I have always found bra shopping to be an incredibly frustrating experience. This frustration seems to be a near universal experience, but my own particular brand of difficulty comes from the limited options available in cup sizes D and larger. It felt like I had to either resign myself to a granny-style bra or make due with a less-than-ideal amount of support. I wanted the support, but the "old lady" bras severely limited what clothes I could wear because of their wide straps, bulky designs, and coverage that seemed to reach up to my neck. No bra is great enough to justify never being able to wear a tank top or v-neck blouse! Here's the thing about a great bra: it makes you feel confident from the moment you put it on and helps your clothes to fall in a flattering way.
Even if no one else will see your undergarments, it is likely that you are going to want a variety of patterns and colors. While basic beige and black are staples, I like to have something a little bit more fun to boost my mood on a grey day. The tagline for this blog is "love what you wear everyday" and that shouldn't only refer to your visible clothes. But sometimes it feels like the styles that fit are doomed to only come in bland colors.
In a fit of desperation last August, I resorted to online shopping for bras. At the time I was sure that it would be an utter disaster since I had spent many hours in fitting rooms trying on bras just to come out empty handed. However, Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns on all online purchases and I figured that at least I could endure the humiliation of poor fitting bras in the privacy of my apartment instead of being cajoled by sales associates to show them off to the entire fitting room. This is going to sound like an exaggeration, but the entire experience was magical. I could filter search results by size, read reviews from other customers and when my order arrived on my doorstep, I could try each option on with multiple tops and dresses. No more searching through racks of bras and no more wondering if the bra would look okay under a variety of fabrics. I was on such a roll that I then headed over to the Bare Necessities website, which also has a good return policy. Not all of my purchases fit, but the success rate was well over 50% and I discovered my new favorite brand, Freya (which is carried at both Nordstrom and Bare Necessities).
Freya is based out of the U.K. (so check that size conversion chart before ordering!) and is great for women with large chests. It was the first time that I put on a bra and really felt like it had been made with me in mind and wasn't just a bigger version of something designed for an A cup. I didn't realize the importance of that until I finally experienced it and now six months later I can say that the excitement hasn't worn off. There are quite a few pieces of clothing that I feel much more confident wearing because my undergarments aren't interfering with the fit. I especially love their longline bras which have fabric that extends about an inch and half below the bust because they help smooth out my sides and back. But the most important thing is that I feel like there are options for me to choose from, not just a style that I am stuck with. (An added bonus is that they also make swimwear in their bra sizes!)
This is embarrassing to admit, but I used to wear camisoles with built-in bras over my bras so that I would have extra support. Now all of those camis are sitting unworn on a shelf in my closet. It is freeing to be able to throw on only single layer. Before I could only do that if I was willing to wear an undergarment that resembled armor more than a bra. You can probably imagine that my outer layers also look better without the added bulk underneath. There are probably a few of you who have also made compromises or modifications because you couldn't find the perfect fit. You shouldn't have to settle.
If you are looking to try a variety of brands (which I suggest if you go the online shopping route), I have also had success with Wacoal (though their larger sizes come mostly in neutral colors) and Cleo by Panache. For sports bras, I am a huge fan of Lynx Sportswear which creates an incredibly supportive bra that is unlike any other you have tried (seriously, watch the video and you will be amazed).
When you are updating your wardrobe for the new season, take a moment and evaluate your undergarments. They are unseen most of the time, but their importance should not be underestimated.