Underwear shops can be so daunting. How do you pick what’s right for you from the hundreds of styles on offer? Many of us dash in and grab a multipack of briefs and a basic bra, guessing at our size.
But Cora Harrington, founder of website The Lingerie Addict, believes no item of clothing is more important to both your appearance and confidence.
In her book, In Intimate Detail, she reveals the secrets to finding the right underwear for every shape and occasion.
KNOW YOUR SISTER SIZE
A ‘sister size’ is where the band and cup sizes change, but cup volume remains the same.
This can be helpful if, for example, you wear a size that’s hard to find because it gives you more bra options from which to choose.
Lingerie expert Cora Harrington, revealed the secret to choosing flattering underwear for every occasion and shape. Pictured: Bra, £34, and briefs, £22, both triumph.com
To work out your sister size, go up a band size and down a cup size if you want a larger band, or up a cup size and down a band size if you prefer a larger cup.
For example, my bra size is 34C and this is the line-up of sister sizes that go with it: 38A, 36B, 32D and 30DD.
One important thing sister sizing reveals is that cup size isn’t static across band sizes — there is no such thing as a DD-cup all on its own; 28DD, 32DD and 38DD all have very different volumes.
Regardless of numbers and letters on the tag, what matters most is finding the bra type that works for you. This might mean changing the size you’ve worn for years.
ONLY BUY IF YOU REALLY LOVE IT
Shopping online from the comfort of your home is tempting, but it can easily go wrong. To make sure you have a positive experience, do always first check online reviews of your chosen store.
It’s important to know your size and fit and to read the returns policy carefully — does the shop accept returns without fuss? Will you get a full refund? When you receive the items to try on, always wear them over your own undergarments.
In store, try to put yourself in a good or neutral frame of mind. Do not shop when you’re struggling with self-doubt or low self-esteem.
Try on a lot of bras. Even slight variations in wire, fabric and straps can affect how they fit and feel.
Crucially, don’t buy something unless you absolutely love it.
Cora claims choosing the right knickers can help your clothes to look better. Pictured: Amourette 300 bra, £36, and maxi briefs, £22, triumph.com
PRETTY KNICKERS TO FLATTER YOUR FIGURE
Knickers that fit well smooth the body and make your clothes look better. They require two measurements, hip and waist, and you should be able to fit a fingertip between your body and the tape measure.
When trying on pants, bend to the side and to the front, sit, stand and walk around. Problems tend to reveal themselves quickly with a bit of movement.
Understanding the different styles will help you find the right pair.
Loose-cut shorts covering the upper thigh, hips and bottom. May also be called tap pants. They’re perfect for comfort, but not to be worn under tight-fitting clothes.
Usually have a high-waist front and a full back, with low or high leg openings. They’re good for apple shapes, as the full coverage emphasises your waist.
Cut in the style of a more masculine boxer brief, but tailored to a female shape. Good for mature figures, as they push up the bottom.
Hanky Panky at harveynichols.com
Characterised by a low rise several inches below the belly button, with narrower sides. Good for petite figures with shorter legs.
Calvin Klein at johnlewis.com
Designed to leave the bottom uncovered, with a bikini front and narrow strip at the back. They suit pear shapes, as they make legs look longer.
A hybrid style with a lower rise than a brief and the back of a bikini fit. You get more coverage, without the bulk of shorts. May suit bigger bottoms.
A cross between a bikini and a thong, with a low-rise front and narrow, high leg openings. These can look great on an hourglass figure.
PICK THE PERFECT BRA FOR YOUR SHAPE
A good bra can not only boost your bust, it can lift your spirits, alleviating back pain, evenly distributing the weight of your breasts and improving your posture.
Knowing your breast shape is as important as knowing your bra size — and recognising your shape will have the most impact on whether a bra will flatter your body . . .
Most of your volume is in the upper half of your breast, above the nipple. Balcony bras — open at the top of the cup — are ideal for this shape, or try full-coverage bras that have a lace upper panel.
Chantelle at net-a-porter.com
Most of your breast mass or weight is located in the lower half of the breast, beneath the nipple. Plunge-style bras work especially well for achieving a good shape, as do demi-cups.
Chantelle at selfridges.com
Here, there is evenly distributed fullness around the top and bottom of the breasts, so they appear round or spherical. This is usually the shape of the breast after augmentation surgery. Most bra styles will suit you, including balconette and full-coverage.
This is the term for softer breasts, where most of the tissue hangs below the breast root. They can be full on the bottom or top, but usually lack volume. Full coverage bras and bras made from several pieces of fabric — rather than moulded cups — will help give lift.
Chantelle at harrods.com
Breasts of this shape have very little tissue and are characterised by a narrow and cylindrical look. Moulded push-up or plunge styles, such as T-shirt bras, help to give a more even and projected shape.
The breasts are very close together and may even touch at the top of your chest. Bras with low, short or narrow centre panels (demi and plunge styles) are most comfortable.
Passionata at johnlewis.com
These are usually wider apart than two or three finger-widths. Plunge bras work well because they push breasts closer together. Balconette bras are also a good choice.
Chantelle at net-a-porter.com
Extracted by Alice Smellie from In Intimate Detail by Cora Harrington, published by HarperCollins on August 30 at £14.99. © Cora Harrington 2018. To order a copy for £11.99 (offer valid to September 6, 2018), visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640. P&P is free on orders over £15.