How to Buy a Bra That Fits: Jenette Bras Founder Jenette Goldstein on the Importance of Bra Comfort & Self-Acceptance by Belinda Lichty Clarke
Jenette Goldstein, founder and CEO of Jenette Bras, has this to say about the challenges real-sized women face when searching for the right fit: "Most women blessed with a figure like ours are wearing the wrong size bra. I call it Mall Bra Syndrome. It’s a low inventory, low wage, low skill business model that just about works for gals up to a C-cup, if they’re not too picky. If you need a bigger cup you’re likely to be offered a bigger band instead. Seriously? Instead of fitting bras to our bodies, they expect our bodies to fit their limited selection of bras."
Goldstein says the only sure way to get a bra that fits is to get fitted. "Preferably by a straight-talking professional with a sense of humor. Your mother knew this, and so did your grandmother. You’re welcome."
I talked with Goldstein about her mission and how you can ensure a good fit every time.
Q. Why is it important for a bra to fit properly?
A. Comfort and looks. And when I say comfort, this is not a trivial thing. Bra feel runs on a spectrum from delicious close hug to debilitating physical pain. You need to get yourself over to the former! A badly fit bra will put all the weight on your shoulders and make you stoop over. Wrong-size underwire will poke into you every time you move. The way a bra can affect your appearance is just as dramatic. A well-fitted bra lifts and shapes your bust, which reveals and creates your waist and sets the draping of your clothes. You stand up straight and beam confidence because you’re not hunched forward in pain.
Q. How do you ensure a good fit?
A. There are a few basics that every woman should know:
- Everything starts with the band. You need it snug and level across the back. This is 90 percent of your support, give or take.
- Bra straps are only meant to take 10 to 15 percent of the weight. Any reputable manufacturer will make the width appropriate for your cup size, so you don’t need to worry about that. I like pretty straps so I can let them show.
- Feel the underwire. It should be cushioned. A quality bra will use a double or triple wrapped underwire (and yes, you do need underwire, if you’re busty. And no, they don’t cause cancer). The underwire must rest neatly under your breast root, against your ribcage, not on your breast and not off your torso. You shouldn’t feel it at all during wear.
- If you’re over a C-cup, look for seams! The most supportive bras are cut-and-sewn bras with well placed flat seams to hold and shape. There are a couple beautiful exceptions to this rule. The cups are made from a single piece of heat-molded lace, and they come at a premium price point (and worth it).
- For most women, the gore should tack. That means the connection point between the cups should touch your chest. If your clavicle is recessed, then it might not quite reach.
Even knowing all this, you still need to see a professional. As a full-bust, small ribcage gal, I never found a good fit until I went to a specialty bra-fit boutique (the experience was so revelatory that I’ve made it my life’s work to provide it to other women). This just isn’t something you can do by yourself. Each woman’s body is so individual that you need both an experienced fitter and a broad inventory to have any likelihood of success.
Q. What are the top three mistakes women make when selecting or trying a bra?
A. They skimp, skimp, skimp! Women try to save money and time on bra shopping, because they imagine the bra doesn’t show the way that shoes and purses show. But it does. Women want a bra to cost less than a dress, but consider: the bra is much harder to manufacture, does a lot more work and you’re likely going to wear it at least four or five times as often. A good bra will improve the appearance of an inexpensive dress, but no dress can save a bad bra fit.
Q. What's the best way to get rid of armpit/back bulge? Are there special bras that address that?
A. This is kind of a made-up problem because women are insane about their bodies, so no, there’s no magic bra for back fat. Some women are wearing a too-small cup that doesn’t hold all of their breast tissue, and some women are amazingly bad at putting a bra on. I teach the method known as Swoop and Scoop. Lean forward in your bra and let gravity pull your breasts down into the cups. In this position reach into your armpit and use the flat of your hand to smooth ALL of your breast into the cup. This will reduce your bulges as much as they can be reduced for that given bra. Next step: diet, exercise and realism about how you came out in the genetic lottery. I have been known to advise a looser shirt.
Q. Are there alternatives to underwire that provide adequate support?
A. Somewhat, especially for smaller bust ladies. The late pandemic seems to have spurred some good research and development in lounge and comfort wear. I’ve seen a number of well-constructed bralettes and support tees that use reinforced seaming and quality elastics to create reasonable support even up into the G to H range. It’s not EQUAL to underwire support, but it may be sufficient for your needs.
Q. What are your top tips for getting the right bathing suit fit? Are the more expensive suits better?
A. As a full-bust specialist, the focus in my store is on cup-sized swimwear, from the same manufacturers as our bras. If you’re full on top, that is almost always the main fit issue whether it’s swim, shirts, and dresses. With the extra engineering involved, these are going to fall in the mid-to-high price range. The next biggest issue is probably torso length. If you’re on the longer or shorter side of average for your weight you’ll likely need to try on a few extra suits to find one that’s cut well for you.
Q. Anything else?
A. Consider buying the matching panties. Some of my clients talk about their favorite lingerie sets as a secret superpower. The knowledge that you’re wearing a gorgeous matching lingerie set under your power suit, coveralls or lab coat is a constant token of your own self-regard.
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