Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Breast Kept Secret: Gain Control By Having a Fit!

When I first got a Triangle Style Magazine assignment to go for a bra fitting - I have to admit, I was titillated. I'd been mesmerized by the miraculous mammary makeover that Oprah had sprung on her studio audience last fall during the spectacular “Bra Show”. The thought that someone might finally make molehills out of my own mountains, here and now in Raleigh, perked me right up. And besides, wouldn't it be a hoot to dress up “the girls” and take them shopping?

According to Julie Hendricks, owner of J. Alane's Fine Lingerie and Other Essentials located next to Vivace in The Alexan at North Hills Mall, around 80% of women walk around with the wrong size bra. And trust me, Julie's great with numbers. In fact, before opening up J. Alane's, she spent years working in accounting and finance. Now she spends her days sizing up bust lines, while still watching the bottom line. Julie wants to make sure that each of the ladies who leave her lovely shop sports only two beautiful breasts - not with four bumps bubbling out of their bras or an elongated “uni-boob” flattened across their chest.

After a warm introduction, Julie whisked me back into a comfortable fitting room and instantly became my bosom buddy. My new breast friend worked fast too. Julie took her tape measure to me only once and then just eyeballed my cup size. After giving her quite an eyeful - she had my number right away.

For the best band size, Julie says to “only add 2” - 3” to your rib cage measurement,” not the 4” or 5”, as most other old school bra fitters do. The entire band should stay flush to your skin - with no gaping in between your breasts. A slightly snugger fit insures that your bra will move with you, so you won't have to constantly tug at it trying to keep your tah-tahs in tow. As for you cup size, she suggests that since most women have slightly different size breasts, you should fit for the larger cup first and then you can line the other side with padding to even things up, if necessary. You want your breasts to fill up the cup, not runneth over or pucker.

While her super sweet sales assistant, Justin Ann, rounded up some pretty bras for me to try on, Julie gave me some advice, starting with the lacy little brassiere I'd worn that day, in an effort to undress to impress. “Front closing bras are a no-no. They don't give you anywhere to go,” she explained. “You need at least 2 or 3 rows of hooks to find the right fit.” She suggested that when I buy a new bra, always start hooking with the first row, and work my way back as the elastic relaxes.

And speaking of backs - it's always best to fasten your bra behind you. The 'ole Hokey-Pokey method of hooking in front and then turning your bra around just stretches it out, and that's not what it's all about.

I was surprised to learn that each time you go down a band size, you need to go up cup size too, and if you go up a band size, you drop down a cup size to balance things out. So, for example, if you fit into a 36B, but decide you like the feel (or bragging rights) of a smaller band size, you'll end up in a 34C.

Another thing I found when you come in for a fitting; As you open your blouse, it's best to keep an open mind. For years I'd been buying a 36B - when in fact, it turns out I'm really a 36DD. Yikes! At least she didn't have to reach into the Greek alphabet to find my fit. But I wasn't Julie's first client to misjudge my jugs. One of her customers, Julie contends, went from a 38D to a 32H. Take that Dolly Parton!

It seems that a majority of American women these days are naturally fuller busted. Breast augmentation is certainly big business right now; but according to Julie's observations, gals who come into her store with a size G are not implant patients. Much of her clientele is looking for ways to dial it down a bit. A lot of women, (due to age, childbirth or weight-loss), suddenly find themselves with an abundance of loose skin, which can practically be rolled up like a roman shade. But even her larger size bras are very sexy, while still being supportive.

None of this engineering comes cheap. The price of a quality undergarment might overwhelm some of us gals who are used to buying our underwear in 3 piece blister packs at Costco. However, with good care and a proper fit - a well-made bra should last for years. It's a wise investment that can help you shed ten pounds and ten years in less than ten seconds - I bet even your best performing mutual fund can't do that.

But rest assured, what happens at J. Alane's - stays at J. Alane's! Try hard as I could to squeeze out Julie's secrets about her clients and their skivvies - I couldn't even get a thong width's worth! She did hint, however, that like a good book, a woman should never be judged by her cover. Some of Julie's most preppy and pearly girls have had some pretty interesting tattoos and body art well hidden under those alligators and polo players - but that was the only dirty laundry I could shake out from her. After all, being professional and discreet is what keeps her clients coming back for more.

That, and the fact that Julie makes good on her claim that she can “lift your breasts from down at your waistline, to so high - you can practically eat off them.” You won't get a promise like that from the check out gal at Costco.