for whatever reason, buying a bra and figuring out your size is one of the most complicated processes ever?! You can have a bra that fits cup-wise but the straps tend to slip, or the straps fit perfectly, but the band feels like it’s cutting off your circulation. There’s also the fact that many women have one breast that’s slightly larger than the other. It’s totally normal, but very annoying when one cup gapes and the other doesn’t, right?
How to Choose the Right Bra?
Wearing the wrong bra can distract or even ruin a potentially great day. Luckily, it’s easy to measure yourself for the right bra size. Furthermore, choosing a style that will keep you in comfort becomes a breeze once you know what you’re looking for! With a bit of prior planning, you can find the perfect bra for any occasion.
Finding Your Bra Size
Put on a comfortable, well-fitting, non-padded bra. Choose the bra you feel most comfortable in–it should be snug but not dig into your sides. Your nipples should be about halfway between your elbow and shoulder. If they are lower, tighten the straps to lift. You can also measure without a bra, but it may be slightly more challenging when things can move around.
Find your band size. Standing in front of a mirror, use a soft tape measurer to measure around your ribs right under your breasts. This is also where the band of your bra wraps around your torso. Pull the tape tight. Write down this measurement. Use the mirror to make sure the tape is exactly parallel to the floor. If the measuring tape is not in a straight line around your body and at an angle, you will not get an accurate measurement. Don’t pull the tape so tight it’s like you are wearing a corset. Just make sure it is squeezing your body snugly. If your measurement is a fraction (like 33 1/2 inches), round up to the nearest whole number (34 inches). Band sizes are measured in even numbers, so if your measurement was odd, you may want to try one size up and one size down (if you measure 35 inches, try both the 34 and the 36 size bra), but round up for now.
Find your bust size. Wrap the measuring tape around your back and measure your breasts at their fullest point, usually at the nipple. Write down this measurement. Because your cup size can fluctuate based on hormones and bloating, try to measure on a day when your breasts feel relatively normal. If you are concerned about your posture (maybe you slouch), try bending forward at the hips to a 90 degree angle, or until your body forms an L shape. Then measure your bust from that position. Don’t pull the tape tight like you did with your band measurement. As with the band measurement, round up to the nearest whole number if your measurement is a fraction. Again, be certain the tape is straight across your back. The measuring tape should not angle up from your back toward your nipples. All women have one breast that is larger than the other, so be sure you are measuring to the fuller breast.
Subtract your band size from your bust size. The difference between these two numbers is your key to finding your cup size. A 1 inch difference = A cup. 2 inch = B cup. 3 inch = C cup. 4 inch = D cup. 5 inch = DD cup. Once you go above 5 inches (12.7 cm), cup sizes will differ with each company. There should be a sizing chart on the company’s website and you can use your band and bust measurement to find which cup you want.
Combine the cup size with your band measurement, and you have your final bra size. So, a 34C means you have a 34 inch band and a C cup.
Remember that the cup size is not the same for each band size. A 34B cup will be smaller than a 36B cup. When trying on bras, if you change band sizes you, will also have to change cup sizes. If you need a larger band size, go down a cup size. So instead of 34B, you’ll want 36A. If you need a smaller band size, go up a cup size. Instead of 34B, go for 32C. It is more important to have an accurate band measurement than cup measurement. Going up or down a band size is a more significant change than going up or down a cup size. Get a comfortable band first and then fine tune with the cup size.
Get help from a professional if you need it. If you aren’t sure you’re doing it right, want a second opinion, or just don’t feel like measuring yourself, stop into any bra or lingerie store or department and ask a sales associate for help. Helping customers find the best bra is part of their job, and they will know exactly what to do.
Ensuring a Good Fit
Hook the bra so it is hanging around your waist. Make sure the straps are loose–you can tighten them later if you need to. If you have trouble hooking a bra behind your back, you can hook the bra at the front and then twist it around your waist so the hooks are at your spine.
Lean forward and pull the bra up from the front only, sliding your arms through the straps. The cups may feel empty or a little too big at this point, but that’s ok. The band should be snug and low on your back.
Lean forward and, using the opposite hand, reach into the bra and pull the soft flesh near your armpits into the cup. Pull all the soft flesh forward and up. Then hold the bra in the center between the two cups and jiggle it.
Check the fit and tighten the straps. Straps shouldn’t be so tight they dig into your shoulders, but there should be no slack.
- Does the bra pinch your breasts or make it look like you have four boobs? Then it’s the wrong size.
- Your nipples should be about halfway between your shoulder and elbow.
- If your breasts are spilling out of the sides of your bra, you need a different size.
Remember your bra size is not permanent and will change along with your body. Just because you are a 34C now doesn’t mean you will always have those same measurements. If you’ve gone through a major body change or your bra doesn’t feel right, take your measurements again.
- Get refitted if your weight has fluctuated more than 10 pounds, you’ve had a baby, started exercising regularly, or have completed hormone therapy.
Choosing the Right Style
Get to know your breasts. The size and shape of your breasts may impact your bra size and influence which style is most flattering to your body. Breasts and bodies come in every shape and size. Instead of worrying that your breasts don’t look like a Victoria Secret Model’s, concentrate on dressing for your body and finding what looks best on you.
- Examine detailed fitting guides that recommend bras for many different shapes and types of breasts. They make suggestions for women with prominent breast bones, large areolas, distended stomachs, and more.
Consider the function of the bra you are buying. Is this an everyday bra to wear under a t-shirt? Do you wear a lot of low-cut shirts or are you planning to wear a backless dress? Maybe you can only afford one bra and need something with versatility? There are tons of possibilities for different styles, cuts, and fits.
- Check out a guide to the pros and cons of different bra styles, and on which bodies and breast shapes they work best.
- A seamless bra can be a great everyday bra to wear under T-shirt or with other form-fitting clothes, as it will be almost invisible underneath.
Buy a sports bra for exercising. If your breasts bounce or move too much during activity, the supportive ligaments begin to break down. Bouncing can also become very painful, and the discomfort may eventually prevent you from participating in activities.
- Check the impact or intensity level when shopping for a sports bra. A low-impact bra works great for yoga or hiking. A high-impact bra is necessary for activities like running.
- Smaller-breasted women are usually comfortable in compression bras (that give the appearance of a “unibreast”) and look like a cropped tank top.
- For larger-breasted women, an bra that cups and encapsulates each breast may be more comfortable and inhibit bouncing. These bras have wide straps and clasps.
- You may also find a bra that combines compression and encapsulation, which will give you the best support overall.
Check that the cups are smooth and the edges lie flat against your chest. If the cups are wrinkled or look pointy, you may not be filling out the cup and need a smaller size. If you are spilling out of the cups or feel pinched, try a larger cup size.
Make sure the bra band is snug and low in the back. The band can be parallel to the floor but should angle no higher. If the band is too high, the bra cannot provide proper support. Try a smaller band size or tightening the straps.
Make sure the straps stay in place but don’t dig into your shoulders. Your straps should not provide the majority of the support. If you’re relying on the shoulder straps to keep your breasts lifted, you may actually need a smaller band size.
- If your shoulders are sloping or narrow, try a bra with a leotard back, a racerback bra, or buy a special clip that will keep your straps from slipping off your shoulders.
Check that the underwire doesn’t dig into your chest or pinch your skin. The wires should not bend outward in the center. Try a larger size or consider a bra without an underwire.
- Many women choose to wear a bra with an underwire, but a soft-fit bra that is properly fitted can provide equal support. Go with whatever feels most comfortable to you.
Make sure the band isn’t too tight. Run a finger under the front of your band. If you can’t slide your finger under the band, your bra may be hooked too tight or you need a larger band size.
- If your bra becomes uncomfortable when you sit, try a larger band or a bra with and arched center panel. Your ribs expand when you are in a seated position. You want your bra to be comfortable whether you’re on your feet or in a chair.
How to Wear the Right Bra for Your Outfit?
Women’s fashion is remarkably varied. A woman who wears a turtleneck sweater one day might find herself wearing a backless dress the next. With every change in neckline, a woman must check her bra to make sure it works with her new outfit. Moreover, with such a wide range of tops and necklines available, knowing how to choose the right bra for each outfit can make or break your look. Look for colors, strap styles, and band styles that keep your bra hidden beneath your clothes. Also make sure you wear the correct size, since the wrong bra size can ruin your look regardless of the style you choose.
Choosing the Right Color
Choose an appropriate color. A flesh colored bra offers the most versatility, as shades matching your skin are the least visible under pale, dark, sheer, or thin fabric. Avoid bold colors when wearing light colored shirts or tops made of see-through material.
Matching the Bra to the Activity
Wear a sports bra when exercising. A sports bra may not create the most flattering silhouette but it does its job, which is to keep you comfortable and to prevent your breasts from experiencing strain when moving. Some studies suggest that wearing a sports bra during exercise can reduce bouncing by approximately 74%, which will keep you feeling comfortable and supported.
- There are specially adapted sports bras for such activities as yoga and pilates, so that you only have to wear the bra layer and not overheat.
Matching the Bra to the Clothing
Stick with a standard bra for casual crew neck t-shirts. As long as your bra provides you with the correct amount of support and leaves you feeling comfortable, virtually any bra can work under an ordinary, slightly loose t-shirt. Many women find a standard, no-fuss bra the most comfortable but you can opt for whatever style you like best.
Opt for a seamless bra for shirts made of clingy fabric. Seamless bras prevent lines from showing through your top, making them an excellent choice for tight t-shirts and fitted blouses. Stick with a full-coverage bra to create the smoothest fit, since demi-cup bras hit the middle of your breast and may create a dividing line that can show through your top.
Look for a plunging bra for deep v-neck tops. Plunging bras have a very deep center bridge, well below your breasts. If you wear a standard bra with a deep neckline, the cups or bridge may be exposed.
Try on a halter bra for a halter top. The straps on a halter bra come in closer around your neck, rather than sitting further out along your shoulder. As a result, the straps remain hidden beneath the fabric of your top.
- Wear racerback bras for racerback tops. Like the halter bra, the racerback bra has straps that mimic the shape of the top that shares its name.
Use a strapless bra beneath a strapless or spaghetti string top. Strapless bras smooth out your form and provide basic support. They might run a little tighter than a standard bra, however, since the band must provide full support in the absence of straps.
Try a spaghetti strap bra with spaghetti strap tops. A bra with super thin straps may coordinate well enough with a spaghetti strap top. The straps may not disappear completely beneath your top but as long as your bra straps do not exceed the thickness of your top’s straps, you may be able to get away with showing your bra straps in casual settings.
- Choose a color that matches your top or stick with a neutral color.
Buy a convertible bra for versatility. Convertible bras have adjustable straps, allowing you to change the way the straps fit based on the cut of your shirt. Basic convertible bras can usually be changed into halter bras and strapless bras; more extravagant convertibles have even more options.
Consider silicone adhesive bras for deep necklines, backless tops and strapless tops. Silicone adhesive bras have no back and no straps. They stick onto your skin and smooth out your silhouette. These bras offer minimal support, however, so you should only use them as a last resort.
Wear any bra with your underwear. There are no rules about matching the bra to your underwear––nobody sees the “match” and it’s totally up to you whether this matters or not. If it does matter, aim to buy the bra and underwear at the same time to ensure a good match.
Ensuring the Bra Works For you
Stick with thicker straps if you are well-endowed. Thicker shoulder straps provide better support, which is essential for women with especially large busts. If you have a smaller bust size, however, thinner straps may provide enough support.
Give yourself added lift with a push-up bra. The right push-up bra can work beneath a wide variety of tops, ranging from ordinary t-shirts to fancier blouses. Look for one that creates a smooth, natural silhouette, though, or else you may end up looking disproportionate or obviously fake.
Wear padding sparingly. A bra with light padding can look natural and give your bust a few added inches. Too much padding can look obvious, however and will not flatter your figure well.
Choosing the Correct Size
A bra should fit firmly and evenly around your rib cage, the shoulder straps should not dig in and the bra should not ride up at the back. Ideally, it should feel like you have nothing on when you’re wearing your bra.
Use a soft cloth tape measure to measure the length around your torso, just beneath your breasts. The measuring tape should rest where your bra band rests. Keep the tape smooth and parallel to the floor.
Add five inches (12.5cm) to this measurement, rounding up to the nearest even whole number. This number is your band size.
Use your tape measure to measure around the widest part of your chest. Usually, the tape measure should cross over your nipples. Keep the tape measure parallel to the floor. Do not allow it to become slack but do not keep it too tight, either. This number is your bust size.
Take the difference between your band size and your bust size to find your cup size. Add a cup size for every inch (2.5cm). For example, a difference of one inch (2.5cm) puts you in an A cup, a difference of two inches (5cm) puts you in a B cup, a difference of three inches (7.5cm) puts you in a C cup, a difference of four inches (10cm) puts you in a D cup, and a difference of five inches (12.5cm) puts you in a DD or E cup. If the difference is less than one inch (2.5cm), you should wear an AA cup.
When trying on a bra, place your hands through the straps and bend over at the waist, so that your breasts fall into the cups. The cups should contain your breasts and the center of your nipple should fall in the fullest part of the cup.
- If your breasts brim over the cup in the middle or at the sides, the bra is too small.
- If the bra fabric is pinched together in places and not filled in by flesh, the bra is too large.
Adjust both the hooks and strap size of the bra to achieve a comfortable fit when trying on a bra. Neither the band nor the straps should dig into your skin but both should fit snugly and lie flat.
Check the bridge of the bra. This center piece of fabric should lay flat against the breastbone.
- Katie Quinn. Image Consultant. Expert Interview. 14 April 2020.
- Harper’s Bazaar, Great Style, (2007), ISBN 978-1-58816-673-9 – research source
- http://www.hercampus.com/school/illinoisstate/lindsay%E2%80%99s-fashion-blog-right-bra-your-outfit – research source
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