Finding the Right Fit for Your Bra

Woman who is shopping for a new bra
No matter how much you spent on that fabulous shirt, if your bra underneath doesn't fit properly (and with 70% of women wearing the wrong size, chances are, it doesn't), you'll look more dumpy than diva. A bad bra can ruin even the best of outfits, but most women are walking around in the wrong size bra.
Most often, the problem is that women will get fitted once early in life and buy that same size for years, even after the effects of weight loss, pregnancy, or even (gulp!) gravity. Thankfully, finding your proper size is more science than art, and while the best advice is to be fitted by a professional, with a cloth measuring tape, you can find your right size.
Measure the circumference of your chest. Place the start of your measuring tape between and directly underneath your breasts. Keeping the bottom of the tape parallel to the floor, completely circle your chest. You'll know the tape is in the correct place if it lays flat against your skin, not curving up the underside of the breast. When you get this measurement, add five inches (So if you measure 29, you'll be a 34). This is your band size. If this number is an odd size, like 35, you'll have to try on both 34's and 36's to find the right fit.
Measure the circumference of your bust. Place the start of the tape on the side of one breast, even with your nipple. Again, circle around your chest. More likely than not, the tape will not touch between breasts. If you are heavy-chested, you will need to place your breasts where you'd like them to be. If you aren't comfortable with a significant other or best girlfriend to help in this department, a cupless bra can work in a pinch. When you get this measurement, subtract the first measurement from it. The difference between them determines your cup size. One inch is an A cup, 2 inches is a B cup, etc.
Try on lots of bras. Just like shoes, even though the bras may say they are the same size, different brands can fit very differently. Give yourself a good chunk of time and wear a form-fitting t-shirt for this fitting session. If you measured a 34B, you'll need to try on a 34B, 34A, 34C, 36A, and a 32C, but be prepared to try on even more if the brand runs perpetually small or big. You have to do this with every brand you try on.
To put the bra on correctly, the band should be on the last set of hooks. This will increase the life of your bra. As it gets older and loses its elasticity, you can move up to the next hook. When you've reached the final inner hook, it's time for a new bra. After you've hooked the bra and placed it on your shoulders, bend at the waist, scooping and placing your breasts correctly in the cups. Many women don't do this last step and end up squashing their breasts instead of supporting them.
Put it through its paces. After you put the bra on, look at yourself in the mirror. Raise your arms, shrug your shoulders, hug yourself, stretch, bend over. Did the bra move, bunch, pinch? Did your breasts spill over the top or come out the bottom? If so, try a different size. Once you think you've found the right size, put your t-shirt on over it. Looking in the mirror, do you notice any bumps? Does it seem as if the cups stand away from the breasts? Stand in profile and consider the same questions. If the bra passes the t-shirt test, you have found the right size bra for that brand.
Once you have found the right bra, it's important to take care of it to prolong its shelf life. For the best care, hand wash it in cold water with Woolite or any other gentle cleansing detergent. If, like the rest of us, you're more likely to machine wash it, wash on the gentle cycle in Woolite. Never throw your bra into a dryer. The heat can ruin underwires and the Lycra and elastic that all bras have. Regardless of how well you take care of your bra, you should replace it once a year. To help minimize the cost, have a six month rotating schedule, replacing half of your bras every six month.
Photo: Steklo/Shutterstock
See also:
How to measure for a bra
Finding the right bra for your life