Of Breasts & Bras


IMG_2466 My first introduction into working retail, was during college at Victoria’s Secret.  During my time there, I perfected the panty table fold, in which I was able to perfectly place hundreds of pairs of panties, into neat and tidy rows, which would be destroyed within minutes of store opening the the following day.  I say with all seriousness, there were many nights that summer I dreamt of panty tables, and the hand motions I would make when tucking in each pair.  But regardless of how much I came to dread the panty table, I enjoyed my time working amongst such beautiful things, even though I never felt truly grown up enough to wear them.  Besides, padded lace push-up bras made for the most impractical of choices when biking to and from class everyday.  Still, I bought a few flirtatious bras and panties, and tucked them in the back of my drawer, only to toss them many years later.

Following graduation, and after a disastrous 3 month “inside-sales” stint at a lease financing company, I decided to return to retail and took a job as an Assistant Manager of the Lingerie Department at Macy’s.  I was in charge of scheduling fittings with Olga and Maidenform brand specialists, and trained employees on bra fittings and finding the right pair of panties that would eliminate panty lines.  Now that I was in charge, my time amidst the lace and silk bras and nighties seemed a lot less fun and held zero ounce of glamour for me.  Have you ever been in charge of the inventory process for thousands of pairs of panties?  The experience made me not the least bit interested in wearing a fancy lace bra ever again.  And that sentiment continued for many years.  Sure, I bought the occasional “nightie” for a special anniversary or what have you, but my bra and panty choices were left to purely practical sentiments, and were selected with as much regard for functionality as one would use to select a vacuum cleaner.  Does it get the job done, and does it last?  With those priorities in mind, I’ve limited my undergarment purchases to Nordstrom for the past several years, always appreciating their expert fitters and wide selection of quality bras and panties.  I didn’t stray too far from a select few Natori styles and the infamous Hanky Panky thongs.

Sometime last year, when Hayden was less than a year old and I was still very much in the throes of nursing, I read Paris In Love, a memoir about a writer who, after fighting breast cancer, decides to move to Paris with her family for a year.  While I loved the book so much, I went on to purchase it after first reading a borrowed library book, it was the chapter on Breasts & Bras (this blog post is borrowed from said titled chapter), that really had me fall in love with the book, and made me declare that once I was done nursing, I would begin wearing pretty undergarments.

 “In the history of my life, this year in Paris might as well be termed the Year of the Brasseiere.  At some point I walked into the lingerie department at Galeries Lafayette and shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation between a saleswoman and a client, a very elegant, restrained woman d’un certain age, perhaps, sixty-five or seventy.  Madame liked the design of a delightful handful of cream silk embroidered with black roses, but if it were not possible to buy panties that matched, then obviously the bra was not for her.  It occurred to me that it was entirely possible that a lusty, equally elegant Parisian male, also of a certain age, waited for her at home, but more important, his opinion would make no difference to her.  She was dressing for herself.  And her standards were high.”

As I get older, the motto of “look good, feel good” holds less and less relevance, as I can’t help but feel like a similar sentiment, more in the vain of “feeling good starts from within” holds more meaning for me.  Nourishing our bodies and spirit, starting with the thoughts we allow to take precedence, the food we eat, and the undergarments we put on beneath our clothes, has as much, if not more significance than the actual clothes we wear.  Hold on people, I think I’m starting to sound like a yogi.  But in all seriousness…

Our nursing ended with not much fanfare, just a couple of months ago, and while I sometimes wish we would have made it a more memorable occasion, one day Hayden decided he was done and so I decided not to push.  He had been losing interest rather quickly in the days and weeks leading up to our final nursing session, but could usually be prodded into a few minutes each time.  But I finally decided I could move on and so we did.  I continued to wear nursing bras for at least a month, in addition to the very unsupportive Coobie bras I loved throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period.  I told myself I was letting my boobs settle down and settle in to their new size, but really I was just being lazy.  I looked in the mirror a couple of weeks ago, and decided the smooshed breast look wasn’t cutting it anymore, and wasn’t do me any favors.  Sure, my 37 year old girl’s weren’t as perky or as firm as they once had been, after all they had nourished 3 babies for a total of 40+ months, what could I expect?  But that certainly didn’t mean they need be laid to rest.  A good bra could definitely give them much needed new life.

When I asked for recommendations on Facebook, almost unanimously you all recommended Soma.  A Soma store had opened up just a few blocks away from me about 2 years ago, but by peering into the windows I figured it was too mature for me, so I didn’t give it much thought.  But that day, after looking in the mirror and seeing my sad, smooshed breasts in the mirror, I launched into desperation mode, and almost ran into the store, I was so ready to buy something that would give definition and lift to these 2 appendages which had served me, and my babies well.  I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised (I’m officially “mature”), and I loved the bras I found.  Better yet, the music was soothing and there wasn’t a bit of neon or glittery polka dots to be found, typical of what you’d find in a Victoria’s Secret.  You all know I love my neon, but wearing glowing undergarments takes it too far, even for me.  It was in essence, the same intimate experience I had been receiving at Nordstrom for the past several years, but closer to home.

At this point I’d like to mention the importance of a proper fitting each and every time you lose weight, gain weight, have a baby, nurse a baby, stop nursing a baby, or sneeze.  It seems for me anyhow, any life change can alter the size and shape of my breasts, and so again, my bra size has changed.  That makes at least 6 bra size changes in the time since I’ve been counting.  From a 34A all the way up to a 32D, and both B & C cups in between.  Throughout all 6 changes, 34C seems to be the natural state of my breasts, and fits me best.  32D was when I had lost a lot of weight, but the size of my breastplate in essence was still the same even though I had lost tissue, and 36C is usually when I’m fresh out of a pregnancy.  34C is me healthy and happy. IMG_2473

It turns out, I’m also over the thong.  It has its time and place of appropriateness, but really for every day wear, I’m so done with having something wedged up my buttocks.  So in addition to some new bras, I also came home with a bunch of new panties which are ridiculously comfortable and leave zero panty lines, even when I’m wearing my tight workout pants.

For bras, I went with the Embraceable Full Coverage in 2 colors, and the Embraceable Push Up in 2 colors.  While they’re not lacy and frilly, they are still pretty and functional, and have a sweet little crystal at the cleavage.  I’ll venture into more daring styles in the future, but for now it’s a good start.  For panties, I went with the Lace Hipster with a lace panel along the backside, and the Lace Boy Short.  I think both make my back side look infinitely better than a thong, and I now clearly see the disservice I’ve been doing to my back side.   The panties are a bit pricey, but they have great sales and are having one right now in fact.  The bras were 2 for $59, which I thought was a great price, especially if they last as long as everyone on Facebook claimed.

I was on a roll, and so using a Christmas gift card, I also bought a very nice pair of Natori silk pajamas for myself.  In addition to being silk, they’re hot pink and fabulous.  I feel chic and beautiful and sophisticated in them.  I look forward to getting into them, and I wouldn’t be all that embarrassed if I had to answer the door in them.  They are the pajamas of a lady. photo

While my undergarment purchases still have a ways to go to achieve a certain level of upending elegance, we are on our way, and most importantly, I love how “my girls” look in them.  I feel lifted, supported, and I can fill out my shirt.  My breasts look like breasts, and not like some smashed mass on my chest.  They make me feel beautiful and girly and womanly.  Sexy will come eventually, perhaps when me, and the baby, get the sleep thing down.

I thought this post would be quite awkward to write, but in fact has been quite liberating.  I don’t think we women need to boisterously swing our bras from our rooftops, but we could certainly do well with a bit more girl talk on the issue.  Hopefully you’ve gleaned some good information, or at least a good laugh, from my recent brassiere adventures, and I’ll keep you posted on how I advance in the “sexy” department.  But between you and I, I don’t see myself ever wearing a pure lace bra – I just imagine lots of uncomfortable rubbing against my nipples.  Anyone else?

In closing, I’ll leave you with one of the best lines of Paris In Love, and it’s about our bodies, and how us American women view them:

In time I accumulated quite a collection of bras, and the panties to match, of course.  And I had also accumulated an extra ten pounds.  Ordinarily, that dismaying fact would have made me eschew the mirror.  But my Parisian lingerie drew my eyes away from imperfections, and directly to curves enhanced by lace and discreetly ingenious padding.  American women may spend their time hating their waists and hips, but it’s my guess that French women spend the same time admiring their breasts – and their hips – no matter their size. 

Can I get an amen?

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • Laura says:

    I love this post! Probably my favorite post of yours ever. “Can I get an amen?” Genius.

    I checked out “Paris in Love” from the library a while ago, but I couldn’t get into it. You’ve inspired me to give it another go. Thank you!

  • Adeline says:

    Hurray for good lingerie/underwear! I love, love underwear shopping and recently spent way too much money in the sales. Aubade and Princesse Tam-Tam have always been my favourite brands (the latter usually doesn’t fit me, but it looks like they’ve recently added new lines that work better for my body type). Some items may be lacy and frilly, but they’re the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn. When done well (which unfortunately often means more expensive), lace can be soft as silk and offer real support, you just have to find the right shape/brand.

    Now please tell us more about how to properly fold panties! 😛

  • Karri says:

    yes, yes yes. a properly fitted bra is so very important. i’ve never set foot in a soma. now my curiosity is piqued.
    it is funny…pre-kids, i owned all matching bra and panty sets. it was ridiculous, but it was important to me. when my B’s grew into E’s with pregnancy (for real), i had to toss that frivolity out the window. and i never went back.

  • A well fitting bra is so important, I’ve learned that over the years and after wearing some horribly ill fitting bras. Right up until the end of my Great Grandmother’s life (she lived to be 102) she wore matching bras and panties. I remember looking in her dresser drawer to see them, all lined up, sets together. She’d NEVER wear a mismatching set. And, I hope that one day I’m like that. I truly think that it is one of those “feel good on the inside, look good on the outside” things.
    Love your choices by the way and am going to look and see what Soma has!

  • allison says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I can relate in so many ways. My daughter is turning one next week and although we are still nursing she is slowly but surely weaning herself. Even though we only nurse morning and night I still wear my nursing bra all day long because its the only one that fits me! My old bras fit ok but feel so uncomfortable to me now. I can’t wait until I can go get some new bras when we are completely done nursing and I will definitely go check out Soma!

    OH!!! and AMEN to being done with the thong! I’m turning 35 next month and used to be an avid thong wearer…. gone are the days! ha!

  • Kristen says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve never been in a Soma either…I stop in one soon.

  • Kallah says:

    Love the post! Been thinking after I’m fond nursing baby #2 I need to try Soma instead of Vicky’s ;).
    However I have to say, my fav bras in my drawer right now are all-lace push-ups! I know it sounds uncomfortable, but I lovvvve them. They perk you up without adding any bulk, so you feel more like a teenage girl and less like a buxom matron (I have always had bigger boobs so that’s how I’ve always felt haha, even though I’m only 25)

  • Shelly says:

    I know I’m late to the game on this post, but I’m so glad you went to Soma! I thought the same thing when I first saw the store open, but while shopping there for pjs for my MIL one Christmas I ended up trying on a bra and it changed my life. Ok, not my life maybe, but it was SO much better than VS! My other fav bra has become the soft bra at Target. It’s great to travel in..who knew!

  • Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you taking the tim andd effort too put this content together.
    I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  • You are so interesting! I do not think I’ve read through a single
    thing like this before. So great to discover another person with a few unique thoughts on this
    topic. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

  • When women get older they tend to drop the fashion and focus on the functionality on their undergarments. Maybe I will too! But never forget to treat yourself to some sexy or hot lingerie once in a while. It doesn’t really have to be a mutual event like an anniversary or something. Maybe just on a normal day when you feel bored and you have lots of time to spare. Who knows? It might make you feel like a teenager again.

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