Forbes dubbed Cora Harrington “the woman changing the way we think about lingerie” — and they’re right. Ready for the best fit of your life?
In 2008, Harrington created a blog called The Stockings Addict, which has since become The Lingerie Addict as she widened her purview.
And today, after a decade on the scene, the site is now an industry staple.
Her @thelingerieaddict Instagram legion is over 42K strong, and she has a new book coming out August 28, 2018. “In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie” is a compendium for letting your undergarments help you feel your best.
The book dispenses an education on the history of undergarments and currently available options, as well as selection and care considerations.
It’s not a fussy rules-based guide, ideal only for women of a certain body type. Instead, Harrington fully embraces inclusivity and individuality, firmly referring to lingerie as a mode of self-care.
We caught up with her for this abbreviated primer.
The United States, with its many rural pockets and puritanical roots, is rife with undergarment misinformation.
“We don’t have the kind of lingerie boutique culture that countries like France or the UK have, where on every corner practically there’s a lingerie shop,” she explains.
Across the pond “lingerie shopping is this total experience, and the idea of wearing a beautiful, well-fitting bra isn’t seen as something scandalous.”
Living in the States, Harrington recommends a lingerie specialist boutique or a department store with a comprehensive fit-focused lingerie department whenever possible.
In Middle America, the closest you might get to the boutique experience is Soma, or a department store — such as Macy’s or Dillard’s. Department stores may not have the selection you’re looking for, either in terms of size or style. Nevertheless, they’re worth a visit, even if only to obtain an accurate bra measurement.
“Even in larger cities with boutique offerings you might still run into issues of access,” Harrington says. “They might not carry sizes beyond an F or a G cup, or maybe they’re focused on beige bras and not fashion colors.”
Pro tip: Luckily, in the internet age, you’re only a click away from a company that caters specifically to your size and style preferences — all from the comfort of your own home, wherever that may be. Just remember to have your bra measurements on hand! And don’t go with what’s popular, choose the best fit for you.
“The biggest issue that I see, especially in talking to people, is that they don’t know what the numbers and the letters of their bra size mean,” Harrington says.
Part of that, notably in the United States, stems from the misconception “that anything over a D cup must be this really large, enormous size.” This is problematic, according to Harrington, because most of the population should be wearing a DD cup or beyond.
So let’s break down bra size.
The number — or band size — corresponds with your rib cage or underbust measurement.
There are two band-sizing methodologies:
The Classic Method: underbust + 4 to 5 inches = band-size (add 4 inches if underbust is an even number, 5 if it’s odd)
The New Method: underbust = band-size
Bra brands that cater to A through D cups tend to use the Classic Method, while brands specializing in DD and above are more likely to use the New Method.
The letter, or cup size, is essentially a ratio — the difference between your underbust and bust at its fullest point.
One inch is an A cup, two a B, three a C, and four a D. Starting with DD, which is a 5-inch difference, each letter doubles before increasing again (e.g., E, EE, F, FF, etc.).
“People believe that there’s no way they could be a G cup,” Harrington notes. “They think, ‘Oh, I’m a 40DD,’ when their rib cage is 32 inches around.”
But if women are afraid of exploring those higher sizes — whether it’s due to size stigma or a lack of lingerie education in the United States — that means they’re unnecessarily putting up with uncomfortable bras.
Pro tip: Practice self-love and acceptance. If you’ve been wearing the same size since high school, it’s time to get an updated measurement — and don’t judge the outcome.
According to Harrington, there are three main bra fit checkpoints:
- Center gore: Make sure the panel connecting the two cups, also called the center gore, is flush to the chest. It should lie flat against your breastbone, with no gaps or spaces.
- Band: The band should be parallel to the ground — not riding up in back or seesawing when you bend over.
- Cups: The underwire (if applicable) should completely surround your breasts. Tissue escaping the cup is an indication the fit is off. Wires or not, your breasts should feel fully contained within your bra.
Pro tip: Checking the band, underwire, and breast containment will help you better identify if your bra is fitting well, regardless of variations in sizing.
We asked Harrington to share her expert intel on bra purveyors that accommodate beyond conventional sizing.
The size-inclusive 411:
- Nordstrom: “Nordstrom has a really wide range of brands, a wide range of sizes, and is known for their fitters.”
- Playful Promises: “One of my favorite inclusive brands right now is Playful Promises because they make the same styles of bras for their core size, their full bust, and their plus-size customers, and that’s a pretty rare thing to find in the lingerie industry. They’ve put a lot of investment and resources into that size expansion over the last few seasons. They’re a great example of a company doing something good.”
- Wacoal: “Wacoal, which also owns the brands Freya, Fantasie, Elomi, and Goddess, in addition to b.tempt’d by Wacoal. The Wacoal brand itself is expansive, and then the subbrands they own, which are a part of the Eveden group are also expansive. They have plus-size and full-bust specialists who sit within that.”
- Ewa Michalak: “No bra company makes every size. The Polish company Ewa Michalak is pretty close… but they’re in Poland.”
If you’re in the market for menstrual underwear, Harrington recommends the brand Dear Kate. She also has two appendices in the book dedicated to special bra-fitting and underwear concerns, including physical disabilities, pregnancy, nonbinary people, and more.
Pro tip: Reading blogs like The Lingerie Addict, Sweet Nothings, and Comics Girls Need Bras, as well as following niche accounts such as @thelingerieaddict and @fullerfigurefullerbust on Instagram are good ways to familiarize yourself with specialty brands.
Sister sizes accommodate different measurements of the body, but the same volume of breast tissue.
For example, a 32D and 34C both accommodate the same volume of breast tissue, but a 32D bra is cut for a smaller rib cage and larger bust, while a 34C band bra is cut for a larger rib cage and a smaller bust, comparatively.
Sister sizing can make shopping a little easier, especially if you wear a hard-to-find size.
People who may benefit from looking at sister sizes are those who:
- wear plus-size bands, but have small cups
- have very small band sizes, say a 26 or 28 (you may want to sister size up to a 30 or 32)
- find a larger band more comfortable due to a physical condition, like a third rib cage or fibromyalgia
- have a broad swimmer’s back
Pro tip: Typically, you don’t want to sister size more than two sizes in either direction to ensure a proper fit.
Nearly everyone has asymmetrical breasts (unless they’ve had a breast augmentation or reconstruction), so that certainly shouldn’t be a source of shame.
The difference between breasts might span from barely noticeable except when you look at yourself in the mirror, all the way up to a cup size or more. “That entire range is totally normal,” Harrington reassures.
Pro tip: Harrington recommends fitting your bra size to that larger breast and then get a pad, cookie, or chicken cutlet to fill out the cup for the smaller breast, if necessary.
While Harrington is now a laudable expert, she grew up in a small town and remains a conscientious advocate for those who might feel overwhelmed or out of their comfort zone by the lingerie buying experience.
“The way we talk about lingerie is so centered around rules and telling people what to do, what not to do. That can be really intimidating,” she explains.
“I’d rather people explore their options and feel like lingerie is an open space for them that they can play in, rather than having me as an expert come to them and say, ‘No, this is how you should wear it,’ because, to me, that mindset doesn’t feel welcoming.”
Pro tip: Harrington wants everyone to know there’s a space for them in intimates. “Even if your breasts are large, there is someone out there making a bra for you that will help you be more comfortable and live the kind of life you want,” she reminds us.
As Harrington likes to say, “Lingerie is for everybody and every body.” Indulging in undergarments that make you feel good is a simple, yet effective way to celebrate and entice yourself every single day!
Courtney Kocak is a writer on Amazon’s Emmy-winning animated series Danger & Eggs. Her other bylines include the Washington Post, the LA Times, Bustle, Greatist, and many others. Follow her on Twitter.