Are you wearing the wrong size?

Before I delve into the reviews, I figure I should probably discuss how to know if you’re wearing the correct size. If you don’t know the signs of a poorly fitting bra, then how will you know if the bras fit well in the reviews I do?!

The state of bra sizing in the  USA at the moment is really quite dim. In stores that aren’t specifically bra boutiques for large busted women, I usually get measured as a 34DD or SOMETIMES a 34DDD. With a 28.5″ underbust. If I didn’t know how bras were supposed to fit, I’d be stuck wearing bras that look like this:

You might be thinking, “Oh, well that doesn’t look so bad!” and you’re right. From the front, this bra is doing okay, except for the fact that the cleavage in something that isn’t a push up bra might be a symptom of a bigger problem.

Wait… if I can pull the band away from my body so far that my breasts start falling out… then how is that supportive? Well, it’s not. 80% of the support from your bra should come from the band, and if you look closely at the picture you may be able to notice that the straps are digging into my shoulders, which leaves uncomfortable red dents at the end of the day (but luckily I haven’t had to wear this poorly fitting monstrosity in months, maybe a year!)

Here is another picture showing how large this band really is. And this is fastened on the tightest hook. If your band rides up in the back, then the cups fall forward and your breasts don’t sit as high as they’re supposed to! In a bra with a properly tight band, your breasts should sit midway between your elbow and shoulder, and the band should be horizontal.

This picture also brings me to another part of this bra that is very poorly fitting: the cups. How can you tell if your cups are too small? Well, besides the obviously quadriboob (seen in the photo below), a cup that is too small will also not contain all of your breast tissue on the side. Do you see how the wire in this picture is poking directly onto fatty tissue? This is because the wire is not wide enough for the breast tissue that has collected under my armpit after years of wearing the incorrect size. Theoretically, it could be that the wires are wide enough, but my breast tissue hasn’t been properly placed in the cup. If I scoop all of the breast tissue I can forward, in front of the underwire…

Ok, the wire is in the right spot (mostly)…

But now I’m a four boobed alien.

So this is what years of Victoria’s Secret fittings have done to me! Turned me into a person with either a lot of armpit fat or an alien with four breasts! Admittedly, my boyfriend might quite like the latter, but I for one, do not!

So how did I stumble upon my correct size, and become a haven of bra related knowledge?

Well, once upon a time (summer before my senior year of high school) I had just graduated from 34D to a 34DD. “A DD?!” I thought, “That’s huge! I am going to need underwire bathing suits to support giant DD breasts! Pamela Anderson has DD’s… people who get implants have DD’s… that’s like, the largest size available!”

So off I ventured to a local store that I’d walked past before. They had underwire bathing suits in the windows and I thought that hopefully I’d be able to pick something up in a 34DD there.

When I walked into Breakout Bras, they insisted on fitting me for anything. They’ve since done away with this, I think, but at the time they were a very new store, I’d never been there, and they had very little stock on the floor. So off I was whisked to a dressing room, and I was fitted as a 30FF (a more detailed post of being fit at Breakout Bras will follow!), and put in a lovely nautical inspired Panache bandeau bikini with boyshorts. I LOVED it. I loved the support of a well fitting bra. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, not all women have access to wonderful bra experts, especially in the US. But hopefully my blog can help some of those women out! In conclusion, here’s a condensed list of the signs of a poorly fitting bra, and how to fix them:

  1. Your straps dig into your shoulders, leaving dents and creating shoulder pain. Solution: Your band is too big, forcing the straps to take on the weight of your breasts. Go down a band size or two and up one or two cups (as the band size decreases, the cup size increases, so 34DD=32E=30F=28FF. These are called “sister sizes” because the cup volumes are the same.)
  2. You immediately fasten your band on the tightest hook, or your band rides up your back during the day, causing the cups to fall forward. Solution: Your band is too big, go down in band size until it is very firm on the loosest hook. This will allow your bra to last longer, because you can move to the inner hooks as the elastic wears out.
  3. Your breasts spill out of the top or sides of your bra. Your cup is too small. Move up a cup size.
  4. Your breasts don’t quite fill the cups, causing wrinkling or gaping. Your cup may be too large. Before moving down a cup size, check that you have properly placed your breasts in the cups. As you put on your bra, lean over and get as much breast tissue as possible into the cups. Fasten the bra and stand up, and then scoop any breast tissue you might have in your armpit forward into the cup. If there is still wrinkling, go down a cup size.
  5. The center gore does not lay flat against your sternum. Solution: Your cup is likely too small, and your band might be too large. 

There are a few other signs that will get covered as this blog continues, but these are the most obvious and will get you on the road to finding your correct size.

So how is it that I am continuously placed into this poorly fitting bras? It all comes down to how the store measures. Many retailers use a very outdated formula of adding 4 inches to the raw underbust measurement. This originated in the 1930s, when bras were made out of much firmer material. If you measure a 34 inch band today, unstretched, it does equal 30 inches. But because of the elasticity of today’s materials, these bands no longer support the breasts of a woman with a 30 inch underbust.

Still stranger is the method of measuring under the armpits and over the breasts to determine band size. I don’t know where this ever came from, but it seems to be the devil for larger breasts. If you have larger breasts, then this measurement ends up including breast tissue, expanding the measurement. I have heard that this method works fine for small chests, but for a large chested girl it is horrible, and how I am continuously placed into bands 6 inches too large for me.

The method that I use (and that most ACTUAL professional bra fitters use) is using the raw underbust measurement as the starting point for band size. I measure 28.5, so I wear a 28 band (although I could sometimes do with a 26, depending on how the bra runs!). This method won’t work for all women either, and some women may find that they prefer to add up to 2 inches, or subtract inches, but I firmly believe that once you begin adding more than 2 inches, your support becomes compromised.

If you have any questions about your fit, or how to measure, you can ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!

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