6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Lingerie Before I Started Buying It
Lingerie doesn’t have to be impossible to understand.
BY CORA HARRINGTON
OCT 3, 2018
Lingerie can be a weird, confusing world full of intimidating jargon and unique terminology. I’ve been writing about intimate apparel for the last 10 years (primarily as The Lingerie Addict), but I still vividly remember how overwhelmed I felt in the early days of my own lingerie journey.
I didn’t know the difference between a balconette bra and a demi cup or why items like corsets had such high prices (or so it seemed), or even why it was better to handwash my lingerie instead of tossing it in the washing machine. And just when I thought I’d figured things out, I would learn something new (like the difference between a lace and an embroidery!) and feel like a clueless novice all over again.
lingerie is also a beautiful, complex, fascinating niche, one where the finest of details matter and where learning the origins of a garment can be just as exciting as actually wearing it. Did you know, for example, that the first bra patents appeared in the 1880s? Or that the earliest bras were more like bralettes than what we think of as a “traditional” bra today?
I’ve picked up a few facts and tidbits over the last decade, and here are some things I wish I had known before having to learn them the long way.
There is very little consistency across lingerie brands.
This is absolutely frustrating. However, it’s also the best possible solution for you, the consumer. One of the most confusing parts of my early lingerie journey was trying to understand why I couldn’t achieve that pushed-together cleavage look Victoria’s Secret made popular. I tried so many pushup bras—making use of the “Add a cup size”–style bras by adding one cup, then two, then three—only to realize after years of trial and error that this particular look just wasn’t feasible for my breast shape.
Nowadays, I run across so many comments from lingerie wearers who wonder why every bra brand can’t make every size and style in the exact same way. While I understand that sentiment (because trying on a ton of bras is time-consuming), that kind of standardization would help almost no one. Think about it. Our bodies (and our bosoms) come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Your breasts can be full on top, full on the bottom, or full all around. They can be widely spaced or narrowly spaced. They can be pendulous or teardrop shaped or tuberous. If every single bra was cut in the exact same way, most of us would never be able to find that perfect bra. That lack of consistency means that if one bra doesn’t work for you, you can still try another.
Figuring out what your breast shape is can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the concept, and this is one area where visiting a local lingerie boutique can be helpful, since they can help offer guidance on which shape you are (and therefore which bra styles will best suit you).
Size expansions in the bra industry can take up to four or five years.
Years ago, I used to wonder why brands seemed so slow to expand their size ranges. In this era of fast fashion, when runway-to-retail turnaround can take place in as little as a week, many people assume that every fashion brand is like a Zara or a Fashion Nova. But bras are feats of engineering that require a high level of skill and precision at every stage, from design to fabric cutting to sewing. To take a bit of lace, a piece of wire, and a few hook-and-eye closures, and turn them into something that can shape and support the weight of your bust for hours at a time is almost miraculous. However, this kind of design can’t happen overnight, and it’s not unusual for new bra shapes and sizes to take upwards of two, three, or even more years from the earliest planning stages to retail.