A bra is the most personal product a woman buys but the most technical product she wears, says Susan Nethero, “bra whisperer” and founder of Intimacy lingerie. What other garment lifts and supports 14 to 16 hours a day while creating sexy feminine style? Stop blaming your body for an ill-fitting bra. Follow these tips to find the bra that’s right for you.
A woman’s body changes approximately six times in her lifetime because of weight gain or loss, pregnancy or hormonal changes, says Nethero. For the proper support, get fitted once a year or anytime your body undergoes a drastic change.
Breasts can weigh anywhere from 10 ounces to 10 pounds each! Although most women today hope to be a C cup, according to a poll by Intimacy, the average cup size is a D or DD cup, says Nethero. It’s important to get fitted early and embrace your size.
Every bra fits differently. A T-shirt bra will fit smaller in the cup than a seamed bra, which allows for more cup depth, Nethero says. In a heat-formed bra or T-shirt bra, you will need a larger cup size. Try on a bra before buying—don’t assume you’re the same size in every style.
One reason your size may surprise you is every time you move back a width, you must move up a cup size to maintain volume. A 36B is equal to a 32D. And don’t think of bra-cup sizes like your grades in school, Nethero warns. “An E or an F is model size,” she says. An ideal figure in America today is to be larger on top and smaller on the bottom, so even a G is proportionate.
“Don’t cheap out on a bra,” Nethero says. “This is your foundation under all your clothes.” If you spend more for your bra wardrobe, it will last longer, and you’ll be more likely to wear what you own. Half the bras women buy go unworn because either they’re uncomfortable or they don’t fit properly. Go for quality over quantity.
“Think of a bra like a seesaw or a bridge,” Nethero says. If it’s low and firmly planted, it will lift in the front. If the bra starts to ride up the back, creating a ridge of tissue, or “back fat,” then the straps become too long, so you tighten them and cause shoulder strain. A proper band width should eliminate the chance of back fat and stress on your body.
“Compressing breast tissue is a real no-no,” Nethero says. Minimizer bras move breast tissue underneath the arm and down the chest wall, causing women to look wider and thicker. Long-term compression will cause breast tissue to lose firmness and elongate.
There are only two times you should not wear an underwire bra: while nursing and after surgery. Underwire bras provide maximum stability and support while giving the best shape. “People are afraid of underwires because the idea sounds harsh . . . but if your bra fits properly, you should not feel the underwire,” Nethero says.
“A seamed bra gives better shape in the cup because a T-shirt bra is just a rounded, mounded shape,” Nethero says. Seams can create different effects, such as centering the breast tissue or giving more uplift. The seam adds strength to the cup, and the volume of tissue will concentrate in the direction of the seam—making seamed bras especially important to wear after breast surgery.
Alterations can be made to a bra if it isn’t perfectly snug off the rack. Ninety percent of your support comes from the band fitting tightly. Band-width measurements increase by increments of two, without the option of the “in betweens,” Nethero says. Your bra should feel tight at its loosest position when first purchased so that as the bra stretches, you can tighten it. You can also make a bra last longer by opting for alterations rather than tossing it out when it gets loose.
Don’t buy sports bras that come in sizes small, medium and large. These bras often lead to compression of the tissue, forming a “uni-boob” and causing the breasts to move in entirety, which damages root tissue at the base of the breast. Buy either an underwire sports bra or a bra with seams. Cup sizes are needed to ensure the breast tissue is fully supported, Nethero says.
Rashes underneath the breast tissue are a common complaint heard from women who exercise regularly. A properly fitting bra with adjustable straps should help prevent skin-on-skin contact, which leads to sweat traps and irritation. A good test to ensure you have the right fit: Jump in place when in the dressing room.
Bend over when trying on a bra to ensure the underwire is lying against your rib cage and your breast tissue naturally falls into the cups. This also centers the nipple, evenly distributing the weight so there will be less wear-and-tear on the bra and less show-through due to coverage by seams, Nethero says.