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How to Find a Bra That Fits

close-up on woman back with hands trying to hook bra

You won’t know the value of a well-fitted bra until you’ve had one. But once you discover how comfortable the right bra is, you’ll never want to go back.

Are you surreptitiously adjusting your bra when no one’s looking? Do your straps leave you with sore shoulders by the end of the day? Do the wires dig into your skin? These problems can all indicate that your bra doesn’t fit.

Not sure how to find the right bra? You don’t need to leave it up to the salesperson at your favorite lingerie store. Take matters into your own hands with these tips for finding a bra that fits.

How to Measure Your Bra Size

Woman black bra measuring bust size

First, let’s demystify the world of bra sizing. There’s a method to getting your cup and band size, and you can actually measure yourself at home.

You’ll want to measure while wearing a thin shirt or bra, or nothing at all, to get the most accurate measurement. First, use a soft tape measure to find the circumference of your torso directly under your breasts. The tape should follow the line of your bra’s band.

Now, round that number up to the nearest even number, then add four. For example, if you got 29, round up to 30 and then add four, making it 34. That’s your band size. 

Next, measure the circumference of your chest at the fullest part of the bust. Subtract the number of your band size from the number of your bust size to calculate your cup size.

Every inch of difference between the two numbers means a bigger cup size. For example, if your band size was 34 inches and your bust size was 35 inches, the difference is one inch. One inch translates to an A cup, while two inches is a B cup, three inches is a C cup, and so on. If it’s under one inch, you’ll need an AA cup. 

Your bra size is the band size plus your cup size. In the example above, with a band of 34 and a bust of 35, the bra size would be 34A.

However, keep in mind that bra sizing isn’t an exact science since every body is different. Some brands may fit differently than others, even if the size is the same. You might find yourself between sizes, or find that your size changes with time. It’s a good idea to measure your bra size periodically to make sure you’re still wearing the right bra.

Bra Fit Guide

Now, it’s time to go bra shopping.

You know your size, but you’ll still need some tips to make sure a bra really fits before you buy it. If one size doesn’t work, you can also try going up in the cup and down in the band, or vice versa. For example, if a 34A doesn’t fit, you might find that a 32B works better (this is called “sister sizing”).

Also, many stores don’t sell sizes higher than a 36DD or so. People with larger sizes often need to shop at specialty stores, which can be costly. Still, it’s worth it for the comfort that a properly sized bra can bring.

Now, let’s take a look at the signs of a well-fitted bra.

  • The Underwire Stays in Place: If your bra fits, the underwire won’t slip upwards. Some people, especially those with smaller breasts, might do better with a wire-free bra. In addition to staying put, the underwire shouldn’t poke you or feel uncomfortable anywhere. If it does, that’s a sign of a bad fit or a poorly constructed bra.
  • The Straps Don’t Dig In: If you’re used to having red marks on your shoulders from your bra, it might come as a surprise that the straps aren’t supposed to dig in. If the band fits properly, it will give you enough support, so the shoulder straps aren’t carrying all the weight.
  • It Doesn’t Ride Up: If the back of the band rides up, your bra is too big. The right band size will stay in place all day.
  • The Cups Don’t Gap or Overflow: Your cups should fit your contours seamlessly. If there are gaps at the top or sides of the cups, or if you spill over the top or sides, you’re not in the right bra.
  • You Won’t Need to Adjust It: When trying on your bra, jump and move around a bit. If you feel like you need to make adjustments to the band or straps, do so, then try moving around again. The right fit won’t need to be adjusted again and again throughout the day. Once you have the band and straps properly fitted, everything should stay in place.
  • The Straps Don’t Slip: If your straps slip off your shoulders, even once you tighten them, you’re wearing the wrong size or style of bra. If you have sloped shoulders, you might need a racerback or T-back style to help the straps stay on.
  • You Won’t Feel Hot or Constricted: A too-tight bra might make you feel hot and sweaty, or constricted so you can’t move or breathe comfortably. A good fit means you’ll hardly even notice that you’re wearing a bra.
  • Good Posture Feels Natural: Posture isn’t all about your bra, but a well-fitted bra will help encourage good posture. If you feel more inclined to slouch than usual, it could be your bra.
  • You Feel No Pain: The right bra won’t cause you pain for any reason. You won’t feel chafing under the breasts, or soreness in your shoulders or back. Instead, your skin and muscles in the bra area will stay comfortable throughout the day.

A Note on Bra Types

woman choosing bra from drawer full of bras

If you’ve measured yourself but still can’t seem to find the right fit, you may also want to consider your bra type.

There is a myriad of different bra styles out there, so don’t worry: you’ll find something that’s right for you. Just try to target the problems you’re having, so you can find the bra that will fix them.

For example, if you’re always spilling out of your cups, you might need a full-coverage bra that comes up higher. If you can’t find an underwire style that fits without digging or poking, you might need to try a wire-free bra.

Finally, don’t forget that no bra lasts forever. They stretch out and lose support over time. If the bra that worked for you a year ago no longer fits, it’s time to measure yourself again and get something new.

Bra shopping can be challenging, but the comfort of having a bra that fits is worth the effort. It’s time to stop hating your bras—follow these steps to find ones you love instead.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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