Shopping for underwear sounds either mundane or glamorous, depending on your point of view -- but it can also be daunting.
"People have no idea what they're doing," said Bonnie Kaufman, "because it's like buying a mattress. What do you really know about mattresses?"
Kaufman, the president and founder of the Creative Woman: The Wizard of Bras boutique in Monrovia -- which stocks 49 brands of brassieres -- is talking about women and bra shopping. More specifically, she's calling out the sorry state of sagginess that exists in the average American woman's bra wardrobe.
Of the handful of skilled bra-fitters in the L.A. area, Kaufman, who launched her store 36 years ago, may be the most veteran.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Bra shops: In the July 17 Image section, an article about stores that specialize in bras gave an out-of-date address and phone number for the Miss Stevens shop, which has moved. The new address is 2235 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, and the phone number is (424) 208-6590.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 24, 2011 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Bra shops: A July 17 article about stores that specialize in bras gave an out-of-date address and phone number for the Miss Stevens shop, which has moved. The new address is 2235 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, and the phone number is (424) 208-6590.
But ask any local fitter what the primary issues are with most women's bras and you'll hear the same thing: We buy bras with cups that are too small and bands (the part that hooks around the ribcage) that are too loose.
The result? Bras that don't support the breasts properly, and lead to poor posture, shoulder and back indentations, back aches and "the tug" -- a band that creeps up the back, necessitating constant readjustment.
And let's not forget that an ill-fitting bra on a larger chest gives the appearance of extra pounds, since the bosoms encroach on the waist region. Not a good look.
Ready to raise your profile? Here's where to go to get a top-notch fit.
Creative Woman: The Wizard of Bras
If you can't find your perfect fit among the 18,000 bra styles at Wizard of Bras (as it's commonly known), you might not be destined to wear a brassiere at all. The boutique, which Kaufman founded when she was a single mother of three in 1975, features a staff of experienced bra fitters ("it takes about six months to train someone," Kaufman said) who measure busts with Rolex-style precision -- under the armpits and across the top of the breasts. Customers' selections and measurements are logged into the store's computer to make future shopping a breeze. Band sizes range from teeny-tiny 28 to extra-large 58; cups range from AA to N.
The store also does on-site alterations, including lining bras with comfy material. And staffers consider it a huge part of their job to educate women on figure facts such as "every woman has one breast fuller than the other, and a slightly higher shoulder," and "there is no standard cup size beyond a D," said Kaufman, adding, "At that point, it's about the brand." Hence the enormous selection.
Prices range from $20 to $120.
1530 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia. (888) 564-9754. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Founded by Susan Nethero, a.k.a. "The Bra Whisperer," who trained under the Queen of England's longtime bra fitter June Kenton, Intimacy boutiques carry mostly European brands -- including Lise Charmel, Aubade, La Perla and Prima Donna -- which tend to be more structured and indestructible, in that old-school "Mad Men" way. Sizes at the boutique chain range from 32A to 46H (with K cups available up to a 42.)
Fitters are required to attend the company's weeklong Bra Fit Bootcamp, which Nethero usually oversees. And while the light-and-airy boutiques offer a serious selection of bras, they also take into consideration that 21-year-olds may not want to look like their moms under their T-shirts. Pretty, youthful-looking styles abound. "Lingerie styling is just as important as clothing styling," said Domenique Washington, assistant manager at the South Coast Plaza store in Costa Mesa.
Fittings begin with filling out a needs assessment card (where you can jot down your bra "issues"), then proceed with a tour of the store before moving into the dressing room, where -- instead of pulling out a tape measure -- your fitter will use "a holistic method of fit that keeps in mind the entire body," said Washington, who added, "Measuring tapes can give an inaccurate result."
Instead of relying on a tape, the fitter visually assesses what the customer has on, talks about likes and dislikes, and then, "we bring styles that complement your body, your figure and your wardrobe." The stores also offer free alterations, including tightening up loosening bands as they age -- a great little money-saver.
Core prices range from $70 to $100.
3333 Bristol St., in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. (657) 622-0595. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., in the Westfield Century City Mall, Los Angeles. (310) 734-8598. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
One of the newest bra-fitting spots in town, Jenette Bras is also one of the most specialized -- offering fashion-forward looks exclusively for full-cup gals (women with a small-to-average band size, but D-plus cups.)