Are You Wearing the Right Bra Size? |
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Are You Wearing the Right Bra Size?

beth June 21, 2013
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.

Band

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.

Cup

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.

Underwire

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

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.

Front band

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?

Conclusion

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.

Are you wearing the right bra size?

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  1. I use to work for Nordstrom doing this very job. A person trained right will not use the measurement as gospel but a jumping off point for the above mentioned fit. And you are right fit is so important not just for comfort and health, bit did you know that a correct fitting bra can make you Book on average 20lbs lighter

    ! But I am unclear about the sternum remark, if the bra is under wire the fit should be flush against the body. If it is not under wire I can agree with the non flush depending on the bra style and breast size.

    Thanks for sharing these great tips with us.

    Reply

  2. How would you recommend finding the right size when shopping online? I have not found any stores that carry my size !

    Reply

  3. I’ve had the worst problems with my bra in the past 6 months. I went up several sizes due to weight gain, but I just can’t find a bra that’s comfortable. The ones in department stores don’t normally come in big enough sizes.

    Also, I find that a bra will fit right in the dressing room, but then as I move about daily life, it all of a sudden pinches or rides up or the girls try to slide out underneath–no matter how often I adjust or to what extent. I call it the mid-day drift. Around lunch time, during a bathroom break, I have to lift each of mine and adjust them in the cups. The band is as tight as it will go, but the next size down doesn’t even reach around my back. Sitting at my desk all day….it’s just a fact that things are going to be pinched.

    I’m just trying to hold out right now. Just yesterday I was able to get some bloodwork back that helped determine the cause of my weight gain, so hopefully soon my current size will be comfortable, and I can start shrinking back down to fit into my {cute!} smaller sizes!!

    And a sports bra? Fuggetabowtt!

    When I worked in retail and had to learn to “measure” ladies for the proper bra size, I can tell you I was given a 5 minute instruction video and a small “cheat sheet” to keep in my pocket. Not sufficient for most women.

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  4. I worked at Victoria’s Secret for a while, and most of what you said is accurate. We would always start with the measuring tape, but that was just a starting point, a place to work from. If the band isn’t flush with the skin (with an underwire), it is often that the cup size was too small, though a too large band size could also be the culprit. And I agree that you will look slimmer in a correctly fitting bra! I once worked with a young teen who had developed earlier and more than most of the other girls, and she was squeezing into a bra several sizes too small for her, because she was trying to look smaller. She thought if she wore the right size, she would look fat. When she did get the right size, she even commented that she looked thinner with the new bra than she did with her old ones.

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  5. Frankly, I find it much more comfortable to go without a bra than to fight with them to find one that fits! I wear a slimming camisole that provides my girls with some… stability for nearly everything other than working out. When I’m going on a run or at the gym, I wear a cheap sport bra – a little bit more compression than the camisole, but not so much that the girls don’t move. I feel healthier and more free without restraining my girls! (and by standard measurements, I’m a between a C and a D-cup – so bra-free isn’t just for the small cup-sized women!)

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  6. I always go to Nordstroms to purchase my bras. I love the full service I receive. I agree that the measurements are definitely just starting points. I always surprise them by what ends up fitting me just like your points. I hate bras that end up too big. (Why you should always start with the widest clip on a new bra, as it stretches over time, this allows you to tighten it) They end up riding up on my back, this is what causes the straps to flop. It’s totally worth every penny to purchase a bra from a department store where you have someone who knows the products helping you out. I actually save up for my bras every year (or two)

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  7. There’s a entire message board with an amazing way to measure yourself on reddit. I’m on my mobile, so I’m not sure if the link will work, but it’s reddit.com/r/abrathatfits and it’s full of great advice & really helpful ladies. It’s a good option if you’re the online type.

    Reply

  8. I read this yesterday mere hours before heading out to buy some new bras. Great timing! I have been really unhappy with my bras for the last year or so but just kept buying the same size and brand (Victoria’s Secret) assuming my boobs were at fault or I was crazy. I am currently 10 1/2 weeks pregnant and have had really sore boobs on top of the fact they have grown quite a bit, so I finally decided to try something new. I read your post and headed to Walmart (I’m not buying fancy bras when my boobs are about to get even bigger…) and bought two $12 bras that I seriously love! I tried on 4 different kinds with different band sizes (I feel so dumb, I could never figure out what the number in a bra size meant!) and finally found a bra where the band isn’t huge and my boobs don’t get lost in the cups or receive zero support. I never would have thought “My bra doesn’t fit right.” but now I could never go back! Lovin’ my Walmart bras that keep my girls front and center with a band that fits snugly against my back! Seriously, so happy!

    Reply

  9. A super common “bra mistake” I see all the time is a too-big band that rides up high in the back.
    Be prepared to find out your band size is way smaller than you thought and that your cup size is way larger. When I finally found a properly fitting bra I went from wearing 38D to 32F! Now that I’m breastfeeding, I’m up to a 34H! You would never think it to look at me. Finding DD+ bras is time consuming and expensive, but it’s so worth it to be comfortable. Nordstrom Rack has some really great bras up to F or so for great prices.

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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