Believe it or not, at least 80% of women wear an incorrectly sized bra! Most people wear a bra too large in the back and too small in the cups. Although sizing can vary slightly between brands, all follow a basic measurement system that you can use to measure your bra size in the comfort of your own home.
1 Know that cup size is not absolute. This is the biggest myth about bra sizes: that a D cup looks the same on every band size, or that having small breasts automatically means you're an A cup. Actually, cup size is proportional to band size — meaning it's dependent on your band measurement. For instance, a 32 D will fill out less volume than a 36 D, but they're both D cups. The cup size (the letter) is determined by the difference between your underbust and bust measurements. A 32D would mean you have a 32 inch underbust and a 36 inch bust, whereas a 32A would mean you have a 32 inch underbust and a 33 inch bust.
2 Understand how a correctly fitted bra should look and feel. There are a few tell-tale signs that indicate whether or not a bra fits you. Here's what to keep an eye out for as you're measuring yourself and trying on different sizes:
- A snug band: The band is what should do the majority of the work supporting your breasts, not the straps. You should be able to put one or two fingers under the band, but no more. Straps falling off your shoulders or your band riding up are signs you need a smaller band; straps digging into your shoulders can be a sign it is too small.
- Sufficient side coverage: You shouldn't have any tissue coming out from the sides of the cups, beneath your armpits. On an underwire bra, you can assess side coverage with the underwire: if the end of it is pointing toward the middle of your armpit, you're good to go.
- A flat gore: The gore (the part of the bra band that's between the cups) should sit flat against your chest, without digging into your skin uncomfortably. If it doesn't, you're wearing the wrong bra.
- A smooth curve: Avoid the dreaded "quad-boob" that results from the top of a too-small cup cutting into breast tissue above the bra. Instead, look for a fit that results in a clean silhouette with no stray tissue.
3 Be aware of different breast shapes. So what happens if you find a bra in your size, but it still fits wrong? You're probably not picking the right bra cut for your breast shape. Try these solutions to common shape issues:
- Shallow breasts: If your breast tissue is evenly spread over a wider area, with less projection, you probably have a shallow shape. (Another tell-tale sign: having breast tissue near your collarbones despite being relatively small-busted.) Shallow breasts fit best in balconette or demi-cup bras, with a cup that's open on top and cut horizontally. Avoid plunge styles.
- Pendulous or tuberous breasts: If the base of your breast is relatively narrow, but the actual tissue hangs down quite a bit, don't despair! Instead, look for bras that have underwires, well-separated cups and fuller breast coverage. Avoid demi cups and plunge bras.
4 Know about sister sizes. If you find a bra that's close to a perfect fit but not quite there, try a sister size. It might provide just enough variation to correct the slight differences between manufacturers.
- Go down a sister size: Reduce your band size by two, but take your cup size up one interval. For instance, you might go from a 36 C to a 34 D.
- Go up a sister size: Increase your band size by two, but go down one cup size. For instance, you might go from a 36 C to a 38 B.
- Once you find your true bra size, some women may still chose a sister size in certain scenarios, such as with a difficult to find bra size. If you chose to do this, know that going up or down by more than one size usually results in a band that is much too large or too small.
5 Navigate different fitting styles. Currently, there are two different bra fitting styles (outlined below). The modern measurement is being adopted by more manufacturers, though some still use the traditional style. Unfortunately, it's difficult to know which system individual designers and labels use. Here's how to hedge your bets:
- If you're trying on bras in a store, it's a good idea to know what your size is for both styles.
- If you're ordering online, try to find a site that has a flexible return policy.
6 Be wary of professional fittings. Asking for a seasoned professional to measure you is a great idea if you're starting from square one — she'll probably be able to suggest cuts and styles that could work for you. However, being fitted comes with a few caveats:
- Avoid stores that carry a limited range. A fitter at one of these shops might try to incorrectly sell you a size that they have on-hand, instead of your true size. Before you commit to a fitting, make sure the store carries smaller band sizes (such as 28 and 30) and larger cups (DDD and up). Good choices in the US include department stores like Nordstrom and Dillard's.
- Ask to be fitted with both measurement systems. That way, you have an idea of what size to try if one style produces a completely wrong fit.
- Don't leave your current bra on. If your fitter tries to measure you with your bra still on, it's probably not going to be the correct measurement. If you're concerned about modesty, wear a thin but close-fitting tank top to your fitting, and simply remove the bra underneath.
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