It seems like finding a bra that actually fits is one of the hardest things to do. And there are stats to back up that feeling. Did you know 85 percent of women (including trans and cis) are wearing the wrong size bra?
There is always an issue with bras: too tight, cups don’t fit, underwire poking you, itchy fabric, sexy yet uncomfortable, comfortable but ugly, not supportive enough, too much padding, not enough padding … the list goes on. So what’s the secret to finding a bra that fits? It’s more than just taking a couple of measurements.
As seen in our video on Women Get Real About Bras most women aren’t aware that there are different parts of their breasts that play a huge role in bra sizing. From breast roots to breast shapes and everything in between, this comprehensive guide will help you solve the mystery of finding the perfect bra.
Get to Know Your Body
As we know, not all bras are created equal, and neither are all breasts. There are a million different breast shapes and sizes, and all deserve comfort and support. Getting to know your body is the key to finding the right bra.
The breast root is essentially where your breast tissue starts and ends. The base of the breast root is the area underneath your breast where your breast attaches to your body. The height of the breast root is usually anywhere from 4-7 inches from the crease of your armpit, and width can vary from person to person. There are two types of breast roots, and the type of root typically tells you whether your breasts are wide-set or close-set. Knowing your type can significantly help you find a better fit for your bras.
|Narrow Roots: Most of the breast tissue is in front and typically ends right at or just under the armpits. Women with narrow roots usually have close-set breasts.|
|Close-set Breasts: Typically creates a small gap or no gap in between breast tissue. Women with close-set breasts often have issues with the gore, or the center of the bra cups where the underwire forms a bridge, being too wide.|
|Wide Root: The root extends to or past the armpits. Women with wide roots sometimes have trouble with underwire being too narrow, causing it to lay on the breast tissue. This can feel like the underwire is poking under the armpit. They also typically have wide-set breasts.|
|Wide-set Breasts: Usually have a middle gap, with the space at the top of the breasts narrower than at the bottom.|
Projected and Shallow Breasts
It is also important to know identify whether your breasts are projected or shallow because that will help you determine your breast shape.
|Projected Breasts: The tissue usually protrudes forward and has a smaller base. Projected breasts are often bigger because the tissue is farther away from the chest, and they tend to have a more narrow root. Projected breasts are typically pear-, tubular- or pendulous-shaped.|
|Pear, Tubular or Pendulous: This type of breast is more oval when you lean forward.|
|Shallow Breasts: Have a bigger base than depth, with most of the breast tissue close to the rib cage. Shallow breasts tend to have a broader root, don’t stick out much, are often smaller and look like triangles from the side. Some can be full on the bottom which makes them appear more like a parenthesis mark. Shallow breasts are often pointed or conical in shape.|
|Pointed/Conical: When leaning forward, shallow breasts are more triangular in shape than oval.|
What are Your Top and Bottom Breast Shapes?
|Full Breasts: Equally round and full everywhere. The nipple is centered when leaning 90 degrees. Augmented breasts fall into this category because they have been enlarged through breast implants or fat-grafting mammoplasty.
Best Bra: Demi-cup, balconette, full-cup
Worst Bra: Bras that cut across the middle or ones with stiff lace and a tight seam at the top
|Full on Top: The breast tissue is more on the top half of the breast, and the nipple is more on the lower half of the breast. When leaning 90 degrees, the nipple is pointing more towards the ground. Pendulous-shaped breast fall into this category. The bottom of the breast root touches the chest wall where the underwire should lay. The breast tissue may not have much fullness, and the nipple is generally pointed downward.
Best Bra: Half-cup bra with an open upper cup (you don’t want the dreaded quad-boob), balcony or full-cup bra
Worst Bra: Demi-cup that cuts into the mid-portion of the breast
|Full on Bottom: Most of the breast tissue is at the bottom of the breast, with the nipple being more on the top half of the breast. When leaning 90 degrees, the nipple is pointed more towards the ceiling. Pear-shaped breast fall into this category. They are more full on bottom, with nipple pointed slightly downward.
Best Bra: Balconette bra with a tight cup to contain and prevent gapping
Worst Bra: Full-cup
|Full on Side: Breast tissue is more towards the sides of the breast, and breasts have either inner or outer fullness. These breasts can be even, full on top or full on bottom while having fullness on the sides
Best Bra: Plunge bra for inner and push-up for outer
Worst Bra: Demi-cup for full on the inside and narrow underwire for full on outer-side
So What’s Your Bra Size?
Now that you’ve gotten to know your breasts better, how do you figure out your correct bra size? Follow this tutorial to learn a few ways to measure yourself. If you’re having trouble, have a friend help you.
How to Take Your Measurements
Before you take your measurements, make sure you are not wearing a padded bra because this will distort the size of your bust. You will need: soft measuring tape, a thin shirt and something to record your measurements.
Here’s how to take your measurements:
- Take Your Under-bust Measurement: The under-bust is the line along your rib cage below the breast root. It might be covered by tissue if your breast is on or below the root. To measure your under-bust, wrap the measuring tape around your back to the underside of your bust. Pull the tape as tight as you can, as though you’re trying to break it. Exhale as much as possible for this, then stay in a neutral position (don’t inhale or exhale) while you take the measurement.
- Take Your Standing Bust Measurement: Your bust is the fullest part of your breast. Wrap the measuring tape around your back and across the front of your bust. Make sure you are standing up straight and not looking down to keep from distorting the measurement. Repeat this measurement leaning over 90 degrees so that your face is looking at the floor and your back is parallel to the ground.
- Take Your Bust Measurement While Lying Down: It is helpful to use a mirror or a spotter for this measurement to ensure the tape is straight as possible. Take the measurement where your breasts naturally fall while you are lying down.
Calculating Your Cup Size
Your cup size depends on whether you have shallow or projected breasts. Your breast root also plays an important factor when looking for a cup that fits snugly yet comfortably.
Use this handy bra size calculator to get a baseline for your bra size. You will likely need to try on a variety of sizes and styles to find the cups, wire and bands that feel perfect for you. By determining your shape, you can narrow down the cups and wires that work best for you. (Please note this calculator is in UK sizing, which is standardized, unlike US sizing, which are different from store to store).
A helpful community and wiki for your bra measurement fit check or measurement check is Reddit’s A Bra That Fits.
Use Sister Sizing to Fine-tune Your Fit
“Sister sizing” is the term for how bra sizes shift depending on the sizes of the bands and cups. As a bra band size gets smaller, the same cup volume will be and vice versa.
In other words, a B is not a B is not a B. A 36B is a full cup size larger than a 34B. In other words, no one is “just” a C cup. Or an A cup. Or an F cup. And so on.
Bra Shopping Tips
When trying on a bra, you have to make sure to scoop and swoop. This is where you scoop the breast in your hand and swoop it up and in toward the center of your chest and into your bra cup. This will help set your breasts in place and the underwire along your breast root. Now that you know how to find the right bra size for you, here are a few stores that can help you test your new measurements:
|Specializing in intimate apparel, bare necessities is a great place to start when looking for a great everyday bra. Prices range from $9.99-$434 and get 1.5% cash back.|
|The amazing thing about Frederick’s is that you can find some incredibly sexy bras at a relatively decent price point. Although some of the bras are not for everyday use, its always handy to have a great looking bra for a date or special event. Prices range from $9.99-$70 and get a whopping 6% cash back!|
|With a huge variety of styles and brands, Kohl’s is great if you aren’t quite sure what you need or want and would like to try a variety of styles to see what fits your breast shape. Get 2% cash back, and check out our Ultimate Guide to Kohl’s to learn more about how to get great deals on some of your favorite items.|
|Lane Bryant is great for plus size, curvy or thicker ladies looking for a bra with bigger band sizes. The bra prices range from $8-$64, and you can get 2.5% cash back. Please note that sizes only range from 36C to 54 F/G. They offer full coverage, balconette, sports plunge and strapless bras.|
|Macy’s is one of those stores that has pretty much everything you need. They offer full coverage, wireless, push-up, strapless/convertible, T-shirt and more. They also offer a large variety of sizes —from 32A to 54H, and the prices range from $11.99-$275. You can also get 1.5% cash back on your purchase.|
|Nordstrom carries a ton of different styles and brands, including demi, push-up, bralette, unlined, strapless and more. They also now offer several shades of nude for darker skin tones. Sizes range from 28A-48I, and price points range from $22-$500. Get 2.5% cash back with your purchase.|
|Hanes is a great brand for those looking for a reasonably priced bra. Prices range from $10-$49.99, and they offer a variety of brands and styles, such as Bali, Playtex and Maidenform. Get 4% cash back with your purchase.|
|Torrid offers demi, balconette, push-up, bralettes and bandeaus, but sizes are limited to 38B to 48DDD and a few F and G cups. Prices range from $16.50-$58.50, and they offer 4% cash back.|
|The one thing that I love about Victoria’s Secret is their semi annual sale. They have various collections such as Pink, Very Sexy, Body by Victoria, Dream Angels, The T-shirt Bra and Bombshell. There is bound to be a style that fits from sizes 30A to 40DDD. Prices range from $258-19.50 and they offer 1% Cash Back|
Remember to take good care of your bras so they’ll last longer. Hand-wash and hang-dry them. If you don’t have time for that, use a lingerie bag when you put them in the washer. Whatever you do please hang-dry your bras they tend to get miss shaped with the wire or the fabric separates from the cup.