Best Supporting Role

A good bra is a psychological purchase believes PENNY McCORMICK

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield, 1957.

An Armani suit, a D&G Little Black Dress and a DVF wrap dress … Over the course of my career I have measured some milestones in sartorial statements, though the outer confidence these layers offered was possibly not matched by inner self-belief. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to recognise the value in swapping an over-dependence on designer purchases in favour of a blow dry, a new (Chanel) lipstick, and a good bra. Indeed, in the last five years, my smalls drawer has become much more important, and is in fact not that small. It’s something I can date to a fitting at Rigby & Peller in London, before I started a new job. It was in their King’s Road boutique that I discovered, like 80 per cent of the female population, I’d been wearing the wrong size for around 20 years. The fitter took one look at me and predicted a 34E, confirming this with a tape measure shortly afterwards. I’d mistakenly been fitting myself, thinking my average 36C chest was like my shoe size – an unwavering fact, unlike my hip ratio which has sadly fluctuated across three decades.

Recently, some millennials are eschewing bras completely and questioning societal expectations in the process; this is perhaps reflected in the rising trend for bralettes (unpadded, wire-free alternatives to structured bras). A recent survey also revealed many women only wear two bras in heavy rotation, despite owning multiple options, with some bras having a drawer life of ten years. I confess I do hoard, but not to that extent, however I am proud to say I have Kondo-d, rather than burned my bras (even favourite La Perlas and Marie Jo sets) with ruthlessness over the last month – as a result of fittings tested for this feature.

What I learned in the course of research is that buying a bra is very much like jeans shopping – brands vary and trying on is the best judge of size, though you need to be in the mood and have a good mirror to see yourself from several angles. Rigby & Peller now has a digital body scanner, the ShapeID, which creates a 3D model of the upper body, recording over 140 measurements in less than a minute. The lingerie stylist, together with the 3D mirror, will then recommend the most suitable styles and colours to complement your figure and shape. The mirror photographs the customer in every product and displays the images on the monitor, allowing the customer to compare each product immediately, and choose her preferred style. ShapeID is another example of tech-enhanced retail experiences but the next best thing is to have a consultation with any of the lingerie stylists recommended (right). Thanks to their expertise, I have three new bras albeit in different sizes (32E, 32F, 34D), yet they all fit. That may sound Irish, but in each instance I learned something new. I also queried why I hadn’t availed of these free services more regularly. More importantly, in the course of the month, I dropped from a size twelve to ten on top at least, not through exercise, but from wearing the correct bra. I rest my case.

Tried and Tested

Maison Lejaby Tatoo Contour bra, €81, at Brown Thomas.

WHERE: Brown Thomas Lingerie Room THE ASK: A seamless T-shirt bra. WHO: After 20 years working at BT, Rose Reilly knows a good bra will alter posture, lengthen the body and improve overall shape. “Most commonly women are wearing bras which are too wide and ride up at the back giving a double-boob effect at the front. A good bra should lift and separate.” She confirms I have, like most women, one breast larger than the other and measures me as borderline 34E/DD. She recommends the Elixir range from Maison Lejaby – a good everyday bra with Calais lace for the fuller cup. I end up with a neat “tatoo” style in 32E, though I liked everything offered and it was a hard decision. As with most visits to Brown Thomas, I leave wanting more …

Simone Perèle Delice bra, €74, at Arnotts.

WHERE: Arnotts Lingerie Dept Level 1 THE ASK: A pretty bra. WHO: Patricia Powell, senior stylist in a team of 16, has probably fitted le tout Dublin in the course of her 30-year career. She measures me as a 32F and says size fluctuations are due to weight, hormones, pregnancy and the Pill. She recommends a new fitting every nine months. While Chantelle is their bestselling brand, Patricia brings in a range of new “high apex” Delice styles from Simone Perèle. They fit perfectly and are feminine but not overly fussy. Patricia recommends starting at the loosest hook and working to the tightest as the bra ages, and bringing the breasts in from under the arm. I now understand why she recommends women should get their bra before buying a new dress prior to a big occasion. This was time well spent.

Sumptuously Soft full-cup nude bra, €27, at Marks & Spencer.

WHERE: Marks & Spencer, Grafton Street, Dublin THE ASK: A nude bra. WHO: Pamela Cowzer. After 15 years working in M&S’s lingerie department, Pamela assesses customers’ needs in seconds. She says my bra is too big before measuring me to confirm I am a 34D. She brings three bestsellers – the Zigzag T-shirt, Olivia Lace Nude and Sumptuously Soft Nude. All three feel tight; normal, given that many women often come in wearing worn-out bras. Mistakenly we often tighten straps to increase lift and in doing so create neck and back problems, rather than getting the correct cup and back size. There are some fluctuations in sizing in the three styles, but in the end, I opt for the perky Olivia – Pamela’s first choice. Cubicles were a little tired, but this was fast, functional and great value.

What lies beneath

For those tight on time, Victoria’s Secret offer a “Style Finder” service online where you complete a three-step questionnaire and receive suggestions based on your style preferences. They also include bra fit tips and a handy measuring video so that you can find your size at home and order online. In store, no booking is needed for their free fitting service. Their popular “Sexy Illusions” range features no-show edges and side-smoothing technology so that your bra disappears under everything you wear, making it appropriate for work shirts and fitted dresses. www.victoriassecret.comVictoria’s Secret, 28-29 Grafton Street, Dublin 2.

Susan Hunter Lingerie offer a full fitting service free of charge with no appointment necessary. If you are rushing in at lunchtime and don’t want to arrive back to the office with a handful of bags, they offer a delivery service too. Exclusive brands include Celestine (German pure cotton nightwear) Cadolle (French corsetry) Amoralle (Latvian silk nightwear) Cervin (French hosiery) Selite (Italian silk nightwear). They also stock silk and cotton-lined bras and pure cotton briefs by Swiss brand Hanro. www.susanhunter.ieSusan Hunter Lingerie, 13 Westbury Mall, Dublin 2.

Peaches & Cream offer free consultations on fit, shape and style. After an initial fitting, repeat purchases can be ordered directly from their website for home delivery. www.peachesandcream.ie; Peaches & Cream, 20A South King Street, Dublin.

Penny McCormick

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