For much of my life, $100 was an average amount of money for me to spend on a bra. I’m a size HH, like my initials, and I learned very quickly growing up that if I wanted to find the right fit for my bust — one that allowed me to stand taller and my clothes to drape better — I was going to have to pay for it. And also, of course, that I was going to have to shop mostly at old-lady lingerie boutiques and be stuck with a palette of mushroom.
That all changed six years ago. I fell in love with a lovely British man, and on our first trip to visit his family, he suggested I check out a shop called Bravissimo; it had locations all over the U.K., including one in the same pretty suburb of Birmingham as his hometown. (The backstory behind the company is that it was founded by a Cambridge graduate who, after her breasts grew in pregnancy, was appalled by her lack of options for actually sexually bras and nontraumatic shopping experiences.) What first struck me about the store was its rainbow of color options, from lilac to emerald; as I inspected the selection more closely, I noticed that the prices were mostly under $100 and that the bra straps were not the width of seat belts. Was it possible they were also supportive?
In addition to the Bravissimo house brand, the shop carried a curated selection of equally well-priced options from other lingerie companies, including one called Panache, which was originally founded in England, too. The Panache Clara style was made of stretchy lace that moulded to my breasts and had inner side-support slings that noticeably perked me up. And despite being so femininely detailed and beautiful to look at, it turned out to appear perfectly smooth under my sweater. It would go on to become my favorite bra of all time. I left Bravissimo that day with a bag full of other under-$100 purchases, too, like a built-in-bra camisole — although that’s the sort of tank top I’d previously never been able to pull off, in this case, the construction of the lightweight cotton blend was sturdy enough to hold my breasts securely in place.
As for the U.K. sizing, I would recommend taking measurements to make sure you get it right. But if it helps to have some context, I will note that, compared with the HH I wear in the Panache Clara, I am a size F in the U.S.-sized Fantasie bras, which have a similar shape. (Although I should say, the Fantasie style is not comparable to the Clara in terms of comfort; it does indeed have a rounding and firming effect on my bust, but its synthetic material can feel like its made of steel — and like you can’t wait to go home and de-bra. My Bravissimo experience helped me realize I don’t have to live like this.)
A further development is that in 2019, Bravissimo opened a shop right here in Soho; its first outside Great Britain. That’s also around the time I married the aforementioned Brit, and for our honeymoon I packed not only my Panache Claras but also the unusually soft Cami Sleep Bra ($68), which is also ideal for never-leave-the-house COVID days. Last April, I gave birth to a baby girl, and the Sugar Candy Non-Wired Bra ($60) quickly became my favorite nursing bra. Even though I’m not breastfeeding much anymore these days, it’s still in heavy rotation.
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