Infrastructure

Christian Dior Bar Dress from "Christian Dior, couturier de rêve" exhibition in Paris.

While I’ve always loved the gorgeous silhouettes of Christian Dior’s “New Look,” I couldn’t for a moment imagine squeezing myself into the kind of corsetry such styles required.

I’ve been asked a few times for shapewear recommendations, but honestly, I ditched the few pieces I had a decade ago and have never looked back. I can’t stand feeling constrained, and even my underwear has to be comfortable. I won’t buy clothing that requires shapewear, or even special bras.

And I’m afraid I’m a bit of a bore when it comes to bras and underwear too. I’ve worn the same few styles for the last several years, and am not inclined to change. Finding good bras for a fuller bust is tricky, so I stick with what works.

Some people find underwires agonizing, but for me an underwire bra that fits correctly is the most supportive and comfortable option. I’m a 32F (DDD) which can be a tough size to find.

I was lucky enough to be fitted several years ago by an experienced professional at an upscale lingerie shop (sadly, since closed). What I learned is that the underwires should lay completely flat against the chest and sternum, and below the armpits. The band should provide the support, not the straps. (I’ve read that most women buy bras too large in the band and too small in the cups. If you’ve had trouble with bras that ride up your back, this might be why.)

The breast tissue should not spill out over the top of the cups (what I refer to as “quadra-boob”) nor should the fabric on the cups be loose or “pucker.”

Prima Donna Deauville bra in Peach. One of the best bras for a fuller bust! Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Both of my go-to bra styles are from Prima Donna. Yes, they cost a little more, but they’re absolutely the best fit for me, and they hold up well. I usually keep 2 of each style in rotation, and replace one of each style yearly. The first style is this one, called “Deauville.” I have one in “Caffe Latte” and one in this pretty coral peach color. I’ve also worn the “Madison” and found that was also a good bra style for a fuller bust.

Prima Donna seamless satin tee shirt bra. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

When I want a smooth look underneath my tops, I go with this “Seamless Satin” bra (also from Prima Donna). I have tried on countless molded cup “tee shirt” bras, but have never found one that works for my breast shape. I really wish they’d offer this one in more skin tones and colors.

Last summer when we were in Paris, I’d hoped to visit Clair de Lune, a lingerie shop that actually carries items for fuller-busted gals. But the extreme heat wave during our visit curtailed some of our plans.

Hanky Panky signature lace boyshorts. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

As with my bras, I’ve worn the same style of underwear for the last several years, and see no need to mess with success. These Hanky Panky Boyshorts are comfortable, stay put, and last a good long time with proper care*. No VPL, and they don’t ride up. (I size up to a Medium for comfort.)

*I wash all of my lingerie in the machine: cold water, on the delicate cycle, gentle detergent and in a lingerie bag. (Bras in a separate bag, so the hooks don’t snag other pieces.) Line dry.

Do you stick with the same lingerie styles, or do you like to mix things up?

Stay in touch.

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44 Comments

  1. ParisGrrl
    May 19, 2020 / 1:29 am

    I’m a similar bra size, and have fallen in love with Lunaire bras, which offer pretty fabrics and cater to fuller bust sizes. I’ve worn far more expensive bras but find myself consistently reaching for these. Shapewear has changed dramatically in the last decade, and while I certainly don’t wear it on a daily basis, I’ve found Shapermint makes surprisingly comfortable smoothers that are perfect for bodycon styles or special event garments…they just add that extra bit of confidence that we all sometimes need.

  2. SueAnne Robinson
    May 19, 2020 / 4:07 am

    I am a 30F and also wear Prima Donna. They are very expensive but last a long time and work for me. I’ll have to revisit Hanky Panky which I wore for years, I bet they are especially good in the summer when it’s hot. I’ll check out the Lunaire bras recommended above, I’ve never heard of them!

  3. May 19, 2020 / 4:31 am

    After years of wearing bras that were “my size” but still uncomfortable and unflattering, I finally learned that size is not the only factor. The style of bra can make a huge difference – if you’re wearing a bra that doesn’t work with the shape of your breasts, it will never be right. I took a quiz at HerRoom.com (https://www.herroom.com/know-your-breasts/Questions.aspx) and the results were astonishing. I never thought to even try a plunge bra with my large bust – I wasn’t interested in cleavage and don’t wear low necklines. But it turns out they are the only style that work for me, and I’ve never been more comfortable. I buy Elomi brand and no longer need to experiment with any other brands or styles.

    • Maria
      May 24, 2020 / 3:16 am

      The bra finder quiz at HerRoom is really helpful. Thanks Cate

  4. May 19, 2020 / 4:33 am

    I wear Wacoal Body Suede Hi Cut Briefs. They are amazing. Being a larger size woman, good fitting underwear is hard to find. I hate underwire bras so I wear a bra from True and Co.

  5. Lagatta de Montréal
    May 19, 2020 / 4:38 am

    I can’t abide underwires; they cause me serious pain. I do have a bra like that but it only gets dragged out when I have to do public speaking or interpreting; and have to take at least 3 ibuprofen to tolerate it. I’m trying to find supportive bras that don’t have wires: Knix from Toronto is better than others, but not quite there yet, despite there extensive range of sizes and many colours (skin tones but also fun colours).

    There is no point in arguing with people who are convinced that underwires are comfy; think it depends on the person and tolerance of pain.

    • Karen
      May 19, 2020 / 5:03 am

      Try Fortnight longline bras from Toronto. No underwire, beautifully constructed and very comfortable.

    • patricia
      May 19, 2020 / 6:39 am

      I finally figured out that I’m sensitive to the metals (nickel probably) used in underwire bras and also the closures–after years of thinking the chronic rash under my bust and on my back was from the bra fabric rubbing. So I’ve happily abandoned anything with metal for good. I have yet to find a non-metal containing bra that does what an underwire does for me, but I really don’t care. Comfort first.

  6. Katrinka
    May 19, 2020 / 4:43 am

    Susan, your Prima Donna bras obviously work for you as I’d never have guessed, from following your blog photos, you wear the size you do. There is nothing worse than a bra that doesn’t fit especially on someone who is well-endowed. I’d always thought I wore a 34-C until I was properly fitted for a 32-D. Thanks so much for the link to the underwear. I like mine with a higher rise and see there is the Betty brief that is similar and no VPL. I will try a pair and see how they work for me.

  7. Julie
    May 19, 2020 / 5:01 am

    Could not agree more regarding shapewear and special bras.
    Long time fan of Chantelle Rive Gauche bras. As with you I stick with what works and try to buy on sale.

  8. Sandy J
    May 19, 2020 / 6:18 am

    SOMA lingerie is my go-to. Finding the Stunning Support bra in the BALCONET style was a game changer for me. I have broad shoulders and with this style, the straps stay put. Two in black and two in nude.

    As for underwear, the vanishing edge high leg brief is incredibly comfortable. I wasn’t sure about the stay-put silicone, but I have found it to be amazing. Also Jockey Elance high leg brief is comfortable make of modal and spandex.

    • Vivian
      May 19, 2020 / 6:25 am

      I completely agree! I wear both these brands!

      • Diane Parselias
        July 30, 2020 / 6:37 am

        Where do you purchase the Sona bra? I’d like to try on and not purchase online.

        • Lee Rosenthall
          July 30, 2020 / 11:47 am

          Go to Soma dot com and you can look to see which stores are closest to you. Soma, with an “m” not an “n.”

    • LeeAnn
      May 19, 2020 / 7:20 am

      Me too! I only wear the vanishing edge from Soma. The first pairs I bought are still going strong after probably four years or so.

    • Margot
      May 20, 2020 / 8:18 am

      Love the vanishing edge underwear also.

      I started going to Soma for their bra sizes and found a couple that I loved. Unfortunately, the styles I loved and were comfortable for me have been discontinued over the years. Every time I return for a new bra they give me dozens of molded cup bras to try – which just are not comfortable for me. I don’t “love them” as they promise I will. Wish they realized that just like they have an variety of sizes to accommodate they also need to have a variety of styles to accommodate. I still shop there but buy just enough to get me by – and hope a new style is introduced in the meanwhile.

  9. Vivian
    May 19, 2020 / 6:26 am

    I completely agree! I wear both these brands!

  10. May 19, 2020 / 6:30 am

    We have similar approaches to the underwear supply — I replenish mine every year or two at a very good lingerie store with great fitters. I found the experience a bit awkward at first, but it’s worth the, um, exposure to actually get a bra that works properly. It did take some getting used to a band tighter/smaller than I’d been wearing, but that formula of smaller band, larger cup was a revelation in terms of comfort and support (although I do look forward to ripping the thing off by the end of a day!). Also learning to use those three settings of hooks-and-eyes to maximize the elastic life/efficacy. . . . And I’m a Hanky Panky fan also. . . They last forever if washed properly and hung to dry.

  11. Nancy Karpen
    May 19, 2020 / 6:33 am

    I love Prima Donna and wear the Madison. I had a fitting session and while they are pricey, they last and I’ve never had my 38F bust look so perky in years. I needed a strapless bra for my dd’s wedding and the one I had was ridiculously uncomfortable. I made an appointment for a Sunday morning in the lower east side store in NYC and it was the most comfortable strapless bra I’ve ever worn and didn’t want to rip it off the minute I got home! I wash them the same way you do and they hold up better than any other brand I’ve worn.

    • Téa
      May 19, 2020 / 7:56 am

      Can you share the name of the store in NYC? It’s worth a train trip for me! And I live in Annapolis!!

      • Nancy Karpen
        May 19, 2020 / 12:55 pm

        Rigby and Peller at 104 Fifth Avenue and 16th. It’s just south of 16th on the west side of Fifth. They also have two other locations in the city. This one is the closest to Penn Station. The selection of bras for larger cup sizes is amazing. Of course they are temporarily closed, but you can order online unless you want a fitting appointment which I highly recommend. I can blame my husband for my addiction to Prima Donna bras as he was walking back to where we were meeting cousins and he walked past and insisted I had to look. He was right.

  12. Linda P
    May 19, 2020 / 7:01 am

    Thank you for this informative post!!! Also the comments are so helpful!

  13. Cathy
    May 19, 2020 / 7:12 am

    Thank you for the recommendations! We wear the same size bra and have only worn the Chantelle Rive Gauche bra. It’s the only one that puts the girls high and in front, not under my arm pits!

  14. Phyllis Hughes
    May 19, 2020 / 7:28 am

    I intensely dislike underwires, but realize that at a 40H, I am better off wearing them. A couple of years ago I found Elomi bras for plus sizes. They fit me better than any other bra I have worn, even those that I made. The underwires fit up against my chest wall and the band sets directly under my breasts instead of an inch below.

  15. Téa
    May 19, 2020 / 8:01 am

    I remember going to a specialized lingerie shop with my mother as a young girl – her errand, not mine! She’d get fitted and I remember the straps in the back being adjusted, in house, for her narrow shoulders. How I wish I could find a place like that on the East Coast! Perhaps Nancy, in the above comments will see this and share the shop she went to on the Lower East Side? Currently, I stick to Chanterelle, Wacoal and Soma and treat them like the miracle contraptions they are. So do my young adult daughters – I’ve taught them well. My work is done! 🙂

    • Sheilah
      May 19, 2020 / 4:23 pm

      I was fitted at Rigby and Peller in London some years ago. After being thin and flat chested throughout my younger years, I had gained a good bit of weight and knew I needed something larger than I had been wearing, so I bought bigger and bigger band sizes. Everything fit so badly that I was sure I needed a custom made bra to correct my strange figure. On the internet, I found that Rigby and Peller London, at that time holding royal warrants from Queen Elizabeth II, did bespoke bras as well as alterations ( and I imagine still does).) The next time I was in London, I made an appointment for a fitting. I discovered that I was an off the rack size 36D rather than a 42A, which I was wearing before. Wearing the lovely new bras, including a Prima Donna, I had a curvaceous bustline for the first time in my life, even though I was in my 40’s! Now I tell my partner that it is time to go London because I need lingerie, and it has even worked a time or two.

  16. Jan Whichard
    May 19, 2020 / 9:04 am

    Great post! I’m not convinced my Chantelle bras are not correct even though I was supposedly fitted at Nordstrom. Does anyone know a good bra fitter around the Sacramento area? Napa? Bay Area even?
    A poorly fitting bra is the definition of a bad day! I have worn St. Eve thong panties for years but can’t find them anymore. They were at Nordstrom (which is closing here in Sacramento by the way).

  17. Nancy MK
    May 19, 2020 / 9:05 am

    Téa, you brought back a nice memory…at 12 my mother took me to a corsetiere in the then sleepy town of Menlo Park, California who told me that I was broad but not deep so gave me a 36 B taken in for a narrow back. As an adult I wore 32 B but with age found that 32 C is now me. The only bra I wear is Simone Perele’s Celeste, now discontinued, but I stocked up and just today, thanks for the reminder, bought 2 more online.

    Susan, same pants, same size! Thank you for a bit of cheer.

  18. Sandra
    May 19, 2020 / 9:28 am

    I really like the Panache Tango Balconnet bras; the underwire is very comfortable and all of the bras are still in great condition after five years!

  19. May 19, 2020 / 9:40 am

    Great post and comments! I’ve worn Wacoal for the past 5-6 years and they fit pretty well but not perfect. After taking the quiz linked above (VERY helpful), I’m going to look at the Chantelle Rive Gauche. It appeared most often in the styles best for my “girls” in different circumstances. As for panties, I LOVE the Wacoal Hi-Rise Briefs. So comfortable, they do not ride up, no VPL and they last. Both bras and panties are laundered in a laundry bag, in cold water, in the washing machine and hung up to dry. I hang anything with the tiniest amount of Spandex. It lasts longer and it doesn’t shrink (socks included). Thank you, Susan, for another outstanding post!

  20. Leslie
    May 19, 2020 / 11:25 am

    I’ve worn Prima Donna’s for years and the Deauville and the Madison both work wonderfully for my 34Gs. I own several of each. I was first attracted to the Madison after 2 surgical breast biopsies removed about a half cup size from the right side. The stretchy material really accommodates asymmetrical breasts. A friend tried the Deauville at my urging, but she said the wider spacing of the straps doesn’t work with her narrow shoulders. She loves the Madison, though. I also machine wash, cold, delicate cycle in lingerie bags. I stick with Vanity Fair Illumination string bikinis for underwear. They aren’t fancy or sexy, but they are comfortable.

  21. Penny
    May 19, 2020 / 12:25 pm

    Fabulous post. I enjoyed the post and the comments. I have previously worn Prima Donna and will give it another try after all the comments. Now I just need to find somewhere that sells them as I live in Seattle. Finding a well fitting comfortable bra for a large bust is not easy. Thank you.

  22. Ainsivalavie
    May 19, 2020 / 1:02 pm

    Love Fantasie bras! They are available in many pretty styles and colours. They do run expensive but the four I own have outlasted the Empreinte bras by several years. The Empreinte are very expensive and I find the life of them is too short (mine were very well cared for) I own many,many bras and for my money the Fantasie bra is an excellent product. I also own a black Deauville which is about 10 years old so can vouch that a good bra, well cared for, can last many years. Other good companies are Panache and Freya, I have several of their styles. There is absolutely nothing that will make a women look her best than a well fitting bra that is appropriate for the garment she is wearing. Susan is correct, most American women wear too large a band and too small a cup. What a shock for me to go from a 36DD to a 32 FF!
    My clothes have never fit so well and no more ‘droopy boob’ look or ‘quadra boob’
    ps a larger cup does not indicate a Plus Size woman, my friend is a 30G and weighs 110lbs another is about 60lbs over weight and wears a 38C. Don’t be surprised if you are told you need a GG or H cup! There are a couple good online lingerie stores but a good fitting needs to be done in person. Many good bras are from England or France so have the fitter give you the European size as well as the North American equivalent.

    • GS
      May 19, 2020 / 4:02 pm

      I completely agree, I am 5′ 3″ and 115 pounds and wear a 30 DDD or E. It really is about finding the true fit that you need, and not all bra styles work for all of us – I can’t wear a plunge at all, they just never fit right but for others, it’s perfect. It took me awhile to find what worked. I also recommend Third Love. They have a wide variety of styles and sizes that are very well made.

  23. Lee Rosenthall
    May 19, 2020 / 2:18 pm

    Wonderful, thoughtful, post! I’ve tried to venture out into other bra styles, but always come back to my tried-and true-Wacoal minimizer bras, which I’ve been wearing for at least a decade, after Oprah gave one a top rating. I have tried their newer version minimizers, and like them well enough, but their classic Slimline Seamless is still the best for support and the most “minimization.” They’re not quite as good quality as they once were, and are still pricey, but nothing else I’ve ever tried worked for my size or shape breasts. I’ve never found a non-minimizer that did what I needed it to do since the days of being a 34C were left behind. I’ve been a 36DDD for several years, so you’ve piqued my interest with the models you’re pleased with. I mainly wear Soma underwear and am most fond of their Vanishing Edge line. I’ve always preferred high-legged briefs, even when I was younger (and 30 lbs. lighter) – they just work best for my long torso/pear shape. I would love to find some boy shorts that actually stay put and don’t produce VPLs on my ample derriere, however. Perhaps I’ll take a flyer on your favorites!

  24. Marna
    May 19, 2020 / 4:26 pm

    As much as I appreciate beautiful (and own some) beautiful lingerie…..I must admit I prefer to go commando. Am I the only one?! I cannot bear the feeling of two layers around my hips and waist. I hate wearing any kind of bra. Of course there are times when I must relent (white pants and dresses). I work on a vegetable farm and in the winter it is quiet and cold and I wear so many layers of clothing (at least 6) that my 32 C’s are of no significance. I think of the seasons as in “Oh darn, it;s almost bra season”.

    • Lyn
      May 20, 2020 / 7:24 pm

      Not a bra lover either. I have gone the pull-on “bralette” route — the closest thing to going commando while still retaining some modesty. I get Uniqlo’s Relax bra in Large — (I think I’m a 36B, about 127 lbs, but I like a roomy fit.) You just pull it on like a mini tank top and you are good to go. No lumps from hooks in the back or strap adjusters.

  25. Susan
    May 20, 2020 / 4:20 am

    I was a great fan of Simone Perele Andora contour bra, but they have stopped making that style and am now on the hunt for a replacement. As for knickers, Jockey no VPL hi cut – comfy and don’t ride up. Like you Susan, I refuse to buy any clothes which require ‘shapewear’.

    • Lee Rosenthall
      May 20, 2020 / 12:54 pm

      Thanks so much for the tip, Susan! Turns out I got an email with a discount code from Jockey not long after the email notification of your comment here. Going to try a few pair of those “knickers”! Have you noticed in the comments section how many MEN swear by these panties??? Who knew! 🙂

      • Susan
        May 20, 2020 / 11:03 pm

        Hi Lee, there are several styles – I usually get the bikini briefs as they stretch.. The full briefs are like old granny knickers. Good luck. I only ever buy mine when on sale as the longevity isn’t that fantastic.

        • Lee Rosenthall
          May 21, 2020 / 12:41 pm

          Good to know, Susan – thanks. The ones I ordered looked like bikinis to me, although they weren’t called that. They were the Jockey® No Panty Line Promise® Tactel® Hi Cut. I ordered 3 for $28.50, with an additional 5% discount as a Rewards member. Not terribly risky! I also ordered their Hi Cut Variety Pack, because I wasn’t sure the bikinis would have enough coverage for me. Again, very little risk – 4 pair for $22.79!

  26. Mary
    May 20, 2020 / 8:00 am

    lots of fab comments and info
    never heard commando before!!!
    also, is it just me (now full figured at age 69)???
    I don’t care for the additional molding (thin piece of foam rubber) in the cups??
    thanks for the infrastructure post and all the comments!
    Mary

  27. Christi Carlisto
    May 21, 2020 / 6:02 am

    Hanky Pansy thong and retro thong styles. They last forever! Still have my first pairs from 15 years ago! Boy shorts don’t work for me. Typically I wear Natori bras but they’ve been changing styles so looking for new. During this stay at home time, I’ve been looking for supportive styles without underwire with limited success. So far the plunge style air is seamless cami is the best. I usually wear a cami,started during menopause to help manage moisture from hot flashes and have continued.
    To keep life simpler, I only buy nude and black.

  28. May 23, 2020 / 2:04 am

    Gosh, I never knew you were a 32F. An acquaintance of mine has the same size. Very small back and large boobs. We went into a pretty fancy lingerie shop in Amsterdam, but indeed that is a tricky size to find a good bra.
    I love lingerie, always have too and several brands fit me. But I agree with you that Prima Donna is excellent for a size more. Briefs are hard to find these days. I used to always buy one bra with two briefs and they always fitted me perfectly. Nowadays, as my body has changed, this is no longer the case and I have to search more. The bra that I love best wasn’t the most expensive one, but one from a well-known bra brand (Chantelle), underwired like you have. So I might go off the more luxury brands and buy more of this brand.
    As for body shapers.. I am hooked on them. Not the nicest sight to see but it takes a whole size off me. I am used to them and now don’t feel comfortable without one. I use Spanx mainly. (And talking about making them in more colours… gee… why do they only come in black and skin colour?)
    Greetje

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