I am a 32DD. Unless I’m a 34F. Or a 32E. The point is, they’re big. And while this may sound enviable to some, frankly, it’s not; bra shopping has been depressing for my entire adult life. I’d go looking for a lacy décolleté number like my friends were wearing, only to be handed utilitarian-looking harnesses or turned away for lack of any stock larger than a C cup. New York, however, has multiple specialty lingerie stores, and I was certain that somewhere out there were pretty bras that would fit me.
565 Broadway, at Prince St. 212-274-9519
The last time I was in a Vic’s Secret, circa 1999, they didn’t carry bras beyond C. This time, I was fitted by Linda, an on-staff “bra expert,” who measured me, determined I was between 34D and 34DD, then gave me several styles to try. The first round were garish Xena: Warrior Princess deals—with padding! Linda recovered with two Body by Victoria unlined full-coverage bras that were comfortable and sexy in the way a T-shirt can be sexy. I got two, one black, one beige, $36 each.
Best For: Precision measurements
The Orchard Corset Center
157 Orchard St., nr. Stanton St. 212-674-0786
This is not so much a bra store as a time warp, stuck resolutely in 1968, with bra boxes piled floor to ceiling and a torn curtain covering the “dressing room.” The owner, a bewigged Orthodox woman, looked up from her crocheting when I walked in. “You’re wearing a D,” she stated in a matter-of-fact Brooklyn accent. “You’re a triple D.” That was it for measuring. She brought me a 34DD and 34DDD. Most were grandma styles, but a lacy Wacoal was $27, half what I’d see it for later at Town Shop, and a sheer, lacy, black Bali, $24.
Best For: Bargains on basics
2273 Broadway, nr. 82nd St. 212-787–2762
My first attempt at this well-stocked institution (it’s 120 years old) didn’t go well. The saleswoman brought me only itchy bras, left me alone and topless for long stretches, and rushed me—at 4:15—to choose because they were closing at 5. I figured I hit on the wrong day, and tried again. Better: a more upbeat saleswoman looked me over and determined I was a 32E, and then paraded one beautiful, comfortable bra after another. I went with a simple but sexy Prima Donna opaque black satin bra, $79. But the level of attention was still pretty weak.
Best For: Encyclopedic selection
905 Madison Ave., nr. 72nd St. 212-772-9400
I expected a little attitude at Brasmyth, since it’s on upper Madison Avenue, but not bruising insults. The petite French saleswoman mistakenly deemed me a 36C (not since high school, honey), then, when her picks didn’t fit me, she murmured, “Lose a few pounds and you’ll be perfect.” I thought I’d misheard, but later, as I was trying a turquoise bikini, she repeated: “You need to lose some weight.” Nightmares like this have kept me in ill-fitting bras for years, but I loved the bikini. I scored a Fantasie bikini top in 34E, and matching bottom in medium, $118.
Best For: Bathing suits, not service
1252 Madison Ave., at 90th St. 212-860-8366
My favorite store, though most of the bras were north of $100 and I ended up in an F (their mostly European stock, from labels like Chantelle and Aubade, runs smaller than U.S. brands). My salesperson, Dee (for real), had great taste, hovered nearby, and even gently helped place my boobs correctly in a low-cut style. If money were no object, I’d have bought a dozen; I picked a light-green-and-pink Empreinte Iris bra in 32F, $163, with matching panties, $79.
Best For: Pretty bras, great service
416 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 80th St. 212-875-9168
I didn’t expect much from Laina Jane; what’s on display looked intended for smaller women. But my salesperson, after sizing me up visually, trotted out several options and invited me to rifle through the display drawers to see if I liked anything else. I took home a Wacoal lace seamless bra, $38.
Best For: Kind, attentive service
575 Fifth Ave., at 47th St. 212-599-2223
At Ripplu, the service was methodical, attentive, and unabashed. My saleswoman dug her hands into my bra to demonstrate the “collect, channel, lift” method of proper breast wrangling. She also instructed me to start off on the loosest hooks, then move inward over time, as the bra stretches, which is inevitable. My budget was already strained, so I only got two. Score: two Fantasie balcony bras in 32F, black and nude, $50 each.
Best For: Instructive service, basic bras