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By Angela Harrison
Why do celebrities (almost) always look phenomenal in their clothes? They’re human, they’re not a different species from us — and yet, their bodies seem to wear everything perfectly. Realistically, that level of “perfection” takes about four to five behind-the-scenes people to execute what we see on talk shows, red carpets, and social media. While this kind of maintenance is unrealistic for everyday life, the techniques used to achieve these flawless looks are easily accessible and often overlooked. All you really need is the right style of bra for what you’re wearing, and well-fitting shapewear.
Bras: Sizing, Styles, and Full of Secrets
Let’s start off with sizing — if you haven’t been fitted for a bra within the last two years, start there. This is something you can have a professional do at your favorite lingerie department or store, or you can do it at home with the help of Google and YouTube. Most women are wearing the wrong bra size, and those bras are usually smaller than your true measurement. Find your actual bra size, compare to your purchased sizes, and go from there.
Bras are a major factor in dressing. Not only do they support your bust line, they also can affect the fit of your clothing. The correct size can create more definition in your body type proportions — for example, it could transform a pear shape into a more hourglass look. When your upper body proportions are larger than your natural waist, items like blouses and dresses tend to lay on the body in a more flattering manner. The fabric can skim the rest of the torso/hips, rather than bunch. Now, this in no way refers to a large bust; this theory of fit applies to all sizes — when your bra fits correctly, your posture improves, lending to a better fit in your clothing.
So aside from fit, the other key factor to making or breaking an outfit is bra style. There are thousands of styles out there — t-shirt, plunge, strapless, wireless, push-up, you get it. The secret to making your bra work for you is identifying the style you need for your specific look. If we’re talking everyday bras, whether it’s work or casual, comfort is usually most important. Look for wide shoulder straps to alleviate digging, wide/smooth bands for back support, and also cup coverage. Fabric is also an important factor; styles with lace trim or sewn-on detail can tend to look bumpy under t-shirts, so keep it simple.
When it comes to evening wear, bras are essential. How many times have you seen a celebrity on the red carpet, or a Kardashian going to Walgreens, and wondered how their cleavage is breaking all laws of physics in a plunge top or backless gown? You may not be able to track it, but there’s a bra-mechanism present at all times. Red carpet is where undergarments get the most advanced, and sometimes busts are even held up with duct tape if necessary (Google that one before trying at home, or you’ll be sorry). But a lot of these bras are readily available for everyone, there’s no Hollywood secret. Depending on your support needs and coverage, unconventional, barely-there bras can range from stick-on pasties (to avoid slippage), gel stick-on cups, U-shaped wired bras and corsets for deep plunge, over-the-shoulder lift for backless garments, long-line bras for extra support and definition, and so on. If you’re someone with a larger bust who only tries dress or top styles that suit a conventional strap/strapless bra, try these different styles on in stores or at home; you’ll be surprised at how many styles you can wear and still feel supported and covered.
Shapewear: You’re Doing It All Wrong
Okay, I know, shapewear isn’t pleasant. However, a lot of that unpleasantness has to do with fit-squeezing, rolling down, rolling up, creating bumps that weren’t there before, etc. A lot of shapewear is marketed as a size-reducing garment, creating a lot of the problems listed above. Brands like Spanx create pieces that are meant for support and concealing, same goals as our bras, and that’s the approach we need to take with shapewear. The goal is not to cinch, but rather to have a barrier of support that holds us in place and conceals any lines or bumps. When it comes to sizing for shapewear, I always suggest going a size up. You want a high-quality material, like the fabrics offered by Spanx — something thin, yet durable and breathable. By going a size up, you’re not cutting off your circulation, nor are you risking the dreaded band roll. Try different sizing, see what’s comfortable, go two sizes up if you want; the goal is comfort and support.
Shapewear, like bras, comes in endless styles, and it’s important to find something compatible for your look. Want some extra smoothing for work pants or flowing wide-leg trousers? Try the knee- or ankle-length styles, they’ll be undetectable and conceal any dreaded underwear lines. If you have a fitted dress or skirt, the mid-thigh style is preferred by celebrities for smoothing and toning. Spanx’s version of this has very thin, hem-less material for the legs, almost creating a second skin. You want to avoid any threaded hems or finishes, these can create squeezing or lines under your clothes.
The fit of what we wear under our clothes is almost as important as the fit of the clothes themselves. The next time you catch yourself admiring a celebrity in their outfit, take a second to look at the details — where are things sitting, what’s the neckline, how form-fitting are the clothes, can you spot any undergarments? If you’re stunned at how good they look, chances are they’re loaded up with a great bra and shapewear duo. Find your fit, try on styles you’ve had personal rules against, and make your clothes look fab with new foundations!
Angie Harrison received her BS degree in fashion merchandising from Western Michigan University. After merchandising for a large retailer, she went on to start Angela Harrison Style: a personal, print, and film wardrobe styling service. Her experience has led her to styling wardrobe on local and national TV commercials; she has also created a visual merchandising branch of AHStyle, providing styling and merchandising expertise to Michigan retailers.