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How to get a bra that fits right

It’s estimated that over 80% of women don’t wear the right size bra. I recently discovered firsthand that it actually changes your life a tiny little bit to go from an ill-fitting bra to one that’s just right. And I don’t just mean how you look. It instantly improved my posture, made tops I hadn’t been able to wear for a while fit again, and enabled me to move and walk and run without thinking about my breasts at all. That’s what a bra is supposed to do.

Measuring tape unfurled on white surface

The best way to get a bra that fits is to get a good fitting at a department store. This involves finding an employee who’s trained in bra-fitting. Mine did the measurements and told me what they said, but then used her own experience to guess that my real size would be closer to something else. Sure enough, she was right.

I was simply a cup size larger than I used to be (or else they’ve changed the sizing, as rumor has it). But you can also be way off on the band size, and that will create discomfort and sagging. Sometimes you need to go up a cup size and down a band size. And every brand and style, and even two identical bras, can differ, so you don’t have just one bra size: as with every other piece of clothing, slightly different sizes will fit you better in various brands.

Here’s how to tell your fitting is working (or to do your own if you can’t find a fitter, or are shy about letting someone see you change bras). You can take the measurements and do the math yourself, as explained here. I think that’s really worth doing at least once, but if it’s confusing to you, the other option is to try lots of bras on, looking for the following.

The right-fitting bra will:

  • Make you want to stand up straight, shoulders back.
  • Take the weight of your breasts off your shoulders and back – you should feel like they aren’t even there.
  • Streamline bulges near your shoulder and around your back (backrolls). No, this is nothing to do with being fat, and losing weight won’t fix it. Bras can create bulges and rolls on anyone. The right size bra may not make you perfectly smooth, but it will minimize this effect.
  • Keep your breasts front and center – if they’re at all spilling over toward your arms, that means they’re being squished into the wrong position, and that’s going to make you uncomfortable in the long run.
  • Give you a breast lift. I am not joking. My ill-fitting bras were causing minor sagging. Now with the new ones, even when I take them off for the night, my breasts are back to where they were years ago.
  • Not create bulges near your armpit, above the cup.
  • Be comfortable.
  • If wired, it won’t stick up from your breast bone. It’ll lay down almost perfectly flat (probably never quite perfectly, but close).

A few notes

  • The cup should be perfectly full, no more, no less. If you have bunched fabric (in the case of a soft cup) or extra room (in the case of contours), you need to go down a cup size. (Unless the band feels wrong, in which case you need to start all over.)
  • If you’re overflowing your cups even a little, you need a bigger cup size.
  • If you find you’re in between cup sizes, try a demi style bra. The cups are shaped differently, so they sometimes fit when the traditional style doesn’t.
  • In fact, it’s never a bad idea to try all sorts of styles to find what’s comfortable for you.
  • Give yourself plenty of time if you go in for a fitting or a do-it-yourself fitting. You have to try on quite a few bras to figure out what works for you. But the good news is, once that’s done, for future bra shopping you have a starting point (the size/style that worked last time), and if your body has changed some in the meantime, you can probably tell pretty quickly from these notes what size or style you need to switch to.

Of course there’s more than size to it. Some brands and styles will fit you better than others, and you just have to try a few to see what works best.

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