How to find the right bra size in 6 steps
Everything you need to know about finding the right bra size, plus the 5 bras every woman should own.
Good posture, support, pain relief—is there anything a good bra can’t provide? “The breast really is only made of fat tissue and glandular tissue, there is no exercise that you can do that will make your breasts stronger or come back to their shape or be more perky,” says Liliana Mann, a fit expert and owner of Linea Intima at Bayview Village Shopping Centre in Toronto.
It all comes down to support and, of course, genetics. As Mann explains, “Gravity takes a toll on everybody, breasts start pulling down, and you need to support them.” Since bras step up when we need support, we rounded up the top six steps on finding the right bra size.
How to find the right bra size step #1: Realize that you’re not alone
For something that women wear every day, our standards of fit and comfort in bras are surprisingly lax. “In the industry they say that generally 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong-sized bra,” Mann explains. “We conducted our own survey in which every woman that came in, we wrote down if she knew her bra size, and that included new and existing customers, and we found that 92 percent of woman don’t know their size.”
Mann chalks up this discrepancy to the fact that most women have never been fitted, or cling to a size they wore years ago. “It’s very hard to know what your true size is because it changes constantly: we gain weight, we lose weight, we exercise, we age, we take medication, we get pregnant—there are so many factors that influence the size of our breasts, even if we don’t have any change in weight, our weight fluctuates and things fit differently.”
For more steps on how to find the right bra size, read on to the next page…
How to find the right bra size step #2: Get fitted—right now
When’s the best time to go for a bra fitting? “When you can’t wait to take your bra off, when you’re driving and you’re taking it off on your way, it’s time.” She recommends getting refitted once year, even to just to replace the bra that you wear most often, as it loses its elasticity and support overtime.
Wearing the right-sized bra helps to improve not just your appearance, but to prevent long-term health issues. “It helps your posture, it helps your spine because your posture is improved, and it gives you more self-confidence because you look better. Every aspect of it makes a difference but it’s a very unsettled difference so people don’t really talk about it or recognize its importance.”
How to find the right bra size step #3: Ditch bras that just don’t fit
Yes, it has a bow and you bought it on sale, but if a bra doesn’t fit, you have to let it go. “So many women think that it’s not important because nobody sees it. And yet it’s the one item that everybody sees because it influences the way your clothes fit,” says Mann. “And if you have the right bra, your clothes will fit like they were custom made for you—and when you have the wrong size bra you look heavier.”
How to find the right bra size step #4: Get measured
The sizing of the bra refers to the circumference of the area just above the bust, as well as the cup size of the actual bust. But of course, there’s no one size fits all. “Different styles fit differently, different fabrics fit differently, different brands are cut differently— so how is a woman to know?” asks Mann sympathetically.
What to look for in a bra fitting: the underwire should sit comfortably underneath the bust, separating in the middle. Stand sideways and make sure the wire doesn’t run into the armpit, otherwise it pushes the breast tissue under the arm, which becomes uncomfortable and makes you appear larger. It also shouldn’t dig too deeply in the breast tissue. The bust shouldn’t spill out of the cups along the sides or décolleté. The back should be straight across and not riding up, while the straps should be comfortable with just enough tension.
How to find the right bra size step #5: Adjust your expectations
“Women will say, ‘This bra, can I wear it with every outfit?’ And it’s funny because women would never ask that about a pair of shoes,” she muses. “Yet for bras we have that expectation that one will work for everything and it’s impossible.” Mann notes that creasing cannot be corrected by the bra alone. She recommends layering with T-shirts to conceal any crease, and not to sacrifice the fit.
Of course, there’s always shapewear (a.k.a Spanx) for that, but even they have their limitations. “No item will make you look size 4 (unless you are a 6) and what you are trying to hide will not disappear, it needs to be pushed somewhere else,” she says.
Read on to find out what bras every woman should own…
How to find the right bra size step #6: Invest in a few good bras
Invest in several perfect-fitting bras so that you have different options on a daily basis—this will help extend their lifespans. “This is one of the biggest myths that women have, they think that the less they wash their bra the longer it will last, and it’s exactly the opposite.” Avoid wearing the same bra every day to give the Lycra in the fabric a chance to relax and get back to its shape, and wash your bra every other wear at minimum.
And don’t skimp. “Per wear, a bra is probably the cheapest investment you could make because you wear them so often,” she says, estimating from $110 upward for an average investment. “With proper care and enough bras in your wardrobe, they should last 1.5 to 2 years easily.”
Bra wardrobe: The 5 bras every woman needs to own
Seamless bra: “Every woman should have a seamless bra for T-shirts and clothes where she doesn’t want the bra to show.”
Seamed bra: “For clothes that are more tailored and fitted, a seamed bra gives more direction and elevates the bust more.”
Strapless bra: “Or one that she can do certain things with the straps to work on different tops.”
Sports bra: “Every woman should have a sports bra—even if she just walks—because the more the bust is moving and not supported properly, the more the ligaments that are holding the breasts are getting eroded, so you get more sagginess. And it’s a waste to wear the good bras when you exercise, and they also don’t hold you so well. You wouldn’t think of exercising in your slippers or high heels, so it’s the same with a bra.
Sexy bra: “I don’t need to explain why.”