Bra Fit Guide
How many times have you readjusted your bra today? Whether you’ve actually done it or simply wanted to, you – like many women – may be wearing the wrong bra size. We spoke with luxury lingerie boutique owners & fit experts to find out what you need to know to pick the perfect bra. Here’s our Bra Fit Guide.
Topics: Mistakes, Why Your Bra Feels Funny, Measurements, Flatter Your Features
STEP 1: Learn (and avoid) these mistakes.
Sure, you know you’re supposed to get professionally fitted, and you even know how to calculate your own bra size. But there are far more traps you may be falling into.
“Even if we are still the same size that we were years ago,” says Victoria Phillippi, owner of Nancy Meyer in Seattle, “the bras that may have fit wonderfully at one time can eventually wear out and may not have the same support that they once did.”
Confusing bands with straps.
A tight strap doesn’t mean that your bra fits right. “You should actually be paying attention to the snugness of the band,” says Lauren Amerine of Isabella Fine Lingerie. And remember – when you increase the band size, you also increase the cup size. “A 36C is equivalent to a 34D,” Lauren explains. “Same size in the cup, but smaller around.”
Never straying from your “true” size.
“The most common mistake I see is when women come in thinking they’re one uniform size,” says Gretchen Reachmack, owner of Wildflowers Lingerie in Old Town. “Bra designers all run their sizing differently, so if you fit a 34B in Simone-Perele, you probably take a 36B in Elle MacPherson Intimates and a 34C in Huit.”
STEP 2: Figure out why your bra feels funny.
Could your bra be too small?
Telltale signs that it’s time for an upgrade.
“Your bra is too small if the wire is pulling away from your chest,” says Kim Knudten, manager of Underthings in Lincoln Park. This can happen because the cups are too small to hold your breasts, which end up pushing the wire away.
“If a bra is too small, it will feel tight and most likely look tight,” Victoria says simply. “For example, if it is on the loosest hook and still pinches your back together, it’s time to go up one band size.”
Look out for lumpiness. “The cups should not cut the breast in half or cause you to spill out over the top,” Gretchen says. “You don’t want to give off a double-boob effect!”
“You may find that the cups/underwires are too close together, causing the breast to hang out under the armpits,” says Lauren.
Could your bra be too large?
When your cups don’t runneth over.
“If your bra is riding up in the back, the bra is too large,” explains Victoria. Why? A band that’s too large won’t gently grip your back, as it’s designed to do. Instead, you’ll feel the ride-up effect, which can then cause the front of your bra to droop and slack on the support.
“Loose or floppy straps indicate a bra is too big,” Kim says. When tightening the straps, don’t go for a digging sensation. While support is crucial, you should still be able to get one finger under the straps to prevent it from being too tight.
Test yourself: If you raise your arms, according to Lauren, your breasts may fall out from underneath the cups, your shoulder straps may fall and the bra band may ride up. Happened to you? Time for a smaller band size.
“A bra is too large if you notice room to spare in the cups,” says Gretchen. “A properly fitting bra will not leave such a space, either in the front or on the sides.” Many bra materials are meant to form to the body, and if you have roomy cups, they will wrinkle and pucker – through your clothes.
STEP 3: Determine your measurements.
You may have heard conflicting stories about how to determine your own bra size. Measure where? Subtract how much? Add what to what?
The best way to figure out your measurements is to get fitted professionally.
“It’s not a science as much as it is an art,” Victoria says. You can certainly get a good idea about your bra size if you go at it alone, but the best way to determine you exact measurement is to leave it to the professionals.
Also, understand that each bra is different. “It is similar to buying shoes or jeans,” Lauren says. “You could end up being two or three different sizes.”
STEP 4: Flatter your features.
Enhance a small bust
Pick bras with padding. This will bump up your cleavage, with padded push-up bras providing the biggest boost. (Note: a half-pad bra with removable pads will provide you with different looks, depending on where you place the pad.)
Decide on a demi-cup. If you shy away from traditional cleavage, try a molded demi-cup which will lift the breasts up and put them front-and-center.
Those with a fuller small cup may want to try a plunge-style bra (lower in the front), as it will bring your breasts together creating fantastic cleavage.
Shape your full figure
Get a full cup with more coverage. Look for styles that are less stretchy to hold up your shape and that have a wider back panel & straps for extra support.
Bra minimizers will support the breasts without creating a “uni-boob” look, leaving you with a great shape since the bust line will not be resting too low (bonus: minimizers give you a great waist!).
Know that there IS life after a DD cup! 34Cs and 34Ds are often 30Fs and 32FFs. Isabella Fine Lingerie starts at a 28 band size and goes up to a K cup, so don’t be shy about trying different options.
Victoria Phillippi, Nancy Meyer Fine Lingerie; 1318 Fifth Ave., Seattle, WA; 800.605.5098
Gretchen Reachmack, Wildflowers Lingerie – Closed
Lauren Amerine, Isabella Fine Lingerie – Closed.
Kim Knudten, Underthings; 804 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, IL; 773.472.9291
Originally published in February of 2007