Reader Mail – How to Dress if You’re Busty and on a Budget

how-to-dress-professionally-if-youre-bustyWe’re catching up on reader mail this week…

I am a first year in law school, consequently I am broke. In reading your advice about dressing professionally for busty ladies, I met the same problem I always do. I am aware Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s have the better underwear departments, in terms of selection and fittings; but I still can’t afford it. Are there any suggestions for a wide selection in a more affordable price range? Again thanks for all your great advice!

First, go to Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s or specialty shops to get fitted anyway, even if you can’t afford to fill your entire lingerie drawer there. You may feel required to buy one bra to compensate the woman for her time, but it shouldn’t run more than $50-$75 (TOPS), and you shouldn’t feel obligated to buy more than one. The reason for this is that they have a broader selection than the cheaper stores — for example, it’s next to impossible to find anything below a band size 34 in Victoria Secret’s or Macy’s, or a cup size higher than a DD, and that may be where you fall.

Once you know your size, figure out which brands you like.  Not only will brands fit you differently, but once you know what you like you can research the brand.  For example, Fantasie is a line that’s starting to be sold more in America; it’s owned by the same company that owns Rigby & Peller (the corsettierre to the Queen!), Goddess, and Freya — which will increase the odds that any of those other brands will be ones that fit you, as well.

Now that you know your size and brands, shop the sales.  Nordstrom frequently has good bras marked down at least 30% — at Bloomingdale’s recent sale you could get up to 40% off anything, even full price, and so you could get 40% off the brands that almost never go on sale, like Chantelle and Le Mystere. All of the online underwear shops have sales (BareNecessities.com, HerRoom.com, FigLeaves.com, Bravissimo.com) and at least FigLeaves has a permanent “clearance” site set up.  Furthermore, you can sometimes find great deals at outlet stores (particularly Century 21 in NYC) or at specialty shops — we’ve gotten $100 bras out of $20 bins at clearance sales.  You may want to also seek out communities, such as the Thirty-two D community on LiveJournal, where members gossip about brands and sales.

Finally, EBay doesn’t seem like a logical place to look for underwear, but there are some great deals to be had if you know the size and brand to search under.  For example, seller “widdlerontheroof” lives near a factory outlet for Rigby & Peller and frequently sells R&P, Fantasie, Freya, and Goddess bras at steep discounts.

Photo credit:  jessica rabbit, originally uploaded to Flickr by greyloch.

Comments

  1. Great advice! I agree that the reader should get fitted because, once she does, she can stalk sales. Even the most expensive bras come down in price, especially if the color is less important to you.

    *also* I think it’s worth buying that one perfect bra when you get fitted – you will want it for interviews and days you want to feel completely put together.

  2. This may seem like odd advise, but try searching the forums of a wedding planning website like theKnot.com. Proper undergarments is a popular topic for women looking to make sure that expensive dress looks its best. When I was planning my wedding I discovered this whole-in-the-wall-looking local lingerie store in Austin that had the most knowledgeable older (not high schoolers like VS) women working there and a huge selection based on recommendations for where to go for a corset for my gown. I learned I was wearing the wrong size (despite having been fitted before at VS) and which brands/ styles worked best, and best of all, they had something for every price range.
    I agree with the advise above though – if it is a daily wear bra, it is well worth the splurge, if you have to, to get the perfect fit because you will wear it, well, daily.

  3. You didn’t mention Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom’s Rack and Outlet stores (outlets are really the best). Once you’ve been fitted, these are great places to find name brand bras at lower prices.

  4. I wear a size 32FF and fit freya and fantasie bras the best – which Nordstroms helped me figure out. My first purchase was of two $50 bras (the smooth black standard, and a back up – Ladies, your bras will last longer if you rotate them and give them a day to “rest”)
    Anyway, since figuring this out, I haven’t bought a full priced bra since. I browse the sales rack, find the brand and bra I like – even when it isn’t in my size and then Nordstroms is ALWAYS ready to search for it in all their stores and a few days later the bra shows up at my door, discount price and no shipping charges! That’s the beauty of Nordstrom’s service.
    (I live in Seattle, so maybe I’m biased).

  5. I would also add that the site HERROOM.COM is fantastic. You can search by whatever your “problem” is–padded, or minimizer or sports bras…it’s an Oprah favorite site and it’s so, so great. (and I can say this coming from the opposite end of the spectrum–they carry onGossamer which is a godsend for ladies who weren’t blessed with a good rack!).

  6. sn: Are you Jill Zaren?

  7. Absolutely one can stalk their favorite bra brands; that is a popular strategy. Neiman’s, Nordstrom’s, Bigger Bras, Bare Necessities, etc., etc., etc., all carry excellent brands for the busty and will go on sale.

    My favorite strategy is to befriend a sales person who has lots of knowledge about fitting the full bust. She’ll be happy to call you when styles go on sale. Really, you need a salesperson with knowledge on board. The transaction can take place over the phone, it doesn’t have to be in person.

    St – did you visit Petticoat Fair in Austin?

  8. bl1y: no. who is Jill Zaren?

  9. Corporette should put up in big bold letters as part of this post that ‘fitting’ at Victoria Secret does not mean that you’ve been fitted. I for years thought that I was wearing the appropriate size because I was fit for a 32 band but a cup size that VS didn’t have. They said I could just go up a band size and down a cup size. That led to many years of expensive, poor fitting bras. Enter Nordstroms and discovering that yes, there are bras made with 32 bads and large cup sizes! Never going back to the misinformation that is VS.

  10. I second Megan’s comment about Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx/Marshall’s, and discount stores. I’ve been able to find some wonderful brands normally sold at high-end department stores for $25-30 at those outlets.

  11. if anyone lives in north jersey WOB (Wizard of Bras) in wyckoff/river edge is fantastic – i got fitted there and spent a ton of money that first day (was so excited to have a great fitting bra after yrs of VS crap) but after that stalked loehmanns etc…and WOB also has fantastic “sidewalk sales” – bins of bras for $15-$20.

  12. One thing I’ll mention is to be wary of online, like ebay, if you can’t return. It is amazing the variation in fit even in the same brand with the same exact size. It’s a pain and you may miss some good “bargains” but I think you really have to try them on. Anyone else’s experience with this??

  13. I’ve tried Bare Necessities, but I really love freshpair.com. They have an awesome selection, free shipping and their customer service peeps are great for recommendations. they also have an outlet site, cheapundies.com, where you can get awesome brands for super cheap (Cosabella, DKNY, etc)

  14. The SOMA line from Chico’s has a great size selection for well endowed ladies and a great fit. They are a little cheaper than wacoal. With a Chico’s membership $35.00 to $40.00. Mine are a about three years old now and still look great after lots of washing and drying.

  15. I bought my Chantelle and Le Mystere bras and panties for around half retail on eBay. With automated sniping programs and services, you can bid with minimal effort/time.

  16. Bravissimo is the best! They carry Freya, Fantasie and all brands that go way beyond a DD/E (which is the max VS carries). They also start with very small band sizes (e.g. they carry 28D all the way to G/H cups, perhaps higher) – that really helps people like me (busty + slim ribcage) get a great fit.

  17. If you live in Atlanta, there’s a great place in Kennesaw (northern suburb) called Livie Rae Lingerie. Proper fitting without judgment for wearing the wrong size for most of your adult life, on the spot adjustments/tailoring which are necessary for small band sizes and larger cups AND – cheap prices! I got four bras, all specially tailored because I was still nursing my son, for approximately $120 – no sale price included.

  18. I just keep buying the same model and brand and size whenever I can because between different models there is different fit. I have more on the lower part of my bust and less on the upper part, so I wear balcony and demi cut bras best, if I bought a full cup bra even in my favorite brand and size, I doubt it would fit.

    But what I can’t figure out is how to wash them. They are nice lace bras and I am just petrified of ruining them. Can I just use dove soap to wash them in the sink?

    • you should hand wash in cold water, in the sink, with woolite. I also know they make lingerie specific soaps, but I haven’t personally used them.

      I wouldn’t use Dove personally…just because, well, it’s not meant for clothes.

      You might want to also let them soak for a bit in the cold water and woolite mix before giving them a little hand scrub…I find washing by hand doesn’t get things as clean (although I had a boyfriend who once washed my stuff by hand and got it cleaner than the washer! So maybe it’s just me).

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