Dr. Date’s guide to bras

Banking on the success of last year’s Guide to Men’s Underwear, I bring you a whirlwind tour of the loved and hated bra. Undergarment enthusiasts fetishize it but most women see it as a necessary evil and simply tolerate it.

Form certainly does follow function in underfashion; unfortunately the function of a bra is too often to sculpt a women’s chest into another form.

Up until the 1970s a majority of bras were designed by men. This ironic arangement produced the infamous corset that was designed to shrink a woman’s waist below 19 inches. Despite the fact that the corset would damage most of a woman’s internal organs by squishing them all up into her ribcage, they were all the rage and some women went so far as to have a few lower ribs removed.

Times have thankfully changed and apparel manufacturers have responded to demands for more comfortable bras. It comes down to a simple but ancient battle between comfort and style. Whereas most women seek simple pragmatic comfort, the link between the bra and a woman’s sexuality cannot be denied. Whatever an individual woman’s idea of sexy is, a bra can be found to match it.

Without further ado, dear reader, I offer to you Dr. Date’s Guide to Bras.

Get fitted

It almost goes without saying, but most bra discomfort comes from wearing the wrong size. Stores like Dayton’s or Victoria’s Secret will fit you for free so take advantage of it. I also recommended that women don’t try to fit themselves because it’s too easy to fool yourself into a smaller or larger size.

How to put on a bra

Your first answer may be the easiest way you can, but bra experts advocate a different process. Slip the bra over your shoulders, bend forward and let your breasts fall into the cups, and then fasten in the back. This action will result in a better fit and longer comfort.

How to take off a bra

This all depends on who is taking it off, of course, but the standard clasp in the back can be a drag for everyone. Women are able to circumvent this hassle by clasping in front and then slipping the bra around their bodies, but this would seem contrary to the bra experts’ prescribed method of operation, wouldn’t it? Other options include a front clasp, a zipper, and laces.

The push-up

Push-ups like the Miracle Bra or Wonder Bra are designed to lift and push breasts together. They’ve actually been around since the sixties but have been a big hit in recent years. This lift and squeeze action is produced by underwire support and removable foam pads, also known as cookies.

The bra slip

Slips became a smash success after Elizabeth Taylor vamped around in the 1950s movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The combination of a slip and an underwire push up bra is increasingly popular today.

The longline

This family of undergarments includes the bustier, the corset, and the Merry Widow, all of which sculpt the lower torso like a girdle while pushing up the breasts. Most often these items are strapless, but a lack of straps also means a lack of support. For reference, Xena wears a leather corset with full metal cups.

Full, demi, and open cup

A full cup will cover most of the breast, while a demi cup will reveal substantially more cleavage. Open cup bras are simply the underwire support, leaving the breast fully exposed. Also of interest are peek-a-boo bras where just the nipple is uncovered and decolletÇ bras which have a very straight low line for use with similar dresses from the Sixties.

Sport bras

Comfort and fit are really the issue here for women. Designers actually started asking women what they wanted in a bra, and thus was born the sport bra. While women choose them for comfort, I find them quite sexy as well. Xena’s sidekick Gabrielle is often seen in a jazzed-up version of the versatile sport bra.

The all in one

Aka Body Briefers. These are a panty, girdle and bra combined into one garment. I was surprised to find out how popular these models are today. Put frill, lace, and a bow on it and you’ve got a teddy.

The bullet bra

You don’t see many of these anymore, but in the fifties they were essential for creating the sweater girl look. Otherwise known as the cone bra, this famously uncomfortable contraption funneled the breasts into conical, comical shapes.

No bra

Smaller breasted women can often forgo a bra, but comfort is a serious issue with larger breasted women, whose endowment can actually cause quite a bit of damage to the back. Running, jumping, or otherwise being active can result in discomfort, so finding a supportive bra with all-day comfort is quite a relief. Nipply women (a term I use with trepidation) also find a bra helpful in preventing the obvious from happening.