Image by Mangiu
By Beth, Contributing Writer
Many women have struggled with bra size their whole lives – some without even knowing it. Many of us have followed the line of thought that bras were just uncomfortable and finding the right one is simply beyond our reach. I was one of those women. I’d gone into my local department store and bought the size that when measured they told me I needed – and I still wasn’t happy with my bra.
Then I learned how to properly find the right bra size. It.Changed.Everything.
Are You Wearing the Right Bra Size?
Knowing that you are wearing the wrong bra size is easier than you think. Are you uncomfortable? Do you have red marks on your shoulders or under your breast? Are you dying to take your bra off the second you walk in the door? Do you have back pain? Feel yourself constantly pulling up a bra that just doesn’t support you?
If your bra hurts or is uncomfortable chances are you’re wearing the wrong one. Sizing and fit can vary from bra to bra and brand to brand. Weight changes, births, and many other factors can change your bra size – meaning that one that fit you six months ago can not be a proper fit today. Wear and tear on the bra can also make it less supportive.
How To Find The Right Fit
You’ve seen the “We can help you find your bra size” signs in the local department stores, right? That would seem like a logical place to get the correct measurement. Not exactly. Recent studies in the UK have shown that the traditional bra measuring method with a tape measure is rather inaccurate. In fact, they estimate three-quarters of tape-measured sizes are wrong. The larger your breast size the more likely you are to get an inaccurate measurement.
Try measuring around your body, directly under your breasts. Do not add any inches to this! This exact measurement is your band size. Then, measure around the fullest part of your breasts (with your bra on if your breasts are very large). Subtract the first number from the second number, and use this number to find your cup size.
- 1 inch = A
- 2 inches = B
- 3 inches = C
- 4 inches = D
- 6 inches = E or DD
- 7 inches = F or DDD
- 8 inches = G
- 9 inches = H
…and so on.
Most women are told to add 5 inches, and use that as the band size, and use the difference between the added inches and their full breasts as their band size. So, you might have thought you were really an A cup, when you’re actually a DD! This is because the American bra manufacturers make a limited number of sizes.
Of course, even after finding these numbers, they are just a jumping-off point. Every bra is a little bit different, and your body may be shaped differently, so you can’t be completely if a bra fits until you try it on.
So where does this leave you? You don’t have to totally ditch the tape measure method. It’s a great “guideline” for where to start looking. Then you can file that number away and use the “Best Fit Method.”
Best Fit Method
The best fit method takes specific criteria into consideration that has more to do with fit and comfort than a measured number.
The band should not be too tight or too loose. Flesh should not bulge over the top or feel overly tight. It should be flat against your body, firmly, but not tightly. It should fit nicely on the loosest setting, because the bra will stretch out over time and you’ll need to make it tighter.
The cup should fit properly over your chest. If your breast is bulging over the top, bottom, or sides the bra is too small. If the cup is too roomy or has wrinkles in the fabric of the bra it is too large. The center of the bra (between your breasts) should fit flat against your breastbone. If it doesn’t, either the cups are too small or the bra isn’t designed correctly for your shape. It should also fit all of your breast, back towards your armpit. Many women wear bras that do not cover enough of their breast tissue.
The underwire should be properly shaped and feel comfortable. It should not sit on the breast tissue under the armpit or bring about any discomfort. It should come up almost to your arm pit, but not high enough to hurt you.
Straps are a common problem. If they are digging into your skin, leaving red marks, or strained and carrying too much of the weight of your breasts they are too tight. The back of the strap should be across the middle of your back, just below your shoulder blades. If it is riding up, it is too small.
If they do not stay up on your shoulders and are sliding down even after being adjusted then they are too big.
The front band should touch your sternum comfortably, especially if wearing an underwire bra. The band not doing so and staying in the air is a sign that your band is too large.
Pass or Fail
If your bra doesn’t match these standards, it’s time to get one that does. Even one of these things being off can cause you issues. Along with putting a strain on your body it’s just not comfortable – and why be uncomfortable if you don’t have to be?
You should test your bra right now! You might find out where your problem is. If your not sure where to start the traditional tape measure is still alright – as a guideline. Just don”t let that number commit you to buy a bra. Do the Best Fit Test and make sure it works for you. If it isn”t comfortable in the store it won”t be when you get home either. YOU are the only one that knows how your body feels – and it doesn”t have to be uncomfortable.