Advantages Properly fittied bras look and feel better than badly fitted bras
Disadvantages Badly fitted bras can cause health problems. Not always easy to find bras in all sizes.
Apparently between 90% and 70% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Wearing the correct size bra is important, not just aesthetically, but also for your health – wearing something that applies pressure to one spot for 14 to 20 hours a day will cause pain and damage, and has even been suggested as a link with breast cancer. A bra that is too large will not support the breasts, leading to stretched skin and ligaments, and potentially more pain. Poorly fitted bras cause back and neck problems, and can lead to posture problems linked to migraine, poor circulation, and so on. Plus they look horrid – even the most beautiful of outfits can be ruined by poor foundations!So, how do you know if your bra fits you? Essentially a well fitting bra is comfortable and supportive. Obviously ‘special events’ bras, such as push ups and plunge bras will be slightly different. My experience is with underwired bras, but the same principles apply to soft cup bras.
The band (around your body) should be snug, but not too tight, and do most of the supporting. Straps should neither dig into you, nor slide off your shoulders. The cups should lie smooth over your breasts, which should fill the cup, not be spilling over or rattling around inside. The center front of the bra ought to be lying flat against your chest. When you move, you should feel supported, but not restricted.All of the above apply to you? Congratulations! You’re one of that 10%-30% who are wearing well fitting bras! It doesn’t? Then read on!
One very important point that I should make at this point – A bra can fit you. A size probably won’t. By which I mean that, like clothes and shoes, the same size in a different style, or from a different manufacturer, can be a totally different size, and shape – a 36D in one style may fit perfectly, but that doesn’t mean that all 36D bras will fit. If you can’t try a bra on before you buy, make sure that the shop / stall / website will do refunds or exchanges so you can try it on at home and change it if necessary.The first stage is to figure out your band size – this is the only time when a tape measure should enter into the whole process at all. Measure around your torso, where the bra band would be – evenly level with the underside of your breasts, in inches. Then the instructions start to vary. All agree that you round up to a the next whole even number (so if you measure 33 inches, round to 34) Some say add another 2, some say add another 4, As most people are wearing a band size to large to properly support them, I’d start off with your measurement, rounded up plus two. Now start trying on bras, until you find a band size (again depends on fabric, and manufacturer) that’s sitting snuggly around you, but not digging holes in you or cutting off the circulation.
The next stage is to figure out your cup size – which has two stages: understanding how the sizing system works, and then figuring out what works for you.Cup sizes come in letters – in this country they generally run
AA (smallest) A, B, C, D, DD, E, F and so on – the largest commonly available size is a JA few brands, and the whole American nation run AA, A, B, C, D, DD, DDD, E, EE, F, G, which just confuses things. I’ll be using UK sizes here.
The letter refers to the difference between the measurement under the breast and the measurement around the fullest part of the bust (when wearing a bra). Actually that measurement is a pretty poor indication of fit, but the important bit to remember is that the cup size is relative to the band size – the cups of a 34D, a 36C and a 38B are all the same size.The best way of establishing your cup size is to start off wearing your best bra, and trouble shoot. If the cups fit, but the straps dig into your shoulders, or the back rides up during the day, you’ll need to drop a band size, remembering to go up a letter to keep the cups the same size (38C becomes 36D or 34DD). Similarly if the cups fit, but the band is far too tight, go up a band size and down a cup size (34C becomes 36B)
If the band fits right, but the cups wrinkles up, or the wires dig in under your arms, try the same band size, but a smaller cup, or possibly a different style in the same size (I find balconettes more comfortable than full cup bras because they have less wiring). If you are spilling over your cups at the top, or end the day embossed with whatever pattern your bra has, try a larger cup size. If you are spilling over at the sides, try either larger cups or a different bra make or style – some people, and some bras, are more wide set than others. Don’t forget to adjust the strap lengths so they are not digging in, or slipping off.Keep trying on bras until you find something that’s comfortable, supportive, gives you a smooth outline, and a shape you like. There really is no substitute for trying things on – once you have had one well fitting bra, and know what it feels like, you’ll know when something isn’t right. Move around in the changing room – move your arms, bend over, jump up and down – if you fall out of the bra doing that, think how uncomfortable you’ll be after a whole day on the go.
It’s entirely normal for breasts to be slightly larger n one side than the other – it is preferable to fit the cup size to the larger breast, and if the difference is noticeable, to pad the smaller size. You could use the ‘cookies’ from a plunge bra, or with any of the various cloth or silicon ‘shapes’ designed to ‘enhance your bust’. Trying to squish the larger breast into a cup that fits the smaller size is uncomfortable and potentially unhealthy.It can be useful to get professionally fitted, especially if you are unsure about how a bra should look and feel. This can be a bit intimidating, but a good lingerie shop should have staff who set you at ease, as well as who know their stuff. If you are uncomfortable stripping off in front of them, ask them to wait outside while you get into and out of the bras you try on. They’re used to that. Do let them suggest things to try on though – they ought to know their stock, and may be able to pick out something that you wouldn’t have noticed. Don’t, however, let anyone bully you into accepting something that you really don’t like, or find uncomfortable – however much they know about bras, you’re the one inside your body! If you want a balconette and they insist you buy a minimiser – leave! If someone tells you are unreasonable to expect an everyday bra to be comfortable (whatever your size) – leave!
Even if you are getting fitted, please bear in mind the advise you have read – at least one major chain who offer a fitting service (Marks and Spencer), routinely miss-fit people who are actually a size that they don’t sell, telling them that they are a common size to get them to buy. In my experience independent shops and branches of John Lewis have been very good. La Senza and Marks poor, but your mileage may vary. More importantly it’s your body, and it’s up to you to get the information you need to make decisions about what to put on it. You know what’s comfortable and what’s not, and ultimately it’s your health, and your appearance.A big factor in how you fit into a bras, and how well they last is how you get in to it – assuming we’re talking about a normal, back fastening bra. Again, strapless and front fastening bras will vary. The ‘correct’ method is to put your arms through the straps, and then while leaning forwards, ‘scoop’ yourself into the cups, using your hand to lift yourself ‘up and in’. Then fasten the back as you stand up. Unless there are health reasons that make it hard for you to reach behind you, if you are in the habit of doing up your bra in front, then spinning it around and slipping the straps on, you’re not doing yourself or your bras any favors. If the band size is right, you will stretch it, and you will probably have your shoulder straps too long to let you slip them over your arms when you’re already wearing the bra. Ideally when you buy a bra, the band should be a good fit on the loosest of it’s two or three hooks, so that as the material stretches you can use the inner hooks to keep a good fit. The hooks should also be done up when you are washing your bras, to stop them getting caught in fabric and tearing something. The council of perfection is to have enough bras to wear each one only once, which means they should all last longer, and to wash them as soon as you take them off, as any sweat on them will damage the elastic in the fabrics if left to sit. Almost all underwire bras are marked hand wash only as well. A more attainable plan is to put your bras in with your regular laundry if you have a gentle wash programme on your machine, fastened and inside a pillowcase held closed with a hair band or elastic band. This protects the bras, but also your machine, because an escaped underwire will do horrible things to the insides of a washing machine.
Every time you buy bras you should consider the fit, rather than automatically buying more of the same – hormones, weight changes, pregnancy, illness and age can all change your size and shape, so it’s worth giving you bra wardrobe an occasional MOT.You made it this far? Congratulations – I hope this doesn’t sound to didactic, or long-winded, but having had some bad experiences in the past, I am something of a woman possessed on the subject. Apologies also if I’ve embarrassed anyone – it’s a subject I’m quite happy to talk about, but I know not everyone feels the same way. This probably isn’t the only way of going about the whole thing, but its worked for me, and many of my friends (who have gone out and converted others in their turn). It’s such a great feeling to be wearing a ‘good’ bra after maybe years of discomfort – most people insist on wearing their newly fitted bra out of the shop, and vow to throw away all their old, uncomfortable ones, rather than go back.
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