Proper Bra Fit

Bras. This is a sore subject for a lot of women. Bra shopping, bra sizes, good fit, proper support, are topics just wrought with stress. I myself, have had nothing but trouble in this area. The fit calculators tell you one thing and the bra you’re wearing tells you something completely different, usually something unflattering. Don’t even get me started on what the ladies at the lingerie stores suggest.

Many of my clients need bras built into their gowns. For this reason, I’ve had to get to understand cups, cup shapes, cup sizes, etc. Did you know that when I purchase cups, it’s not listed as 36D, for example? That cup is listed by a depth of 4.0″. This SAME cup will fit a 32E, 36D, 40C and a 42B. I have to use my clients measurements to determine what size cup will give them the support they’ll need. (Another BIG reason accurate measurements are important!)

The distance around your rib cage (NOT your high bust measurement) is what determines your band size and ultimately, your cup size. If either your band size is wrong or your cup size, there will be issues for you and your bra. After years of poor bra fit you will begin to notice dips on top of your shoulders, mysterious under arm fat, back rolls and so forth. I’ve done fittings with brides who sheepishly hang their heads in shame and proclaim themselves fat when I’ve tried to point out that their biggest issue with these rolls is that they are likely wearing the wrong size bras. As women, our breast tissue wraps around to the under arm area, the bigger the breast, the more breast tissue is evident there. The squishier the breast, the higher it’s fat content, but it’s still breast, not under arm fat.  That’s why when you go get a mammogram, they take pictures around the under arm. After wearing a bra that fits properly, these marks will begin to fade away. The ‘under arm fat’ will be assimilated back into the breast where it belongs in the first place.

I recently came across a blogger named Brittany. She has a site called Thin and Curvy and she has the BEST bra advise. The following info is directly from her blog. I copy/pasted it because, I can’t put it any better terms than she did.

Thin&Curvy

 You cannot tell if your bra fits right if you do not put on your bra correctly. One of reasons so many women wear the wrong size is that your bra can seem okay when you first put it on. (incorrectly.) However, when you wear too small cups and a too large band, you are smashing your poor breasts’ tissue to the sides and top and into your armpits, even. This is terrible for your breasts! Here’s how to do it right.

  1. Put on the band and hook it. It doesn’t really matter whether you prefer the put-it-on-straight method or the put-it-on-in-front-and-twist-it-around method.

  2. The straps should not be too tight at this point. If they are, loosen them up. Once you are used to this bra you can keep them on the length you like.

  3. Lean forward and put the straps on your shoulders and fit your breasts into your cups.

  4. This is the most important part! Neglect this step at your peril! Reach into the cups, to the side, under the wire in your armpit. Pull the flesh forward and up. If you have “armpit fat,” pull this in too. Trust me. This step is really important because….a) too-small cups will seem fine until you pull all of your tissue into them and b) That underarm breast tissue needs to be pulled back under the underwire and into the cups, so that it can “rejoin” the rest of your breast tissue. So make sure when you put your bra on, you scoop as much of that underarm ‘fat’ as possible into the cups.

  5. At this point, if you have bulging or “four boobs” above the top of the cups, it means you are wearing the wrong size! 

  6. Now you can tighten the straps. Don’t tighten them so that they are pulling on your shoulders, just tight enough so that there isn’t any slack and there is a slight bit of tension.

 Please note that, if you are wearing the correct size, the cups will probably seem a little bit “empty” and too big until you scoop the flesh into them. But as long as the top of the cups sits smoothly on your breasts after you scoop in, the cups should be a good size.

You know your bra doesn’t fit when…

    • The straps are digging into your shoulders

    • The straps keep falling off your shoulders even when you tighten them

    • The center part in between the cups does not lie flush with your rib cage

    • Your ‘breasts’ are causing you shoulder or back pain

    • the underwires dig in or hurt anywhere

    • you get rashes or soreness where your bra was

    • your breasts hurt after you take your bra off at night (If not PMS related)

    • The line of your nipples sits below halfway between your elbow and shoulder

    • your underwires frequently pop out and stab you

    • You have scarring along where the underwires go, or on your shoulders from your straps.

    • You can’t run or jog without pain and a lot of bouncing

    • You have “armpit fat”

    • You have “back fat” around your band

    • You have to go readjust your bra during the day

    • Your underwires are sitting on top of breast tissue

    • Your bra’s band rides up in back or is not level

    • You had to start at the tightest hook

    • Your bra or breasts are causing you pain or discomfort in any way

If you have any of these, your bra doesn’t fit and you need to go down in the band and up in the cups. Period! 

  1. Put on your best fitting bra. It shouldn’t be padded but a bit of molding is probably fine.

  2. Measure around your rib cage, right under your breasts. Keep the tape as straight and parallel to the floor as possible. Measure this tight! You don’t need to be straining to pull it tight as a corset, or leaving marks on your skin, or anything like that. But you should measure this much snugger than you would normally measure another part of your body. Write down your rib measurement.

  3. Measure around your breasts. Measure loosely this time. It might help to lean forward, especially if the bra you are wearing isn’t particularly supportive. Write down this measurement.

  4. The rib measurement you wrote down is your band size. If it’s a fraction, just round to the nearest whole number. If it’s an odd number, say 31, you should try both band sizes around this (A 30 and a 32.) Remember, the band is what is giving you all of the support! If you can get it closed, it probably fits. Consider buying one, and trying it for a few weeks. Or if you really can’t stand it, try one band size up from that only and try getting used to it for a few weeks to a month, and then see how you feel. If it’s still uncomfortable then, it doesn’t fit. But even if it feels “too tight,” It might actually be too loose, with too small cups (which would make it feel “too tight.” bras can be weird that way, trust me on this one.)

  5. Now take the breast measurement you came up with. Subtract your band size from this number. (For example if you measured 29.5 and you were going to start with a 30 band and you measured 36 inches around your bust line, then the result would be 6.)

  6. Each number is a cup size. It generally goes: A,B,C,D,DD,E,F,FF,G,GG, H,HH,J,JJ,K,KK… But, brands can be slightly inconsistent. Some brands might skip some of those, or substitute DDD for E, or something, so double check to make sure that you are buying the size you think you are! In addition, some brands or styles may run large or small and you may have to adjust accordingly.

  7. If you thought you were a 36DD, and you come up with something like 30H, don’t freak out! You aren’t weird, I promise. So many people are wearing the wrong size that we have a really distorted idea of what a “normal” size is. Just give it a try. It’s only a number!

A couple of details that Brittany mentions elsewhere in her blog, that you might find helpful are: 

~ Bony girls without much meat on their ribs, tend to find that the tighter band is not comfortable. Increase the band size a little, but make sure that the cups fit the breast. 

~ When a bra is new, the very last hook is the one that you use. As your elastic ages and loses it’s fight, move up a hook.

~ Uneven breasts….The general advice for uneven breasts (which is extremely common!) is to wear a bra that fits the bigger breast(give it the support it needs!), and then add a small pad to the other side to fill in the extra space. Available at any fabric store or bra store.

Why is Brittany’s measuring system so different from what you find at Victoria’s Secrets or other online bra calculators? Simple. The common knowledge information about bra fit is outdated. (Guidelines were set back before stretchy fabrics and wonderful elastics were invented) Updating it would be frustrating to many, we’re talking generations of women. After all, they’ve been wearing that size their entire lives. Many women staunchly refuse to believe that they could have breasts that possibly have a larger letter value than the one they have been wearing. Others have far too much to think about than to figure out a new size.  In the end the cost to the industry would be enormous. Think of the size range available now, to increase those options with smaller band sizes and bigger cups would be pricey. Now the stores, to accommodate all those new sizes in a wide variety of colors, fabrics, and styles, need more floor space. More floor space means higher operating costs, and they’s still sell the same number of bras, possibly less. After all, how many of you have bought bra after bra in search of the right fit? And how many were returned because they didn’t.

A proper fitting bra is good for your breast health, posture, and your clothes will look and fit better.

Classify Your Breasts – Know your breasts and you’ll know your perfect bra style.

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