An Education in Lingerie

I had an interesting opportunity drop into my lap recently: I won a boudoir photo shoot. It’s probably the most random thing that’s happened to me in recent history, but I decided to go with it. And if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. All in, I figured I needed to find something to wear.

I researched bra shops in my city and discovered one that stood out for having great personal assistance and a wide range of selection. Knickers ‘n Lace is an appointment-only store, and I thought having that one-on-one time would give me the time to figure out what exactly I wanted to wear, and what would make me feel pretty.

I have never had a bra fitting before. I know you’re supposed to, I’ve read all the magazines, every woman is wearing the wrong bra size, but for some reason, I had it in my head that none of that counted if you had small breasts, like me. I looked at my chest, said “these are small, they must be an A cup” and have just gone about my life in bras that didn’t fit on so many levels, but I could never get over the mentality that as a card-carrying member of the IBTC, I didn’t really deserve to spend any time of my girls.

That, of course, was absolute bullshit. I was floored when I got my fitting done. I was wearing the wrong size, which didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me is my actual size. I’ve always worn a 34A – turns out I’m a 30D!

I’m coming at this experience as a mother and primary caregiver. My life is busy and revolves around keeping my littles alive, keeping the family organized, moving us all forward in life and getting to all the places on time. Primary caregivers of the family don’t have a lot of time for themselves. In fact, mothers tend to be scolded by society if they do anything for themselves – and you can bet that includes doing anything perceived as being sexy. Moms, in general, aren’t allowed to think about lingerie. Many moms I spoke to about lingerie responded along the lines of “I don’t have time for that.” And they’re not wrong: their lives are super busy. But I now have a bunch of really good reasons why we need to make time for it.

After buying and altering several bras (that fit in a way I’ve never before experienced, guys), I was so impressed by my experience that I sat down with Ashley Caron, manager of Knickers ‘n Lace, to talk about bras.

Photo by Los Muertos Crew on

We Deserve to Wear Bras That Fit

“Every woman deserves to take an hour for themselves,” Caron says. “If you can go and get your hair done, then you should plan to get a bra-fitting done. And if you go to the right place, it shouldn’t be a stressful experience.”

If you do the math, it makes sense. You wear your bra all the time – it’s always right there like a second skin. And a bra that doesn’t fit properly is like a pebble in your shoe. You’re always going to feel it as a constant irritation. And when we see and feel a bra that doesn’t fit, it also affects us mentally and emotionally. Bras are wrapped up in body image, and if we don’t love how we look in our bras, we tend to think of ourselves as the problem.

But don’t blame your breasts! They are perfect and lovely.  There is no such thing as a breast too big or too small. They’re just looking for the proper bra to showcase them.

The Philosophy of Lingerie

As I learned, there are different types of lingerie, and different lingerie philosophies, but most mall lingerie stores are only selling one type – one philosophy of how a bra is supposed to look. And by extension: how a woman is supposed to look. And if you don’t fit that very narrow definition of “attractive woman,” you’re going to walk away disappointed, both in your bra and in your body.

An Investment That Makes Sense

If you get sticker shock at the idea of spending $80 on a bra, then I’m going to ask you to reconsider. We should not dismiss our underwear. In fact, North America is one of the few cultures where lingerie isn’t essentially budgeted into the wardrobe – other cultures understand the importance of good lingerie as a foundation for your entire wardrobe.

You are going to wear that bra nearly every day, for years. If anything deserves the time and, yes, money, in our wardrobe, it should be that. It’s going to be against your skin all the time, don’t you deserve something that doesn’t make you feel terrible? Because most of the time, it’s not about what the bra looks like, but how you feel in it.

95% of the time you’re wearing the bra, you can’t see it, but 100% of the time, you’re feeling it. So you need to understand how a bra looks and feels under your clothes.

Because at the end of the day, bras make our clothes look better.

“We need to appreciate how a bra changes how our clothes fit,” Caron says.  “If you’re thinking that my clothes fit better in the right bra, you can put that investment into your lingerie.” Because if you’re willing to pay $200 for a dress for one evening, but you’re not willing to buy a bra that’s going to support it, it’s not going to look as good as you’d like.

Lingerie: The Ultimate Support System

A good bra is essential, the foundation of your wardrobe. It is literally a part of the structure you are going to drape your clothes over. And if you don’t have the right foundation, the whole structure crumbles. An $80 bra can make a $10 shirt look expensive. But if you put an expensive shirt over a cheap bra, you’re not going to have the same effect.

Your breasts are supposed to fit at a specific place within clothing – that is how shirts are made. If you’re wearing the wrong bra, even if you end up getting the shirt itself altered, it’s not going to look the way you want.

Lingerie and Sex

“To be sexy shouldn’t be the end goal, I think,” Caron says. “But it’s a nice bonus. Sexy is confidence. Sex is a part of the healthy adult experience.”

Sexy, though, doesn’t have to mean raunchy, although we’ve been educated to equate the two. And sometimes what we’ve been sold as sexy doesn’t work for us. In my case, I’ve never felt comfortable in elaborate lingerie, with the corsets and garters, and I find it’s nowhere near as appealing on me as something more simple. And simplicity can still be very very sexy.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

When Should A Woman Get a Proper Bra Fitting?

“In a perfect world, I would be in high school classes teaching girls how to fit bras properly,” Caron says. Without proper bra education, girls are easily swayed and “synchronized” to believe there is only one way they are supposed to look. And if they don’t look that one specific way, it can be hard to maintain a positive body image.

In Europe, there is a different mentality towards lingerie, Caron says. Women bring their daughters in to be fitted at a young age, and lingerie is budgeted into household expenses. There is an understanding it’s an important part of the wardrobe.

Viewing our bodies as attractive no matter the shape or size is a part of mental health and positive body image. If we begin that awareness young, then it’s a positive experience from the start. But if a teenage girl’s only experience with lingerie is at a mall shop where their philosophy is to sell at any price, then they may be pressured to buy something they don’t actually want.

It’s the same for all of us. Many women out there feel the need to buy something they have been told is sexy, despite not really feeling it, or to buy something that doesn’t actually fit properly. And the end result is that you’re not going to wear it.

Personal Fitting

One of the reasons Knickers ‘n Lace insists on an appointment for a fitting is that every client is given the time and the attention they need. Caron also allays any fears that there is pressure to buy in a one-on-one situation. “You’re never going to buy a bra that you don’t feel 100% about,” she says. “In my fitting rooms, I would say I have talked women out of buying bras quite often. You should never settle for a bra you don’t love.”

That’s true of many things in life: our career, our partners, our coffee. But perhaps we need to expand our vocabulary of “things to prioritize” to include our lingerie. After all, it is a part of our (physical and emotional) support system.

Knickers ‘n Lace is a family-owned and operated boutique that has served Calgary for 30 years. They offer a huge selection of sizes and styles, so it’s likely you are going to find what you need there, especially since their specialty is one-on-one fittings. All types of lingerie are included, so there are maternity and nursing options available, and sexual wellness and body care items are available (such as toys and lube).

They also focus on breast health, including sharing information and offering post-surgical fittings. They work with Knitted Knockers Alberta, an amazing organization that provides free and comfortable alternatives to traditional breast prostheses.

Photo courtesy Knickers ‘n Lace

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