Tips for Finding a Bra That FITS!

Finding a bra that fits has never been a fun experience for me. My bra shopping experience usually goes something like this…

I’m at Target; I walk by the lingerie section as my kids are desperately trying to get to the toy section. Then, I remember that the clasp on the current bra I’m wearing is hanging on by a thread. I take a quick walk through the undergarments department, as the kids start to whine. I grab a bra or two and awkwardly hold it up, hoping that it will fit. I’ve always felt that I didn’t have much “up top” and 36B seems to be the size that somewhere along the way I assumed that I wore. A 36B in hand, I’m on my way, done with bra shopping, until I get home and realize I’m stuck with a bra that really doesn’t work for me. Hence, my hating to shop for bras.

I finally decided to do this right. With my husband agreeing to watch the kids on a recent morning and my friends over at Westshore Plaza willing to help me out, I was determined to figure out, once and for all, how to get a bra I love.

I admit. I was nervous about getting fitted for a bra.

Because I pictured this big ordeal with stripping my top off…would I keep my current bra on or (gulp!) take it off? I wore an unlined bra and a white t-shirt for the big event. I had two stops to go to in order to find a bra I loved: Soma Intimates and Victoria’s Secret.

Lisa at Soma Intimates and Charlotte at Victoria’s Secret were both incredibly helpful and professional. At both stores, the actual measurements for the fittings took less than 10 seconds. (And both were over clothes! Whew!) At Soma, they took two measurements; at Victoria’s Secret, there were three. See “How to measure” videos via Soma Intimates and Victoria’s Secret. Apparently finding the right sized bra is something many women have trouble with–up to 80% of women are wearing the wrong size! (That included me!) I highly recommend you get a professional fitting because finding a bra that fits is essential.

Here are some tips to making sure your bra fits correctly:

1.) Front: The front piece of the bra should lay flat against your sternum, without any gap or lift.

2.) Straps: The straps should feel comfortable on your shoulders without falling or digging in. The straps should be adjusted so the band of the bra is horizontal and level across your body from the front to the back.

3.) Sides: The sides of the bra should come up almost to your armpit, so you don’t create any unsightly bulges on the sides.

4.) Cups: The cups should form a smooth line, lying flat along your skin, again to avoid any unnatural bulging.

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Things that are good to know when finding a bra that fits:

Is your bra size always the same? No. Just as with any other type of clothing, bra sizes can vary with the maker and even with the style of bra. I measured differently at both stores. I was surprised to find that at Soma I measured a 36C, while at Victoria’s Secret, I measured a 34D. The cup size made a big difference for me, as I have always felt like I was “falling out” of my bras. With the larger cup size, I have now found bras that I can move in easily without constantly tugging the cups up.

How often should I buy a bra? You should replace your bras once a year.

When do I need a new bra? You should get refitted for a bra once a year or with weight loss or gain.  (This could be as little as 5 pounds, as we tend to lose weight first in the breast.)

Any suggestions for when you try on bras? Gather a large selection of bras to try on. At both stores, I had at least 15 to try on and compare. Try on styles that you may not normally try. I almost always go for demi-bras or push up bras, and I was surprised how much I liked a full-coverage bra at Soma Intimates.

Bring along a form-fitting t-shirt or top to get a good idea of what your bra will look like under clothing. Both Soma Intimates and Victoria’s Secret had “try-on” shirts for me to use.

How many bras should I own? Three bras are the minimum number of everyday bras to have on hand. You should have one to wear, one being washed, and one spare. You may also want a special occasion bra, a multi-way bra/strapless, and/or a sports bra.

What clasp in back should I use? Start with the middle clasp when hooking your bra to allow for even tension on both sides of the bra back. Use the tightest setting as your bra stretches with use.

How to care for your bra:

With correct care, you can extend the life of your bras. My experts at Soma Intimates and Victoria’s Secret both strongly discourage drying your bra in the dryer, as it can shrink, as well as twist the bra and cups, ruining its shape. At Soma Intimates, Lisa recommended using a mesh bag in the washing machine on the delicate cycle, while Charlotte at Victoria’s Secret suggested filling a container or bucket with cool water and letting it soak and rinsing completely. Both recommend a gentle cleanser.  Lying your bra flat to dry can keep the straps from stretching out.

When storing your bras, both experts agree that the trick of folding the bra in half and inverting one cup is the worst (but a common) way to store your bra. Lisa recommended storing the bra by lying flat, and Charlotte recommended stacking your bra horizontally in a drawer, clasped, with the wire side up.

Don't do this to your bra!

Some terms to know:

Balconette: Sometimes known as a shelf bra. This style lifts the breasts to enhance their appearance, shape, and cleavage. This can be a good choice for women as they get older to provide uplifting support.

Contour Cup: This type of bra offers a lining through foam cups or graduated pads, but no added size. It can help cover and conceal while adding shape.

Demi-cups: These are shorter and more shallow cups. This style can show off more cleavage.

Full-coverage: The cups provide more coverage over the breast, giving a smooth appearance under clothes. This can be a great bra if you are well-endowed or pregnant.

Minimizer: This style is designed for well-endowed women and provides more lateral support (vs. vertical) to create a more proportionate silhouette.

Multi-way/Strapless: This style of bra has removable straps for a no-show option, or it can have straps crossed in back or modified to prevent them from showing under clothing.

Nursing Bra: This bra style allows for nursing mothers to have easy access when breastfeeding. Soma Intimates offers nursing bras in stock in stores.

Push-up: These bras are the ones you pull out for special occasions. Typically with underwires and graduated padding, a push-up bra adds size, lift, and cleavage. Victoria Secret has one called the Bombshell that adds two cup sizes!

T-shirt bra: This bra is designed to be virtually undetectable under a clingy cotton t-shirt. Usually soft and sleek to provide smoothness under clothes.

Underwire: This kind of bra offers extra support through wires in the cups. There is some debate as to the use of underwires in bras. But if you are wearing an underwire bra that is digging into your ribs, you may want to get fitted to be sure you are wearing the correct size.

I’m happy to say that getting fitted for a bra was a fairly easy process, especially with the help of the experts at Soma Intimates and Victoria’s Secret at Westshore Plaza. Both stores offer complimentary bra fittings and can help you with all of your bra shopping needs!

What are your tips for finding a bra that fits?

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Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, Matt and their two very active children: Calvin, a gifted and quirky 11-year-old boy, and Kadison, a creative and strong-willed 8-year-old girl. Debbie attended the University of South Florida for both her bachelor's and master's degrees in education. With 20 years of experience, she's a National Board Certified Teacher in literacy and currently teaches 1st graders. Debbie's mission is to get kids to love learning! In her spare time, Debbie loves to read, enjoy the beach, and find the perfect cup of coffee. She is always on the look-out for a great local restaurant or fun place to go to relax! Follow Debbie on Twitter and Pinterest.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This post is awesome!

    The last time I went bra shopping I went to an actual department store, first time ever doing that, and was fitted. I was blown away that I had been wearing the wrong size bra for years. The bras I purchased were pricey in comparison to what I had spent before but I felt so much better in them.

    Also, thanks for including the recommended care. I didn’t know a lot of that and if it will help me extend the life, of my pricey bras, I will definitely be changing things up. I wonder, does that go for underwear too? I’ll have to look into that now.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Christina! I was surprised that my size was wrong, too! They are so much more comfortable when they are the right size! 🙂

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