Women need the right bras to look and feel their best — bottom line. It's common knowledge, and yet, there are still so many discrepancies about what's good for you, and what's not.
To help answer the bra questions we wonder about on a regular basis, we looked to bra expert and author of The Bra Book, Jene Luciani. She debunked the most common myths cursing us in the brassiere arena:
Myth #1: Bras can endanger your health.
This is a prevalent (and unnerving) belief that women have been fretting about for over 20 years. It began with a 1991 case study that found women who didn't wear bras had a lower risk of breast cancer than those who did. The researchers who conducted the study believed it was due to factors connected to wearing a bra, which set off alarms.
"They believed that that too-tight underwire compressing mammary glands could trap toxins." explains Luciani, who researched it at length for her book. "But there is no real scientific evidence to back up this claim." Yes, that calls for collective sighs of relief for women everywhere.
Myth #2: Sleeping in a bra makes breasts perkier.
Women tend to be split right down the middle on this matter. The first half faithfully keep their bra on through the night — some for comfort, others because they firmly believe it's the secret to flouting the forces of nature — and the other half hardly makes it home before unclasping that baby off. Sorry to disappoint the former, but sleeping in your favorite T-shirt bra is not what's going to keep 'em pert. What will?
"Wearing a supportive bra over time can help, especially when exercising and breasts are significantly stretching or bouncing up and down," says Luciani. "Other than that, there aren't many ways to really avoid it." Le sigh.
Myth #3: Bras sizes are the same across brands.
Much like a size 6 dress can yield varied interpretations across different clothing retailers, bra brands have different sizing. "Unfortunately, there is no consistency at all," says Luciani. "Each brand has their own 'fit model'. Plus, you can be a different size for several styles within the same brand."
To ensure you don't walk out of the store with something that doesn't fit, get fitted on-site and try on several (and we mean several!)styles.
Myth #4: The letter determines the size of the cup.
If you've ever heard the term 'sister size' at a bra fitting, it's because another style can hold the same volume of cup (i.e. density of boob) depending on band size. "The letter correlates with the cup size," says Luciani. "However, that is determined based on the calculation between the two measurements." Word to the wise: Even if you were an ace in calculus back in high school, always leave the math to your bra specialist.
Myth #5: The average bra size is in the B-range.
Luciani estimates that it's somewhere around a C, but in reality it might be larger — more like a 34DD. But this myth sheds light on a bigger problem: Women often wear the wrong bra size.
"Many women are fitting themselves into the sizes most commonly found in stores instead of getting a proper fitting and a truer size," says Luciani. "On top of that, bra makers know what sizes tend to sell the most, and so those become the 'average' sizes." Full disclosure: As conscience as we try to be about wearing proper bras, we're so guilty of the grab-and-go when we hit the stores.
Myth #6: You can just throw your bras in the washing machine.
Picking up our dry-cleaning is trying enough — hand-washing our underthings is the last thing we want to add to the list. Alas, the well-being of our bras, and thus our cleavage, could be at stake.
"The washing machine drum can crush cups and stretch straps if they snag, and hot water can break down the elasticity of the bra" says Luciani. "So, if you want to go the machine route, hook the bra and place into a mesh bag, and wash in cool water with a gentle detergent."
However, if you want to play it safe, you can hand-wash your bras by soaking them in a sink with lingerie wash, and lay them out flat to dry.
Myth #7: You don't have to wash your bra that often.
We don't wash our bras as much as we could be. Still, we thought every week was totally kosher. But, it looks like we could all be a bit more hygienic, as well as conscience of how not cleaning our bras effects the structure. "The dirt and oil in our skin can break down the elasticity of the bra," explains Luciani. But! So can over-washing. So find the sweet spot, and wash your bra after every few wears.