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Video: The search for the perfect bra

By Contributor
TODAY
updated 1/11/2006 11:55:53 AM ET 2006-01-11T16:55:53

When was the last time you went bra shopping? If it's been more than six months, you'll want to know about the new crop of performance bras that can you give you your best shape ever! Shop Etc. magazine takes the agony out of bra shopping by announcing the best bras in 10 categories. Shop Etc. executive editor Charla Krupp was invited on the “Today” show to talk about some of the winners.

The quickest way to look thinner and younger without diet or exercise is to buy yourself the right new bra. The right bra will make you slimmer, sexier and uplift you in many ways! So why are 85 percent of us walking around in the wrong bra? I was one of them until I became a tester for the bra awards.

Why the bra awards? And how did you determine the winners?
Buying a new bra is one of the most anxiety-provoking shopping experiences, right up there with swimsuits. One reason bra shopping is frustrating is that no retailer, not even a Web site, carries all the big brands, so trying on every bra out there is a lot of work. To save you time, our fashion editor Genevieve Yraola called in all the big brands — over 200 bras in all.

We divided the bras into categories, and gave our staffers bags of bras to take home and test drive. Our criteria: Fit, look, and comfort. While it's true that there is no such thing as one bra that will fit every woman perfectly — these top winners come pretty darn close. And with the exception of one big splurge, they are incredibly affordable. Love that!

How often do you need to buy a new one?
According to our reader poll, one third of our readers hadn't bought a new bra in a year. This is going to surprise you, but bra experts say you should buy a new bra every three to 6 months, because life experiences such as the following can trigger a size change. Here are the reasons to re-size:

  • You've lost or gained 5 to 7 pounds
  • Experienced childbirth or menopause
  • Changed your diet or exercise regime
  • You've had breast implants

If any of these occur, chances are your bra size has changed and you need to be refitted to make sure that you're getting adequate support.

Best Enhancer
Victoria's Secret Angels Secret Embrace
Victoriassecret.com
Price: $42 to $44

This bra will make small-busted women rethink those implants. Victoria's Secret Angels Secret Embrace won the best enhancer, aka the best cleavage creating bra. We were wowed by the high tech fabrication. It's 80 percent nylon, 20 percent spandex, a molded cup with an underwire that is totally seamless and tag-less. The secret here is invisible gel padding that feel like real breasts. They won't make squish sounds like the water cutlets, and they won't move because they are imbedded within the bra at the outside of the breast — they push you inward as if you were hugging yourself.

Best Deep-V
Natori's Underneath Sheer Mesh Ultralight Convertible Contour
Nordstrom or barenecessities.com
Price: $46

This won because it lets you show 1-1/2 inches more cleavage than a regular bra. The wow factor is a clear piece of coated plastic between cups, in case you have to go even lower. Natori did this bra in the past, but they advanced the technology with the coated plastic, less likely to cause blisters or perspiration. This bra won because it is the best go-to bra — the straps are convertible so you can create a racer back or a halter back. The cups give full coverage up to 36D. It also comes in several skin tone colors, such as deep flesh and suntan, plus black.

Shopping tip:
  Nordstrom's lingerie department has a great reputation, so make sure you see one of their trained bra fitters if you're going there to buy this Natori.

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Best Minimizer
Olga Perfect Fit Seamless Lightly Lined Bra
Kohl's
Price: $29.50

Women in America are getting bigger. The average size bra used to be 34B and now it's 36C, but bras comes in sizes E through JJ. This brings us to best minimizer, Olga’s Perfect Fit Seamless Lightly Line Bra. It's for sizes C to DDD. I can personally vouch for this minimizer. The one I had been wearing since our last bra segment, in 2002, mashed my chest flat, whereas this Olga bra not only reduces the size, it gives you shape — it's not one thick uni-boob. The side view shows the uplift. This winner has additional stretch in the fabric under the breast to push it upward. Remember, if your bra straps make an indentation on your shoulders, your straps are pulled too tight. It offers wide band support on the sides so it creates less stress on the shoulders plus wide straps that are padded for extra support and won't dig in.

Shopping tip: If you need bras beyond DDD, the bra shop called Intimacy in Chicago, New York and Atlanta carried bras up to JJ. Their Web site, myintimacy.com, lists other bra shops that might have your size.

Best T-shirt Bra
Playtex Thank Goodness It Fits Santoni Lightly Lined Soft Cup Bra
Onehanesplace.com
Price: $16.99

Here's why Playtex wins this award: They are the only bra company that offers a T-shirt bra in half sizes! They also offer the Nearly A, B and C, which gives women more range in cup size. They will also be coming out with a Nearly D soon. Why doesn't every company make half sizes? Playtex has the patent. Every good T-shirt bra needs a little padding so there is no peek-a-boo. This has smooth, stretch foam cups, virtually seam-free, and if you squish it in a suitcase, it will return to shape without wrinkling in the cup — this is very important! What’s the biggest complaint from women about bras? It’s strap slippage. The curved placement in the back prevents strap slippage.

Shopping tip: Seamless cups have less flexibility, so you almost always need to go up a size. So, if you're a B, try the NC (nearly C) size in this. As much as we think that bras are standard sizes, they aren't. Sizes vary from style to style.

Best in Show
La Perla Collier
Price: $240

The most gorgeous bra you just won't want to cover up is La Perla's Collier. La Perla is one of the chicest names in lingerie and this padded demi is truly prize-winning, with a macramé embroidery necklace along the cups and straps. Why does this bra cost so much? Most bras are machine stitched in China — this is the couture bra, made by La Perla's own artisans in Bologna, Italy, where it is hand-stitched with lace from France.

Bra tips

  • Get professionally fitted. It doesn't cost any more, and you owe it to yourself to have an expert fit you correctly.
  • Do your serious bra shopping when bras are not on sale so you can get the attention and the sizes you need.
  • The weight should rest not on the straps, but on the band.
  • Bras should be positioned halfway between your shoulder and your elbow. Most women wear bras that are hiked up too far.
  • Tightening the straps too much can result in welts and pressure on your shoulders. Let the band do the heavy lifting.
  • Dip and tuck yourself into the cups of the bra.
  • The right bra will pick you up, add a couple inches to your torso, and make you appear thinner!
  • Metal hooks last longer than plastic.
  • Buy nude, not white. Nude looks better than white under white.
  • To get rid of back fat, position the bra band lower on your back, not higher.
  • Wash your bras after two wearings, but don't wear the same bra two days in a row because it will lose its firmness. Your bra needs time to rebound.
  • Hand wash — the washing machine cycle is too long for these delicate fabrics. Use Ivory Liquid, not Woolite, on synthetics.
  • Fit on the last hook so that you have room to tighten as the bra loses elasticity.

To see all 10 winners, check out the February issue of Shop Etc.

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