At this point in the bra world, everyone’s probably heard online retailer ThirdLove’s inescapable pitch involving half-sizes, comfort and figure inclusivity (their bras go up to the equivalent of a K-cup). It’s a stark contrast to the sexy “bombshell” allure of Victoria’s Secret, where sales have been declining since 2016. ThirdLove is not alone in the digital-fit bra movement. Several sites use similar techniques, such as an in-depth fit questionnaire and a happy, and er, supportive woman-power message. Does it still feel vaguely weird to order a bra online? Does the sometimes uncomfortable dressing room method reap more fitting results? We worked it both ways: ordering online versus the old school method.
Having a fit: ThirdLove’s site offers a 60-second Fit Finder that asks how your current everyday bra fits, and to describe breast shape in these terms: asymmetric, athletic, bell, east west, round, side set, slender, tear drop.
The bra: 24/7 Classic Contour Plunge Bra ($64) comes in a pretty cardboard box with a geometric print on the outside, lined in pink on the inside which is printed with the slogan, “The Best Bra Is One You Never Think About.” The bra, wrapped in tissue paper, has hangtag directions on how to put on a bra, and there’s a caring-for-your-bra instruction card in the box.
Our take: The bra is good quality, good looking and offers super soft memory foam cups with a smooth fabric overlay. As for fit? The site recommended that we go up a back size and down a cup size. It didn’t work out — the back was too big, cups too small. But we would’ve kept it if it fit right. Especially nice at ThirdLove, a “Try Before You Buy” return policy. As long as you return it 30 days after buying — even worn and washed — they’ll refund your money. What do they do with these bras? Wash them and donate them to charity.
Having a fit: At Lively, real women rather than models showcase how the bra fits on the Lively Girl Fit Guide, and there are old school sizing instructions that explain how to measure. “Breathe in, then out, and hold. Wrap a tape measure around your chest at band level. Odd number? Add 1. Even number, add 2. That’s your band size.”
The bra: The All Day No-Wire Push-Up Bra ($35) comes in a pink box that sighs “Best. Day. Ever.” on the inside cover. Inside, besides the bra, there’s a drawstring duster bag for storing the bra (though would we ever use it?).
Our take: Supportive (without an underwire), comfortable, slightly padded and smooth, with a J-hook that converts from classic to racerback. A perfect fit. It was a keeper.
True & Co
Having a fit: True & Co offers a Fit Quiz to get you started with 16 questions — from fitting specifics, such as your breast shape (well rounded, bottom happy, taking sides and wide and low are the categories) to ones like, “How did you hear about us?”
The bra: True Body Triangle Convertible Strap ($44) comes in a no-frills plastic mailing envelope, packed in a plastic bag on the inside. If you need a bra in a hurry, this shouldn’t be your first pick. It took a couple of weeks from ordering to arrive. Also noted, stock seemed extremely limited in the popular size we were seeking (many styles were simply sold out), so we settled on this one, although it wouldn’t have been a first pick.
Our take: For us, this bra was a total, er . . . bust. This silky-feeling (nice) wireless bra offers straps that can convert from traditional to racerback, which is a bonus. It has removable pads that were somewhat ungainly and need to be finagled into place. Based on the site’s size recommendations, we ordered in a larger size than we would have normally. Definitely too big. Duly noted: Maybe it was just us. It gets rave reviews on the site with more than one customer extolling its virtues.
TRADITIONAL IN-PERSON BRA FITTING
Many of us have been to a department store to buy a bra, so we decided to go straight to a store that specializes in fitting bras — Blum’s Swimwear and Intimate Apparel in Patchogue, where their slogan is “Blum’s for fit.” Blum’s has been around for 91 years and, according to co-owner Cherie Alleyne, the tradition of getting fit and buying bras is passed on through the generations — from grandmothers to mothers and daughters. They do a lot of bridal work, and women often bring special-occasion dresses there to find the perfect undergarments. And the store has a vast inventory of bras going from size 30-54 in band sizes, and from A to N cup sizes.
Having a fit: A SWAT team of bra fitters wearing tape measures around their necks greets you at Blum’s. Terri Nylund, a 31-year veteran there who is both the lingerie buyer and a fitter, assisted us, measuring and choosing a bra she thought would work and — eek — gently suggested we might be able to get more of a lift. (Noted: Bras have a shelf life and mine may have expired.) She picked a style and brought me three sizes.
The bra: Wacoal Embrace Lace T-Shirt Bra, $60, is seamless, with stretch foam cups and wide-set straps banded in attractive lace.
Our take: Worth the trip. The bra was the most comfortable of all — and the prettiest, too. While the initial fit is old school, Blum’s also has a website and keeps records, so after a visit you can order online.
AN ADJUSTABLE SPORTS BRA
Sports bras have long been an enemy to Molly O’Connor, 29, of Baldwin. So she invented and patented her own — the Molly T. “The idea came to me when I was playing competitively,” she says of her time as a soccer player at Richmond University. “Women in the locker room were constantly complaining about their bras. They were doubling up, layering, taping, just to feel supported. The bras were always too tight, too small, constricted in the rib cage — there’s no happy medium.”
It took nine years for O’Connor to develop an adaptable bra that easily adjusts for a variety of activities. “Regular sports bras don’t fluctuate. You’re kind of stuck with what they’re made to do,” she says, be that a low-impact bra for yoga versus a more supportive runner’s bra.
The Molly T. goes on like a vest and, by pulling a fabric panel across and affixing it to a Velcro strip on the side, you can achieve your desired level of compression depending on your activity. “My sports bra can literally adjust and tighten fabric where it matters, whether you’re lounging or lunging,” O’Connor says.
And that fabric is a particular source of pride: It’s moisture-wicking, sweat-absorbing Chitosante, an environment-friendly fabric made from crab shells, ethically sourced recycled polyester made from water bottles and low-profile Velcro. And it doesn’t “require Houdini escape skills to take it off,” O’Connor says. The Molly T. can accommodate sizes 32A to 42G (check the size chart to see where you fit). It sells for $98 at wearmollyt.com.