What's In A Costume Designer's Kit: THE "TAME YOUR BRA" EDITION

Chances are your bra is one of the most unruly articles of clothing you own. Here are some secret tools your favorite costume designer uses to whip those bad bras into shape!

May 22, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

There is one part of my job I loathe more than anything else: a bra fitting. It's not uncommon for me to pull 90-100 bras in various sizes and styles for the first time I get my mitts on an actress.

It's totally awkward and strange to be standing there like a looming creep while a woman (and quite possibly a famous one at that) who you really don't know yet stands in front of you bare chested while you hand her bra after bra until finally, blessedly, one fits and you can both move on with your lives. Actresses aren't alone in this drama -- any time there's a post here on xo about finding a properly fitting bra, the comments light up like a dry Christmas tree that's been out by the curb until February. 

Once you manage to find a bra that actually works, you still have to deal with all the annoyances that make wearing one a booby trap. Straps chafe, dig, slide, pop out from underneath tank tops, and generally don't stay put. Underwire casually springs out of your favorite $$$ bra after only a handful of wearings, stabbing you right in the blinkers. Strapless bras refuse to stay up, and you can't even begin to wear a proper bra with anything that shows your bare back.

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Oops, BOOBS. 

And -- AND! I guess you're supposed to waste your time delicately hand washing the dumb things? You can't just toss them in the washer and lazily lie on the sofa?? I mean, I'll pass on the whole ordeal, thanks. This is why I wear a swimsuit top to work under my clothes most days. But my actresses aren't so lucky -- and you probably aren't either, so I've acquired a ton of tools meant to solve all of the above bra probz -- plus a few more. 

PROBLEM: Your bra straps dig into your shoulder flesh mercilessly, like a pair of satanic hawk talons. 

MY SOLUTION: Grab a set of silicone bra strap pads and put your aching shoulders at ease. These are also super useful for keeping your bra straps from sliding down, something I'll address further a little later. 

They are easy to rinse clean if they get sweaty, and I've never had them cause an allergic reaction on anyone I've used them on. 

PROBLEM: Your underwire has busted out of your bra, causing it to stab you in the chest.

MY SOLUTION: I usually use a strip of moleskin to cover the spot where an underwire has busted through, (here's a tutorial how) but there are also specialty underwire repair kits out there that have a little more staying power than just moleskin alone. I have a pack of these Bra-Lee repair tabs in my kit -- they are super sturdy and last forever. (Plus they are decorative, so you don't look like such a gutter punk with tape on your bra like you do with the moleskin method.)

PROBLEM: Your bra straps constantly slide down your shoulders and hang out of your shirt. 

MY SOLUTION: The best solution to this annoying problem is an old-fashioned set of lingerie strap keepers. A lot of "better" garments come with these already attached.

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Dress with bra strap snaps, via Flickr.

You can sew these in easily yourself, but why bother? You can just buy these simple straps that already have snaps sewn onto them! You just pin them into the shoulders of your garments and you're done with it. (They even come with the safety pins!)

The Strap Tamer is another awesome way to keep your straps under control -- I use 'em specifically for off-the-shoulder shirts. They are like little plastic paper clips with safety pins attached.  Again, ZERO SEWING INVOLVED.

PROBLEM: You need a halter style bra for a specific dress, but either don't want to spend the money on one, or the ones you find aren't supportive enough for your ta-tas.

MY SOLUTION: I am so in love with this dumb invention called the Strap N' Guard. The name is beyond confusing, but it really is a great product -- just not for the use they intended. It's basically a set of replacement bra straps with brooch pins that you pin onto your strapless bra or strapless dress to hold it up. 

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The clever Strap N' Guard.

The manufacturer is quite in love with the 5 dozen different ways you can wear the decorative rhinestone straps she's designed, but I love her invention because it enables you to convert any old strapless bra into a halter or criss-cross by virtue of being able to pin in straps wherever you want.

Right now they only come in rhinestone or clear. I abhor a clear bra strap with all my heart--but I'll make an exception in this case, because it's really such a clever design. You already know the best part -- NO SEWING SKILLS REQUIRED! I am a piss-poor seamstress, which is a shocking admission for someone who dresses people for a living, but it's true.

PROBLEM: You are too lazy to hand wash your bras, and they are getting mangled in the washer because of it. 

SOLUTION: You can still throw your bra in the washer, just pop them into a mesh bra bag to protect their shape.

Or, better yet, wash them in this crazy "Bra Ball"!

If you own a specialty or custom fit bra that you dropped $80-$100 on, the Bra Ball is kind of a no-brainer. 

PROBLEM: Even though you are allegedly wearing the "right size bra," your back flesh still spills out over the band, causing lumps under your clothes. 

MY SOLUTION: The Shapeez bra is a pretty great all-in-one bra/camisole that delivers what it promises -- an end to "muffin back" and bulging bra bands. 

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Shapeez silkee short bra, $79.00. (Available in nude or black.)

PROBLEM: You can't go without a bra, but you have a dress or top that's cut super low in the back.

MY SOLUTION: A little piece of elastic called "Low Expectations" can convert any bra you already own and love into a low back bra in 5 seconds flat. It comes in 2 sizes, so be sure to order accordingly or you won't be able to get the dumb thing around your ribcage. (The small/medium one is REALLY small.) 

There's a valid reason we've all mastered the art of peeling our bras off in the car on the way home -- bras kinda suck.

(P.S. You can read the previous editions of "What's in a Costume Designer's Kit" here, here, and here!)

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.