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The wonderful world of lingerie can be a daunting place, bra-shopping in particular. Sizing is tricky, pricing can sometimes feel off-putting and let’s not forget the memorable refrain of “Oh, I want to lose five pounds before I buy something new.” All of those factors—along with a dissatisfaction with my own shape and size—are the cause of my bra-shopping procrastination. Maybe you can relate.

Since bra buying is a necessity for most it made sense for Amanda and me to cover lingerie in this column. And do a photoshoot. (A photoshoot!) My knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion was, “absolutely not.” I’ve struggled with self confidence in my body, and now, post babies, that issue is further compounded. I did not feel prepared to bare all and showcase my stretch marks and post motherhood belly on the glossy pages of a magazine.

GET THE LOOK
Nude Bra: by Marie Jo ($137), Nude Underwear: by Marie Jo ($65), Cashmere robe: by Arlotta ($375)
Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

But I thought about it some more. This month’s Maine Women Magazine highlights women leaders—women in positions of power. Power means different things to different people. To me, power is self-confidence, because with confidence you give yourself the power to pursue absolutely anything you set your mind to. I chose to take pride in who I am and how I got here. I empowered myself to be confident in my body, because beauty comes in every shape and every size, and I do not need to be a size 0 to do a lingerie shoot for the pages of a magazine.

Back to the bras. Shopping for bras can be overwhelming and confusing. There is no universal size chart or grading method, and sizes can fluctuate for different bras, even from the same manufacturer. We opted to forgo the frustration and enlisted the services of the team at Aristelle, located at 92 Exchange St. in Portland, to offer some tips for finding a great-fitting bra. (And show off some really pretty undergarments.)

GET THE LOOK
Black Lace Bra: by Simone ($110), Black Lace Underwear: by Simone ($65), Black velvet and lace robe: by Natori ($250)
Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

1. CALL ON BRA-FITTING EXPERTS

Even if you invested a small fortune in your wardrobe, an ill-fitting undergarment will detract from the look of even the most well-tailored pieces. If you’ve never had a bra fitting, find a local specialty shop (let us know if you need help finding one, we’d be happy to assist) and schedule an appointment. A knowledgeable associate will measure your rib cage and bust, assess your breast shape and how your current bra fits, and extrapolate from there which size and style will suit you best. This guidance is immeasurably helpful as you walk into the world of underwear.

Keep in mind, however, that breasts can change size and shape throughout the menstrual cycle as well as throughout your life, so bra size can change regularly.

GET THE LOOK
Amethyste Bra: by Divine ($150), Amethyste Underwear: by Divine ($44), Sheer robe: by Christine ($295)
Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

2. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE UNDERBAND

Most of the support your bra provides should come from the underband, not the shoulder straps. When you are assessing fit, the underband should remain level all the way around your body—even when you move. You should be able to slide two fingers underneath and it should not pinch. Interestingly enough, rather than providing support, your shoulder straps are key in making sure the cups fit properly. When you are adjusting them, it’s okay if they are set to different lengths, as most people’s breasts vary slightly in size.

3. DON’T LET THE CUP RUNNETH OVER

When assessing cup size, be aware that many people tend to purchase bras with cups that are too small. This leads to “quattro-boob” as breast tissue spills over the top. If the cups are too big, you’ll notice wrinkles in the fabric or gaping in the cups. Aim for a snug fit. Also check the center front of the bra. This is the part that sits between your breasts, and it should rest flat against the chest. If your bra has a center front that does not sit flush against your body, you may be wearing cups that are too small, although this is also an issue for those with wide-set breasts with bras that do not have an underwire.

GET THE LOOK
Blue Bra: Lilly Rose by Empreinte ($198), Blue Underwear: Lilly Rose by Empreinte ($94)
Photo by Amanda Whitegiver

4. CHECK THE UNDERWIRE

If you wear bras with underwire, make sure the fit is good and the underwire isn’t resting on any breast tissue (including under your arms). The underwire should frame the breast, not press on it. You can check the fit by simply pressing on the underwire to confirm that it’s not squishing your breast.

Amy Power and Amanda Whitegiver are co-founders of East Coast Inspired, a fashion and lifestyle blog. Amy is a mother of two (and the model featured in this column’s photos) who spends her days dreaming of the ultimate craft room and intending to go for a run. Amanda is a lifestyle family photographer who adores dark chocolate and singing with her two daughters.