We have all heard the statistics: 75% or 80% of all women are wearing the wrong bra size. (Is it true? We sincerely hope not.)
But, the truth is that our bodies change all the time– even just within a year or two. So even if you were wearing the right size just last year, you may need a change now.
"Always get fitted. Your bra size changes dramatically with weight gain and loss, child-bearing and hormonal changes throughout life," says designer Nachiket Barve.
But because women's bodies are all different (and bra fitting takes years to perfect), a cookie-cutter measuring system isn't going to deliver the best results for you.
So ladies, if you need a starting point, it does help to keep these basics in mind.
"To avoid cleavage crêpe, look for a bra that separates as well as lifts," British fashion advisors, presenters and authors, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine advice on their hit TV series What Not To Wear. They are world famous for their 'bra interventions'.
So, just remember: Bra fitting is an art, not a science. And we're here to help you master it.
So, we’re starting from scratch to help you understand how a correctly-fitted bra should look and feel.
1 How to measure band size
There are two ways to measure your band size. The best bet is to do it both ways to see if you get a consistent measurement.
A) Bring the measuring tape around your back to the front, keeping it under the arms and bringing it up across to the middle of your chest. If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.
B) Measure across the bottom of your band, directly under the bust and across your ribcage. Make sure to keep your measuring tape straight around the back to front. Again, if you get an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.
How to measure cup size: This is where it gets tricky
According to Barve, "Your breasts should completely fill the cups without bulging out. This can make all the difference between a perfect outfit and one that has something going wrong."
A) Measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust, with the tape straight across and around your back, bringing it to the front.
B) Subtract your band measurement (from step 1) from this bust measurement. The difference calculates your bra size- each inch represents a cup size. For example, if you measure a 34 inch band size, and a 36-inch cup size, the difference is 2: which would indicate a B cup.
Know your bra
"Your bra should fit snugly around your torso on the loosest fastenings – but not ride up at the back. Over time your bra will stretch and this is when the second and third sets of hooks come into play," says Susannah Constantine.
A) 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.
B) 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.
C) 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.
D) 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.
4Know 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 underwires (or seams, if an unwired bra) should sit flat against your rib-cage between your boobs and also encircle the outer quadrant without biting into your flesh. If this is not the case, you need a larger cup size," says Trinny Woodall.
Now. There are a few tell-tale signs that indicate whether or not a bra is meant for you. Here's what to keep an eye out for as you're measuring yourself and trying on different sizes:
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).
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.
Don't be tempted to buy the wrong size or a poorer quality bra
Why? Because it's cheaper. With bras you generally get what you pay for. It's better to have one bra that fits really well, than three that are uncomfortable!
9 Do not expect to need the same size in every style of bra
Or to able to buy any bra in your "true size" without having to try it on. Different styles will suit different breast shapes, so two women who wear the same size in one bra might need different sizes in another bra.
10 If you want your bras to last and keep their fit, never wear the same bra two days in a row
Even if it has been washed. You should have at least three bras which you can wash and wear in rotation, allowing the elastic to fully recover before it is put under stress again.
11 It's all about the fit
A well-fitted bra should provide 90% of the support from the band, and the straps the remaining 10%.
12 Ignore anyone who tries to tell your definitive size from your measurements alone
Especially if they tell you to add several inches to your under-bust measurement. Just like dress sizes, bra sizing has changed over the years, and the old method does not work for modern bras.
13 If you have a significant size difference, there's always the option of wearing a silicone bra insert or removable padding in the smaller side
"If you have uneven cup sizes, go with the bigger side. You can support the smaller breast by making that shoulder strap slightly shorter," Constantine advices. This is only to give you a rough idea of what size to try on first - the fit is more important than the number on the tape measure. Because women are all different shapes, two women with the same measurements will often need a very different bra size.
14 D+ cups will benefit from bras with seams
The reinforced side panels will provide a narrower look, thus slimming your torso.
15If you have a bra tailored, get a bra that is up one band size and down two cup sizes
As band and cups are proportionate to one another, a cup on a larger band will have larger wires. This is why you will want the smaller cups, for the smaller wires. *Cup sizes above D tend to vary significantly between manufacturers, so check with the retailer or look for customer reviews before you buy online.
(Inputs from Bra Advice 101 from Trinny& Susannah, Bras N things, Victoria's Secrets, Her Room, Sylvia Beautycakez, Butterfly Collection, and Size Guide)