Where do you even begin to look? How do you figure out what bra works for you? Where can you find a bra that won’t blow the budget? To answer these questions, we got insight from multiple bra-fit experts. Ahead, a guide to lingerie shopping for every boob type.
Get a bra fitting regularly
According to Priya Downes, founder of lingerie brand Nudea, more than 80% of people are wearing the wrong bra size because they don’t get fitted as often as they should — which is every six months. "If your bra is uncomfortable in any way, it probably means it doesn’t fit correctly. A proper-fitting bra should support and add to comfort, not detract from it."
Susana Lorena, founder of Maison SL, agrees that a bra fitting is a must when shopping for lingerie. "Bras can come in more than 50 sizes when you take account of all the combinations of back size and cup size. So find an expert who can help find the right size and can explain to you why a certain shape or style is going to suit you and meet your needs." Most times, fittings can be done in any specialised lingerie store and even virtually (CUUP is a great example).
"Wearing the correct size bra is particularly important as you get older — breasts are not muscular, and are supported by a single ligament," Downes says. "Time and gravity means firmer, younger breast tissue is slowly replaced with heavier, fattier tissue — and wearing a correctly fitting bra can slow this process down."
Identify your breast shape
In addition to the various sizes, all boobs are unique in shape. You need to look for bras that work for your shape if comfort is what you’re seeking. Some breast shapes and densities will work in pretty much any bra or lingerie silhouette but some have more specific needs.
It all comes down to getting a bra fitting but here is a general list of different breast shapes, compiled with the help of CUUP’s director of fit, Tania Garcia; Liberty & Love’s bra-fit expert, Beth Kates; MINDD founder, Helena Kaylin; Adore Me’s director of technical design and fit, Colleen Leung; and bra-fit experts from Ann Summers.
Round: equally full at the top and bottom.
Suggested bra type: full-coverage silhouette that will help encapsulate the breasts. Victoria’s Secret’s PINK collection features some good options.
East-West: right and left breasts go from the centre of the chest to the sides. The nipples often point in opposite directions.
Suggested bra type: an option that offers side support in the wing and cup. Also push-up bras. Avoid wired bras as they will have a tendency to poke you in the breast tissue.
Wide-Set: similar to east-west, with a wider space between the breasts.
Suggested bra type: same as east-west.
Teardrop: Round breasts with slightly wider bottoms.
Suggested bra type: push-up, to lift them up.
Narrow: The breasts are longer than they are wide, nipples point down.
Suggested bra type: balconette — it will lift the breasts for more fullness at the top. CUUP stocks some good varieties.
Bell Shape: Large, full at the bottom and slimmer at the top.
Suggested bra type: demi bra without a push-up or a balconette — these bras will offer the slight lift the breasts need without pushing them up too much.
That said, The Adult Toy Shop’s Mayla Green recommends trying what you think will work but also "pushing yourself to try on a few other shapes that you may have otherwise overlooked. If you are ordering online, be sure to check out companies with generous return and exchange policies that will allow you to check out a variety of styles without being stuck with something you don't like."
Check the straps and wires
When you try on a bra, check for comfort and fit. "Most common problems are straps digging because the underband isn’t supporting the breast weight, or cups are digging into your breast, or your bra cup doesn’t contain your breast tissue fully," says Downes.
Make sure that the straps are at their loosest (so you can tighten them as the bra stretches with wear). Likewise, when you hook it in the back, make sure you clasp onto the hook closest to the edge as you will tighten it every few months. Another thing to check for is that the wire on the side rests on your ribcage and not on your breast tissue as this will result in pain.
"Make sure that the wire is not digging in, the centre front of the bra is sitting flat against the chest and your bust is contained fully within the cup. Ensure that your bra straps are secure but not tight. If you remove the straps, your bra should continue to support your breast," says Fiona Graham, the head of lingerie product development technology at Marks & Spencer.
How to make the most of your bra budget
Lingerie can be expensive but there are ways to ensure you’re not draining your bank account.
First, recognise when to invest. Sometimes splurging on a few good-quality bras will do you more good than constantly having to buy more cheaper bras. Focusing on staple styles that you can wear every day instead of highly stylised pieces can help you get more wear out of your bra, too.
"Low-quality fabrics also don’t give a sense of comfort. Buying less but better quality is the first step to sustainability and also budget purchasing that we can make," says Magdalena Palmer, creative director of Movelle European Underwear. "I recommend checking the composition, touching these materials [to see] if they are soft enough — especially for sensitive allergic skin and nipples — and check if they are strong enough while trying the product on."
Green says to avoid mainstream brands when shopping for lingerie within a budget. "These big, well-known brands have big advertising and media budgets, therefore their prices will be higher. Search for small off-brands that sell exclusively online. These boutique companies have less overhead costs so they can price their lingerie more affordably." Another pro tip to ensure you get the most bang for your buck: handwash your bras.
For affordable lingerie options (ranging from £15 to £35 per bra or set), my favourites are Ann Summers, Bravissimo and Marks & Spencer. If your budget is £45 and up, Lounge Underwear’s bundles are a must-have, while Floatley features lingerie that feels like a second skin. If your boobs are on the bigger side, brands like MINDD, Bravissimo and Ann Summers, as well as Parade and The Pantry Underwear, offer a wide range of sizes that are inclusive and generally affordable.
In the end, it all comes down to comfort. Be open to trying new styles but go with what makes you feel good. Lingerie is all about you.