Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gail Carriger's Epic Bra Hunt Revisited

So, a while ago I did a post on my forever hunt for a good bra. Since then I have continued my endeavors, and I have this rather epic post on the subject for you.

I should remind you that my hunt is specifically for the following:
  • Small ribs: 30"
  • Big rack: H cup
  • No under wire
  • Cute
  • Vintage shape
  • Comfortable
  • Seams that do not show

Here we go . . .

freya 32G AA4234CHL
Deco Plunge T-Shirt Underwire Bra
A foam T-shirt bra, supposedly seamless, underwire, deep neckline.

I like: the fit and the fact that it was a t-shirt bra and hides any headlight action. The thickness of the straps, the plunge, the thinness of the back band, the lock and load position, the little button detail.
I dislike: The place the straps attached at the side of the boob near the under arm, it rubbed me raw. The inside stitching and narrowness of the rib band at the front was also too rough with the weight of my chest and rubbed. Because of thickness of the foam there was a ridge at the neck line which showed under tight higher necked shirts. After several tries I found I just was avoiding wearing this bra, for an ugly beast that was meant to be comfortable it wasn't comfortable enough. I ended up getting rid of it.

Freya 30GG 2034 (possibly 32G, I can't remember and I cut out the blasted tag)
Dotty Nursing Bra

About the only bra a small ribbed large Rack girl can get that isn't underwire is a nursing bra. So I have a few of them. This is one of my favorites because it is cute as well as comfortable, and gives the vintage shape. If Amazon's return policy were better I'd try buying more even at the obscene price of $72, but since I can't remember what size I am in this bra I'm not buying. I have a sinking suspicion mine is a 30GG or 30H which isn't available. The fit is OK, a little small, and the seems show under t-shits so it isn't perfect.

Wacoal 32DDD 85121
Feather Embroidery Full Figure Underwire Bra
I like
: the fabric and the vintage shape. Small band. Placement of lace panel high enough up so seam doesn’t cut across nipple and rarely shows with tighter/fitted clothing.
I dislike: the size, not big enough cup, I spill a bit at the top but it keeps me in firm and tight. Straps are a little small and grove the shoulders somewhat because the rib band is not big enough to take the weight.
I have this bra in both black and nude.

Wacoal 34G 85122
Elegance Hidden Wire Minimizer Bra with Embroidery
I like: the fabric and the vintage shape. This fits me more comfortably and better than the above bra, but the band is a bit loose, I have to wear on the tightest setting. Thickness and smoothness of the strap is nice.
I dislike: Placement of lace panel directly cuting across nipple always shows with tighter/fitted clothing.
I have this bra in both black and nude.

Lunaire 34DDD Grey & Teal 153_14011
Sevilla Scroll Embroidered Demi Underwire Bra
I like: The look, this is a beautiful bra.
I dislike: the color, the fit, and the fact that it's lace which makes it itchy, scratchy, abrasive, painful at the underwire (aren't they all?). Also it shows under most clothes. Really I only bother for occasions.

Freya AA4791CAE 34G 4791
Lacey Underwire Plunge Bra

Fit is almost exactly the same as my Fantasie FL2302MOM 32FF, so much so I thought they were the same bra.
I like this bra, it's offered in my actual size (30H) so I might try it in that, but there is that $70 issue with Amazon and returns (see below on my thoughts of other vendors). So . . .
I like: the fit, the look
I dislike: the size, the color, the seems which show

Anita 32H #5051
Maternity Women's Softcup Nursing Bra
I like: A recent purchase that's a tentative success. It has now become my main working white bra.
I dislike: It's a little small for me at 32H (eep!) but comfortable enough to keep. It has the usual seam's show under a t-shirt issue but it's very comfortable. Also, it's ugly as sin.

Elila 32H
Cotton Wire Free Nursing Bra
I like: An even more recent purchase that's a tentative success. It has now become my main working black bra. Soft cotton cups and a nice wide band. 32 fits nice even for a 30 like me. Nice thick soft straps. Less ugly than the above white one.
I dislike: The band is rough and the seams are sharp, to the point of scratching during the twist. Seam's show under a t-shirt, very high neck line. Non vintage shape, and not all that flattering of a shape either, very saggy. Major grooves in the shoulders.

This is not a style, this bra is too small for her.

Shops & Sources

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.

The professional bra makers of Canada association members page:
In Bakersfield

Bravissimo is based in England, which means they are used to the big boobs small ribs but are expensive. They are uncommunicative about how to get the right sizing for a British made bra because they want you to "come in and get fitted" and so don't tell you on their website how to measure the fit yourself.

Breakout Bras seems to have the same issues as Bravissimo. I haven't tried them yet but a quick check of the site shows me that mostly I get one or two bra options in each category in my size, often lace, always underwired and seemed.

Figleaves is the retailer responsible for making me cry, but they do have the biggest selection. I ordered three sports bras form them, none of which fit right. Their return policy in Machiavellian and they don't always state on their website when a bra is British (and shipping from the UK and thus practically un-returnable) or American and running under a different size. Thus you have to try to determine which size you might be in which bra. (A word of caution, Shock Absorber seem to run one or two sizes smaller in general. I think I'd need a 30 J from them, which naturally they don't make.) I returned one set successfully for a new size (shipping at my own expense) but when I returned a second set it seemed to get lost. I never received the new sizes nor a refund. I will not buy from them again.

Some reader recommendations:

Nordstrom: I'm lucky enough to have one within driving distance, and their employees are incredibly nice and helpful.
I too have bought from them. Technically they only carry one bra in my real size (with the 30 band) but I've gotten a few OK fitting 32 Gs from them, and most of the above came from Nordstrom Rack until I started ordering online. They carry Freya, Wacoal, Fantasie, Felina, and Elle Macphearson in large cups and small bands last I checked.

Macy's stocks the Lunaire brand.
In LA: Creative Woman - The Wizard of Bras The selection is good, with lots of bras that come in the small bands (starting at 28!) They also offer an online fitting/measuring service.

avaglass adds:
Also in SoCal, Jenette Bras - the alphabet starts at 'D.'
Yeah, but where does the counting start? Oh, let me guess, 32?

Works at a bra fitting salon in the UK. A good bra fitting salon will have a range of sizes for all people. Store carries from a 28 to a 48 band, and from an A to a K cup (UK sizing).
Sadly, we don't have such things in the US.
Amended: The store I mentioned that I work at is actually in Mandeville, Louisiana, right here in the US! It's called Bra Genie. (I won't link to it just in case this may be flagged as spam, but you can definitely Google it.) As stated above, we carry band sizes 28-48, cup sizes AA-K.

Just wanted to clear that up. :) Thanks!

There is also a handy site with a much more comprehensive bra size calculator that doesn't make you want to cry and they have international bra size conversions too!

In Northern California there's an amazing shop in Fort Bragg called Understuff. Also, better luck at HerRoom and Bare Necessities rather than Figleaves. HR and BN actually have customer service and are also US based.

Joyce adds:
Her Room understands ordering 3 of the same bra in various cup/band combos and returning 2.

C.A. Sizemore:
Phoenix, AZ has CC's, the man is like a cross between a 20's tailer and a 90's Russian Mobster can size you at a glance.
I would be you very good money he can't do that to me.

Dublin, Ireland has lingerie shop that creates custom delicates.

Plano, TX store specializes in carrying bras for the bustier ladies. They will fit you and they know how the sizes of the bras they carry tend to run.

Incredibly good luck in Richmond, Virginia with Blythe

Decent Exposures does ugly as sin custom sports and cotton bras at a reasonable price. Despite what their website says, they do 28 bands. I'd be a 28J for the lined lycra or lined dri-release. Customer service is very responsive, although I haven’t yet tested them out with an actual order. If you'd like to order online, and you are not one of their sizes, you can order whatever is closest and in the "special instructions" box that will come up during check out mention the band size you actually want. Or, you can call them at 1-800-524-4949.
There website is lamentably bad, operate via the drop down to the right side.

"As antidotes to the heat, one can only suggest that the summer travelling gown should be made of the thinnest possible material which is consistent with the necessary stability of texture; that as few under-garments should be worn as possible; that a fan and eau-de-Cologne should be carried; and that all such heat-provoking cause as hurry, anxiety, and fretting should be religiously avoided."
~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

A Brief History of the Bra YouTube

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.


  1. goes down to a 32 band in G-L cups and I've had good experiences with their return policy. Also handy charts to warn you when you're ordering a bra in European sizing and what the American equivalent is.

  2. It is an impossible and never ending quest, isn't it? My size is not nearly as difficult to find, but I still end up returning half of what I buy.

  3. I just started my epic bra hunt recently, after being informed that I wasn't a 34B and that I've been wearing the wrong size for years. Closer to a 30F (I think... I've yet to find my correct size though I have a few on order currently).

    Have you looked at It's a bit usergenereated database of bras, sizing help, and community forum. I've been using it to narrow down what bras might fit me before I order. It's user-generated so not every bra I'm considering is in there, but it's getting better by the day as people enter in more bras and the bra dimensions. I've also bought bras from other people and have some for sale in their "listings" section - good way to buy a bra in a certain brand and size without paying full price.

  4. Sometimes I think about learning how to sew just so I can make my own bras.

    Like I've said before, Victoria's Secret and Fredrick's are the only two bras that don't aggravate my latex allergy. I never get rashes or weeping sores from them. But their straps are too darn thin IMHO. I like wide straps. I tried these little gel pads you can add, but the straps kept flipping over so the velcro was digging into my shoulders.

    And no store, online or otherwise, will tell me which bras are made with latex free elastic.

  5. I love this site: They have free shipping, and I have often found Fantasie of England bras on sale for $40-50 (for an $80 bra). They do charge a restocking fee for returns, though.

  6. Hi Gail! This is Karen, aka sevenlies. You mentioned me above. The store I mentioned that I work at is actually in Mandeville, Louisiana, right here in the US! It's called Bra Genie. (I won't link to it just in case this may be flagged as spam, but you can definitely Google it.) As stated above, we carry band sizes 28-48, cup sizes AA-K.

    Just wanted to clear that up. :) Thanks!

  7. Sadly, Understuff in Fort Bragg has closed. The owner retired and no one would buy the business because of the economy. I nearly cried.

    One bra I have utterly fallen in love with is Lunaire's Mayfair cami bra, although it doesn't come in your true size (or mine either, come to think of it. I just wish my damn boobs would stop GROWING). But even though it's not my size, it's ridiculously comfortable and it keeps my usual overabundance contained. And I can't really feel the underwire at all.

  8. also has a pretty good selection of harder to find sizes. I've never had a problem with returns & if you live near a store, you can just return them in store (otherwise you pay shipping both ways).

  9. Ok, first I should own up and say I don't have the same difficulties you do. Sorry. However, if perhaps you're going to be in the Boston area then I would recommend a trip to Forty Winks ( in Harvard Square. It is run by 2 women who know not all women are sized equally. You could call them to see if they would have the right things or not (the website doesn't have a good representation of the things they have in stock at any given time). Perhaps it could coincide with a book tour. ;)


If you are using LJ to comment, it may not work.