13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

For something I have worn every day since I was 12, I actually don’t know that much about bras. Some of mine fit oddly, a few are (way) past due to be replaced and I could use advice on proper washing strategies. Are you in the same boat? I recently sat down with Heidi Zak, co-founder of ThirdLove, an online company based in San Francisco that’s changing the game on bra shopping. Their site makes finding the perfect bra easy, friendly and even fun, so I was curious to hear her wisdom…

13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

Do you remember getting your first bra?

How could I not? My mom, grandma and I went to J.C. Penney and it was hugely embarrassing. I remember standing in the dressing room with the woman measuring me — super awkward.

What’s the most common mistake women make when choosing a bra nowadays?

Many women have never (even once) been professionally fit for a bra — more than 50%, according to a survey we did — so it’s no surprise that so many of us are wearing the wrong size. I was wearing a bra that was too big for decades! It’s easy to fall into a rut where you find a size that works and just keep wearing it forever. But, women’s breasts change size at least six times over the course of their lives because of pregnancy, hormonal differences, weight changes and other factors. If your bra starts not feeling right, trust yourself. Our fit finder quiz came about because we wanted to help women find their exact size from home. We’ve seen that 60 to 70 percent of women who take it end up with a size they never knew they were.

Is there a right way to put on a bra?

Yes! Two things make a huge difference in how your breasts sit in your bra. The first is the ‘scoop and swoop.’ (Watch this video to see how to do it.) Basically, you lean forward a little, reach into your bra and scoop each breast up and into the cup. It takes half a second, but your breasts will feel and look so much better.

What’s the second thing?

Women often forget to adjust their shoulder straps, but you can’t just take your bra out of the shopping bag and expect it to fit properly. You want the straps to fit snugly but not tightly, so you have the lifted support you need. (You can do it yourself in front of a mirror or have a friend or partner help.). After several wears or washes, your straps will loosen again; you should adjust them every month and it will make a big difference in how your bra feels and looks.

10 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

How should you adjust the back clasp?

People are sometimes surprised to hear this, but you always want to start wearing a new bra on the loosest hook. If you need to wear a new bra on the tightest clasp for it to fit, the band size is too big. The clasps are simply there to let you adjust your bra as it stretches over time. It should be snug on the loosest hook when you first wear it. Then, every two to three months you’ll move to the next clasp.

How often should a woman buy a new bra? I’ve had some for ages.

Everyone’s had that moment: You look in your bra drawer and realize you don’t enjoy wearing most of what’s in there. If it doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable or you haven’t worn it in past year, you can say goodbye. You can donate your bras that are lightly used so other women can use them.

Is there a bra style every woman should own?

I would narrow it down to three styles. First, an everyday T-shirt bra in a nude shade that matches your skin tone so it disappears under clothes. I also think every woman should invest in a strapless bra for certain dresses and tops. Finding a perfect one is like finding a pot of gold. We spent years developing ours so that when you’re wearing it, there’s no need to tug. Finally, every woman deserves a lacy bra. I wear our lace balconette all the time because it’s beautiful when you see a hint of it under a top, yet still so comfortable. It’s one of our bestsellers.

13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

Are there any fun styles to consider if you’re really going for it?

Totally. A sleep bra, which is insanely comfortable for lounging around on the weekend, and a special fashion bra, like a satin piece.

What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learned from your customers?

Being a relatively new brand that’s only online, we’ve really listened to what’s important to women and we’ve heard, for example, that people want lots of different nude shades, so they can truly personalize their bra with their skin tone. Now we offer The New Nakeds in five different shades. The response has been tremendous.

13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

What’s next for ThirdLove?

We’ve always offered half sizes, but we have 17 new sizes launching this spring, including bands up to size 46 and cups through H. Ultimately we’ll have more than 75 sizes, which will be the largest range of any brand in the world. Our goal is to make it so you don’t even feel the bra you’re wearing. Our bras have padded hook-and-eye closures and no scratchy tags (the size info is just printed on the band) so they really feel seamless. The best compliment we could get is that a woman forgot she was even wearing her bra. If you’re thinking about your bra, it’s because it’s bothering you.

OK, I have an embarrassing question to ask you.

Yes… are you cringing?

Haha, yes! How often should we wash our bras?

If you wear them repeatedly, every two weeks is the minimum. Here are a few tips: Never, ever put your bras in the dryer. They have at least 35 different components (they’re the most complicated piece of apparel you own), so treat them gently. If you have time, hand washing bras is great. But, to be honest, I just put my own bras in the washing machine inside a zippered mesh bag. Hook the clasps first, wash them on cold and delicate, and then hang them to dry.

Also, do you have any tips on how to pack bras?

The worst thing you can do is fold your bra in half and push one cup into the other cup in your luggage, and yet that’s what most of us do! It indents the cup and crushes it. When you pack your bras in a suitcase (or put them into your drawer at home), they should be laid out straight, nested one on top of each other. Put them at the top of your suitcase. Then, take underwear or socks or other soft items and stuff the cups to support them.

13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

Now that you’ve worked so closely with bras, do you notice them everywhere?

I’m like a bra whisperer at this point. I can guess people’s sizes. Friends will tell me theirs, and I’m like, ‘Nope, that’s not your size.’ Once, when I was traveling in Texas with my husband, a coffee shop barista leaned over the counter and said, ‘I know this is super random, but I see you’re wearing a ThirdLove bra because I recognize the strap. Aren’t they the most comfortable bras you’ve ever worn?!’ She made my day.


13 Questions for a Bra Whisperer

Thank you so much, Heidi and ThirdLove. Your bras are fantastic, and we highly recommend them to anyone looking for one!

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by ThirdLove, a business by and for women. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)