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Finding the Perfect Bra: The Struggle is Real

Judy Masucci, owner of Levana Bratique

Chat with any woman who doesn’t have the measurements of a life-sized Barbie doll, and you’ll likely find she’s experienced frustration with the fashion industry. With the average size of women in the United States ranging from a size 14 to 16 and the average bra size being a 34 DD, it’s safe to say most of us don’t have those doll-like proportions.

Fortunately, there are some designers and even a few larger companies offering more inclusive sizing. For example, Maine-based outdoor clothier LL Bean features a wide range of sizes and a well-stocked plus size section for women who—despite thicker thighs and bigger bottoms—still want to opt outside for a bit of hiking and recreation. REI has also recently added plus-sized options to hiking pants and thermals. However, not everyone hikes, so meeting the needs of the everyday woman really comes down to the basics. And with women, a truly basic clothing article is the bra. Oh, the dreaded bra!

According to Google, Mary Phelps Jacob (also known as Caresse Crosby) patented the most frequently referenced modern brassiere in 1914, after creating one from two handkerchiefs to wear under an evening dress. Although her design was not a huge commercial success, the “bra” was established as an essential underpinning by 1917. Whether we should thank Mary or despise her is a matter of choice. But most women will admit that finding the right bra can often be difficult—in fact, sometimes impossible. Fortunately, Pittsburgh has two boutiques with unique approaches to meeting bra-fitting needs.

Get Sized Up at Levana Boutique

Judy Masucci started her journey as a retailer in 2007 when she opened her original shop, A Mother’s Boutique®. This business started out as a nursing wear shop and gradually morphed into the largest selection of nursing bras in the greater Pittsburgh area. In 2016, Masucci rebranded and relaunched her business as Levana Bratique—a bra boutique for all women.

“I decided I wanted to help all women, not just new moms, to find great bras,” she explained.

Levana Bratique does personalized fittings by appointment only—a feature necessitated by the pandemic. “It turns out that working by appointment only has led to happier clients and happier bra fitters,” Masucci said.

Levana Bratique carries bras for everyone and specializes in hard-to-find sizes. “We have everyday bras, sexy bras, special occasion bras, underwire bras, sports bras and any other bra type you can imagine,” Masucci said. “We also offer the widest variety of sizes known to man with bands ranging from 28 to 56-inches and cup sizes from AA to X.”

Masucci believes that bra fitting is more an art than a science. “Sometimes we get creative because the measurements don’t always match the actual bra size,” she explained. “No bras run the same, and if you’re buying three different styles of bras, you could need three different sizes.”

No matter your size, Masucci believes that a properly fitting bra will literally change your life. “You’ll stand taller, look leaner and feel more confident!” she said. Learn more at

Inspiration Leads to a Braless Lifestyle

Embrago founder Karen Poirier of Allison Park, PA has a unique approach to solving women’s bra issues, but it took her more than a decade to bring her product to market. Her company, which provides ready-to-wear clothing that offers all the support and contouring of a bra with the comfort of soft sweatpants, is the first-ever patented bra-free clothing brand, giving full-busted women an unprecedented choice in how to dress.

“I’m in my mid-50s now, but after I hit 40, all the hormonal shifts of adult life and aging really changed my body and how my clothes fit,” said Poirier of her creation. Her frustration led her to try every imaginable type of bra, but all fell short of her expectations.

“Bra support primarily comes from the band that should be snug and not tight,” she said. “Anything that offered the support I needed had an unbearably tight band.”

Finally, she decided it was up to her to design a bra alternative that would work for her and for other full-busted women with curves. Poirier’s multi-year journey led to the creation of a patented support system focused on vertical seaming. “The design is borrowed from the idea of a corset minus the boning and constriction,” she explained. “I completely eliminated the tight chest band, and every single detail had to be as comfortable as PJs.”

Embrago’s patented support system uses sophisticated seam engineering, premium-quality organic cotton, and strategically placed smart textiles to shape and support even very large busts, with absolutely no hardware—no underwire, no hooks, no elastic, no foam, no plastic. The clothing fits double D to L cup sizes.

It turns out the perfect bra for full-breasted curvy women might not be a bra at all. If you’re interested in a chance to try on an Embrago design in person, Poirier is planning a mother/daughter event in early May. Sign up for e-mails on for more information.

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