bulk. A dark long sleeve tee can also be very flattering for those of us worried about our upper arms :). I love to pair mine with a puffer vest or sleeveless top from my summer wardrobe, or even a short-sleeve dress!

Boyfriend Cardigan

I've never met a cardigan I didn't like. But boyfriend cardigans are my favorite. They are comfortable, flattering, and again, add warmth without too much bulk. Boyfriend cardigans are usually carachterized by their extra length and pockets. I love that this cardigan helps create a long, lean profile - especially with skinny jeans or leggings. Throw it on top of a casual dress or a favorite short-sleeve tee with jeans for a comfortable but stylish look!

Thanks for coming to class at Fashion School! If you like what you've learned be sure to subscribe for more lessons!

 (all photos via oldnavy.com)