IN RECENT BUSINESS news, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported a decline in Victoria’s Secret’s market share, speculating that the mass chain of lingerie stories had not responded soon enough to the athleisure trend and a customer preference for comfort. Competition had cropped up with e-commerce sites like Third Love, True & Co. and Lively selling sports bras and bralettes (unstructured, unlined, unpadded, wire-free), along with push-up and strapless styles. Catering to millennials who prefer to buy online, these sites offer fit guides and in some cases, free returns if not satisfied. (Amazon also has recently jumped into this segment of the lingerie market, with prices as low as $10.)
Women have had a love-hate relationship with bras for years. We complain they don’t fit; the shoulder straps slip off the shoulders and dig into the skin; they’re scratchy; they ride up. In the ’60s and early ’70s, some of us were burning them (mostly symbolically). The pendulum shifted in the mid-’90s as many embraced Victoria’s Secret sexy, push-up style that valued fashion over fit. By the early-mid 2000s, the seamless, memory-foam bra like Spanx’s Bra-llelujah became popular for being extremely comfortable and functional (no hooks) and a wide back strap to hold in back fat.
Fast-forwarding to 2017, my own, once-favorite Bra-llelujah has been looking dated (too much contouring/padding) for a few years, but I’ve been lax in seeking a replacement. I consulted a few experts for some buying guidance.
Shirlee Blanken of Underwraps in Bethesda is shocked anyone would buy a bra online. “Not every bra in the same size is going to fit you the same way, even within the same company,” she says. She’s an advocate of contouring to hide nipples and of support: “You don’t want [your breasts] to hang as you get older.”
Helen Kestler of Sylene in Chevy Chase sees a trend for less structured, more lightly contoured bras that still provide support and nipple coverage. She says Chantelle’s sportswear-inspired Aeria Light Spacer T-Shirt bra gives you coverage where you need it. The straps are designed to be closer together so they don’t slip off the shoulders. If you want light padding plus support, Ilene Levy of Cheeks Lingerie in Pittsburgh recommends brands like Natori and Simone Perele, which offer styles with innovative fabric that lifts without wires and light contouring.
But last month, when grown-up girl Candace Johnston, a Pittsburgh interior designer, realized she had just bought some new clothes during January sales but hadn’t purchased new bras for years, she decided to shop for them—online. She ordered Third Love’s 24/7 Classic T-shirt bra . The first size she ordered was too large and had to be returned, which she reports was an easy transaction. The next go-round was successful. “This is a good brand for us small-chested girls. They come in half sizes. My new bra fits like a charm. The test will be how it looks after a few washes.”
Janet Kelly recently wrote a post about winter sales.