What really launched my interest in dressing better was the Great Bra Revelation of 2012. I was chilling on reddit and came across the famous MyWifesBusty bra-fitting guide. Now there's an entire subreddit devoted to finding properly-fitting bras. Somehow I never thought it was strange that with all the variety in women's body shapes and sizes, there would be only about 16 bra sizes to fit nearly everyone. If there were only 16 clothing sizes there would be rioting in the streets.
The fact is, most women are wearing bras that do not fit and don't give proper support to keep boobies happy and clothes looking nice. Maybe you're one of the few who actually fit in 32-38 A-D, but the odds are against you. In a 2004 study of American women, researchers found that 80% were wearing bras that did not properly fit them. Granted, this study was done by bra manufacturer Wacoal, but there have been several similar studies that found the same general number. Most women are wearing band sizes (the number) that are too big and cup sizes (the letter) that are too small.
Why does having a well-fitted bra matter?For me, the most important thing is that it just feels better to wear a bra that fits. The first time I put on a bra that had low band, comfortably loose straps, center gore that touched and no quadraboob it was a f***ing revelation. It felt like my boobs had been magicked off my body and flown away by angels. It was like I didn't even have boobs. Putting my old, gross, worn out, poorly fitting bra back on after that was so, so sad-making. I raced home to put on my new, real bra and put that pathetic jumble of fabric masquerading as my old bra out of its misery with fire. I was giddy all night. Every woman deserves to feel awesome and love their bras.
Additionally, clothes fit better with a decent bra. Back when, I always had problems with buttons gaping, tight tops looking bubbly and gross all over, and looking like a burnt-up slut in anything with a neckline lower than a crew neck. I just thought those things were to be expected when you have slightly larger than average boobs and gave up on looking like a presentable human being or wearing tops with buttons. After getting a bra that actually fit, the same button-up tops stopped gaping, normal necklines didn't make me look like I was for sale and (after my boob material migrated back from under my armpits) I could wear a fitted tee without looking like a marshmallow treat. WIN.
How do you know if your bra fits or not? Here are some things you can look for without doing anything special:
Signs of a band that is too big:
Band lies high on the back
Band drifts up the back after being pulled down
Straps dig into the shoulder
Band can be pulled away from the body more than 2 fingers
The most common sign of a too-big band is that the band rides up your back. Your back is shaped like a V, so when the band is too big it migrates up the back to a place where the circumference is bigger. Most of the support from your bra comes from the band. The band is wider and made of an elastic material so it's more suitable for supporting your boobs than the straps, which are flimsy and made of, like, ribbon. If your straps dig into your shoulders it's because the band is too big and unable do its job, and now your puny straps have to do it.
CupSigns of cups that are too small:
Breast material pushes up over the top or middle, creating a "quadraboob" effect
Center gore does not lie flat against the chest
Breast material pushes out to the sides, creating "wings" under your armpits
Breast material pushes out under the band, making a roll-like appearance on the back and sides
Cup science is a little complicated, and if you want more resources you should definitely check out r/abrathatfits. Boobs have all different shapes and different brands/styles work better for different shapes than others. I haven't even started getting into all root width things and whatnot even though this is a soapbox topic for me, so if you don't want to spend a ton of time learning the intricacies that's totally okay.
A Well-Fitted Bra Should:Have a tight band that sits parallel to the floor on the largest hook
Have cups contain the breasts with no spillage over the top or middle
Create no "fat rolls" on the sides of the body or back
Have a gore between the breasts that sits flat against the body
Be able to sit properly and support without the straps
Have straps that are loose, comfortable, and probably near the longest setting
Putting Your Bra on Right
So maybe you checked all of these things and it looks like your bra fits. Great! Now let's put it on properly and check again.
Scoop and SwoopThe Scoop and Swoop (S&S) is a maneuver you should do every time you put your bra on. The purpose of the S&S is to move breast tissue out from under the armpits and back, over to the cup where it ought to be. Here are the basics for the S&S taken directly from BustyResources, where there is a more detailed explanation of the maneuver but is also NSFW.
1. Put on bra.
2. If possible, bend over at the waist so that your upper body is parallel to the ground.
3. Using one hand, gently pull your band away from the side of your breast. With the other hand, moving in a back-and-forth motion, slide the breast tissue (including migrated breast tissue) from your sides into the cup of your bra.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for your other breast.
For most women, doing this will help alleviate side rolls and may give them up to a cup or more in bra size. This is because, after years of being squished in too-small cups, lots of breast tissue has migrated to the armpit and back area. Additionally, after wearing a properly fitting bra for a couple of weeks the migrated tissue should move back to the real breast area, causing you to gain more cup size and less band size.
Check your fit again after doing the Scoop and Swoop. You will probably find that you now have spillage where you didn't before. BrasandBodyImage has some S&S before and afters you can check out, but be warned it is very NSFW.
Finding Your Size
So you figured out that your band size is too big and your cup size is too small. Now what? You can choose to get a professional fitting (experts agree that pretty much only Nordstrom does this well) or you can measure yourself. Here is a very detailed measuring guide but I'll give you the SparkNotes version.
Fabric measuring tape
Pen and paper
Naked boobies (no bra)
You will take 5 measurements and plug them into this calculator developed by r/abrathatfits users. All measurements should be taken with the tape parallel to the ground for the first 3, and perpendicular to the ground for the last 2. Write them down as you do it, or you'll forget or get the numbers jumbled up or something.
1. Measure comfortably snug around, directly below where the breast tissue stops on your chest. This is the underbust.
2. Exhale and measure as tightly as possible around your underbust.
3. Measure around the fullest part of your breasts, keeping the tape parallel to the ground and not smushing the breasts at all (except if your nips get all pointy, then smush those down).
4. Bend over so your back is parallel to the ground and measure the fullest part again. For me, this measurement goes all crazy so you may choose to just lean over.
5. Lay down on your back and measure around the fullest part of your breasts again (you may need a friend for this to make sure the tape stays straight. A close friend).
6. Plug the numbers into the calculator. Do not round anything, the calculator will round appropriately for you.
Sticker shock! You may be surprised at what size the computer thinks you should wear. But truthfully, the stereotypes for A=small boobs, B=medium, C=large, D=huge, DD=blue-whale-in-a-dress-and-stylish-pumps are really, really not true. I'm a relatively small person (at 36-28-37.5 I could be a plus-sized model!) but I'm supposed to wear a 30DDD. Do I look like some sort of mammary freak of nature? No, I do not.
If you've had your bra fitted before, you may notice that this method is different. Common methods would be, with a bra and possibly shirt on, to measure the underbust and add 4 inches (or more), measure around the breast with bra on (thus measuring the bra) and kind of engineer things a bit so you can buy something they sell at the store. Now, I understand that places like Victoria's Secret have to make a dolla', they may not have floor space to display 600 bra sizes and that right now the conventional wisdom is that the 32-38 A-D is where it's at so why invest in something different. I get that, but at the same time why should I wear the wrong size, be uncomfortable and look all weird just so that some store doesn't have to carry more varied inventory?
What the calculator spits out is only a starting place. It also lists sister sizes, which would be similar and some may be more conventional and easier to find. At any rate, now you're armed to go try on lots of bras. Whee!
This part can be fun but also challenging. If you're one of the lucky few who fit in traditional sizes, that's awesome and you can shop about anywhere. If you're more like me, there are a couple of brick and mortar places you can go to try things on, and if you can't find anything you like there are more places online. I would not advise buying a bra online unless you are confident about your size and are familiar with the brand. Online places include BraStop, r/BraSwap, and r/RandomActsofBras.
There are really only about 3 places in the US that sell non-traditional bra sizes in the store: Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and Dillards. There are probably also local boutiques by you, but those are the big stores. If you go to Nordstrom you may as well get fitted by someone there and see how it lines up with your calculations. I go to Nordstrom Rack because it's cheaper and I get the wiggins if I have to spend more than $20 on any article of clothing. Dillards has a pretty good selection (sometimes they have great clearance and by me there's a Dillards Last Call that frequently has weirdy bra sizes), but I wouldn't get fitted there.
- Always, always do the Scoop and Swoop. Essential!
- Check for band and cup fit. The band may feel tighter than you're used to.
- Do not compromise on cup fit. You may have to try a different cup shape if nothing seems to fit. It's frustrating but it's totally worth it.
- Try sister sizes. These may be up a band size and down a cup size.
- Try potential winners under a fitted tee or something sort of tight and thin-fabricked
I have a hard time finding 30DDD bras on the cheap, so I usually buy 32DD. The cups fit the same because the same volume of cup in one band size will be one cup letter down with one band number up. Any letter of cup is not the same for all band sizes, because bra things couldn't be more complicated. Anyway, it's a lot easier for me to find 32DD so I compromise on band size (but not cup size!)
For the first time out, I wouldn't get more than a couple of bras. If your new size is significantly different, you may have a lot of breast tissue migrating around and your size might change after a few weeks.
If you still have trouble finding a bra that fits and want more resources, ABraThatFits, Bratabase, BustyResources are full of lots more great, detailed information about things I didn't want to delve into that may help.
Happy hunting, and may the odds be ever in your favor!