bra £57 shorty £37 Simone Perele
Caresse bra and pants, Simone Perele


My bra history goes like this: young, flat-chested and embarrassed, I would guess my size and grab the first bra I could find in M&S, rather than actually seeking advice or trying anything on. Older, saggier and less concerned about what other people think, I’m more inclined to loiter in underwear departments, demanding attention and feeding my expensive lingerie habit. I’m wondering if there is a correlation? As confidence and earnings go up, nipples head in the opposite direction.

Silent Assembly, Vita Contour Plunge Bra (£49) & Mini (£25)
Vita contour plunge bra and briefs from Silent Assembly


Age, hormones, gravity – as we get older, our breasts change size and shape, becoming more fatty and less glandular and hence softer and less pert, particularly after menopause. “Sagging is a natural occurrence,” states Nancy Schazno-Dressel, lingerie buyer for John Lewis, “and there’s nothing wrong with that, but many women stick with the size they’ve always had, even when their body changes shape.”

Photo: JD Williams

No fear of that, I much prefer to go for a proper bra fitting, now. One of my top tips on staying stylish for ever is to spend time finding clothes that fit, whether that’s shoes, tailoring or lingerie. Clothes just look so much better and can boost confidence when they fit properly.

In Style Forever, I mention that some of my favourite lingerie brands are French, I’ve gone into a bit more detail and spoken to bra fitting experts in my latest feature for the Guardian. The fuchsia lingerie set (above) is from Simone Perele’s Caresse range, available HERE. I have it in black and nude and am awaiting the arrival of pink; it’s a great everyday bra and I’m a big fan of a flash of colour. There are also a couple of Caressse bras left in a lovely dove grey, HERE. Though my absolute favourite style is Chantal Thomass’ Noeuds et Merveilles – which roughly translates as nodes and marvels, or as I’d like to think marvellous nodes – fortunately this is one of the brand’s perennial classics, available HERE.

Read my full Guardian feature HERE. What’s your bra history like?

33 thoughts on “Bra shopping as an older woman

  1. Aged 40+, I got measured (or rather, sized up by eye) at Rigby & Peller: walked out wearing a bra 4in smaller and three cup sizes bigger. I realised that was what wearing a bra was supposed to feel like. Life-changing moment!

  2. Love underwear.Whatever size you are lovely underwear can make you feel wonderful. My underwear buying splurges always peaked after finishing breastfeeding my 3 children. I loved feeding them but dreamt of returning to my nice bras. I have now found the brand that suits my shape and size. Fantasie. Not quite as glam as when I was younger but these 36f s need a little more support than they used to!

  3. Planning to get a proper fitting soon – but my bug bear is decently sized matching knickers. Ones that cover your tummy and are stylish too – it is possible! Think of all those glam 50s styles

  4. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! That would sum it up. Huge chest as teenager until 40+ when I had a reduction which caused great happiness re bra buying for the first time ever. Now I am looking at 60 soon, am just as perplexed as I was when I was a teenager due to all the above mentioned changes. So Bravissimo have been very helpful. M&S less so since they seem to think we all want to work part-time as prostitutes or have decided to give up entirely. All I want is to be comfortable and wear something that isn’t surgical or dull.

  5. I’m a big fan of Simone Perele! The only thing I miss from my youth is perky breasts. But a well-fitted bra is the next best thing. As always, love your take on things! I do get fitted every 6 months, right around the time I switch out my clothes from fall/winter to spring/summer.
    xxoo beth

  6. Alyson,

    I read your article in the Guardian. Reading the comments I came across some enthusiastic opinions about a Polish brand Ewa Michalak. Inspired checked out their website, including the blog. Last post was published a year ago but what a treat to my mid-forty eyes – a post about, what they called, an “intergenerational photo shoot”. Very refreshing to see pictures of 3 generations of real women – not photoshopped and clearly having fun wearing beautiful and clearly well-fitted underwear. I thought your blog would be the right place to share the link.

    Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  7. I am 38DD and find it difficult to get a bra that is both pretty and gives good support. I buy BALI satin tracings 3652 available only in the US where I first came across them. I used to send husband/his colleagues, when over there on business, with a sealed envelope for the US sales clerk to stock up on supplies. Now I get them from ebay. This is the most fantastic, minimising,, supportive bra but unfortunately it looks as if it’s been welded together in a shipyard by guys in hard hats. I try stitching bits of lace on the top of the cups as a cheer up. The best pretty bra I’ve found is Empreinte’s Thalia. French, natch. Very comfortable and beautiful to look at (as it damn well should be at £78.) but not quite as good at supporting as the Bali.

  8. I completely agree with you about ensuring the underpinnings fit properly, but I loathe shopping for underwear. I am a hideous 30F and nothing bar one Fantasie balconette bra does fit. If I could find anything else, I would buy it. For years I thought my bust would shrink with either age or my 4 children: but, no. Am off to read your Guardian article.

  9. I don’t mess around with bras…they are so crucial to how clothes look and fit and my own comfort level. I’m now a hard-to-find size, (small band, large cup) so I stick with my Prima Donna’s in the two or three styles I know work for me. I know some people hate underwires, but for me they’re the only way to go.

  10. I’m with you! After breastfeeding my three children, for three years each, and they are three years apart–that’s a total of nine years straight of nursing, my titties aren’t the little pink buoys of years gone by. Some of the best bra advice I’ve ever received, though, was from my OB/GYN. He told me if I was breastfeeding to start wearing an underwire bra. I’ve been wearing one ever since–for 32 years.
    But you’re so correct. Breast size changes-I used to be able to go braless in my younger years. Now, I need pulley’s for bra straps to keep those things suspended and perky looking. I like a nice push up but not so much lift that my breasts are touching my chin. And here in the States, I have been to so many “bra” fitters and each one of them puts me in a different size. You’ve inspired me. On my trips to France, I’m so obsessed with shoes, bags and beauty products and have never given undergarments a thought. My goal this summer–to get a French bra fitting and come home with a great wardrobe of bras! Thank you!

  11. I hated bra shopping for years. Big tits, narrow back equals structural engineering styles.The Chantelle Hedona is possibly the best bra in the world for me. I have others, but it’s been the one I have bought again and again, for a decade, Heaven forbid they stop making it!

  12. I have to pipe in here as getting fitted properly for my large bust (attached to a small 31 inch back) was the most uplifting (literally:) moment in my fashion life. I was wearing Empreinte for a few years until menopause hit and I unfortunately sized out of their size range. It is tragic how ALL French, Belgian and other high fashion brands assume that we better all fit into A to F cups. UK brands are much better with that, but are known for wide wires, which can be quite uncomfortable for those of us whose busts are narrow and projected. I discovered Ewa Michalak, Comexim, Avocado, Dalia, Gaia, Konrad, Kris Line and other Polish lingerie brands and never looked back. Some of them make bands from 28 and up and will even custom make smaller and larger bands than their regular offer (for a small fee of 5 to 10 dollars). There is nothing, I repeat: nothing that will make any woman look better than having well fitting undergarments. Check them out, it transformed my life completely. Quite accessible in Europe, easy to order from their website once you know your size. In North America available through A Sophisticated Pair (Comexim), Zathiya (Comexim and Ewa Michalak), Bra Obsessed (Comexim and Ewa Michalak), Revelation Fit and Busted in Detroit.

  13. Since I have a narrow rib cage and large breasts (current size 32G/32DDDD US/32F UK), bra shopping has always been difficult. Since I’ve had two lumpectomies in one breast, things have become even more difficult. I really should probably buy two different cup sizes, cut the bra in half at the sternum, and sew the larger left cup to the smaller right cup to get a perfect fit, but that’s a pretty expensive proposition. Most stores in the U.S. don’t carry large cup sizes in small band sizes — most US companies don’t make those sizes — most lingerie sales people haven’t been taught how to fit them properly, and put me in band sizes that ride up under my breasts!!! I used to have to order French bras online and hope they fit! Now Nordstrom carries a decent selection in my size, mostly of French brands, put plain old Wacoal actually fit me best. Some luxury lingerie stores also carry large cup/small band sizes.

  14. I am a 28FF and find that Bravissimo have good bras to fit me. I’m sure they ship to other countries (based in UK) but not sure what it would cost.

  15. I’m a 38HH and I thank God for bravissimo, panache fit me and are comfortable. I was even bigger in my thirties and had a reduction, but cup size crept up to it’s current HH over the years, but they are in good nick and still quite perky…………dreading the menopause, if I get enormous again I’ll get another reduction as it was completely and utterly worth it.

  16. In extreme youth I went without a bra. Being a flat chested 30AA it seemed pointless, despite my mothers protests about me attracting “the wrong kind of attention” . In my 20s it was all padding, push ups and garish shades of satin. In my 30s motherhood combined with a stuffy career meant nude t shirt bras by day ( so as not to get the wrong kind of attention) and something racier when the occasion called for it. Now 50, and 36B, like with my other clothes it’s all about fit and quality. I have nude, white and black in the same 3 under wired , non padded styles that I know do the job. So much lingerie looks great in theory, but thin elastic straps, frou frou lace and tiny see through matching knickers are out. Like a decent coat a good bra is worth every penny.

  17. After recent illness and weight loss I had a bra fitting and found that almost all the bras that fit me (l am a 12c Autralian sizing) are padded. I don’t know if this is just in Australia but I find it very frustrating. Padding is not for me. I will be in Euope soon so will go bra shopping.

  18. after decades of trying to conform to society’s expectations I have pretty much given up on finding an affordable bra that does not aggravate my asthma. I’m about a 36B and I think i can get away with it because i don’t wear styles that make my bralessness obvious. can you even get the wrong sort of attention at 50?

  19. The people who make the underwear seem to have some funny ideas about what we want. All designed for barbie types and those who want next weeks washing on display.
    I am a 34a and very happy with that. All I want is good fit yet something pretty and in a nice colour – not something I should wear to La Moulin Rouge.
    Next French trip I too am going to explore their range of lingerie and treat myself to something delicious so I can feel pretty underneath and tap into their expertise and knowledge of what we TNMA ladies really love.

  20. Oh…bras…. Let’s just say this, I LOVE winter when layers of clothes and a warm coat can hide the fact that I’m NOT wearing a bra.
    I HATE summer because my nipples are of the sticky-out genre and it takes a thick padding to flatten those eye-pokers, it’s hot enough in summer without that. Sigh… I was seriously thinking of having them surgically removed! (well not seriously but… you know). …and while I’m ranting I will also say that bra’s make me feel claustrophobic with their tight elastic – this could be because I need a good fitting one?

  21. I would like a bra that I can wear all day , made in non nylon as this makes me feel hot all the time during hot sweats any help would be cool x pardon the pun !

  22. Sports bras. They have loads of support and come in bold colours and designs – perfect for people like me who hate itchy lace, Victoria’s Secret styling and uncomfortably thin straps.

  23. Thank you for writing an excellent article on a topic that no one ever talks about. Boy, do I hate shopping for bras. Hate the little hangers that they are displayed on. Hate the whole process.
    Please check definition of noeud. Noeud means knot in French.

  24. Sigh. Just when I think I’ve found the answer, the landscape changes. Until just recently, I swore by the Prima Donna Madison for my 36 F pair. But recently the bra has started to irritate me terribly, underneath the wire and along my sides, so much so that I practically rip it off the moment I get home from work. Also, I’ve had a problem with slipping straps with every bra I’ve ever owned. Now I’m wearing a wireless bra from Soma that looks sort of industrial, doesn’t give the nicest front-and–center shape (a lot of my breast tissue is on the sides of my body) but doesn’t make me cry. (I suspect an increasing lack of skin elasticity post-menopause, oh joy and bliss).

  25. Hi Alyson! As being generally small breasted my entire adult life I like to go for a padded underwired type when I;m going out and about, but for work I tend to go for a style that has no underwiring or padded. I like to go braless in Summer, top style permitting!! I love the Vita bra design youv’ve shown, very pretty xx

  26. I read this yesterday and it was so timely since I was planning on going to Nordstrom last night for a fitting. I have one of those weird sizes, 30DD and I ended up with the gorgeous Simone Perele Delice 3D in the 30F size. Beautiful fabric and very comfortable but even though I could not resist buying it, the strap is on the tightest setting and I hope it does not stretch much and become too big!
    I also tried on a Chantelle but did not like it as much.

  27. Please tell me I’m not alone! I’m a short, ‘petite’ person and therefore, short across the shoulders (length from front to back). No pretty, lacy straps for me – all of those designs have an extremely limited allowance for shortening of straps. Just another thing to add to the ever increasing list of ‘short people’ discrimination in clothing Try buying a pair of tights that don’t have legs that would stretch enough to fit a giraffe. (If by some miracle you find a pair labelled ‘Short’, a quick look at the table on the back will tell you that ‘short ‘ according the the manufacturer, is up to 5’7″. Hello??

  28. Having lost almost 2 stone in the last year, my bosoms , like everything else, have changed shape. I’m now in the happy position to be able to wear WHATEVER I like [smug, me….?] I got measured for a new bra at M&S last week. So begins another addiction….!

Leave a Reply

Thank you for commenting but please be respectful and considerate.
If you want to be in my gang, play nice.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *