Have you been fitted for a bra in the last 2 years? Do yours fit properly or are you limping along with what you’ve got? Are you afraid to run for the train in case the girls pop out of the cups or do you sigh with relief every time you take your bra off because the stupid underwire has been trying to eat you alive all day? You might be several cup sizes larger than you think you are. You might need a larger band or a different style of bra. It’s all very confusing! Or is it?
We’ve all had a bra that was just uncomfortable from the start. Maybe it became uncomfortable or just didn’t really do anything for your breasts. Maybe it was pretty in the store with all the lace and gorgeousness but it never quite fit the way it should and has been vaguely disappointing ever since, but you have to wear it because it cost a fortune!
Here are a few tips on how to check if your bra is living it’s best life for you or if it’s lacklustre performance is due to old age or the wrong size and fit for your body.
How to make sure that your bra fits you properly and provides the support you need
It’s a good idea to take a look at your bra from time to time and check that it is still doing the job it was designed to do. It’s supposed to create smooth lines, support your breasts and make your clothes “hang” properly on your body.
The following should NOT be happening:
- Does it dig in anywhere? Where? Are there red marks or grooves in your skin when you take it off?
- Did your breasts stay contained all day or were you worried about spilling out of your cups if you bent over or had to jog for the train?
- Did the underwires dig into your breasts? If so, where?
- Did your bra scratch or irritate you during the day?
- Did your straps fall down every five minutes?
Maybe it’s time to do the t-shirt test and find out if you need to re-measure and go shopping?
- Put on a white, fitted t-shirt over the suspect bra and stand in front of a mirror.
- Can you see your breasts spilling over the cups? Too small…
- Can you see the edges of the cups gaping? Too big…
- Can you see bulges in the back or on the sides of the straps?
- Are the straps digging into your shoulders or on your back?
- Is the band creating bulges in the back?
- Has the band pulled up in the back?
- Are your breasts flattened or in an odd position?
- Jump up and down or jog on the spot, do your breasts stay put or are they falling out?
- Run a tape measure around your body where the band would sit. Is that number still the same as or close to the one on the bra?
So, How is a bra supposed to fit?
The band should sit snugly around your chest so that it can anchor and support the cups. You should not be able to pull it away from your body easily when fastened. It should also sit at the same level around the body and not pull up at the back. If it gapes and pulls up then it is stretched out or too big. The band should not be too tight however to the point where it creates bulges. A little back fat is perfectly normal but the band should not cut into your skin. Check that the band isn’t riding up in the back. If it does, it is stretched out or too large.
TIP: When you buy a new bra, don’t use the hooks for the tightest setting at first. Start with the outer set of hooks and as your bra stretches naturally move to the next tighter set. If you use the tightest setting first, you can stretch your bra out from the start and shorten its lifespan.
The Gore, cradle or Diaphragm is the piece of fabric that sits between the cups against your chest. Usually where the pretty, dangly jewel thing is sewn on. It is where the cups and band connect in the middle and should lay flat against your chest between your breasts. It is called “tacking” when the centre gore fits snugly against the chest and cannot be pulled away easily. An underwire bra will “tack” to the body more securely than a non-wired one. Even a non-wired bra should sit securely and not move around excessively.
TIP: If your centre gore does not tack to your body properly, your cups may be too small or the band is too big/stretched.
Underwires should never hurt you. They are actually there to provide comfort and support so if they don’t, then there are a few things that could be wrong. They should never dig into your skin or press into your breast. They should also never hang or float below the breast. If they press into the breast then your cups may be too small or the straps are too short. If they hang below the breast in mid-air then the band is too long or the cups are too big. Underwires should encapsulate your breast and sit flat against your ribs.
TIP: To “seat” your underwires properly, put your bra on as usual. Lean forward slightly and with one hand pull the wire back to sit flat against your skin, with the other hand scoop the breast forward to lie comfortably in the cup. If your cup size is correct the wires will encapsulate your breast and the cup will lie flat against your skin and support your breast.
The cups should contain and support your breasts. They should never gape or compress them and you should also never spill out or bulge at the top. The cup should lie flat against your skin and encapsulate the breast properly.
Cup size is a strange thing. You could actually be a much bigger cup size than you think. Cup size is influenced by band size. The general rule is that if you go down a band size you have to go up a cup size to maintain a perfect fit. The opposite as well, if you go up a band size, you need to come down a cup size. DD is actually smaller than D, so if you were a 36D and you want a larger band, you need to go to a 38DD. Now, you have to test this out. None of this is properly standardised in the industry. It’s a good idea to get measured in the store that you wish to purchase from. Many of us have just eyeballed it and hoped for the best. Don’t be embarrassed to get properly measured. The ladies who work in lingerie stores have done it a million times and there is nothing they haven’t seen.
TIP: If you are struggling to find a cup size that suits you, it may be that you are wearing the wrong style of bra. Something with a bit more coverage may contain your breasts better than a balconette or push up bra. A store assistant that measures you properly will not only be looking at the sizes but also the shape and position of your breasts to help you pick out the bra that works best for you.
The straps aren’t actually designed to provide support. Their function is to hold the cups up and flat against your skin in the correct position. If your straps fall down, check that the band is the right size. If it is too loose and riding up, your straps will keep falling down. If your straps dig into your shoulders, check the band again and make sure that it’s not pulled too far down. If not then your straps are too short and need to be adjusted.
Your straps need to be the correct width for your bust size as well. Larger, heavier breasts can pull on thinner straps and stretch them out. This will also make them dig into your shoulders. Try wider straps that cover a larger area.
TIP: If your straps are properly adjusted you should only be able to lift them 1 inch off your shoulder without forcing. Just hook your thumb and lift them a little. If they go up to your ear then they are too loose or stretched. Adjust accordingly.
If your bra straps have narrowed and become stretched they are done and the bra needs to be replaced. You can tell that they have stretched because they will start to “ripple” and lose their elasticity. The edges may also turn up.
Well, I am due to go shopping for some new pretty things but I think I’ll go get measured while I’m at it. Just in case!