Thursday, October 20, 2011

Proper Foundation Garments, Part 1: The Full Details b Gail Carriger

Underwear, underthings, undergarments, foundation garments, or, in the immortal words of my very proper British grandmother . . . smalls. No matter what you all them they are a vital part of any outfit and here's why . . .
Photo of self taken by Michelle, during the Blameless tour last year? And Dita.

Yes, here we have yours truly and Queen Dita herself making the very same horrible fashion error. Knitwear may looks solid but stretch it over the Rack and apply a flash camera and . . . WHOA! In my case I am wearing a very solid (and ill fitting, mind you) t-shirt bra, Dita is, well, not. What we both should have on under the knitwear is a nice solid microfiber nude colored tank over a good bra.

Sugarlips Tank $14

I get my tanks from Ross, Nordstrom's Rack, Marshalls, TJ Max, Kohls, and other discount stores trying to match my skin tone as closely as possible. My most recent acquisitions are Shimera. I tend to hunt for ones with a thicker strap, it's smoother under the outfit and covers over the bra strap if you, like me, favor an odd colored bra.
Bust Bodice  1905  The Victoria & Albert Museum

I did go through a phase of wearing vintage slips or slip tanks under my shirts, which is the authentic way to go. It just didn't work out for me.

Photo by Kim.

So in this instance, at least, I suggest wearing a modern piece with your vintage.

Proper Foundation Garments ~ The Full Details

I have detailed my quest for a good bra extensively elsewhere, so I will not go into that debacle here. Currently, I am functioning on a three bra rotation for retro wear and a mostly sports bra centered lifestyle the rest of the time. In addition to the pink polka-dotted one above (which is a modified nursing bra, with no underwire, and the best retro conical 1950's shape I have been able to find) I have a black underwire that is too small so it rubs me raw after a while, but fits well enough for short stints, and is very supportive and almost retro looking.

 It's a Wacoal, from Nordstrom's Rack.

I also own a very retro, far too small polka-dot number I bought about 10 years ago that I MAKE fit me because I love it. It is, sigh, padded, but oh so cute, from La Senza and defunked Spanish line that I bought when I lived in England.

Generally I avoid words like contour because it's code for padded, and minimizer because it means a size too small. Also I never buy or even consider and maker that only offers sml, med, lrg, xl, because the band will never fit if the chest does, and vise-versa. Speaking of bands, even though the band should do all the work, I opt for wider straps when possible.

If I can find something without underwire that fits me I will always buy it (and try to find more online), but with my size, that's hugely rare. I have given some serious consideration into taking up shopping at new mother's stores for nursing bras, since they often come big but with small bands and no underwire. I have to take them home and deconstruct them, removing the nursing part and and clips and then stitching the straps. I haven't had to resort to such drastic measures yet, but when the polka-dot pink number dies, that's were I am headed.

Here's a super cute Wacoal that comes in a nice range with band size down to 32 and cup size up to G. I might add it to my wish list . . .

The following companies do not make bras large enough for me: Bali, Barabera, Calvin Klein, Carnival, Champion, Curvation, Dominique, Donna Karen, Empreinte, La Leche League, Grenier, Lilyette, Marie Jo, Movign Comfort, Natori, Olga, Panache, Playtex, QT, Simone, Valmont, Vanity Faire, Fredrick's, Victoria Secret. And yes, I have the list memorized.

Corset  1900s  The Chicago History Museum
Admittedly, I haven't tried all the vendors that offer bras in (supposedly) my size, but that is because many of them are British and not available to TRY ON here. I number in my everyday pretty collection: Freya, Alegro, Felina, Lunaire (both slightly small but too cute to resist), and some wireless Wacoals I love but they really don't fit right. I tend to shop for bras at Nordstrom Rack and then write down the names and size and codes if they fit but I don't like the color, and then go hunting online. Or if I like the color, I buy the bra and then find the matching underwear on line (I'm obsessed with matching underthings).


  1. I tend to buy Wacoal bras three seasons later when they hit the TJ Maxx racks at a third of the original price, but I've bought some Chantelle bras at Nordstrom full price, because they were just that good. I'm a 34DDD, which is just barely outside the standard range, but I've got a weird boob shape, or something, so most bras still don't fit -- I loathe most molded cups and can't stand any padding.

    I ordered Lunaire bras online once, when they were carried by, and wore them until they fell apart. It took a while. Most of the Nordstroms I've been to do carry Freya and Felina in-store, if you're looking to try more on at some point.

  2. Well, I've talked about bras before. I love ones with a wide strap as they don't slip like the thinner straps. I have narrow shoulders and big boobs.

    Mom tried to get me to wear her brand, Vaserette, which came in a triple D, but I not only got a rash from the latex, but developed little sores as well. So it's back to Victoria's Secret and Fredrick's Of Hollywood for me.

    What I'm searching for is the perfect "foundation garment" for someone with a short torso.

  3. OMG I just recently discovered your amazing books and now your amazing blog!! You are my new inspiration :)

  4. I'm a huge Freya fan and being a 30G, they are both affordable, pretty and not hideously expensive. Living in Australia, I was used to spending $110 + on a bra that fitted. Freya has also produced some fabulous long line bras which have to be the most comfy bras I've EVER worn. They operate as fabulous foudnation garments.

  5. Aaah Warners - if only they hadn't gone bust! (Unintentional pun)

  6. Freya make the most wonderful bras. I tend to buy mine from Bravissimo, mainly because the staff are brilliant, but they have sales all the time and have the cutest range of clothes that are cut to be flattering for large chests.

    (It also worries me that the first comment I've made is on a bra post...such is the way of life)

  7. I, like one of the above commenters, am also a 34DDD (though sometimes I'll get lucky and find a DD that fits). The saviour of my life has been - the American branch of the British company. Yes, one has to order online, but they send labels for free return shipping and are fantastic about replacing with a slightly different size; there is even a form in the box that just requires you to tick the box that corresponds to your fit issue. My current best-fitting bras are by Lepel and Midnight Grace.

  8. By Gum By Golly just did a fantastic post on bras and recreating the proper silhouette to go under one's vintage clothes. Highly recommended read, and an all around great blogger (bloggess?) besides.

  9. I am sure you have checked it out before, but I found is pretty awesome when it comes to having many options in odd sizes. They were great about returns as well, I had to return 2 of the 3 bras I bought, one didn't fit and the other was scratchy.

    They also have a fantastic sizing guide (for D cup and up only, sorry) that is somewhat difficult to find (you have to get there from a bra page and the where's my size link) but here's the link.,949,30.html

    It tells you what size you will be in what brand depending on your measurements.

  10. Coincidentally just today I found a vintage bullet bra in a box in my garage and hope to somehow re-elasticize it so it's actually useful. It also might need some padding in the, uh, points.

  11. BADBAD thay you are using bras for so long. The elastic usually wears out 6months to one year and then you need a new one because the support is just gone. I hope that you are at least hand washing them and rack drying them. Someone else mentioned Bravissimo, yay. The shipping cost from them isn't too bad.
    I for one HATE how expencive bras are and how short they last. It makes poor people like me have to wear them far too long.

  12. Flitter! That link from Herroom? I have a print out of it covered in notations (which bras I have, which sizes work, which ones I've tried that don't, it's brilliant.),949,30.html

    Unwomoman - ooo, lucky girl!

    Emily, I don't wear bras like other people. I tend to rotate (if possible) through two or three each day. So mine last longer. I actually wash all my clothing cold delicate and hang to dry. Still with the rate my boobs still seem to grow, I end up having to buy new bras when I haven't worn the old one more than a dozen times. The only exception is sports bras, which, these days (since I keep throwing a rib out), I practically live in. That La Senza is only for special, and short lived, occasions. If you catch my drift . . . You know like Those Shoes.


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