Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The year I worked at Nordstrom

I am trying to complete my goal of 30 posts in 30 days and am running out of things to talk about, so it is only natural that the conversation would turn to underwear, right?

It is what it is.

Today I am going to impart my wealth of knowledge on bras.
gentlemen, this post is not for you 
{not that any boys would actually read a silly blog with "kisses" in the title!}

Let's start way back in 2006... It was December and I had just graduated with a degree in fashion, so I did what any self-respecting desperate 22 year old would do... I applied for a job at Nordstrom. (And no, it is not "Nordstroms" There is no "s" at the end, but I could care less if you call it Nordstroms or Nordy's. There are just a handful of people who care WAY too much about it's nomenclature and I'm pretty sure I met all of them during the year that I worked there. So for arguments sake, we'll refer to it as Nordstrom.)  I couldn't afford to be choosey. I mean I had just spent 80 grand on an education, I couldn't afford much anything. So when the only opening in the whole store was in the lingerie department I became a bra fit specialist.  How's that for a resume builder?

See my fancy schmancy business card?

Yeah, I kept a few for souvenirs.

Most of my daily duty was perfecting the Hanky Panky thong display (stacking 500 pairs of underwear in a color coded cascading arrangement on a round table only to watch some unsupervised kid knock them all on the floor.)


These Hanky Pankies are something like $18 each but people would buy them by the dozen. Bizarre.
But we only made money on commission, so these chonies were my bread and butter!

I will spare you the awkward stories of prank phone calls, botched boob jobs, trannies wanting to try on panties, and helping rather large ladies into super tiny spanx. Suffice it to say, I do NOT miss that job!

I will tell you that job had it's moments though. It was so humbling to help women, (some who were the same age as me) who had undergone mastectomies due to breast cancer, in their recovery phase. How fun it was to help brides pick out their honeymoon lingerie and how rewarding it was to give women confidence (while minimizing back fat :) by getting them in the right undergarments. I learned a lot at that job. Maybe more than I ever thought I wanted to know about bras and underwear, but needless to say I am going to share some possibly general knowledge, but hopefully helpful information about shopping for a bra here...

1.  When trying on a bra, put it on the last (loosest) hook because it will stretch over time, and you can bring it in as needed. If you start with it on the tightest hook you will not get as much wear out of it before it stretches out to the point of offering little support. 90% of the support of a bra is in the band. Only 10% is in the straps. Keep it snug!

2. A good fit means that the center part (between your boobs) is resting flush against your chest. If it isn't that means you need a bigger cup or a smaller band. Perhaps both.

3. Try on lots of different styles because they all fit differently. You might be a completely different size depending on the brand also.

4. An example of sizing discrepancies: A 34C could try a 32D or a 36B because if you go up in the band you go down in the cup, or conversely, if you go down in the band you go up in the cup.) This is especially frustrating and true in bras with extra padding.

5. There are a couple different ways to measure yourself for a bra. This website shows pretty much the same way we measured at Nordstrom and I think how Victoria's Secret measures too. The most helpful thing is the chart that says what band size corresponds to your chest measurement.

First- measure the distance around your chest right below your breast (after you exhale, do 15 jumping jacks, empty your bladder, and hold your breath- oh wait, no that's my routine for weighing myself. Go ahead and let all the air out of your lungs though :) 

Then if the distance is 28"-30" you wear a 32" band, 31"-33" you wear a 34" band, 34"-36" you wear a 36" band and so on.

As far as the cup sizes go, it's trial and error. You want your breasts to fill up the cup, but not spill over. One perk - ha ha, boob humor, perk :) of the job was getting to try on all the fanciest bras when we got new merchandise. And getting them for free from vendors! Trying on bras isn't super fun, but it is important.

At Nordstrom we were trained to fit a customer with this Wacoal brand of bra that usually got a response like "um, that's a grandma bra." This is because these bras are generally shapeless and always full coverage. They can be pretty, but I hated using them to determine fit.

You can expect to see something like this if you get fitted for a bra at Nordstrom.
 

I think the best type of bra to try on when determining cup size is one you would wear all the time, a basic t-shirt bra like this Maidenform one:



Admittedly plain and boring, but a nude t-shirt bra goes best with EVERYTHING. You need at least 3 of these. And they make them without underwire, but if you are bigger than a b cup you need the underwire for support. I have this basic style in nude, black, chocolate, gray, leopard, and white. They're like 2 for $15 at Costco or TJ Maxx. I opt for no push-up because I find it uncomfortable, but the light padding keeps pointy nips at bay and makes for a smoother fit.
 
DKNY also makes the best t-shirt bras.
The band is seamless which makes for a smoother look and is way more comfortable.
 

Once you have a great everyday t-shirt bra, you need a good strapless bra (for dresses and tank tops)

This Calvin Klein one is my favorite strapless.
It is super comfortable and the lace pretties it up a bit.
Then you need a racer-back bra (for racer-back shirts, duh! Also these are front closure bras so if you kink your neck or throw your back out these will spare you any further injuries from contorting your body to fasten a bra in the back. Not that that's happened to me or anything)

Natori makes the best racer backs with soft, thin material that feels like silk.
I don't own any Natori bras because they are $$$$ but perhaps try Nordstrom Rack?
Then you need a sports bra (if you're the athletic type, which I am obviously not, but even I have 4 sports bras for just in case) I don't have any recommendations here, just find one you like that holds the girls down.

Lastly, you need a plunge bra (for low necklines) enter the 7 way bra from Victoria's Secret.

This bra is great because it is the jack of all trades brassiere. I have it in nude, blush, and black and it is the only bra I take on vacations because it goes with everything. It's about $50 which is kind of insane for a bra, but I love it that much. The only thing is it has a little extra padding which can be a nuisance, and means you may have to go up in the cup. Oh bummer... I just looked on their website and it looks like they don't sell this bra anymore :( Good thing I stocked up last Summer during their annual sale. This one is comparable

You should also have a few fancy bras that are just pretty and frilly and fun. But the ones I listed above are must haves. And a good bra is worth investing in. Once you find what you like, buy three of them just in case they quit making them or you don't have time to do laundry or whatever. Oh and don't put your bras in the dryer. Ever. They will last you a couple years if you take care of them.

I will give you one more piece of advice: Go to Nordstrom to get fitted for bras and try on all the styles you like, but DON'T BUY THEM THERE because they are way overpriced. Jot down you size and the brands and styles you like and go to Nordstrom Rack, Marshall's, or TJ Maxx and get them there at a fraction of the cost.
 
Wow. I did not realize I had so much to say about undergarments. I apologize if you made it this far. Sorry!

53 comments:

  1. This is very educational!! I'm impressed with your fancy business card, and also I'm always impressed with the Hanky Panky displays. And I love the Hanky Pankys themselves, too, but not their pricetag. But one time I found some on the clearance rack at Anthro for $5!! It was a brilliant day.

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  2. First of all, I am a HUGE hanky panky fan. Thankfully my mom is the one that funds my obsession, because she was actually the one that discovered them in the first place. I have a massive collection and will never go back!

    Also, this is all very helpful info- I probably shouldn't get fitted for a bra right now given the circumstances, but I will refer to this for sure after I'm done nursing!

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