Are You Wearing the Right Bra?

When was the last time you replaced your bra? If the answer is more than 12 months or 12 lbs ago, you need to get re-fit. Learn how to buy this essential foundation garment.
Woman measuring bust

Your bra is the hardest-working garment you own. It supports your breasts, keeps your body looking trim and streamlined, and helps prevent shoulder strain. As the foundation for your entire wardrobe, your bra's condition, style, and fit of your bra should be a priority – but for many of us, it’s an after-thought. A simple update to your collection can have a big payoff – great support can visually shave 5 lbs off your figure, instantly.

Build a complete bra wardrobe
Follow these better-fit tips and your breasts will thank you.

  1. Open your bra drawer and take a count. Every woman should own 7-10 bras and regularly rotate through all of them, explains Susan Nethero, owner of Intimacy lingerie boutique. Don’t own that many? We’re not surprised: 67% of women count on only 4 bras for everyday use, says Nethero. It may seem excessive to own a bra for every day of the week, but the fact is, having a sufficient supply of bra options prevents overuse, deterioration of elastic and, ultimately, insufficient support.
  2. Reevaluate your bra wardrobe once a year: toss 3 of your oldest, least useful, or least comfortable bras, reassess your size, and replenish with 3 new bras. Take the time to get fitted again after your body undergoes significant change such as having a baby or experiencing a weight change of 10% or more. Your breasts may be smaller or shaped differently, and your body’s circumference may have changed. A professional fitting will yield the most accurate sizing results, or click here for a DIY bra-fit calculator.
  3. Shop around. The four components of fit are the bra band, cups, straps, and bridge (the piece that links the cups together), says Ali Cudby, bra fit coach and founder of "Figure out your band size first," she advises. "Band sizes are much more consistent from brand to brand than cup sizes are." To focus completely on the band fit without getting distracted by the cups, Cudby suggests this trick: try the bra on backwards, with hooks under your breast and cups in the back. Another tip from Cudby: When shopping for new bras, fasten them on the loosest hook; as they stretch out over time, you can tighten to maintain a proper fit.
  4. Think beyond the T-shirt bra. Choose a variety of styles that compliment your wardrobe. More than 90% of women rely on basic seamless options that don’t lift, shape or support breasts as well as those with seams, according to Nethero. A plunge, push-up or balcony bra will lift your bust and accentuate your neckline, she says, which is especially flattering with a scoop, square, or v-neck top. And adding a convertible or strapless bra to your collection creates more freedom to experiment with cut-away shoulder, halter and backless tops.

Refine Your Fit: Does your bra look like this?
Stand in front of a full-length mirror wearing your bra, and take a good look at how it fits, from all angles. If you can answer yes to any (or many!) of these questions, you need to go bra shopping.

  1. Does your bra band ride up in the back? If it does, you need a smaller size band (that's the number in a bra size; the letter represents the size of the cup). Think of a bra band as a see-saw, says Nethero. To keep your breasts supported, the band must sit level or low on your back. When the band begins to rise on your back, your breasts will drop. A smaller band size will rest more firmly on your rib cage and remain in place.

  2. Do your breasts spill over the top of your cups? When your cup size is too small, breast tissue is forced over the top edge of your bra, creating misshapen cleavage. If your band fit is properly snug and low, then going up in cup size is the solution to this bra problem.

  3. Do you have back-bulge around your bra band? Minimize soft tissue spilling over the back and sides of your bra by wearing a band that fits snugly around the less-fleshy part of the rib cage at the base of the bust line. For a truly smooth fit under clingy knits, try the Spanx Bra-llelujah which uses hardware-free hosiery for the band instead of bump-inducing clasps and elastic.

  4. Does your bra cup pucker or stand away from your breasts? If your breast doesn’t fill out the cup completely, your cup size is too big. Going down in cup size will provide an appropriate ratio of fabric to breast tissue and eliminate any wrinkling or gaping.

  5. Do your bra straps dig into your shoulders? Your band is too loose. Only 10% of breast support should come from the straps; the other 90% should come from a properly fitted band. Test your straps: see if you can easily slide two fingers under – if not, it means you’re relying too heavily on too-tight straps. A smaller band size will help to alleviate your pain.

  6. Is there a space between your bra and your breastbone? If your bra lifts away from your body, it means the cups aren’t roomy enough to accommodate all of your breast tissue, explains Nethero. Choose a deeper cup with space for your entire breast to rest comfortably inside your bra.

  7. Does your flesh spill out under your armpits? Blame the shape of your cup. A deeper cup keeps the breast tissue on the front of your body where it belongs, instead of pushing it to the side. Bringing your breasts front and center also creates a more youthful silhouette, Nethero says.

  8. Does your underwire slide down below the base of your breast? A cup that is too large can sit unnaturally low on the front of the body and make your breasts appear to be sagging. To eliminate the vertical space between the underwire and the breast go one cup size down.

  9. Are your breasts uneven? Disguising uneven breasts is easier than you might imagine. The trick is to fit your larger breast exactly and then add volume to the smaller breast. Nethero suggests buying a bra with removable padding and remove the pad from the fuller side. Or purchase a pad to enhance your smaller breast and add it to any bra.

Shop smart
Sure, you can raid the lingerie sale racks of any big-box or discount store – and if you have the time to spend, you might find the perfect fit. But specialty lingerie brands offer sizing and features geared toward specific needs. Linda Becker, bra fit expert and owner of Linda’s Bra Salon, shares a few of her favorite lines for different shapes and needs:

Large busts: Panache bras are specifically designed for a fuller bust with cup sizes that start at D and go all the way up to K.
The Little Bra Co
Small busts: Not only does The Little Bra Company focus on great fit for women with smaller cup sizes, but they even offer an often unseen size 28 band.
Plus size: Elila offers full figured women sizing options all the way up to a 50N.
Shock Absorber
Athletic support: Shock Absorber sports bras provide comfort during workouts for women with up to an H cup.
Hot Milk
Nursing women: HOTmilk nursing bras come in many sexy styles and offer 6 hook settings on the band to accommodate a woman’s fluctuating post-baby body.
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