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Find Your Perfect Fitting Bra

Updated on September 7, 2016
Joyce Fischer profile image

Joy is a former theatrical costumer with experience in all areas of clothing and accessories including retail, boutique, and one-off design.

Bra by Claf Hong
Bra by Claf Hong

How the sizing works

So what do you need to know? Let’s start with fit. The bra size has two parts and both parts have to be the right size for comfort and fit. The first part is the circumference, the measurement of the bra band. US sizes are in inches and European sizes are in centimeters. The second part is the cup size, the part that keeps those girls in check. The cup size is alphabetical, starting with A for the smallest size and usually going up to D or DD (F). If you are larger than this, you may have to go to a specialty shop for lingerie. Surprisingly, the store that has the big ads for sexy bras, doesn’t have the best selection in the larger sizes.

Measuring properly will save time in the fitting room. The band size is measured under the bust and around the back in a straight line. Beware of the sales person who wants to use the high bust measurement, the measurement under the armpits and above the breasts. This is an outdated way of measuring. No part of the bra goes above the breasts, except the straps, and so, this is a meaningless measurement. Take the measurement while standing in front of a mirror and checking to see that the measuring tape is straight and not twisted. It should be snug to get the exact measurement. This is the number part of the size. Sizes usually run 32-38 but more styles are being offered in sizes up to 48.

The cup size is based on the difference between the size of your under bust and your over the bust measurement. So, a 32 C will not be the same cup size as a 38C. And, in fact, the shape of the cup will affect the fit, as well. There is about one inch difference in total measurement within each cup size. But fit will be affected by style and brand, so use it as an estimate until you find the size that most consistently fits.

Source

[Size of bra and how to wear bra] Bra cup sizes calculator #3

Anatomy of a bra.
Anatomy of a bra. | Source

Know what you want and how to find it

They say most women buy the wrong size bra. And it’s no wonder! Buying a bra can be one of the most daunting tasks when shopping for lingerie. Even if you find the perfect bra for your body silhouette, styles change and that bra may not be available the next time you are bra shopping.

Most lingerie departments have a myriad of styles and brands to choose from. So, there are a few things you need to know before you arrive. First, come armed with the proper information. Know what a good fit is and the proper style of bra for the right outfit. Recognize a good sales person. Sales people can be helpful, but even in the top stores, they are not always well trained. Know what you want and what’s best for you before you arrive. Don’t be high pressured into buying something that’s not a perfect fit. If it’s not comfortable in the dressing room, it’s not going to be comfortable when you wear it later.

Cups!

The other part of fit is the cup style. There are full coverage styles, push up styles, and demi cups, with each having a little less coverage. The style may depend on the neckline of your outfit. But it may depend on fit, too. Full coverage is best with tee-shirts and clingy fabrics. Push up styles work best with more fitted garments. And demi-cups are best with low necklines.

Wires

A word about wires—choose carefully. For comfort, a bra without wires is best. These bras usually use padding to create support and may not be available in larger sizes. There are also, bralettes, which are wireless bras made from stretch lace. They are very comfortable and great for summer. Just watch out, they are also transparent. So, if you are wearing anything sheer, you may want a bra with a satin finish. One more thing to know about non-underwired bras is that they sometimes have a side wire. The purpose is to keep the bra from sagging outward next to the arms. The problem with this feature is that it can chaff against your underarm. If you are moving your arms a lot, this can be very annoying.

Underwire bras have a semi circular wire that sits just under the breasts for support. They offer the most support and usually don’t have the uncomfortable side wire. The underwire should have a light layer of padding around the wire. If there is no padding, you will feel the wire when you wear it. Press the wire between your fingers to see if you feel any padding. Some of the lacy ones don’t have padding, If you are in smaller sizes, this might be ok for you.

Styles

There is one more option to think about in bras; that is the amount of control you need. If you need athletic wear, you are better off buying a bra in the sports wear department. Traditional lingerie companies have never understood what is needed for sports bras. They end up designing bulky things with hooks in the back or front zips that create a bulky line in a tee-shirt. If you just need light support, bralettes are a good option. If you find the bra band binds, you might try a longline bra or a wide band bra. These bras nowadays are very attractive and sometimes are prettier than the tiny pushup bras. For the most control, there are corsets, very sexy. But if you want one that fits well, you need to go to a corsetiere. This is especially true for wedding gowns or formals that need special support. The right undergarments are essential these highly fitted garments.

Control

There is one more option to think about in bras; that is the amount of control you need. If you need athletic wear, you are better off buying a bra in the sports wear department. Traditional lingerie companies have never understood what is needed for sports bras. They end up designing bulky things with hooks in the back or front zips that create a bulky line in a tee-shirt. If you just need light support, bralettes are a good option. If you find the bra band binds, you might try a longline bra or a wide band bra. These bras nowadays are very attractive and sometimes are prettier than the tiny pushup bras. For the most control, there are corsets, very sexy. But if you want one that fits well, you need to go to a corsetiere. This is especially true for wedding gowns or formals that need special support. The right undergarments are essential these highly fitted garments.

Shopping

When you arrive at the store or lingerie department, take your time. The merchandise is usually laid out by brand, style, and lastly size. Take a quick walk through just to get an idea of the brands you like if it’s a big space. The last time I shopped in the New York City Macy’s, the lingerie department took up and entire floor, in other words a New York City block! So narrow it down, unless you want to spend all day in there. Usually the displays in the center are high style and high price. This is where you start if you’re looking for lingerie for a certain someone to see, not for comfort. You can usually circle the department and look at the brands along the side next to the wall to see the most popular and well-recognized brands. Each brand has a price range. So, if cost is an issue, narrow it down at this point. No use falling in love with a $100 bra if it’s not in your budget.

Popular bra brand comparisons

Brand
Cost
Style & Comfort
Playtex
Affordable
Casual/Relaxed fit
Maidenform
Affordable
Casual/Relaxed fit
Warners
Moderate
Variety/Comfortable
Bali
Moderate
Variety/Comfortable
Wacoal
Expensive
Elegant/Stylish
These are only a few well known brands.

In the fitting room

Pick one or two bras from just a couple of your favorite brands. The smaller sizes are at the top and the sizes increase as you go down and around the racks. Sometimes all the cup sizes are on the same hook, but if it’s a big store, they will be sorted by cup size as well.

In the fitting room, notice whether you can hook the bra on the largest hook. Pull up the straps until the bra sits flat against your ribcage. It should not sag, nor should it cut you in the shoulders. There are usually three hook placements to adjust the fit in the back. If you can’t reach the largest hook on any of the brands, try the next size up. Never buy a bra that has to hook on the smallest placement when it’s new. Bras stretch; you will not be able to make it smaller when it stretches a little from wear. Once you have it adjusted, try bending over and turning from side to side. Do the wires poke you? Does the bra move out of place when you turn from side to side? The size may be right, but the fit isn’t. Try the same size in a different brand.

The three things to remember

With these guidelines you should be able to find the perfect bra in a figure flattering style. Keep in mind purpose, fit, and comfort. Check all the key fitting points, and you’ll have the perfect fitting bra every time.

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© 2016 Joyce A Fischer

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      There is absolutely nothing I can add to this article. LOL I'm only here to lend support, so welcome to HP.