Help Support My Boobs! Um, With Your Advice, That Is.
August 1, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I need the Uma-Thurman-in-"Kill-Bill" of bras: pretty yet nigh-unto indestructable.

- I know I'm supposed to hand-wash my bras in saponified unicorn tears and dry them under a double rainbow. This ain't happening. I WILL wear them to death before tossing them in the washer sans lingerie bag.

- Therefore, lacy/delicate bras are OUT. Even if I DID take care of them (which I won't), I'm klutzy and always manage to rip the lace within a week.

- However! While I do love sports bras, I can't wear them ALL THE TIME - they're veeeeeeery unflattering both with and without a shirt.

- What I'd like: a pretty (maybe even moderately sexy) bra that's ALSO bombproof. No lace/sequins/Swarovski crystals. Nothing which can rip, fray, stretch out, melt, etc. ... but that ALSO doesn't smoosh everything into a mono-boob or encase it in beige ugliness.

- Complicating factors: I'm solidly built. I wear a US women's XL t-shirt. My bra size is a 34/36DD. This means that many "cute" athletic bras (i.e. Title 9 and Lululemon) are a no-go: they don't come in my size. This ALSO means that anything without serious support is a no-go (no "shelf bras" or "sleep bras").

- Price is not a huge concern. I go through so many bras now that I'd be willing to shell out for one that would last.

- I'm willing to order online and/or visit any store in the Philly/NYC/DC areas.
posted by julthumbscrew to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Elomi Energise (can't link to lingerie manufacturers at work, sorry!)

It's a sports bra, but does the lifting & separating thing so it looks great under a shirt (as long as the shirt is not _too_ low cut.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:59 AM on August 1, 2012

Wacoal. Nordstrom. Best looks to durability to support ratio around.

Seriously, though, is it really that much trouble to put your bras in one of these? It takes 20 seconds and makes a huge difference.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Check out Prima Donna bras- they have some fabulous styles that are not lace. Although I found their lace styles pretty bombproof, too. That said, please don't put your bras in the washing machine! I'd wear them directly into the shower and wash them on my body before I'd throw my nice bras in the death machine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2012

I'm a 32/34DDD myself, and I adore the Dream Tisha tshirt bra by Le Mystere - strongly recommend it.
posted by dotgirl at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm at the opposite end of the boobage spectrum from you but these Hannah bras from Aerie are the best things ever. They're smooth, lightweight, almost no padding, don't show under shirts, convertible, and I wash/dry them on hot once in a blue moon and they hold up really well. All the bras I've bought from Aerie have been excellent.
posted by jabes at 11:01 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys - keep the suggestions coming! And one more piece of info: 90% of the time, I don't do my own laundry (yes, I am very lucky!), so while I COULD technically TRY to implement the lingerie bag idea, it might or might not actually become a consistent "thing".
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:05 AM on August 1, 2012

Calvin Klein makes attractive, sturdy, nonlacy bras with good support. I wash all my bras in a lingerie bag and don't put them in the dryer, but the CK ones seem pretty hardy compared to others of the same age which I have.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:07 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lane Bryant/Cacique bras. They are a plus sized company but the bras go down to a size 36 and I find them damn near indestructable and as they are mostly designed for big boobed girls they are super supportive. You can get pretty patterns, but for the most part the bras are pretty simple with no dangly bits but fun colour choices. I am super tough on bras and I can get 12 months out of one of their bras easily, I average 3 months for most other brands.
posted by wwax at 11:10 AM on August 1, 2012

Nordstrom has lots of good options for DDD and up. I have a few Chantelle t-shirt bras from there that are flattering and not frilly. Go in person so you can find the best size and style.
posted by matildaben at 11:19 AM on August 1, 2012

posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:22 AM on August 1, 2012

Le Mystere, especially the Tisha line. Seriously supportive, looks great under t-shirts and knits, very sturdy and will stand up to a fair amount of abuse.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also highly recommend PrimaDonna bras - they are build tough, and also provide great lift for people with large tas. (I'm a 36F.)

I don't do my own laundry, either, but no one touches my bras! :)

I am a very lazy person when it comes to bras, but I soak/rinse my bras in the sink (max 10 min) I then pat them dry and let them air dry. No putting in the washing machine or anything! I used to have this stuff called Soak that cut out the rinsing part too. I do this once a week. It's a hassle, but my bras fit so much better after a nice soak and helps retain the support I need.

If you are in NYC, go to Le Petite Coquette or TownShop. You can also order online from both shops. When I lived in DC, Coup de Foundre was touted as a good place to go though I cannot personally vouch for it, friends who have gone love it.

Also if you are an American DD, you may find that you are an 'E' in European style bras like PrimaDonna. Just an FYI!
posted by carmenghia at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2012

Wacoal will not have your size, I have enough trouble with finding unpadded C cups in my starter bandwidth. They are a Japanese brand and it shows in their cuts and sizing.

Triumph has lasted me years in their basic underwires - I tend to treat bras rather like you and even their lace type detail does not fray or tear. I recommend them highly for the "someone else is doing my laundry" situations. (though I do add the lingerie bag for the industrial machines they use here in Kenya) - the website link may not be geographically accurate as my physical location is confusing their system as I try to seek something for the US for you.

St. Michael/Marks and Spencer are another brand (UK) who do very good long lasting bras but they're more expensive and more delicate than Triumph. During this search I noticed there are still St Michael bras on sale in eBay!
posted by infini at 11:49 AM on August 1, 2012

I also wanted to add that you really should go for a fitting. There are vast differences in the cuts & other vagaries of bras, even if they are the same size. It can make all the difference between being comfortable and having wires digging into your armpits all day. I had one recently and was pretty surprised how differently bras of the same size can fit. The fitter was amazing and had excellent recommendations for me. She mentioned that the best way to keep your bras in good shape is to alternate them so you aren't wearing the same one every day. Apparently, wearing the same bra for days at a stretch allows the acids in your skin to start breaking down the elastic--therefore, the bra wears out more quickly.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2012

Marie Jo. They're pricey, but they're pretty and detailed without being fragile or unwearable under knits, they're wonderfully supportive, and they do not stretch out. I've had my Ines for two years and it's still going strong.

I also love my Panache Tango bra, which is similarly sturdy but much more affordable.

Both of the above bras run true to size in my experience.

As for washing, I stopped throwing my bras in the machine once I discovered Soak - you just squirt a bit in a sinkful of water and put your bras in for a while. No rinsing or rubbing or anything. I'm super lazy about laundry, but for me this is even easier than machine washing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2012

Check out Freya. They make bras for a wide range of sizes and are on the pretty/sexy end of the spectrum, but of my collection (to fit my 34Js, so you know I kinda need hydraulic devices and other serious engineering) the Freya bras are always the longest lasting and sturdiest ones out there. They do some frilly lacy things, but primarily they do lovely bright colors and prints on a very well-made structure, with excellent seams and hardware. You can find them at Nordstrom's and specialty lingerie boutiques, and most places online.

I have to say that ever since I started using a lingerie bag the life of my bras has increased... infinitely. It's no more difficult than remembering to put in fabric softener or something, and sometimes when I've lost my lingerie bag, I've just jammed my bras inside a long sleeved shirt, tied the bottom shut and tied the arms together, and used that instead. The difference it makes is that the hooks are contained and the straps don't catch on anything. So really all you need to do is wrap your bras loosely in something - anything - and it will make them last so much longer. When you're paying $80 at the very least for a bra, it's really really worth it. Since you don't do your own laundry, you can just tuck your bras into other clothes (or lingerie bag) before you hand the washing off.
posted by Mizu at 12:01 PM on August 1, 2012

Wacoal will not have your size, I have enough trouble with finding unpadded C cups in my starter bandwidth. They are a Japanese brand and it shows in their cuts and sizing.

Wacoal will actually have your size, but it probably won't fit right. I recently bought a 34DD bra by them and it fit me like a C cup.

I like Bali. I recently bought this one and it fits like a dream (although you can't really wear it under a tank top, unfortunately).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2012

Yeah, I hear ya: ain't no way I'm going to do the saponified-unicorn-tears thing (hah! love it!) either. Playtex and Bali are actually pretty good at surviving the rigors of the washing machine, and while a lot of the Playtex styles are a little short on 'pretty', Bali is a bit sexier.

If you don't already wear them, I find underwires are better at the separate & shape bit.
posted by easily confused at 12:13 PM on August 1, 2012

My mom is full busted and plus sized and swears by her Wacoal bras. They are all she has worn for more than 5 years. This site shows they have sizes up to 42DDD and some styles even come in G and H (no experience with this site personally however).
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 12:18 PM on August 1, 2012

90% of the time, I don't do my own laundry (yes, I am very lucky!), so while I COULD technically TRY to implement the lingerie bag idea, it might or might not actually become a consistent "thing".

This is the situation in our house where I do most of the laundry. The solution was that if my wife wanted her underwear washed together in the gentle/cold cycle and the bras in the bag, fine: it all goes in its own small wicker basket/hamper thing, distinct from the rest of the dirty laundry, and the bras go in the bag which is in the basket. This way I just take the whole kaboodle to the basement when she tells me she's getting low and the skivvies need washing. Not having to try to find the wee dainties while sorting laundry makes the special treatment a lot easier.

That said, I think the air drying rather than putting it into the dryer is a way bigger contributor to extended lifespan than special washer treatment. Nothing makes that long process any faster but if you buy enough stuff that it only needs to be done roughly monthly that makes it easier to stomach.
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have any specific brand suggestions for you, but since you mentioned Philly and a willingness to travel, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Intimacy store in the King of Prussia Mall. I haven't been to that location, but my bra fitting experience at their Chicago store was fantastic. They have a really wide range of sizes (and I say this as someone who wears one of those "weird" small band/big cup sizes Victoria's Secret doesn't believe exists), and they will be happy to listen to your needs and help you find the right bra for you.
posted by jessypie at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2012

Nthing Wacoal. I wash mine like you do (hang dry), and they last quite well.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2012

I too recommend getting fitted. At this point I've had nearly half a dozen good experiences at the Town Shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You might not want to admit to them that you'll be throwing your bra in the washing machine (they consider this an act of hideous disrespect), but you can emphasize your desire for longevity and sturdiness, and you can also reject any that don't seem sexy enough; they'll keep bringing you more and more options till you're satisfied. They carry most of the brands that people have recommended above (I tend to get Wacoal bras there), and a well-fitting bra will always last longer than one whose lack of support or gaps only get worse with time.
posted by nevers at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2012

Marie-Jo/Prima Donna, lacy and non-lacy bombproof bra's that are pretty and sexy and feminine and comfortable. I will wear nothing else (and just throw them in the washing machine).
posted by lioness at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2012

nthing Prima Donna and Freya bras. I have two Prima Donna Deauville bras which are absolutely awesome for support, shape, comfort and durability (despite the lacy fabric). My Freya bra is also really comfortable, although the straps have started to wear on it now so it's time to make it an 'indoor only' bra.
posted by essexjan at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2012

Nordstrom. Wacoal (I am wearing a 36 DDD *right now*). Or Freya (I'm a 36DD a/k/a 36E in those). Or Chantelle (I have one that is 36DD and very feminine & sexy). All are pricey but Nordstrom often has a sale rack. I got a Freya there for $38 last week.

The issue with laundry is that most brash - even the sturdy brands are made of material prone to strecth out or melt if put on high heat or washed too hot. If you aren't doing your own laundry, maybe invest in 3 or 4 lingerie bags and drop your bras in the hamper/bin already bagged up. The dryer is not very good for bras and will definitely effect lifespan.

I think brands vary a lot in shape - a busty friend cannot wear Wacoal but loves Mystere but I am the opposite - it is not so much a size issue as a shape and fit issue so you may have to try a few brands.

Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2012

Wacoal absolutely has DD and DDD cups. I'm wearing one right now.

And you put the bra in the lingerie bag and then put it in the laundry.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:52 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will also highly recommend going to get fitted. I went to the Nordstrom in the Short Hills Mall, and the service I received was stellar. I ended up being a size that I'd never seen in a store before - 38F. I had been trying to fit into DD and DDD for so long, and was so frustrated that I couldn't find something that fit correctly. It's amazing what a well-fitted bra will do for you. Seriously.

I have several Freya bras and I love them. I too wear my bras to death before washing them. But I have started using a lingerie bag, and I think that's helped keep my bras in good shape. They definitely take a lickin' but keep on tickin'.
posted by MsVader at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2012

You have MeFiMail.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:06 PM on August 1, 2012

I ordered a few of these last year [4/11] for my wife and they are still in service and apparently comfortable in a similar size, washed with no special treatment aside from hanging them to dry.
posted by chazlarson at 2:24 PM on August 1, 2012

I have worn Decent Exposures bras for most of my adult life. My most recent order from them were a size 44I, so I know about big breasts. They make bras to order, and their staff are amazingly good at doing phone consultations. I finally got bras that fit me perfectly after I called them and described what the bras I had were doing; they knew exactly what I needed to get a better fit. They helped me take good measurements, and they will do at least some adjustments for free. Their bras come in all kinds of colors and various fabrics; their cotton eyelet bras are very cute (but very light support). I recently tried a bra in velour, their most supportive fabric, and found that it gave me a pretty darn nice line under dresses and blouses, with neither mono-boob or droop. I was also surprised that the velour is very comfortable for me in hot weather; I ordered two more bras just like it in different colors almost immediately.

They wear like iron (I get years out of these bras), and I just launder them by dropping them into the wash with my other clothes. They may not meet all your needs but might make a good addition to your repertoire.
posted by not that girl at 2:55 PM on August 1, 2012

As others have said above - Freya.

I take my 34DD's on marathon runs. The only sports bra I'm willing to consider is the Underwire Freya Active. Yes. An Underwire Sports Bra. (It's a little bullet bra-y when you first get it, but it relaxes a bit once it's washed.)

That Freya bra is incredibly durable. I've got two that I've been rotating for months - including wearing them under my wetsuit for ocean swims. They are still holding up like rock stars.
posted by 26.2 at 3:05 PM on August 1, 2012

I always thought of Chantelle as a froofy brand, but then I went to Nordstrom and tried on this model. I went back a few weeks later and bought a second in another color. The elastic is high quality, there are no bits and bobs to fall off, the "foam" is really minimal, and support is very good. I wore them in Davis on 100 degree days and was surprisingly comfortable. I am also not a lingerie bag or hand washer- these have been through the regular washer with everything else, and have been doing just fine. I wanted convertible straps but you should look at their other styles if that's not important to you.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:14 PM on August 1, 2012

I love my Freya swimsuit but helloooo expensive.

The bras I wear all the time are Aerie, because a) cheap, and b) the lightly lined is actually lightly lined--it gives you a smooth outline without adding more to your chest. The sizing is not terribly consistent across styles, that is if a Katie fits you then a Sofie probably won't, but the good news is that if a Katie doesn't fit you then a Sofie probably will. If you can go to an actual Aerie store they have a big box* in the back with all the bra sizes that they make, even the uncommon ones, so you can try them on and then order online. Also they are always offering new prints/colors and always on sale, so it's easy to build up a collection of fancy ones.

*Lit. a big chest.
posted by anaelith at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: Aiiiiie - the hive is the BEST! I'm going to try out some of the local suggestions (Intimacy, a recommendation via MeMail and Aerie) and report back with the results. And yes, I will probably cave and buy some Soak - that stuff sounds like magic.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:58 PM on August 1, 2012

Explain to whoever does your laundry what a lingerie bag is, and that it is not necessary to remove the items from the bag. If it's an institutional laundry this might not work so well.

The heat from the dryer causes a lot of wear on elastic and stretch fabrics, if you can get a bra made without either of these things it should last a lot longer.
posted by yohko at 5:04 AM on August 2, 2012

I wear a 34 D and do much the same laundry procedure as you do, and I'm very happy with Victoria's Secret. I have found that even their lacy bras are pretty indestructable - don't think I've ever ripped one - although their panties are less so and end up in shreds pretty quickly. So maybe not as great if you're looking for the matching set, but just on the bra side, I've been happy. My current favorite is the lined demi in the body by victoria collection - you can get it in all-over lace that's quite sturdy, it's cute, and very comfy (lined enough so there's no nipple showing, but no padding).
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:09 PM on August 2, 2012

Response by poster: Update, for those of you keeping track of my boobs at home: I purchased two Freya bras from Nordstrom Rack (if you're willing to wear a bra which is "sooooo last season!", you can get a Freya for $25 there, as opposed to $60+ at Nordstrom proper). I've been wearing them incessantly for a month or so, and they are WONDERFUL. They're really well-constructed, super-supportive and best of all, neither of them has any lace or other stuff which is easily-destroyed. I love my Freyas SO much, in fact, that I have begun doing the unthinkable: washing them by hand (it's not too bad - I take them in the shower with me and hang them over the curtain rod to dry).
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:17 AM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: FURTHER update: it has been nine months, and I have found the bra I was looking for. The Freyas weren't quite supportive enough, BUT!... I discovered Panache's "Cleo" line, and they are EXACTLY what I was looking for. They're really heavy on the powermesh, so you can wear the hell out of them and they will NOT stretch out (it's a miracle!). They are by far the most rugged decent-looking bra I've ever encountered, and they are frequently on sale at Nordstrom Rack.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

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