Get Fit: How To Find Your Real Bra Size

pg 1Photo: Courtesy of Bare Necessities.
Before I get in too deep, I need to explain why ill-fitting bras are a problem that’s close to my heart (cue the groans). I got my first bra, a B cup, in sixth grade. By seventh grade, I was a C cup; in eighth grade, a D. And, there I stayed until I hit college and graduated to DDD bras. I became used to being the big-boobed buddy and having my cups literally spilleth over, no matter what type of top I wore. I thought the quad-boob look was just something I had to deal with, that the shoulder pain was normal, and that a bra fit correctly when the majority of my breast was popping out. I also didn’t know that bras went above a DDD, thanks to an extremely well-known lingerie company. Maybe that’s its “secret” — it knows its smushing women into ill-fitting bras, but it pretends this is normal.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to receive a proper, professional bra fitting, and — wow. Without gaining or losing a single pound, I went from wearing a 40DDD to a 38H (a size I didn’t know existed until then!), and the transformation was immediate. My constant back and shoulder pain was gone. I could jump up and down and not worry about flying out of the cups. And, for the first time in my adult life, I didn’t look like a walking pair of boobs.
Here’s the kicker: More than 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. In fact, I'd be willing to predict that almost every woman reading this is wearing the wrong size right now. As you re-adjust your chest for the umpteenth time, think about how your bra actually fits. If your breasts ever escape under the band or if the straps are digging into your shoulders, your band is too big. If you’re spilling out of the cups or the underwire and/or center gore (the little piece of fabric that connects the cups in front) doesn’t lie flat against your sternum, your cups are too small. Fit is everything in a bra, so we owe it to ourselves to finally get it right.
To help guide us to that ever-elusive perfect fit, we spoke to fit expert and customer-service supervisor for Bare Necessities Yasmeen Anderson. Keep reading — these tips are serious life-changers.
pg 2Photo: Courtesy of Bare Necessities.
“There are many different methods used to determine bra size. Many subscribe to measuring with a fabric tape measure; others use your current bra and look at that garments fit issues. No matter which methodology you use, if there is not a basic understanding of how a bra works, the measurements will not be enough to get a proper fit. The below are tips that will help you understand the components of good fit and what one should be looking for once they get their new style/size.”
Yasmeen’s Fit Tips:
A. Most of us are not aware of how important the band is to a great fit. More than 80% of the support of the bra comes from the band, so if the band does not fit snugly against the body, you will not have an optimal fit. Therefore, when measuring for the band size, make sure to hold the measuring tape in a way that's not too loose and not too tight (you do want to breathe in your new bra!). Once you get the correct size down, your band should be taut and go straight across your back, no arching.
B. Correct underwire placement is also an integral part of a perfect fit. Your underwire shouldn’t dig or poke, but it should support, separate, and lie flat against your chest. The underwire should be behind all the breast tissue, usually ending somewhere around the middle of the underarm. In the front, the underwire should lie flat against your chest between the breasts.
C. The straps do give some support to the garment, but they should not bear the full weight of the breasts. If your band is too big, your cups are too big, or even if your cups are too small, you'll end up over-tightening your straps to compensate for lack of lift and support, which will result in too much pressure on your shoulders.
D. So, let's say you get the band size right, your underwire placement is great, your straps are adjusted, and the bra still doesn’t seem to suit you. Well, just like a size-10 woman won't necessarily look amazing in every pair of size-10 jeans, the same goes for your bra. Style matters in reference to fit. So, if the style does not work, look at alternate styles that are more customized to your needs, i.e. more or less coverage, center straps versus wide-set straps, foam-lined versus unlined, seamed versus smooth/seamless.
So, now that you have a basic understanding of the bra-blems you might be suffering, where can you go to get measured or finally purchase your perfect bra? If you prefer the hands-on, in-person approach, head to the lingerie section of your local department store, like Macy’s or Nordstrom, and ask for a free fitting. Want a fitting in the comfort of your own home? Then check out Bare Necessities (which carries bras from a 28 to 56 band and an AA to N cup), HerRoom (from 28A to 58J), or FreshPair (from a 28 to 52 band and an AA to H cup). I know it seems unimaginable, but your love affair with bras is about to begin.

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of style secrets, insider shopping dish, fashion news, and more on the Refinery29 Fashion Facebook page!

More from Styling Tips

R29 Original Series