Off the rack
July 28, 2009 6:14 AM   Subscribe

What widely available (department store, not boutique) bras should I buy (36DD)?

Last year for the first time in my life I went to a bra boutique and found that I'd been wearing the wrong sized bra for about ten years. I'd been buying Cs when I was actually rocking DDs. The bras I bought were great, gorgeous, mad emy boobs look terrific, and were $70 each. That is about twice as much as I want to spend on a bra. I can spend up to $50 I guess, without my 'you've got to be kidding me' alarms go off, but $70?

The bottom line is I'll spend what I have to in order to not bounce all over the place or look like I have a meatloaf duct-taped to my chest, but would like to know if it's necessary. If not, what are good department store brands (Bali, Warner, etc.--those types) that offer support, look good, and are comfortable for DDs and up? I would l.o.v.e. to buy those gorgeous lacy cute Calvin Klein things that are made of tissue paper, those days passed about twenty-five years ago--same with Victoria's Secret. They don't even carry my size.

Also, I'm looking for brands in brick and mortar stores -- this is part of a big shopping trip I've got planned and instant gratification requirements dictate I buy this in a plain old American mall--so not looking for anything online.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I don't even know why I bother with preview, because I think I've yet to post an AskMe without at least one typo.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:15 AM on July 28, 2009

Lane Bryant carries that size in their Cacique line. They are in the $28-45 range, but they are always having sales (now they are buy one get one half off), and coupons are easy to find. You can also get them when you sign up for their e-mail list.

Even if you don't normally wear plus-sizes, the bonus of LB is that they have prettier bras than you might find in larger sizes elsewhere. In the past, their bras had quality issues, but they've gotten much better. My bras are lasting about 3 years before giving up the ghost. My favorite style is the plunge. Other people swear by the balconette.
posted by kimdog at 6:22 AM on July 28, 2009

posted by bunny hugger at 6:32 AM on July 28, 2009

In my experience, the expensive bras are department store brands too -- I got some Wacoals that really transformed my comfort levels amazingly at Nordstroms, but there is no denying that they cost a fortune.

If you're planning to go in person anyway, I really suggest going to an upper-tier department store like Nordstroms and talking with the salesperson who is working specifically in the bra department, rather than choosing a brand ahead of time,

The thing is, bras aren't just "good" for a given size (though they can certainly just be bad), and different models within a brand, even a fancy brand, can vary a lot in terms of both fit and construction. In my experience, these salespeople really know their stock as well as knowing about what size you are -- they know which bras run a little big, so that you should try a D in such and such a model, which are good for broad shoulders or a narrow back or wide-set breasts or whatever. You can tell them what price range you're looking for, and they can really help.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:33 AM on July 28, 2009

Ugh, sorry about the punctuation errors and clunky phrasing there. Sloppy editing run amok.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:35 AM on July 28, 2009

I've found Macy's to have a terrific selection of my even-harder-to-find size. Wacoals are my favorite brand, but you'll find bras in your size in most of the major brands (Bali, Vanity Fair, etc.)

I would caution you to purchase a small number of bras on your shopping trip, though. Perhaps just one or two of each style that fits well and seems comfortable. Then wear and wash each one a few times. You'll quickly discover which ones are really comfortable and which ones are less than really comfortable for a whole day. Then you can stock up on the best style/brand for you. (And do check eBay for these later purchases: I've managed to get my favorite Wacoals for around $20 instead of $60.)
posted by DrGail at 6:43 AM on July 28, 2009

Nordstrom! They carry lots of nice bras in the larger size ranges. I'm sure they hit $70, but I can usually get out of there for $50 or less. Wacoal has awesome support and I found a nice CK bra in a size close to that. Admittedly, the CK in the larger sizes are more marvels of engineering than lacy confections, but they are still very nice. Good luck.
posted by marmot at 6:47 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Lane Bryant. I stop in there with my mom [who had also been wearing the wrong size bra for years and years] and some of their bras are gorgeous, and I'd rock them if I could fill them out. On any of our trips there the sales girls have all been really knowledgeable and helpful in making sure the bras fit properly before letting my mom leave, which is more than I've ever experienced in a Victoria's Secret.
posted by alynnk at 6:52 AM on July 28, 2009

Are you absolutely sure about Victoria’s Secret? I buy my 34DDs from there, so I imagine they’d carry 36DD. I love their Very Sexy line. Maybe you should give it another look? Admittedly their bras do cost upwards of $60 at regular price, but they run good sales. Also, it seems alynnk had a poor experience with their sales staff, but I got a really good fitting done there (yes, I was also part of the 90% who are wearing the wrong size bra!).
posted by yawper at 6:57 AM on July 28, 2009

I had a similar experience WRT being the wrong size. I went to a Soma store (they're owned by Chico's) for a fitting, and the bras I bought have held up beautifully.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:59 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fourthing Wacoals! Even my Wacoal strapless bra, in 34DD, is extremely supportive, sleek and comfortable and increased the range of dresses I can wear by a factor of 10. Wacoal is what I ended up with after trying on a boatload of high-end bras at the fancy bra boutique. Now I get them at Macys for around $50 - $60.
posted by messica at 7:08 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to have very good luck at Macy's "full figure" department--in particular the Bali Minimizers. They were supportive and, yes, minimizing, and they didn't have that "harness for oxen" look that so many large-size bras do--actually quite attractive! Durable as well; I could get several years out of them if I hand washed. The disclaimer is that I had reduction surgery several years ago, so this information is dated and may no longer apply.
posted by scratch at 7:18 AM on July 28, 2009

I used to wear Bali and now I'm pretty committed to Wacoal. My local Nordstrom didn't have a whole lot in my size though I haven't tried them now that my band size is somewhat normal. (For awhile I was 32DD which may sound sexy but is really just a stupid size that is hard to find.) So, I stick to Macy's. Make sure that you wash your bras on cold and never dry them. I also use a lingerie bag to keep my bras from getting all torqued out in the washer and they last a long time.
posted by amanda at 7:20 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not sure if you have Triumph bras in the States, but they're great. I'm Canadian and can find them at our big department stores here.

I know you said you wanted brick and mortar stores but after your instant gratification project is done, check out Ebay. British sellers especially tend to stock bustier sizes for way cheap (like under $25 sometimes, even with shipping).
posted by pised at 7:38 AM on July 28, 2009

Fifthing Wacoal. Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Lord and Taylor all have them.

I have some Bali bras, but the Wacoals are the favorites. They last forever with good care.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:51 AM on July 28, 2009

As far as department stores go, I would call around and ask someone from each chain which local store has the largest/best lingerie department. In my experience, selection can vary quite a bit between one Macy's or Nordstrom and another.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:51 AM on July 28, 2009

Yes, Victoria's Secret does carry 36DDs, just not in any of the cute styles. I've mostly come to the conclusion that they suck, BUT I do buy their IPEX bras when (and only when) they're having a really good sale. They're not worth their sticker price, but at a sale price they work for me.
posted by lampoil at 8:04 AM on July 28, 2009

Ok, these are definitely not what most people would call sexy, but I recently bought an 18 hour bra (Playtex). Now I can't believe I've never worn one before. I guess I was put off in the past by the fact that these bras are sold in boxes (??) and appear to be something someone's grandmother would wear.

That being said, as someone with approximately the same bra size as you, I would recommend you try one out. I wear mine most days that I don't wear tank tops or slightly revealing shirts (the straps on the bra are rather... wide).

So it's not the most alluring bra: it is definitely the most comfortable one I've ever worn, though, and the price is right.
posted by jacquilinala at 8:11 AM on July 28, 2009

Go right now to Nordstroms and get measured. I did and ended up wearing a 34-36DD when all my life I thought I was a 38C. Who knew? Anyway, the bras I got are called Wacoal (I see others have recommended them and they are AWESOME) - they fit beautifully and the girls are happy and riding high. (heh)

Wacoal. Nordstroms. Now. :)
posted by Mysticalchick at 8:35 AM on July 28, 2009

The awful truth is that attractive, well made, supportive bras for larger breasted women are expensive. What I do is find a bra that fits well, buy one in the store, make sure that it stands up to wearing, and then I find and buy more on ebay for a lot cheaper.

I especially love Fantasie and Freya brands, but in the US, you will only find them in actual specialty bra stores.
posted by crankylex at 8:46 AM on July 28, 2009

Those bras you love that you just bought? Buy the same exact style on eBay! Set a search and save it. You can set it to send you only Buy it Now, only New w/Tags, etc.

I'm sorry I can't link, but almost all lingerie and bra stuff is blocked at work (!) But I LOVE the Fantasie 4510 and the Le Mystere Dream Tisha Lace bra (maybe called the Rouge?). I'll try to fill in links from home. These are both molded cup t-shirt bras.

The other Dream Tisha (the "Oprah's favorite bra" one) has a VERY FULL cup and is not comfortable for everyone. If you have a lot of armpit/side boob, it can really be a great bra as it sucks all that boob up to the front. After I quit nursing and still had extra boob flesh, this bra was a miracle!

Take good care of those bras, rotate them (never wear the same bra 2 days in a row), and they'll last a long time. It will be worth it to pay the $$. But again, eBay is awesome. I'm wearing a brand enw 4510 that came in the mail yesterday!

On preview, crankylex and I agree! But Fantasie and Freya are both at Nordstrom, too.
posted by peep at 8:54 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another vote for eBay -- search for the ones you've already found that fit! I'm your size and I can generally get the Wacoal and Le Mystère in the styles I like for under $30. (I don't wear molded cups, though. Not sure if that affects the price.)
posted by tangerine at 9:08 AM on July 28, 2009

peep, my Nordstrom must be broken! In that case, A Terrible Llama, definitely hit Nordstroms and follow that up with some ebaying.
posted by crankylex at 9:39 AM on July 28, 2009

I'm also a 36DD (and like you, I also wore too-small bras for years). I found the Wonderbra of my dreams a few years ago, bought a couple, and wrote down the SKU number. Now I have about a dozen of them. I get them at Sears - they're usually about $38 (Canadian) but Sears always has ridiculous deals (last time they 40% off, this time they were buy one, get the second for $3). If you're interested, MeMail me and I'll send you the model #.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:05 AM on July 28, 2009

My sis buys her bras from Dillards, VS (online), Lane Bryant, and Fredrick's of Hollywood.
posted by nimsey lou at 10:57 AM on July 28, 2009

I buy my bras at Macy's. They have good sales and coupons, especially if you have a store card.

Vanity Fair for comfy every day bras. I love every variation I've bought of this one.

I can't find an example online, but Macy's also stocks Calvin Klein bras sized 36-DD. That's my go-to for sexier styles, matched sets, and/or just less boring colors than black, white, and beige. They are a bit understated for lingerie and not too lacy, but aren't as comfortable for wearing all day long. I prefer them to anything by Victoria's Secret by a million miles though. (The straps are also a little thinner than the Vanity Fair ones, so they don't feel quite so bulky in that way and are better under tank tops.)
posted by juliplease at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone! I'll check these out, especially Wacoal's and Lane Bryant because they seemed to show up a few times. It'll be Macy's -- no Nordstrom where I live, unfortunately.

If you have a lot of armpit/side boob, it can really be a great bra as it sucks all that boob up to the front.

Peep, I don't really think I have a lot of armpit/side boob, but that is such a hilarious sentence I almost wish I did so I use that line once in a while.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2009

Olga! Macy's carries them. I like Kohl's for bras/underthings in general.
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2009

Just in case you're still looking, I am awfully partial to this Natori bra from Nordstrom. It runs around $50, but it comes in loads of sizes and a few colors and I order mine online. It has the right amount of structure and smoothness to work nicely under tees but not so much that you enhance your already-enhanced assets.

Also, even if you can still find your size at Victoria's Secret, don't do it. Spring for the good bras at a department store and take good care of them - it's worth it.
posted by meggan at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2009

Unfortunately, you do get what you pay for to some degree.
posted by Citrus at 1:59 PM on July 28, 2009

In case you decide to buy from Lane Bryant: here's a coupon! You'd have to buy three bras in order to reach the $25 off a purchase of $75 or more, but a 1/3 discount is pretty good, if I do say so myself.

This coupon is updated every year, as far as I know. I bookmarked it in 2008, at which time it expired on Dec. 31, 2008. This year hit and they changed the expiration date to Dec. 2009.
posted by Aleen at 2:08 PM on July 28, 2009

I bought the best bra I've ever owned at Nordstrom last year. It was a brand called Fayreform, and it held and shaped my 38Fs without making them look like cones OR without looking like the Army Corps of Engineers rejiggered two hats and a tent. Highly, highly recommended.
posted by Madamina at 2:11 PM on July 28, 2009

N-thing Wacoal.
posted by peacheater at 2:20 PM on July 28, 2009

Hey there, size twin. I swear by Vanity Fair Enchanted Lace. I'm totally aware they're fug, so I don't wear them in situations where someone else is going to see them. However, they're (1) comfortable, (2) supportive, (3) reasonably, naturally shaping, and (4) at a good price point. Also, they give me almost no visible bra lines, which is beyond awesome.

Like I said, I realize they're fug (although the black is the least bad). But in a 36DD, you don't get everything, so I have different sexytime bras that are less cheap/supportive and more attractive. For everyday use, though, I still swear by the Enchanted Lace. When you go to a department store, please try one on (and then come home and buy them on sale from Amazon).

I like the look of the Lane Bryant plunge bra (it's among my to-be-seen-in collection), but for me, all LB bras are totally uncomfortable and ill-fitting -- there's almost no elastic. I have to play games with sizing, and I still wind up unhappy. YMMV.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:45 PM on July 28, 2009

i love, love, love my target bras. cheap enough that you can buy 5 at a time and then just rotate through them.
posted by radiosilents at 9:19 PM on July 28, 2009

eep! that was NOT radiosilents loving the target bras, that was me, his ever ditzy girlfriend. he loves them too, but less for the wearing. :)
posted by nadawi at 9:20 PM on July 28, 2009

I was a 36DD up until about 3 years ago when I had the best surgery ever... but anyhoo...

As a poor college student, I thought $32.00 was a LOT for a bra but I gladly spent it for the Lilyette Minimizer bras that I bought at JC Penney's. Google it. They have various styles - some are sexier than others, some have more coverage, etc. Try 'em on til you find one you like. To me, it was obvious they were made for large breasts, but they made me look so much better in my clothes that I felt much sexier. And I never heard a complaint from any boyfriends. ;)
posted by keribear at 9:43 PM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: Tagging w/Resolved -- Wacoal.

Worth every penny.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:56 PM on August 4, 2009

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