Real talk here: Strapless bras are both a blessing and a curse. When they work, they're the best thing ever invented. That dreaded "what do I wear under this?" dilemma ceases to exist. You can wear any tricky top summer throws at you (off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, no-shoulder—no problem) without so much as a second thought. But when they don't work, they're a nightmare. Too loose, and you're awkwardly pulling up your bra all night. Too tight, and it's insanely uncomfortable, with silicone-lined bands cutting into your sides.
Obviously, the goal is to find a strapless bra that works. But when you're drowning in an ocean of strapless styles, how are you supposed to wade through each one and differentiate the good from the bad? The comfortable from the uncomfortable? What's a girl to do for, well, our girls in this situation? We turned to Jenny Altman, bra connoisseur and lingerie consultant (she's had both major brands and A-list celebrities as her clients), to share her knowledge and give us the intel. Read through for her top shopping tips on how to pick the best strapless bra, and then shop for her top five all-time, tried-and-true favorites.
"Buy your size—don't be embarrassed by the number. Most girls who wear a 34B are really a 32D, and it freaks them out, but they look so much better in the right size," says Altman, who stresses the importance of getting fitted. Pay a visit to any department store, like Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's, to get professionally fitted. Aerie, too, has certifiably trained bra specialists.
Make Sure the Band Is Snug (But Not Too Snug)
"The band on any bra gives you support, but for a strapless bra, the band is the only thing giving you support," she says. "You want one that's a little more on the tighter side, since it's the only thing holding you up. You don't want to fit more than one or two fingers under the band. You want it to be snug, but it should never hurt or cut off your circulation."
Don't Let Your Band Ride Up
To make sure your strapless isn't going anywhere, try jumping up and down in the fitting room. A telltale sign that it might be too big? "If it's at all riding up in the back," Altman reveals. "When you clasp your bra in place, the band should be parallel to the floor. If it's arching upwards, there's too much room, and it's too big."
Separate and Lift
The goal is to find a strapless bra that simultaneously separates and lifts your breasts. What you don't want is spillage nor gapping between your breasts and the cup (again, this is where the importance of fit comes into play). And if say, a B is too small, but a C is too big, Altman says ThirdLove features bras with half cup sizes (um, genius). To find out if a strapless bra fits right, "the center of the bra, the gore, should lie flat against your chest."
Try On Your Bra Correctly
Yes, fit takes priority, but all of that means nothing if you're not wearing your bra properly. Follow Altman's "scooping" method when you're trying on your strapless (or any bra for that matter): "After you put your bra on, lean forward and scoop all your breast tissue spilling around under your arm and into your back forward into the cup. Every girl should do this every single time she puts on her bra."
Skip the Lotion
"If you're wearing a silicone-lined strapless, don't wear any deodorant, lotion, or baby powder in that area because it works against the silicone, causing it to slip," Altman explains. "This is one of the common mistakes people make with strapless bras—it's partly because they're not wearing the right size, and partly because they had lotion on."
For those who have a bad history with silicone (traumatic scarring, rashes, and such), there's a chance you might have an allergy. Look for ones that are free of silicone and instead use innovative woven fabrics to make sure it stays secured in place (our pick: Chantelle's Vous & Moi silicone-free bra, $78; chantelle.com).
And Finally, Take Care of Your Bra
"Strapless bras work really hard, so you need to take care of them—protect your investment!" Altman says. "Hand wash (never the machine—they're the death of bras) after each wear, especially in the summer when you're sweating more, which can break down the fabric. If you find a style you love, and you want to wear it every day, there’s nothing wrong with buying a few at once."