Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

July 24, 2007

For starters

Filed under: Lingerie — Francesca @ 7:55 am

Ladies! Before we talk about clothes, we must talk about bras. When was the last time you bought a new one? When was the last time you were measured properly to make sure you are wearing the correct size? A better bra will make anything you wear look better. You cannot look 100 percent superfantastic if your “girls” are sagging onto your belly, or if you are constantly pulling up stretched-out straps! So, what I want you to do, right now, is schedule a time to measure yourself, or be measured, and buy yourself a new brassiere that holds you up (underwire required!), proud and strong, and has enough lace in it to tickle the fancy of anyone who sees it (even if that person is just you). And please, no pointies!

If it is in your favorite color, all the better. But remember! The best color for making sure your bra is not visible through your clothes is not white. It is whatever color most closely matches your skin tone. For me, that color is a light beige or ivory. For you, it is perhaps coffee or a gorgeous chocolate brown.

Getting the measurements for a correct fit is not difficult – you can do it yourself, or have a friend help you – but unfortunately, the sites that offer instructions often have conflicting information. For example, according to this site (where I found bras in sizes through 56F), I wear size 48B. But according to the fabulous Bigger Bras, I would wear size 46C. Very confusing. But the point is, I now know to look for a 46 or 48 band in B or C, and to try different styles until I find what works best.

Remember, superfantasticness starts from within, with one’s attitude. It emanates outward, to the lingerie. Only then is it expressed through the clothes that everyone else can see and appreciate. So treat your boobs to a beautiful new bra, and let the superfantasticness begin!


  1. If you are able, go to a proper lingerie store and have them measure you. An experienced bra fitter will nearly always be able to tell you your size just by looking at you. I swear by the Town Shop in New York City, and the Pussycat in Pittsburgh, PA.

    I also swear by Wacoal bras, though your mileage will vary, so try on lots of bras before you buy.

    Comment by Ratphooey — July 24, 2007 @ 8:28 am

  2. What a great place to start – with the foundation! Going to a store to be measured *can* be embarrassing, so I recommend going to a non-mall store. A small, independent lingerie store will have better trained staff, who are interested in gaining your trust as a repeat customer. If you don’t have a small, independent store in your town, find the manager in your local department store’s lingerie section. She’ll probably have been there the longest, and have trained many many personnel. Personally, I *hate* bra shopping, but it’s worth the time, and when I find one that works, I buy as many as I can in order to delay the next bra-shopping experience.

    Comment by Leah — July 24, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  3. Ladies, I’m not especially cushiony (which is sometimes sad) but I needed to chime in here after working part of my way through college at the much-famed Vicky’s Secret–I would NOT recommend you go there. Though they advertise a full range of sizes from the ones I buy (which are basically decorative) to the more ample, they rarely stock them in stores. And the lingerie fitters rarely have more experience than, well, I did, and are paid to recommend the latest models even if they’re inappropriate for the particular customer. I still buy some of their underthings (so no slander meant) but never, ever, ever their brassieres. Also, they are ridiculously overpriced for the quality. No sense getting burned there.

    Comment by thepinkeminence — July 24, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  4. Great post. I highly, highly recommend going to Nordstrom for a bra fitting. Get over the fact of taking off your shirt in front of a stranger, because the 10 minutes or so of possible uneasiness is SO WORTH IT in the long run.

    I know this sounds cheesy but wearing the correct size bra changed my life. No more pulling up straps or putting boobs back in cups. Also, you will uncover a waist, and look about 10 lbs lighter immediately.

    My favorite bra is by Le Mystere (the Dream Tisha bra). If you have big boobs and like molded cup bras, try this one. Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale, and it’s usually a $68 bra, on sale for $44, I stocked up.:)

    Comment by Amber — July 24, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  5. Ratphooey, amen, amen, and amen. The Town Shop was a beautiful experience. You go in the booth, the bra lady eyeballs you, and she returns in five minutes with bras EXACTLY THE RIGHT SIZE

    Comment by Jezebella — July 24, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  6. Ratphooey, amen, amen, and amen. The Town Shop in NYC was a beautiful experience. You go in the booth, the bra lady eyeballs you, and she returns in five minutes with bras EXACTLY THE RIGHT SIZE. Like a dream. Worth every stinkin penny for those $50 Wacoal bras, one of which I am wearing right now.

    And Amber, you are so right: wearing the right bra changed my life too. No tugging at straps, no tearing the thing off the minute I get home, sometimes I even forget I am wearing a bra.

    Comment by Jezebella — July 24, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  7. Hey there!! I follow the Manolo Shoe Blog and I was just so excited to see this section finally launch. Another blog to add to my reader. And what a perfect post to start it off! I actually make a point of getting myself fitted in every store where I buy lingerie, because “slipping out” is just awful. As a side note, since you have mentioned lingerie for the more curvaceous among us, I feel the need to say that it’s not just bras that will improve both confidence and figures: a set of plus-size lingerie can do wonders for making you feel sexy when you sleep ;) All those skinny models on Vicky’s Secret– well, they’re not nearly as attractive as a woman with a set of curves, and don’t fill out a teddy or robe nearly as well. So I have linked one of my favorite stores as my website, and you may want to take a look. But anyways– love the blog; looking forward to reading more brilliance from Francesca!

    Comment by plus size lingerie — July 24, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  8. Does anyone have advice for the moderately plus-sized (20-22Wish) but not so amply endowed? I have trouble because my cup size does not keep up with my band size.

    (Delighted by the start of the blog!)

    Comment by maryb — July 24, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  9. MaryB: Try Lane Bryant or Avenue. They have a lot of their bras in a B cup, including some of the “OMG I HAVE BOOBS!!” push-up variety. I’m in a similar boat, and when I tried on one of the plunge ones with padding….my gay shopping buddy called it “false advertising.”

    I promptly bought one, of course. :)

    Also, try on a lot of underwire bras….never the kind without. It makes a huge difference for the not-so-large-busted among us.

    Comment by GoingLoopy — July 24, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  10. Bravo Francesca, you have gone straight to the heart of the matter. I don’t care how much you spend on clothes, if they don’t FIT, then you’ve wasted your money. And, of course, good fit starts from the inside out.

    I used to wear a 48C until, as I was whiling away some time color coordinating bras and undies one day, this marvelous sales person pointed out quite emphatically that I was actually a 44DD. Much to my surprise and delight, she was right. The “girls” are now riding high and so am I. Get yourself fitted at once. It’s cheaper than a face lift and will do wonders for your self confidence and posture.

    As for Vicky’s secret, you are so right about the quality, it’s just not there, nor are the extended sizes. I agree with the other posts here. Lane Bryant, Avenue, Nordstrom and you might also try Bare Necessities.

    Comment by gemdiva — July 24, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  11. Any tips on pronouncing “Wacoal”? Every time I try to say it, it comes out “wack co all, way cole, waka waka.” It’s just an awkward-looking word to me.

    Also, word to everything above my post.

    Comment by Nabushi — July 24, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  12. Love the site, hate that I can’t add it to my bloglines feeds. Do you publish an RSS feed? If not, could you?

    Comment by Annie — July 24, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  13. Whoops, just spotted it. Looks like the auto-RSS grabber just isn’t working for the site. My apologies.

    Comment by Annie — July 24, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  14. Ah! the Annalucia seconds the advice of the Amber, and recommends the excellent bra-fitting ladies at Nordstrom for their help and advice. She had herself fitted over a year ago and was most astonished to learn that she was in fact a D cup (something which she had always associated with the Jayne Mansfield, and the assorted girls of the sweater of her youth) but she marvels at how much better the blouses and shirts now fit.

    And she is a dedicated convert to the bras of the Wacoal. They are expensive but they fit so well that they are worth it.

    Comment by Annalucia — July 24, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  15. Hi ~~ love the concept, love what I see so far in the site! Good foundation garments are key to a happy gal of every size :)

    One thing, though, do we really need “for the big girl” after “lingerie and swimwear”? I would think that one significant point of this blog is that it is ALL “for the big girl”. Hence, the name.

    There is a part of me which recognizes that it is a small thing, but the larger part of me feels that qualifier minimizes and excludes us. I’m sadly used to (though still PO’d about) that treatment within department stores which relegate us to the soggy basement (Grrrr…), but I’m going to have to call it out ASAP within the very site that is supposed to be celebrating, honoring, exalting, and supporting us.

    With much love, admiration, and affection… SamanthaBrite.

    Comment by SamanthaBrite — July 24, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  16. I, in fact, just bought some new bras this past weekend, as my old ones were all that…old. The very first one I tried on was it, surprisingly enough: an underwire by Olga’s Christina, which is a new brand to me. It’s lovely and soft, made of microfiber, and while not a racerback, the straps are farther towards the hooks than I’m used to seeing on a bra. It’s extremely comfortable. I bought all the colors they had in my size. Also, I echo everyone else: get yourself fitted, and then forget about the size if it bothers you. What it says on the tag means nothing as long as the bra fits. Don’t buy a bra because you’ve “always been a C cup.” Wear the size you are now, not the size you hope to fit back into someday.

    Comment by Pencils — July 24, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  17. I believe Wacoal is pronounced “wah-COAL”.

    Supportive, properly-fitted (but attractive!) lingerie is important for everyone, but how much more so for we plus-size women! When I was in Dallas, I got fitted at Neiman Marcus and bought Chantelle there (that brand has a good range of sizes), but to fill out my lingerie drawer I’d often go to Lane Bryant – I was often surprised by their quality in bras, and they would often have good sports bras. Their inventory changed often, so you’d just have to go and check.

    Since getting married and moving to Canada I’ve been getting my bras mostly from a great shop here in Edmonton, Dawn’s Bra-tique. They are great and I highly recommend them to anyone in central or northern Alberta. There I’ve found a Belgian line, Prima Donna, that I like very much, most of their line comes in “all” sizes, plus matching (and flattering!) underpants for many styles that fit up to, say, US size 26 or 28! (Personally, I find that very exciting – it’s so hard to find anything that fits above around a size 14 or so, usually!) Not a cheap line, but if it fits you, worth investing in. My husband likes to buy it for me . . . :^)

    Comment by Meg Q — July 24, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  18. I’m a fan of the Gap’s full support hidden underwire bra. I wore Wacoal for years, but I find this one more comfortable than my Wacoal bras.

    Comment by Lisa — July 24, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  19. Thanks to GoingLoopy for the advice. I’m heading for the mall later today. I’m so often put off by the style of large bras. I often wear (and can get away with) a shelf-bra tank in women’s sizes from J.Jill, but sometimes I want an actual bra.

    Comment by maryb — July 24, 2007 @ 12:33 pm

  20. I can vouch for the lingerie ladies at Nordstrom. Many of the higher-end department stores are skilled in this area. It’s not all that embarrassing and 100% worth it. The department stores will have more utilitarian bras, will get them in for you from wherever, and if you make nice with the ladies, they may call you when new things are available in your hard-to-find size. In Austin, Petticoat Fair ( is *the* place to go for hard to fit, but I’m not that big (40D).

    For fun bras, I tend to get the Cacique ones from Lane Bryant. They make a satin extreme plunge one that is constructed entirely out of magic and rainbows. It has removable air pillows that lift and separate for the sort of perkiness rarely found with big boobs that haven’t been created by a surgeon. I’ve had gay guys come congratulate me on them.

    Comment by sara — July 24, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  21. From what I’ve read from ladies who have worked in the industry and sewed custom clothes for years, there are a couple ways to get a good fit on your bra.

    One, measure your underband measurement. Right where the band would sit. Add two inches onto this, and that is your band size. So darn confusing. But alas.

    Then, the bust measurement – around the fullest part. If your band size is 44 and your bust measurement is 48, you might wear a 44DD. Band size + 1″ is a A cup, band size + 2″ is a B cup, and so on.

    I personally wear a 32B. I’m small. I’ve got a small ribcage, and it’s a pain in the neck, because what store stocks a couple of sizes in a 32B? Gosh darn it.

    Comment by Miss Elisabeth — July 24, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  22. Thanks, Meg Q! No more waka waka for me, only wah-COAL. ;-)

    Comment by Nabushi — July 24, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

  23. I would point out that sizing gets especially cuh-RAZY when you go above a DD cup. Suddenly, any attempt to keep sizes consistent is right out the window — I’m anything from an F to an H, depending on the brand. So getting fitted in a shop with a big selection — as opposed to just measuring — is especially important for those of us in this category. (Also, a lot of fat women wear bands that are too big and cups that are too small. If your bra’s riding up your back? Your band’s too big.)

    Comment by Kate Harding — July 24, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

  24. So what is out there for nursing mothers? Is it possible to have a good (read: so good it’s worth getting “fitted” for) bra with the necessary unhookings or stretchability that we can feed our babies?

    I’ve been breastfeeding for seven years straight now and I’m tired of wearing crappy bras. :-(

    Comment by girl — July 24, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  25. girl, I’ve seen Wacoal nursing bras at the appropriately named Nordstrom Rack.

    Comment by Andrea — July 25, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  26. Miss Elisabeth, if you think finding a 32B is hard, try finding a 32D, and a racer-back one at that (my narrow, sloping shoulders mean that any straps not connected at the back try to escape as soon as I stand up straight, no matter how tight I tighten them). Arg! It’s enough to make a girl crazy.

    But a definite yes on getting yourself measured. I was trying on bras one day three or four years ago, and the lady who unlocked my fitting room looked at me, looked at the bras in my hand, and said, “Those aren’t your size, honey. Here, try these.” I was embarrassed, but boy was she right. Knowing my real size makes me crazy sometimes because stores don’t always have it (the size I used to think I wore was more common), but when I do find one, it makes quite a difference.

    Now if I could ever find a button-down shirt that was big enough in the chest and small enough in the shoulders, I would be a happy girl.

    Comment by JaneC — July 25, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  27. I third (fourth?) the recommendation of Nordstrom for fittings- they know their stuff and can recommend based on your size AND your shape. Once you know your size, you don’t have to depend on brick-and-mortar either. Check out and for really pretty bras is a larger sizes. I’m an F cup and both of these sites have great bras that don’t make me look like my torso is “all bra” when I’m wearing them.. JaneC, Bravissimo offers clothing sized by “curviness”, including button-downs, so that may help in your search..

    Comment by SaraB — July 25, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  28. I’ll add to the recommendations for Wacoal–I’ve sadly outgrown them, but the ones I had in the past were fantastic in terms of both comfort and quality. Also, I’d point you in the direction of and, both of which carry a large range of sizes and styles. The latter has free return shipping, making it even easier to try out sizes until you find the perfect bra.
    Also, the Nordstrom’s fitters are fantastic, and have always been helpful. The helpful part stands out most for me, since I’m a difficult size–a 30H or 32GG depending on the manufacturer. While I rarely find my size (it’s apparently difficult for bra companies to fathom that a small framed person can still have a large chest), the salespeople have offered to order bras in from other stores and have also suggested stores in the area that might carry bras in my size.
    Lastly, adding inches to your underbust measurement is not always accurate. My underbust measurement is about a 29, but a 32 band is not supportive enough–I got away with 32s and 34s when i was a DD, but at an H, i need to be as held up as possible, if only to remedy back pain. So if your band is riding up at all, it’s too big. Also, when you buy a bra, make sure it fits on the loosest hook. That way, when the elastic starts to wear out, you can adjust the band down with the remaining rows of hooks. Saves on how often they need to be replaced.

    Comment by Jess — July 26, 2007 @ 1:18 am

  29. I second Meg Q’s recommendation of Prima Donna. I’m a 36H, and so far those are the only brand that fits — but they’re amazing, and (rarest of rare attributes for those of us who require industrial-strength scaffolding) beautiful. Unfortunately, also extremely expensive. If any of you are in the Denver area, SOL (the Store of Lingerie) on Detroit St. is quite fantastic.
    Does anyone know where to find something without underwire that’s comfortable to sleep in, but that is still cute to look at? I don’t need to be able to seduce anyone with it, I’d just rather not feel ugly.

    Comment by Erin — July 26, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

  30. Those in the Southern California area are urged to run – not walk to Modern Woman in Monrovia. Known as the “Wizard of Bras,” I can personally vouch for their superfantasticness. They also have a web presence, so Google away.

    I was measured by their experts and pronounced a 44F. The Girls have looked fabulous ever since.

    Comment by Liz B. — July 26, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

  31. Jane C–as a 32DD, I know the torture of trying to find bras that fit someone with a narrow ribcage but a larger cup size. I suggest trying the website for ‘One Hanes Place’ (they also have a catalogue and a limited number of shops in outlet malls around the US). They have a Bali minimizer bra there that is seamless, pretty, comfortable and reasonably priced. It comes in a 32 band size with both D and DD cups. The site also has a limited selection of sizes/styles for larger chests. Happy shopping!

    Comment by LizaBet — July 26, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  32. “Miss Elisabeth, if you think finding a 32B is hard, try finding a 32D, and a racer-back one at that (my narrow, sloping shoulders mean that any straps not connected at the back try to escape as soon as I stand up straight, no matter how tight I tighten them). Arg! It’s enough to make a girl crazy.”

    That’s what I’m afearing I’m going to end up as – I’m 16 and those girls of mine are still plunking along at about an inch bigger a year. We’ll see what happens as I get older, but even now I see that a B isn’t quite going to cut it for much longer. Gah.

    Comment by Miss Elisabeth — July 26, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

  33. My contribution to this quandry is to make custom bras for a few large ladies, which I do. Custom is great if you can find someone.

    Comment by pbird — July 26, 2007 @ 10:09 pm

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