Until recently, I never knew how a bra should fit or what constituted a good fitting bra. My method of choosing a bra had nothing to do with fit and everything to do with style. If any part of it had lace, ruffles, or picot trimming, if the colors were anywhere in the range of white, cream, pastel pink, and the fit was somewhat decent (i.e. I filled out the cups), I bought it. I didn’t pay attention to whether the straps fell off my shoulders or if the band hiked up in the back. I thought this was the normal quirks that are a part of wearing a bra. Not so, not so at all. Those letters A, B, C, D, DD/E, and DDD/F and those numbers 32, 36, and 38 actually mean something. Who knew? Once I discovered that bras should and can fit just as well as clothing, I did some research. The tips and information I write below are from various sources – Lucky magazine, Threads’ website, my own experience, etc. Regardless of where the information came from, it’s all good information. So, here is what I found out…
Band Size: To find your correct band size, use a measuring tape and measure your underbust (the fullest part of the rib cage just below the bust). When measuring underbust, make sure the measuring tape is level around the entire circumference of your body and that you are breathing normally. Any deep breaths in or out will distort the measurement. With underbust measurement, add 4” or 5” to get an even number. This is your correct band size.
Example: 28 (my underbust) + 4 (did not add 5 because it would give me an odd number) = 32 (my correct band size)
Cup Size: To find your correct cup size, use a measuring tape and measure around the fullest part of your bust, remembering to keep measuring tape level and to not take deep breaths. With this measurement, subtract band size. If the difference is 1, then your correct cup size is A. If the difference is 2, then your correct cup size is B. If the difference is 3, then your correct band size is C. And so on…
Example: 29 (my full bust measurement) – 28 (my underbust) = 1 (my cup size is therefore A ((although I can and do fit into an B. It depends on the brand)) )
In one of my readings about how to determine correct cup size, it wrote that cup size is found by placing a measuring tape on the sternum, between the bust, and extending it over the widest part of the bust to the point where it connects with the rib cage. If the measurement was roughly four inches, then your correct cup size is A. If the measurement was roughly five inches, then your correct cup size is B. If the measurement was roughly six inches, then your correct cup size is C. And so on… I do not agree with this method because it deals with width and not projection. Two woman can be the same cup size but one woman may be wider than the other and thus, her bust would be wider too. Cup size is about projection because essentially this is what the bust does, protrudes from the body. By subtracting bra band size from full bust measurement, you are calculating how much the bust is protruding.
Underwire: Any woman who is a B cup or larger should wear a bra with underwire. A good fitting underwire surrounds the bottom and sides of the cup and works with the bra’s band to provide shape and support and prevent sagging. Underwire doesn’t hurt, if it fits properly. If it is painful or bothersome, that means the wire is too close to the body and is digging into your skin . If this occurs, you should go up a cup size. If you are still totally against underwire, another choice is to look for brands, like Wacoal, that use a flexible boning instead of underwire.
Falling Straps: I know it sounds obvious, but first check if the straps are too loose. If they are, tighten the straps, making them taught but not causing the band to ride up in back. If the band starts to ride up, that means the straps have been tightened too much and instead, you need to go down a band size. The band is where most, if not all, of the bra’s support comes from. Consider it a shelf to store your books on. If the band, or the shelf, is riding up in the back, it is too loose and not doing its job. Go down a cup size if this is the case. Another culprit of falling straps is that the straps are set too far apart in the front and/or back. If this is the case, look for a bra with straps set closer together.
Gapping Cups: There should be no empty space between the bra’s cup and your bust. Your bust should fill out cups so that there is no spillage (you know what I’m talking about). If you’re guilty of gapping cups, go down a cup size; if your guilty of having a spillage, go up a cup size.
Strapless: Because strapless bras don’t have shoulder support, they need to fit tighter than a bra with shoulder straps to provide the same support. The easiest way to do this is to go down a cup size. Also, look for strapless bras with full bands and a large bridge between the cups. The wider band will help with support and the larger bridge will prevent your boobs from being smooshed together and looking like mono-boob.
Going up and going down: If you go up a band size, then go down a cup size (36C = 38B)
The size of the bridge: The bigger the bridge between cups, the less support provided.
There’s a lot of information on finding the right fitting bra. I simply shared what I thought was most important and relevant. If you have any other tips, knowledge, or information, feel free to share in the comments section.