Johnny Lingerie

Save Your Bra!

By John Festa


98.7 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. This is why you should not wear the same bra two days in a row.

I’m sure you’ve seen a newspaper on the street that is starting to turn brown from being outside in the sun. The paper is slowly burning. It is oxidizing. Fire is rapid oxidation. Body heat will cause the delicate parts of your intimates to do the same thing: oxidize and break down. You are burning your bra, and not in a cool, radical, liberating 1960’s way.


You wear your bra for 12-16 hours a day. The many components that make up a bra will slowly breakdown from your body heat; especially the elastic, of which so much of your bra is. This is one of the reasons you should not put your bras in the dryer. The tumbling can be minimized by using a lingerie bag, but the dryer heat will shorten the life of your bra dramatically.


Men’s dress shoes come with the same caveat. Body heat will break down the leather and shorten the life of the shoes. It is widely accepted that the same pair leather shoes should not be worn on two consecutive days. It is also respectful of your coworkers.


Yes, you are hot. So hot, you can slowly burn things. Have duplicates of your favorite, well-fitting bra and rotate their wearing’s. And, while I am a strong advocate for personal bra fittings, buying the exact style and size on-line can be easy and cost-effective.


By John Festa


So they tell us. Then why isn’t there more cotton in our underwear? Sure, there’s plenty of cotton panties, but what of bras? Is this only the domain of lady golfers and Mother Earth types? Perhaps there are compelling reasons why cotton is only a small percentage of the marketplace. I’ve checked in with some of my retailer customers on this topic. The marketplace always bears the truth — the cold, hard truth.

The lure of cotton is its natural fiber. There is a small but dedicated following for this. Most bras on the market today are of synthetic and technological fabrics. The majority of cotton bra seekers do so for this wholesome reason, compelled by philosophy, health reasons, allergies, among others motivations.

Other natural or semi-natural fiber options are mercerized cotton and modal. Mercerizing is a process invented 170 years ago by, amazingly enough, John Mercer. The cotton is treated with a chemical resulting in a swollen, stronger, easier-to-dye fiber. The process was improved upon in subsequent years by stretching the fabric during treatment and burning off stray fibers creating a silky hand and lustrous appearance. While mercerized cotton is beautiful, the chemical treatment may be counter to the natural philosophy of some cotton-wearers.


Modal is a type of rayon. It is a semi-natural fiber made of cellulose from (mostly) beech trees. Modal has an even silkier hand than mercerized cotton. Its advantages are a higher absorbency than cotton, colorfastness and resistant to shrinkage.

Important factors when considering a cotton bra:

  • It must have stretch, with a small percentage of elastic fabric, elastane (i.e. brand names of Lycra or Spandex), as all cotton used in bras is knit, not woven, thus can stretch and bag.
  • Cotton will wear out sooner because it is a natural fiber

There are some brands that specialize in cotton, like Hanro, Calida and Grenier, while many others dabble in it with an offering or two, like Curvy Couture. Natural fibers feel terrific on the body. And nothing is closer to you, more intimate, than your underwear. That’s why they’re called Intimates. And, perhaps, you may like this as the fabric of your inner life.


Calida Everyday Cotton Bralet and Hanro Cotton Sensation Bra

Grenier Extreme Cotton Soft Cup bra and Curvy Couture Cotton Underwire Bra

By John Festa


La Perla

Cage bra. Harness bra. A bra with a more complex strap configuration over the shoulder and/or on the back band. A look that has been growing in recent years. Seemingly at once, two events brought this style to the forefront for me.

While visiting the EXPOSED: A History of Lingerie at the Museum at FIT, the graduates majoring in Intimate Apparel had their work on display in the lobby. All five students incorporated some version of the cage bra.  Their work is exceptional, perhaps a hopeful foretelling of the future of the industry and market.

And the ubiquitous Victoria’s Secret has introduced a Very Sexy collection using all kinds of straps and configurations in a variety of different styles.


Lascivious & Bordelle

What of this trend? Fad or mainstay? I spoke with some local retailers for their perspective. The schools of thought ranged from simple newness to bondage themed lingerie.

Some motivating factors for this trend:

  • Exposed strap trend brings focus to more interesting straps
  • Fashion-driven, innerwear as outerwear look
  • Fifty Shades of Grey brought bondage to forefront

Agent Provocateur

Some retailers think this is a simple matter of runway looks being mass marketed. Which, now that the look is in the biggest market of all, VS, signals the end. Others feel the look allows the adventurous to explore sexuality in an innocent way and, thus, will always maintain a small but constant market share.


Nicole De Carle

In any case, this look is a far cry from the nude, molded t-shirt bra which continues to dominate the market. And that’s exactly the point. Lingerie is a perfect means for self-expression. And there are times one feels like wearing underwear that comes with installation instructions. Enjoy yourself. And, by that, I mean enjoy your self.


Maison Close






By John Festa


Forth Bridge via Getty Images

Summer approacheth. A time for fewer, lighter clothes and more baring outfits. Tis the season for strapless bras. As if bras were not already an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by mystery, now the job must be accomplished with no visible means of support. Finding a strapless bra that works seems to be an unending quest. In fact, there are quite a few bras today that perform this function quite well.


Va Bien Ultra Lift & Panache Evie

Bras work by two main classifications of design:  lift and compression. In order for a strapless bra to have lift, an underwire is necessary. Those without underwire, most notably the circular, engineered knit bandeau type, only use compression on the bust. This will not enhance your shape in any way. This can be useful for smaller busts that simply desire some privacy.


Natori & Fashion Form

Technology and design have brought forth many successful strapless bras onto the market. Some key elements to look for:

  • A snug fitting band, being sure center gore lays against the body.
  • Wide side wings
  • Silicone (rubber) beading on band to minimize slippage (avoid powder or moisturizer on this day)
  • The lower the plunge, the more precarious the support.

Once in the bra, jump up and down. Raise your arms. Take a deep breath. See what happens. There’s your answer. I suggest staying in the fitting room for these activities.


Freya Deco & Elomi Smoothing & Simone Perele Celeste


Wacoal Red Carpet and Le Mystere Sculptural

In days of yore, most strapless bras had an overwire.  For formal events, I just love long line strapless bras. The boned bodice provides the perfect support base for the bust while also providing waist shaping. But these are all but extinct in this day and age.


1930’s Vintage Strapless at Victoria and Albert Museum

Be prepared to try on many bras. Definitely visit a specialty store with experienced fitters. Do not be discouraged if the first few bras don’t work. There is nothing wrong with you. Like any other ‘intimate’ relationship, it is always how well things fit together and if it supports you as you are.



by John Festa

In a very short span of time, I received three unrelated comments on my blog from women convinced bra fitters consistently put them in the wrong size bra. It was such an odd occurance. My first reaction was to think said women were resistant to their true size.

This got me thinking. Who knows more: the people fitting the bust, or the people with the bust? So I decided to ask the experts. I will tell you now the results were not at all what I expected. I have been happily educated.

Being in the wholesale bra business in NYC, I have access to some of the most experienced and knowledgeable retail operations and bra fitters in the country. Hugely successful businesses. I am also happy to call them friends.

Their insight led me to my own. Buying a bra is a completely subjective, personal, intimate (pun intended) experience. Even the fitter’s approach will vary from store to store – to the point of some contradictory beliefs. No wonder women are mystified.

Let’s start with what is completely agreed-upon and unanimous:

♦ Your Bra Band Must be Snug
♦ Go to a Specialty Store

Of these two points, there is complete consensus. Your bra band is where the support comes from. Without a snug fit, a firm base, so to speak, there can be no lift. If your band is riding up in the back, it’s too big. Your band should draw a horizontal circumference around your torso. Determine bra size by band first, then cup.
Bra-Size-Tape-MeasureDevelop a relationship with a specialty shop. The art of fitting is based on experience. Like any other professional in your life (i.e. doctor, haircutter) you are best served when an intimacy is established. Department stores, while there will be scores of bras, rarely have experienced fitters, save for a few of the high-end establishments. In some cases, the sales people were in Small Housewares the week before.

While there is industry standard on these two points, that’s where the agreement ends. Some points of personal preference are:

♦ Tape measure or no tape measure. Advocates for each were clever in their perspective: Those in favor say ‘No tape measure? What are you, psychic?’ Those against say ‘Never a tape measure unless you’re going to wear a tape measure’.

♦ Buy bra on loosest/middle/tightest hook. Some believe buy snug on the loosest hook so, as bra stretches, you will have adjustment. Others say buy on the middle so as body fluctuates, so can adjust either way.


When asked what’s the most common mistake made, a near-consensus: Not trusting the fitter. This can be based on resistance to changing size, or being in ‘bra denial’, as one store owner calls it. Another owner cites two categories that are hardest to fit: 1. Those who believe they’re hard to fit, and 2. Lingerie bloggers. Those who believe they’re hard to fit can be converted.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master something. The 4 fitters I spoke to, collectively represent about 142 years in the business. That fulfills the 10,000 hour rule nearly 30 times over.

The takeaway from this exploration is very different than I expected. Bra fitting can be challenging because of the many different variables at play, be they physical, emotional, or scientific. Best answer is to trust the professionals. Or not. But, if the latter is the case, realize the source of your discontent.


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