Last week, I promised to provide assistance with shopping for your wedding dress underwear, and it’s my intention to do so after a fashion. In most cases, if there is a particular subject of which I have no personal experience, I am able to carry out any necessary research and – I hope – provide relevant, accurate observations, recommendations, support, help and advice. That’s the theory behind what I do, anyway.
In this case, given the delicate nature of the post and the critical imperative that if the bride gets only one thing right, she absolutely must get this right, I defer in some circumstances to people who know better.
Essentially, whilst I am able to proffer my expertise to those ladies blessed (or cursed, depending on how you view it) with the ample-bosom-small-frame body-type, I cannot write with authority about either very slender or very curvaceous ladies. (The irony being, of course, that having since had a baby and breastfed, I’d love nothing more than to be so-cursed…?) So what I had initially intended to be a comprehensive guide for all women, will be mostly geared towards brides with similar issues to those I experienced myself. Having said that, I would imagine that my own underwear solutions could theoretically be applied to all shapes and sizes – I just can’t guarantee it.
For other body types, I can merely point you in the right direction and wish you great, great luck…
The Anatomy of the Ample-Bosom-Small-Frame Body-Type
It is a universally accepted truth that the Taj Mahal is a stunning piece of architecture, a truly beautiful feat. Imagine for a moment, if you will, the utter devastation that would befall it had the architects miscalculated, or the builders misbuilt(?) the footings and foundations. An undeniably majestic and imposing masterpiece would long ago have been ruined, literally.
The above analogy gives some indication of the havoc insubstantial or poorly fitting bridal undercrackers have the potential of wreaking. Though the hourglass figure is highly regarded, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be: clothes shopping can be a pig – bras can only be bought from specialists (read expensive); lots of pretty summery clothes are ruled out entirely unless you are partial to the hooker look; and, of course, shopping for wedding undergarments is enough to reduce even the most self-possessed woman to a meltdown of Bridezilla proportions, culminating in the serious contemplation of buying a different dress altogether. And don’t even get me started on swimwear. Also, I’m not sure anybody would ever describe me as self-possessing – it wasn’t pretty.
Before we go any further, this absolutely goes without saying, but based on various statistics I often see bandied about, I shall deign to mention it anyway:
If you’ve not recently (or ever!) been professionally fitted for a bra, make sure to do so before you start shopping.
(For those of you who are modest, rest assured you will be measured over the top of your underwear.)
I have always found Debenhams to be very good, but I am sure other department stores are equally fine. (Having said that, during my pregnancy I was measured – very badly – at a well-known children’s department store. I was told by the lady in question that I had been incorrectly measured in Debenhams using an inaccurate formula. I had to return my maternity bras for a different size, ascertained using my own limited knowledge and a degree of common sense; the kind of common sense that sets alarm bells ringing when you have four boobs instead of two. You’ve been warned…)
In terms of underwear requirements, there are essentially three awkward dress-types that need to be catered for. All others should fall into one of these categories: the plunging neckline; the backless; and the strapless/halter. Let’s take a look:
Frankly, I am not convinced that this wedding dress design was intended for anyone other than the waspish, waif-like Keira Knightley. If you are determined however, then firstly, you’re a braver woman than I; and secondly, you will need to nab yourself a bra or bodysuit with a corresponding plunge. These are available from most department stores.
Okay ladies, it goes without saying that the halter is the simplest fix; in fact I would be surprised if most of you have not already been through the trials and errors of finding the perfect halter bra for your summer holidays. Just in case, my recommendations as follows…
I find Figleaves is a good starting place for well-fitting bras. They offer several different options in DD+, and they are sturdy enough for the larger-bosomed woman. Even better, if you have difficulty finding bras to cater for a small back, there is plenty of choice on this website.
You will find that much of the support afforded by a strapless bra comes from the longline design. And this is precisely why backless bras are so difficult for the buxom lady.
First things first:
Do not, under any circumstances, consider a stick-on bra**.
Let’s cast our minds back for a moment to the Taj Mahal analogy. Now, imagine it were crumbling due to insufficient foundations. How useful do you suppose some Blu Tack might prove in preventing the building from collapse? Of course this is an exaggerated metaphor, but the same principle applies. We are basically trusting a heavy weight and gravity to some weak adhesive. FAIL.
So what did I find to work for me in my backless wedding dress?
The saving grace for me was that my dress had straps. I’m going to go ahead and take a punt that any woman cursed with an obscene cleavage is unlikely to choose a dress that is both backless and strapless – brides should, of course, retain some decorum; this is easily achieved by covering up the front or the back, rather than displaying both. (To be frank, if you find a dress that is both backless and strapless and you wear it successfully, escaping any inadvertent flashing, bras hats off to you. Please pop by the comments section below and explain this incredible feat – with all due credit to the brassiere manufacturers, naturally!)
Going back to the longline strapless bras I mentioned earlier which provide the critical support required for a busty lady; of course this is more difficult when it is necessary to hide the back of the bra. There are a couple of ways around this:
This nifty little creation simply clips onto the clasp at the back of a standard bra, wraps around your waist, and then attaches to the other clasp. However, having tried it with limited success, I would dissuade well-endowed readers from this option. Unfortunately, this idea is nice in theory but rather falls down in practice (excuse the pun).
Well-fitting bras are essential for all, but particularly so for a large chest. A tight enough band is the difference between having support or having pendulums. Ergo, reducing the back of the bra to a thin strap wound around your middle is not only uncomfortable, but liable to result in slippage.
My wedding dress was slinky and very unforgiving. So, almost by accident, I discovered the answer to my problem.
I purchased a bodysuit comprising a short slip with built in pants, tummy control panel, and a supportive lip that sits below the bust. The back is very low; the straps very close to the arms. Admittedly, this contraption did not even have a bra built into it. However, between the straps keeping the shapewear firmly in place, and the structured cups of my perfectly altered dress – it worked! Everything stayed where it ought to – no mishaps. (Okay, yes, I did mention visual evidence of an undesirable situation from my wedding day, but I can confirm it was in no way related to exposure of my chest.)
Different types of shapewear are available, and I did try some with built in bras. Unfortunately, they tend to be designed for women of perfect proportions and are available to buy in dress sizes. As women built like myself will be only too aware, buying a dress size as opposed to a bra size will result in either wearing the equivalent of a tent, or sausages escaping both under your arms and beneath your chin. Hence the wear-your-own-bra option being a winner.
**If your dress is not substantial enough in the cup area to go braless (I know, this is almost always a complete and udder <ahem> no-no), you may find a stick-on that works in tandem with your shapewear. Having said that, I personally despise them; and for anyone requiring proper support up top, with the help of a good dressmaker, stick-on bras can and should be vetoed.
So there you have it, alas – no miracle solution. It will almost certainly be a case of beating your bosoms into submission with a firm hand, or firm-hold undies at any rate.
My best piece of advice, then? If you know underwear may pose a problem for you, keep this in mind when shopping for your dress, and don’t set your heart on any gown until you have figured out what undies will work with it. This little nugget of wisdom of course applies to women of all shapes and sizes.
A final observation
A lot of the lingerie I have recommended barely deserves that name – it’s not exactly beautiful, after all. Alas, your wedding day is not the time to be precious about sexy undergarments. On this day, first and foremost, it is there to serve a purpose. In fact, most shapewear is not ugly per se, it is simply plain. And, of course, you have your honeymoon to follow… Besides which, my post The Wedding Night Secret Nobody Talks About examines the reason your wedding lingerie is almost inconsequential!
If you’ve found any other fantastic underwear solutions I’ve not covered here, sharing is caring my friends – please let us all know in the comments below.