It seems like it it shouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, how hard can buying a simple little undergarment like a bra be? But the truth is, buying a bra is anything but simple. And if you’ve ever stood in the lingerie department, facing the endless racks of bras and felt a bit of panic set in, this post is just for you. If you are as clueless as I have been about how a bra should fit and how to find the right one for you, this excerpt is adapted from Trina Holden’s book Embracing Beauty and will point you in the right direction.
How to Choose the Right Bra
I really do not know many women who like to shop for bras. They love to shop for dresses or jewelry or shoes, but never bras. That’s typically because there are a million styles or you don’t know what size to look for and it’s sometimes embarrassing to ask for help in that area. Please don’t be embarrassed! They are just boobs and every woman has them. Plus, if you learn to fit them with the right bra properly, your outfit that you put over them will look even more amazing!
Why They Are Necessary
Just an FYI: if you wear a size double d, the combined weight of your breasts can be 25 pounds. Seriously! 25 pounds! Crazy, right? If that is not properly supported, the weight can do serious damage to your back. Even if your cup size is not that big (even just an A cup,) you need to have plenty of support. If you have ever felt little twinges of pain in the very top portion near where they connect to your chest, that is breast tissue ripping, and the only way to fix that is through surgery. This is especially something to think about if you are exercising. If you are trying to purchase a sports bra, jump around. If they are bouncing, you either need a smaller size or need to wear two at once.
How They Should Fit
This is the part that everyone wants to know about. What size am I?
To find your size, you will need a partner and a flexible measuring tape.
- The first measurement you take is just above any part of the bust, around your body. To take this measurement you need to drop your arms to your side, so that the tape rests near your underarms. This is why you need a partner because it is impossible to take the measurement yourself with your arms down. This first measurement should be taken with the tape snug. Not so tight that you have skin rolling over it, but pretty fitted. The reason you measure above the bust instead of right below is that your ribs can protrude slightly, causing the measurement to be off.
- The second measurement is going to go over the largest part of your chest, which is typically at the nipple line. This is going to be a little bit looser measurement. It will still be touching the skin all the way around, just not as snugly. Make sure to drop your arms to your sides on the second measurement as well.
Measurement one is your band size. Band sizes only come in even numbers so if you got 35.5 round up to 36 and if you got 34.5 round down to 34. If you are right in the middle at 35” (or 33” or 37”, etc.), I would suggest that you try on both sizes. It will depend on the style which size will work better for you.
To find the cup size you simply subtract the first measurement from the second measurement. The number of inches will determine the cup size, i.e., 1”=A, 2”=B, 3”=C, 4”=D, 5”=DD/E and etc. (By the way, DD and E are the same, DDD and F are the same, and DDDD and G are the same. It will depend on the brand which they prefer to put on the tag.) So if your measurements are 32” and 36”, you would be a 32D.
Sounds simple enough right? It generally is with the exception that all styles are not created equal. This is why you must go into the store and try on bras to find which one actually fits you properly.
Tips for Trying on Bras
When you are trying on a bra, it is recommended that you hook the bra on the center hook unless it is that one week per month you are retaining water weight. This will allow you to be able to loosen the band on that week and allow it to be tightened once it inevitably stretches out a bit. Another option is to try it on the loosest hook so you will have even farther to take it in when it stretches out.
After you have it on, you want to make sure the straps are tightened just enough where you can still fit two fingers underneath it.
For the cups, you need to reach all the way in and lift your entire breast up and into the center to make sure the underwire is not on any breast tissue. Make sure you are standing straight up, not sitting or leaning over when you are adjusting the cups.
The first part of checking if it is fitting correctly is checking the band. Eighty percent of your support is going to come from the band, not the straps, so if it is wrong, it’s a big problem. When looking at the front, the center part between your cups should be laying flat against the body. If it is poking out, there is a good chance the cups are too small or the band is too big. The underwire should also be flat against the body and not laying on any breast tissue. This is especially true on the sides of the cups. The underwire should be behind all of the breast tissue or there is a good chance you are bruising yourself on a daily basis.
If you have what looks like back fat hanging over the back of the band, there’s a good chance the band is just too tight. If that’s the case, it doesn’t matter if you are a size 2 or 22, it will not look attractive. On the other hand, if the band is riding up in back, the band is typically too loose.
Onto the cups. It should be one seamless line from the bottom of the underwire to your neck. If there is a gap between your breast and the cup, the cup is too big. If you have spillage, which is where the breast tissue is bulging over the top of the cup, the cup is too small.
Remember…Not All Boobs Are Equal
One thing that most people don’t talk about is that unless you have had surgery to make them that way, your boobs will not usually both be exactly the same. Some people are lucky enough to have them be close enough that you cannot tell while others can be several cup sizes different. Typically, boobs only vary one cup size or less and there are some really quick and easy ways to fix this.
First, take measurements just on the larger breast side from your sternum to your backbone. You always want to fit the larger side because you need to have as much support as possible.
Next, start with a molded cup bra. This is just one that has a form already. Some full busted women are concerned this is going to add more to them, but that is not the case. It is just creating a nice form and also preventing everyone in the room from knowing you are cold. Some molded-cup bras come with a little pocket and inserts which make the next steps much easier.
You also want to get familiar with inserts. They can be filled with air, water, gel, or just foam. As far as which you use, it’s simply personal preference. If there is a large difference between the two breasts you might consider the gel or water, just to give you the weight to match the other side.
To make the breasts look even pull out the insert on the larger side and make sure that side fits well. On the smaller side keep the insert in the pocket provided. If you are purchasing one without the pocket, just put the insert in the bottom of the cup along the underwire in the deepest part of the cup. You then want to reach in and pull the entire breast up and in like you normally would. If there is still a gap in the cup, add a second insert just on top and above the first one. To hold it in, consider purchasing dress tape which can be attached to the insert and the bra.
Where To Go to get Fitted
If you are not confident enough to fit yourself, that is perfectly all right. There are many places where trained professionals in this type of thing are waiting to help you. One I know that will measure and fit you correctly is Dillard’s. The Certified Lingerie Fitters there actually have to take a course, fit a certain number of people and then take a test to be certified, so you know they know what they are doing. Some others that I have heard can measure you are Frederick’s, J.C. Penney’s, and Victoria’s Secret.
The difference the right bra makes
- In our quest for a well-fitting bra, it’s important to remember (not resent) that God made us each unique. Your journey will be different than mine because our boobs are different! Here’s a handful of experiences that my friends shared with me that showed me just how many ways you can take to finding the proper foundation for your wardrobe.
- “So, a few months ago a friend told me I should go get a fitting, and I finally bit the bullet and did it. Thankfully I roped a good friend into coming along for moral support. And now…while I had been actually wearing the right size, I feel like a NEW WOMAN! A high quality bra is amazing and even some of my shoulder/neck pain is less! My husband loves the results so much I think he’d be willing to work an extra job just to buy a few more! In fact, when I came home with 2 tan ones – being sensible and making my money work practically – he was disappointed that I hadn’t spent the extra $17 on the frilly ones!”
- “Oh my goodness! I was just fitted for the first time two weeks ago. I went to [a store with] professional fitters. One of them spent two hours with me (no charge) and I was amazed at what I learned after spending the last 30+ years wearing a bra! My size is not what I thought, and I am SO much more comfortable and happy with my appearance now! …My fitting experience wasn’t invasive at all. I always hesitated because I wasn’t sure if I’d have to bare myself. But they measured me in my clothes, and only saw me in the bras if I asked them to come in. It took so long because I was convinced I could not be the size they measured. When I finally decided to give it a try, it was a perfect fit!”
–Double D Diva
- “I actually just bought new bras recently and for the first time in years went with underwires. HUGE difference. Since my bust is so… ample I was afraid they’d be just too, too much, but the opposite is true. I actually go down a dress size with these bras… mainly because the support is there.”
–Blessed Beyond a B
- “I’m with the bustier bunch on this one. Stores never carry my size. Online shopping is a life saver. I just buy a bunch in what sizes I think I am (based off of measurements) and try them all on.”
excerpt by by DeeDee Justice from Embracing Beauty