The Good Life: Quest: Stacked

Ah, October: that in-between fashion phase when you’re still wearing t-shirts but starting to bust out lightweight sweaters, too. To smooth out the bumps under all your tops, we anonymously visited four popular bra shops to find the best service and the most flattering fit.

Chrysi’s Bra Boutique
2110 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill; 856-424-4499
The scene: Chrysi’s screams for middle-aged moms, with a sign on the window announcing, “Oprah Show Bras Are Here!” and soft rock by Celine Dion echoing through the floor-to-ceiling-packed space. Through the walls of one dressing room, a local mom could be heard telling the staff, “I’ve spent my whole life wearing the wrong size bra until I came here!” Oprah would be proud.

The staff: As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by Cathy — an unpretentious, mommy-sweet salesperson who wasn’t afraid to talk nipples (or, rather, the best bras for hiding them). After explaining that Chrysi’s doesn’t do standard fittings because “every brand is different, and you shouldn’t limit yourself,” Cathy brought a range of bras to our dressing room, then helped us adjust the clasps and straps to find the perfect fit.

The winner: Go for a lacy black Chantelle (above). It’s seamless and sexy, and has become our go-to bra when our shirts have plunging necklines, or when we want a subtle cleavage boost.

Total damage: $72

4309 Main Street, Manayunk; 215-487-7988
The scene: Muted ’90s decor: beige animal-print carpet in the dressing rooms, mauve wallpaper, pinkish tiled floors.

The staff: We had to make the first move, but once we asked owner Ruth Ortlinghaus how the store was organized (answer: by size), she measured us (over the shirt), handed us bra after bra through the dressing room curtain, adjusted our straps, ruled out styles that weren’t working, and even offered to special-order bras in other colors. She also instructed us not to put our bras in the dryer — and to lay them flat, not folded, in our drawers.

The winner: The new nude t-shirt bra from Chantelle — it’s not as padded as other t-shirt bras, plus it’s got a sporty striped back band and a
velvety lining on its straps. It’s also near-invisible under white sweaters and blouses. (We love the preppy navy version for darker tops.)
Total damage: $69

Victoria’s Secret
Multiple locations (we checked out KOP and 1625 Chestnut Street);
The scene: Sephora meets Express meets, like, the sorority house — now that Vicky has expanded into makeup, a teen­oriented “Pink” line, and an Italian collection called “Intimissimi.”

The staff: The King of Prussia staff steered us toward ill-fitting sizes and styles only Heidi Klum should be allowed to wear, and was too shy to correct our straps or offer tips. We left the mall bra-less, convinced that Vicky’s is for the college-girl set and no one else. Good thing we gave the Chestnut Street store a chance: There, a confident salesgirl named Jessica sized us, gave us three styles to try — and led us to a perfect fit.

The winner: The Bra That Almost Didn’t Happen turned out to be the most functional of the bunch, with the most support and best price (though time will tell if Vicky wears as well as more expensive brands): the Body By Victoria Ipex Full Coverage.
The damage: $45

The New Macy’s in Center City
1300 Market Street, 215-241-9000;
The scene: Is it just us, or does the new Macy’s feel exactly like the old Lord & Taylor?

The staff: Imagine our frustration when, on an afternoon with just a handful of customers in the whole freakin’ store, not a single staffer offered to help us. Two chatted away despite the obvious pacing we did in front of them. When we approached another bored-looking staffer, asking for “seamless t-shirt bras,” she pointed in the general direction of New Jersey and dismissively said, “Try Warner’s.” A shame, since Macy’s has great sales
and a massive selection.

The winner: A nude, seamless Wacoal “iBra” nearly disappears under white tees — and, style-wise, has come a long way from our Granny’s minimizers.
The damage: $50