The Nouveau Trousseau


Or Bra-Wars and the Frumpy Fungus

Sometime after the age of 40, I looked in the mirror and saw my grandma staring back at me…in big white panties and a shabby brassiere. My heart sank: “When did I become so damn frumpy?

Scientists will probably disagree, but I suspect frumpy is a fungus that attacks middle-aged women like creeping bread mold. In the human female, it rounds the belly, widens the buttocks and zaps our fashion sense. Psychologists may argue that frumpy is just a state of mind—the insidious spawn of habit and malaise. Whatever it is, frumpy had me in a stranglehold. Big time.

Over the last decade I’d gained 10 pounds, abandoned stilettos for flats and traded my contacts for glasses. I hadn’t been carded at
a liquor store in years, but I certainly wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture. I could resurrect this body image, right?

So, I launched a de-frumping campaign. I started yoga, ate less refined sugar and updated my wardrobe with slacks that didn’t touch my ribcage. I sent all my mom-jeans to Goodwill and vowed to shave my legs every other day, even in the winter. Then I launched my quest for new underwear.

I began at the Silhouette Shoppe in the Kahler Grand Hotel where I chatted with Linda, a fitting specialist, about the state of my
lingerie drawer.

“The most common mistake I see middle-aged women make,” Linda said, “is to keep wearing the same bra size they did in their 20s. The result is shoulder and back pain.”

Apparently the 40-plus-year-old woman needs to update her bra size because childbirth, gravity and aging stretch the ligaments that support the breasts. Droop. Sag. Flop.

Call it what you will, but the older breast needs three things: a wider strap, enhanced support and more coverage.

I imagined the industrial bras that my great aunt Bertha wore: “Can a bra be both functional and pretty?”

“Sure,” said Linda. “Check out these styles by Anita and Classique.”

She plucked two lacy numbers from the rack. One was the loveliest shade of dusky rose I’d ever seen.

Spurred on by this discovery, I also consulted with the lingerie specialist at Macy’s. I learned that bras are like shoes; a woman needs a variety of styles for different activities: soft cup for travel, smooth contour for the office and sports bras for exercise.

Her best advice: “Whatever you do, wear a properly designed bra. More support delays the sagging process. And remember: a bra worn two to three times per week is permanently stretched by six months. Toss it.”

Over two months I bought lingerie for different occasions, but pretty support bras and panties could only take my perimenopausal figure so far. A crisis loomed ahead…

In less than a month I had dinner reservations with friends at the Les Nomades in Chicago. After weeks of salads and sit-ups, I still couldn’t suck in my gut enough to rock a little black dress. Time for the big guns.

The Victorians had corsets. Marilyn had girdles. Therefore, I ventured into the land of modern-day “shapewear” (a.k.a. Spanx®). Once I tugged on that lycra-nylon bodyshaper—bye-bye belly, hello hourglass! Not a panty line in sight.

During our fancy dinner in Chicago, my stilettos pinched more than the Spanx, but I looked like a million bucks. I even caught the French wine steward giving me the once-over. Oolala!

More than any other factor, I credit my lingerie upgrade with delivering me from the post-40-frumpy-funk. Wearing a nice bra and panty set each day isn’t a luxury; it’s a normal, healthy habit like brushing and flossing. My collection of lace, satin and silk undergarments gives me a psychological boost every time I open the drawer.

And let’s face it…a new trousseau is much cheaper than cosmetic surgery or therapy.

Form, Function & Fit

Keep your lingerie looking beautiful

• Hand wash and soak in cool water with a cleanser like FOREVER NEW®. If you must machine wash, use a lingerie bag and the delicate cycle
• To prevent wrinkling in contour bras, don’t wring or invert the cups
• NEVER machine dry your lingerie—air dry away from heat

Bra Solutions: Design meets function

• Unsightly gaps between shirt buttons? Use a minimizer (for sizes 34C and up)
• Need more support? Try underwire, padded or full-figure bras by ANITA, AMOENA, OLGA and/or WACOAL
• Want to maximize a small bust? Check out padded styles by B.TEMPT’D and CALVIN KLEIN
• Need smooth professional lines? Contour or T-shirt bras are best
• Want comfort for travel, gardening or sleep? Go with a soft cup bra (no underwire)
• Jogging or aerobics? Use exercise bras or fitted sports bras (NIKE, WACOAL and ANITA)
• Nipple issues? Wear a contour bra or concealer pads like PETALS or NO PEEK
• Pregnant or nursing? You need special bras; check out options at MOTHERHOOD MATERNITY

Tips for proper lingerie fit (and fewer returns)

• When shopping for that special-occasion dress, wear the bra and/or shapewear you intend to use
• Don’t buy a bra without trying it on. Sizing varies between manufacturers
• If “muffin-top” spills over your bra, try a larger cup size
• A bra band should fit snugly at the outermost set of eyes; as the bra stretches, you have two more sets for tightening
• If you’ve gained or lost weight, recalculate your bra size; consider a professional fitting at MACY’S or SILHOUETTE SHOPPE. This service is free. The end result is worth it and so are you