Bra Basics: Finding the Right Bra Fit for You, No Matter Your Breast Size
Are you having trouble finding a bra that’s both comfortable and supportive? You’re not alone. Some estimate that up to 64% of women choose the wrong bra size for their bodies. Given the enormous variations in sizing, styles and features to consider, it’s no wonder that many women find bra shopping confusing.
The right bra will support your breasts, help clothing look better, and get you through the day in comfort. Plus, investing in a bra that you actually like wearing each day will save you money in the long run.
Whether you’re augmented or natural, finding the right bra is important for your well-being and confidence—a well-fitting bra will support your breasts, help clothing look and feel better, and may even prevent neck, shoulder and back discomfort. Plus, by investing in a few bras that you actually like wearing day after day, you’ll save money in the long run. Best of all, no matter your budget, it is possible to find the perfect fit for your body. You simply need the right resources to get started.
First, let go of old notions about bra sizing
Many women think they know their bra size because that’s what they’ve always worn, or because it’s the size they feel they “should” wear. However, bra sizing is not nearly as straightforward as many of us think.
A “C” cup is not always the same “C” cup
Many of us mistakenly think that bra cup size is standard across all band sizes. In reality, as band size increases, the width of the cup increases as well, even when the cup “size” stays the same. If you’ve been frustrated to find that a 36C feels too loose, only to find that a 34C causes your breasts to bulge out from the cups, this is likely why. In this example, going to a 34D would likely correct the issue.
One brand’s 34DD may be another brand’s 36C
The brand, style, and material of a bra can make a huge difference in how it fits. One bra may have deeper or differently shaped cups than another, even in the same size. “Vanity sizing,” or purposely labeling bra sizes to have a larger cup size, can make finding the right bra even more complicated. Thus it’s important to understand what a proper fit is for you and find the bra that feels right, rather than sticking to a particular cup size.
The bottom line: you’ll be far more likely to find a bra that fits if you let go of preconceived notions of bra sizing and start from scratch with a proper bra fitting.
How to find your bra size
The best way to determine the correct size is to go to a professional fitter. There’s much more to consider when fitting a bra than chest and bust circumference: the shape and firmness of your breasts, the distance between your shoulders and breasts, and the curvature of your rib cage and spine, to name a few. A professional fitter will be trained to take these features into account and know which bra styles and brands work best for different customers.
If you can’t get to a bra fitter right now, you can start honing in on the right size with a DIY bra fitting. This bra size calculator from Her Room is an excellent tool and includes a video tutorial to help you measure accurately. All you need is a pencil and paper, a tape measure, and a non-padded, underwire bra.
How to find your bra size if you have breast implants
Because augmented breasts tend to be both fuller in the upper portion and wider to the sides, finding the right bra size for augmented breasts requires a special approach.
Bra shopping is one activity my Richmond breast augmentation patients look forward to most after their procedures; it’s a lot of fun to see your enhanced breasts in a gorgeous new bra. But it’s equally important to find a proper fit—while your augmented breasts are likely perkier, remember that you have the added weight of implants, and you’ll want to support your tissues well.
Finding the right bra size for augmented breasts requires a special approach. Because augmented breasts tend to be both fuller in the upper portion and wider to the sides, simply measuring the circumference around the breasts may give an inaccurate cup size result. Instead of measuring around your bust after you find your band size, measure an individual breast. This bra fitting guide will show you how.
Keep in mind: while these formulas can help you get closer to your true size, a tape measure fitting isn’t foolproof. Depending on the brand and style of bra you’re wearing, you may need to go up or down a cup or band size. Additionally, you may find certain styles work better for you depending on how little or much separation you have between your breasts. If possible, try on a bra before you buy it.
How to choose bra styles that work with your body
The next step is to choose a bra with features that are well-suited to your shape, size and lifestyle. Most likely, you will want to have a few different bra styles in your closet to use for different outfits and occasions (i.e., a sports bra, a strapless or convertible bra, etc.).
- Underwire vs. wireless. Underwires can help create a more aesthetically pleasing breast shape, but they do not necessarily offer better support than a wire-free option. A properly sized underwire bra will work well for most women. However, since underwires won’t stretch or fold in to accommodate for variations in body shape, if you’re very curvy or have wider breasts, a wire-free bra will be more forgiving and comfortable.
- Front vs. back closure. Front closure bras are easier to get on and off, but since you cannot adjust the snugness of the band, it’s more difficult to find a perfect fit. If you have very wide or narrow spacing between the breasts, you may find the cups force your breasts into an unnatural position. You’ll find more options for cup shape and spacing as well as band adjustability in a back-closure bra.
- Compression vs. encapsulation. This mainly applies to sports bras—everyday bras should not compress. Compression bras hold the breasts to the chest, but offer little multi-directional support, so they are only appropriate for small cup sizes (B or less). Encapsulation bras have cups and panels surrounding each breast, and offer much more individual breast support for medium to large bra sizes.
- Plunging vs. full-coverage bras. Plunging bra cups are ideal for wearing beneath low-cut tops and can provide good support and shape for women in the middle cup sizes (C to DDD). However, without padding, they won’t lift the breasts or provide a fuller look, and they’re not supportive enough for very large, heavy breasts. Full-coverage bras provide optimal support and shaping for sagging, pendulous or very large breasts.
Good signs that you’ve found a bra that fits
Once you have narrowed down your size range and style preferences, you’ll find it easier to sort through the options and try on bras that are likely to be a good match. Check for these signs to ensure your bra fits:
- The straps stay in place, but aren’t holding much weight. About 90% of the bra’s support should come from the band and the cups. The straps mainly hold the bra in place, so if they slip or dig in, the bra doesn’t fit.
- The band stays parallel to the floor when encircling your chest. A band that slides up in the back indicates that band size is too large. A new bra should fit snugly at the loosest setting so you can move in a notch or two as the bra stretches over time, while maintaining a proper fit.
- The fullest part of your breast is in the center of the bra and falls halfway between your shoulders and elbows. A good bra will lift your breasts without smushing them.
- Your breasts are not bulging over the top or sides of the bra. If you have one breast that is larger than the other (most women do), choose a cup size that accommodates the larger breast, and consider a bra insert to bring the smaller side into balance.
- The bra feels equally comfortable when standing or sitting. Posture changes when we sit down, so check to make sure your bra doesn’t feel like it’s poking your stomach or sagging when you take a seat.
- You can breathe normally. A bra band that constricts your breathing won’t be more supportive, only too tight. If going up a band size makes the bra too loose, choose a different brand or style.
Signs that it’s time to replace your bra
While a well-constructed bra that fits properly should last much longer than an ill-fitting bra, even the best bras wear out eventually. It’s best to replace your bras at the earlier signs of wear to ensure your breasts continue to get the support they need.
- The band slides when the bra is on the tightest setting (the innermost clasps)
- The underwire sticks out to the side instead of lying flush against your skin
- You see visible wear, fraying, or buckling fabric
Finally, it’s a good idea to get refitted or retake your measurements every time you shop for new bras. Breasts change throughout life—weight fluctuations, pregnancy, aging and menopause will all affect breast shape and size, so the bra size you wore previously may not be correct anymore.
Make improvements even the best bra cannot achieve
If you find yourself wishing for larger, smaller or perkier breasts, even after finding the perfect bra fit, it may be worth considering a cosmetic procedure. With an experienced plastic surgeon, a breast augmentation, lift or reduction can help you get the breast size you desire, restore shape and firmness to sagging breasts, or even improve symmetry. If you are interested in learning more about any of these procedures and are in the Richmond area, I invite you to call my office to schedule a consultation.