It might be strange at first to think of a website as a place, but for an underwear company that’s helped improve the world of bras as much as ThirdLove has, it’s actually not that much of a stretch. And, in the interest of encouraging everyone to stay at home during the pandemic, it doesn’t hurt to be remindinded that there’s plenty of shopping, perusing, browsing, and even bra-fit-assessing that can be done online. Oh, and that the packaging is impossibly appealing — see above.
If you’re constantly falling between cup sizes, never sure of your correct size, sick of hovering and overbearing lingerie department staff, or simply looking for that comfortable, everyday bra (if you’re still wearing one), ThirdLove could be your introduction to a new way to support yourself. Their direct-to-consumer startup vibe means no weird Victoria Secret rail-thin models and mannequins, no male gaze-y imagery, and no overpriced, complicated La Perla style lingerie — though there’s plenty of sex appeal if that’s what you’re looking for.
The ThirdLove website itself felt like a haven after spending my formative years bra shopping at Victoria’s Secret, and when I outgrew that company’s sizing, style and questionable ethics in my late twenties, ThirdLove was the solution a friend recommended. For me, it worked like a charm and took the hassle out of getting new underwire support. These are simply $68 baseline price bras, designed to fit women of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds and portrayed with that same diversity in their advertising and marketing.
Founded in 2013 by Heidi Zak and her husband David Spector, the couple left their respective careers in Google and venture capital investing (!) and created ThirdLove to tackle Heidi’s frustration with her own ill-fitting bras. Later joined by Ra’el Cohen, founder and designer of the lingerie brand Luv & Honey founder, the team at ThirdLove was also built on the idea that the gender who wears bras should be designing them: Bras designed for women by women. Simple enough, right? Using innovation like an app to help women measure themselves, and collecting data about breast size and shape from a sample of real women, the company later developed a quiz about breast shape and bra fit to help women shop for the correct size online.
The quiz — dubbed Fit Finder — asks about how bra bands fit on the body, helps women identify what shape their breasts are, and even gets into strap tightness and cup overages. No one had ever asked me the shape of my breasts before when sizing me for a bra, and while it seems obvious in retrospect, the idea that breasts are not just all different sizes but different shapes seems incredibly necessary when it comes to finding a good fit. Since their initial launch several years ago, ThirdLove has taken some of that same fit technology and expanded to underwear and sleepwear, if you’re shopping for more than just bras.
Instead of using randomly designed size “templates,” the company continues to use real women as the basis for the sizes they make for all of their products. But for bras in particular, that element is how they landed upon the idea of half sizes. Their range extends from AA to II, far beyond the typical A-D sizing, and includes half sizes for the A-E range as well as band sizes from 28-48, again far beyond the typical end at 38 or 40.
They offer over 80 different sizes of bras, and have continued expanding to become the third largest online bra and underwear company in America. All purchases also include free exchanges and returns, and additionally, the company donates millions of gently used bras to women in need. So that return that can’t go back on the shelf isn’t getting thrown into the trash, it’s being given to a woman who can’t afford a bra right now.
Down to brass tacks, the bras that have worked best for me are the signature 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bra ($68) — I get it in Taupe, though it comes in plenty of other flesh colored shades — which I can wear under even the sheerest, thinnest white shirt and still have it blend. The straps on this bra are pleated, which helps the fabric of tanks and tees stick more firmly to the straps, and it’s medium thickness in the cup with a smooth front and minimal undwire. I wear this bra 80% of the time, and also have it in black. I’ve replaced the Taupe version that I wear the most once in four years, and am currently on my second round with the same fit.
Possibly an even more beloved fit for me than the original is the 24/7 Lace Balconette Bra ($76). Slightly more expensive than the T-Shirt Bra, this fit has lower cups and wider set, silky straps that are convertible and can be worn straight or criss-crossed in the back. I love the hint of texture and extra nipple coverage that the lace gives (sometimes the T-Shirt Bra isn’t thick enough in that respect) and the lace makes this a perfect bra to wear when it’s going to be seen — or just to have a cute secret with myself. I now own this bra in three colors, and tend to wear it when I want an extra boost of confidence in the day.
Generally, if you buy more than one bra the price will drop $10-$15 per item, and you can usually qualify for free shipping after hitting a certain price point. Like most online retailers worth their salt, ThirdLove has a rewards program you can join that gives kickbacks and access to occasional exclusive sales and discounts. But the best part is, you can keep a bra for up to 60 days and still have access to returning and exchanging it. So you can assess fit over the course of several weeks or even a month to make sure it’s really the correct size for your body.
More recently, I was impressed with ThirdLove’s response to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement by launching an entrepreneurial program called the TL Effect, partially as a rebuttal to the fact that not a single Fortune 500 company has a Black woman at the helm. Within their new program, ThirdLove will sponsor a new entrepreneurial woman of color every quarter, using resources from their own well-funded, VC-backed company to help other fledgling brands.
The TL Effect focuses on using Third Love’s social media platforms, office space, resources, and fundraising contacts to help women of color launch, fund, or reinvigorate early-stage consumer-focused companies. So not only can you go bra shopping online, without ever leaving your home, but you can help contribute to a company that’s prioritizing the next wave of Black, female entrepreneurs. That seems like a great place to be.