It’s hard to believe that 80% of American women don’t know their true bra size or even how to measure their bust correctly, but it’s true.

Given the plethora of sizes, styles and fits available at every department store and lingerie shop in the country, it’s a bit of a mystery how so many women consistently get it wrong when shopping for brassieres.

Choosing a bra can either make or break an outfit, so knowing how to pick the one that’s right for you is vital. And remember — a bra that fits should feel as though you’re not even wearing one. 

Have You Been Choosing The Wrong Bra Size?

Sandi Simmons, a fit consultant at Bra Smyth in New York City, put the following list together to help women better determine if they’ve been choosing the wrong bras.

If you can identify with any of the scenarios she highlights below, then read on, there’s more you need to know.

  • Wrinkling in the cups: There is nothing worse than wearing the perfect shirt or top, and being forced to continually smooth out the bulges and wrinkles caused by your ill-fitting bra. Typically, you either ignore it or change your shirt, never really understanding it’s only because you’re not wearing the right bra.
  • Underwire poking the sides of your breasts: One word: ouch! Who wants to have the constant feeling of being poked or having something digging into your most sensitive areas?
  • Bands that ride up: If you need to keep pulling down the back band of your bra to keep things even and the cups where they belong, you may be wearing the wrong bra.
  • Cup spillage: Yes, wearing the wrong bra can cause the girls to slip or bulge out, which can lead to some pretty awkward situations — not to mention how odd it may look with a tight Tee or sexy see-through blouse.
  • Slipping straps: If you have to keep pulling the straps tighter or looser just to keep them on your shoulder correctly, chances are you have the wrong bra – no matter how attractive it might look.
  • A bra that hikes up when raising your arms: Again, if you need to constantly adjust your bra back down to cover your breasts, it’s time to do some research into how to choose the right size.

Now also keep in mind that bra sizes, shapes, and styles will change over your lifetime. Pregnancy and breastfeeding will alter the size your bras should be. Weight loss or gain, new exercise regimens and dieting will also change the size of your bra and how you wear it.

Because of the many changes your breasts go through, it’s a good idea to go for a fitting every year, just like those of us who are over 40 go for an annual mammogram.

9 Tips to Ensure You’re Wearing the Perfect Bra

1. Ask an expert.

Seek fitting consultants with training on how to determine the right bra’s for customers. Often lingerie or mall department stores will have a consultant on staff to assist you.

2. Think about what you wear.

Your wardrobe should determine which type of bra will be most comfortable and fitting. Whether you prefer T-shirts or more formal attire, your bra should reflect those styles. It’s best to bring a few shirts and maybe even a dress to your fitting so you can try on different bra styles.

3. Get a yearly fitting.

It’s important to note that each time you go up or down a band size your cups will also change. For example, a 36C and a 34D are the same size cup, so if you gained weight over the past year, your cup and band size will increase. This is why it’s crucial to get a yearly fitting.

4. Underwire shouldn’t hurt.

If you choose an underwire bra, it should be snug but not dig into your breasts. If you’ve been wearing the wrong type of bra this sensation may feel a bit odd or uncomfortable at first. The underwire should fit firmly against your ribs.

5. Straps shouldn’t, either. 

Don’t rely on the straps to hold up the bra. The support should come from the band, which might seem a little tight but will loosen up the more you wear the bra. If, however, the bands are always digging into your shoulders they may be too big; the same applies if the straps are continually falling off your shoulders. Rule of thumb: if you have a line under your breasts, the band may be too tight.

6. Take your time, and don’t just look at the price.

It may be simple and quick to just run into the store and pick up one you think looks attractive or may fit, but to get the bra that’s right for you it’s wise to shop around. Inexpensive bras aren’t always the best choice — neither are expensive ones, for that matter. It really depends on your level of comfort, body size, and your own particular style. It also has a lot to do with the fabrics and how well they hold up.

7. Give yourself options.

When it comes to choosing the perfect bra, first determine what type(s) you’re looking for, be that underwire, push-up, strapless, etc. And remember, don’t just pick up one bra. It’s far better to have at least two or three to choose from. Building a bra collection may take time and more money than you would like, but it’s well worth having the right ones for you.

8. Post-surgical bras: follow your surgeon’s advice.

If you have had a breast augmentation, reduction, or reconstruction procedure, choosing the right post-surgical bra will depend on a number of factors. Your plastic surgeon will advise you on the best options to promote healing while minimizing discomfort. Also bear in mind that you will most probably not know what your final cup size is until several weeks after your surgery, when the swelling has subsided and your breasts have taken on their new shape.

After purchasing the bra, ensure you treat it with care. It’s best to never wash it with your regular clothes or dry it with heat, because it can lose shape very easily and won’t last as long. The best way to wash a bra is to hand wash it with gentle soap and then lay it out to air-dry. Bras will last much longer and retain their correct shape this way.

So What Bra Size Am I, Exactly?

If you can’t find a local bra-measuring expert, measure yourself to get the right fit.

You need three measurements: two for the band, and one for the cup size. The best measuring tool is body measuring tape (the soft ones that wrap around easily), since they are flexible and hug your skin.

First, wrap the tape around your body and tuck it under your arms. Victoria’s Secret suggests standing in front of a full-length mirror wearing a non-padded bra. Measure just above the bust, right where the straps meet the top of the cup. Write down the number. This is your band size.

For your bust size, keeping the tape around your back at band level, measure at the fullest part of your bust. To ensure the tape isn’t too tight, take a deep, full breath in and out, allowing the tape to slide to a snug but comfortable position. Write down that number. If the measurement number falls on the half-inch, round it off.

You’ll also want to measure under the breast or the bottom of your bust. For this measurement, you need to wrap the tape around your body and across the top of your ribcage. Now, subtract your first band measurement, (under your arm) from your bust measurement. The difference between those two measurements is your true cup size.

Note that each inch represents one cup size. So, if you measured 34 inches in your band and 38 inches in your bust, you would be a D-cup.

Here are few more important reminders:

  • Your bra should lie flat against your chest between the cups. It should not lie on top of any breast tissue.
  • If there’s a large gap between the cups, you may need to go up a cup size.
  • Your band should be at the same level all the way around. You should also be able to fit two fingers beneath the band in the back and one in the center in front. If it’s difficult you may need to loosen the band or go up in size.

When in doubt, speak to a local bra-fitting expert who can answer all your questions and walk you through measuring process. This will ensure that you wind up wearing the best-fitting, most comfortable bra for your body type.

Updated, September 2017

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