10 Minutes With: Susan Nethero

The Bra Whisperer

Back fat debunked: everything you ever needed to know about wearing the right bra.

Underneath it all, the bra is the great equalizer. Whether you prefer a fancy balconette demi-cup or the smooth finish of a T-shirt bra, if it doesn’t fit right, you’ll look lumpy or saggy (or both!) no matter what you’re wearing over it.

It is this power of the bra that brought Susan Nethero into the business 20 years ago. Her passion for lingerie emerged out of her own frustrations to find bras that fit her properly.

So, she trained under corsetière June Kenton, the Queen of England’s own Royal Bra Fitter, then opened a chain of lingerie stores in America called {intimacy} that specializes in all shapes and sizes--from sizes 28-44 and cups A to KK--and all styles of bras, from sports to push-up.

Today, Susan, known nationally as “The Bra Whisperer,” doesn’t just run stores in 15 cities, she is also the exclusive bra fit expert for television shows like Today, What Not to Wear and The Doctors.

We asked The Bra Whisperer to give us her wisdom on just why size matters. “Women often blame their bodies when they don’t look right but it is usually the wrong bra,” explains Nethero before revealing everything you ever wanted to know about bras.

What are the ways to tell if a woman is wearing the wrong-sized bra?
There are three ways to tell!

If she looks like her breasts are sagging or way too low then she owns the wrong fitted bra. Breasts should sit midway between the shoulder and where your elbow is when your arm is at your side.

Another way to notice is if the bra is riding up your back. This is a symptom of a bra that is too big, not too small. And contrary to popular thought, “back fat” doesn’t come from a bra that’s too small but too big. There is no such thing as back fat when the bra fits right. But when it is too large and shifts up the back, that’s when you get back bulges.

Finally, if your straps are falling down or pushing into your skin, then you’re wearing the wrong size. Only 10 percent of support comes from the straps so if your straps are too tight, then you need a new bra.

Why do you think a bra-fitting should be left to the pros?
Our expert bra fitters go through rigorous training. For one, when a woman just pulls a bra off the rack, she may not know how bras are sized. To go from a 34 C to a 36 C, for example, you’re not just getting a bra with a larger band-width. The cup will also be 1-inch deeper even though they are both “C”. Plus these fittings are free so why not take advantage of it?

How often should a woman be fitted?
We suggest once a year, unless you’ve gone through major changes in the last 12 months. And by life changes, I mean, for example, has she gained or lost 10 percent of her weight?

What are the special considerations a woman should consider when picking out a special bra for her wedding dress?
With so many strapless dresses that are beautiful, you need a strapless bra to go with it. Happily, these bras are engineered so well these days that even a G cup can wear one and stay secure.

A bra that has smooth styling, often called a t-shirt bra, is also a good idea. Many now have lovely flat lace on the side panels so you won't look lumpy either.

I also love to recommend what is called a Merry Widow style, which is really like a bustier that runs down to the hip and often has a detachable garter. It holds the tummy in a bit with boning so it is really supportive but not uncomfortable.

They also often have what is called “contour lining” or bump pads that mold to the breasts to give them great shape. Put the bump pads under the breast to push the volume up on top for more décolleté. Put the pads on the sides for a more cleavage effect.

If you’re wearing a dress with a low back, almost any bra can work with an attachment called a “low-down.” It pulls down on the back of the bra and clasps around the front.

Can you suggest the basic arsenal every woman should have in her lingerie drawers?
I say a minimum of five to seven working bras! Did you know that 57 percent of women wear four or less but this over-use tends to wear them out faster. So I recommend three basic T-shirt bras and three fashion bras. The basics include a nude convertible bra where the straps can adjust to also fit as a halter, a strapless bra, and a racer back style.

By fashion bras, I mean ones you can have fun with, like a plunge bra—because everyone wants a little cleavage sometimes, especially when wearing a V-neck top. I also love a great pushup bra for volume across the top. It makes everyone look youthful. Finally, get a sheer lace bra.

What are your recommendations for special honeymoon bras?
Pack a sheer lace, a push-up and a strapless bra. Men love sheer bras!

Thank you Susan.

--Erinn Bucklan

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