Unfortunately, the vast majority of women are not wearing the right bra size or shape for their boobs. Over the years our bust changes shape, size and bounce! But many of us are still wearing the same size bra we bought 20 years ago. It is vitally important to get properly fitted, especially if you have large breasts. We should get measured at least once a year, especially after losing or gaining a lot of weight and after childbirth or the menopause.
Selecting the right bra is important for both your health and how your clothes look and fit – I can work miracles in a fitting room or in your wardrobe but no outfit is going to look good if your bust is in the wrong place!
In theory, to ascertain the right bra size, you need to measure around your torso, underneath your breasts (whilst wearing a bra!) – This will give you your back measurement. Then measure around the fullest part of your breasts (you may need a friend to help you with this!) – The difference between the two measurements will indicate the correct cup size (1” difference = 1 cup size). Therefore if you measured 32” around your back and 38” around your breasts your bra size would be 32 E.
This is only a rough guide but it at least gives you a starting point. However to be sure I would recommend going to a trained bra fitter. If you go to have a proper bra fitting the fitter may not even use a tape measure – she can often work out your best bra size based on the size you are wearing. There could be a difference in sizes between different brands and sometimes between different styles, so you do need to try bras on before buying. And even with an experienced fitter there can be an element of trial and error. (As a general rule if you go up a back size, you would go down a cup size, and vice versa.) The actual size doesn’t necessarily matter, what’s important is that it fits properly. And once you wear the right bra, one that fits properly you will never go back!
Fit – There are 6 areas to consider when looking for the right bra
1 The back strap or under band
This should provide approximately 80% of the support and it should lie horizontally around your back. Most people get the fit wrong because they base the back measurement on their dress size. If the back strap is up around the shoulder blades you need to go down one (or two!) sizes. When you buy the bra it should initially fit on the first row of hooks as the bra will stretch with washing and wearing.
Most bras will have 3 different stages so that you can go tighter as the bra stretches. When you try on your bra you should be able to slide just 2 fingers underneath the under band.
You also have the option of different numbers of hooks to fasten the backstrap – 1 hook is only okay if you have a small bust; 2 hooks are the most common option and will give good support; but if you have a fleshy back and/or a big bust look for 3 hooks as this will give you much more support and some strapless bras will have 4 hooks to ensure as much support as possible.
2 The centre front
The wires at the front of the bra, in between your breasts, should lie flat against your ribcage – if they are sitting away from your body the cup size is probably too small.
3 The side wire
All of your breast tissue should be encased within the cup, if the wire is cutting in at the side it can be painful and cause damage to the tissue. Be aware of this if you have wide breasts &/or full breasts.
4 Cup capacity
If you are spilling over the top or at the sides of the cup, you need to look for a bigger cup size. Likewise if you don’t fill the cup you need to look for a smaller cup size. An underwired bra gives you more support, lift and shape than a soft cup bra.
5 The shoulder straps
These shouldn’t dig in to your skin or fall off your shoulders – you can adjust the length of the strap to ensure the most comfortable length and again you should be able to slide just 2 fingers underneath the strap. Check the length of the shoulder straps regularly as they tend to slip in the wash.
6 The shape and style
Once you have found the right bra size, there are a number of different shapes and styles of bras that will suit different types of breasts and the clothes that you want to wear. Look at the various options to find the right shape for you and ask for advice! So whether you want a t-shirt bra, a balconette, a sports bra or a full on bolder holder, finding the right bra can be a revelation!!
Where to go for help:
Bravissimo – There are a number of stores in the UK plus online (will deliver internationally) – offer a great variety of bras, swimwear, nightwear and clothes for women over a D cup. http://www.bravissimo.com
Figleaves – Online – offer a great variety of bras, swimwear, nightwear and clothes for women with cup sizes AA – K cup. http://www.figleaves.com/uk
Department Stores – John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser all offer a good measuring service.
Victoria’s Secret – Large range of different styles – some up to a DDD cup (a UK E cup). https://www.victoriassecret.com/
Independent lingerie shops – great for a personal service.
Rigby and Peller – Top of the range for service and prices but worth it for the experience! Their sizing tends to be different to other brands. http://www.rigbyandpeller.co.uk/
Nicola Jane – For mastectomy bras, nightwear and swimwear. http://www.nicolajane.com/