Get fitted to present well is the overriding advice I took from my chat with Susan Moylett, the lady who has been ensuring women succeed in the perky department since her lingerie store opened in 1984 in Dublin’s Westbury Mall.
How that came about, she explains, was that she was getting married and went into one of the big department stores to get fitted for a bra: “I decided to get knickers to match but that was too exotic. So I thought, ‘there is a business in that.’”
In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, meaning “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” When it comes to underwear style and fashion, Susan calls on this quote to explain her system of 38 years.
“Everybody wears underwear. All women wear underwear. We want to look good, we want to feel good and present well. Over the years we have become more aware that you should get fitted. Now, as a teenager, I got fitted but then we went into the, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, braless 70s’, but in fact, you want to look good, so get fitted.”
Susan’s focus for her customers is on how they want to present themselves to the world.
“Your boobs are a bag full of fat and as we get older, they get bigger or you lose weight and they get smaller but the bag stays the same. You could wear no bra, which is perfectly fine, ?but also bras are like glasses or shoes, certain glasses suit certain people. It is a case of, ‘how do you want to look?’”
Different activities and occasions call for different bras. Susan explains that you have occasion bras that match a specific type of dress, low cut or smooth and then you have your everyday bra which gives a good foundation and a great shape.
In terms of minding the breast tissue, however, Susan advises that a sports bra is vital if you are running or doing physical activity as that is impact. The skin will stretch so good support is important.
“A sports bra will be tight to your chest, keep everything in one place and keep them from bouncing. This is the same purpose as with any sort of bra, but if you’re going out for an evening, you might want to wear something low cut and while it [the bra for such an outfit] looks great, you are not going to play tennis in that bra. You choose whatever is needed for whatever you are doing.
“With the correct-fitting bra, all your clothes look better. It’s not for nothing they are called foundation garments.”
A bra is just like your shoes, she says, expanding the analogy: “You’ve got your hiking ones, your high heels, your flats, your trainers and your fancy ones. You’ve got the ones that aren’t the most supportive but they look fabulous and then you’ve got the ones you wear every day. Bras are the same – they are fashion but they are also very important.”
When it comes to bras, age is definitely only a number
“If you are very big-boobed, [Susan stocks up to an M cup, which is unusual] yes, it is very important to have a good foundation. But looking nice at any age is about how you want to present – it’s ‘who are you?’ I have young people who want to wear a full-fitting bra covering everything up and then women in their 70s who want something sexy. It’s up to you how you want to present, but I would fit you for the right bra for your size.”
Big boobs and backless bras?
According to Susan, backless bras don’t really work for those over a certain size.
“Bras are engineering. Support has to come from somewhere. Irish and English women have very narrow backs, totally different to women from mainland Europe. You could be a 30G and you have to have support on the back and the straps. People are so happy when they get the right fit because if you have the right fit you look neater and smaller. Or if you want to look bigger, you will look bigger if everything’s in the right place.”
In her 38 years, Susan says she has never seen two women the same, emphasising that there is no such thing as “standard”. She also confirmed that every single woman has one boob bigger than the other and 99% of the time it’s the left one is bigger because “it’s over your heart and pushed out that bit more”. She advises buying to balance unless there is a huge difference.
The bra itself should be flat between your boobs, this is the gore with no bumps over the top [of the cup] and there should be a finger space between the wire and the cup so that the wire is on your rib cage and not on the boobs.
Lastly, Susan emphasises that getting the back correct is imperative: “Straight across the back because if it’s two big, it’s like a seesaw, up it goes [the back strap] and down they go at the front which is very ageing. I always say there are two things that age you. You should be perky and moist, a bit of lippy and the boobs up because that’s what youth is, perky and moist.
“Now I have customers I would fit perfectly but they want something else. That’s fine. This isn’t regulation uniform. Again, it’s ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I want to present?’”
Brands and price points?
Susan Hunter Lingerie stocks five bra brands; Prima Donna, Aubade, Hanro, Marie Jo and Andre Sarda. Prices range ?€100, some a bit over, some a bit less.
Susan acknowledged that this might sound expensive, but counters that with: “It’s price per wear, they last years if you have more than one. If you are buying quality, you like it, you enjoy it. If you buy something you don’t like then you don’t wear it, so yes it lasts forever but you actually have no bras to wear.”