Step into any lingerie shop and the hundreds of colorful available options – bras, bralettes, sports, and strapless – will overwhelm you. But before you grab a few to try on, you need to calculate the correct size.
Online retailers and lingerie shops sell more than 1.5 billion bras each year. But something is uncomfortably amiss. Many researchers and bra-wearing women – Oprah, included – claim you only have a 20 percent chance of choosing the correct size.
Are you wearing the right bra size?
The idea that 80 percent of women wear the wrong bra size has been around for decades. By now, in fact, that notion is deeply entrenched in the minds of shoppers the world over.
The idea first came to public attention in a paper written by the plastic surgeon, Dr. Edward Pechter. His paper saw publication in the journal, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, in 1998.
Pechter had hoped to standardize sizing for augmentation or reduction surgeries. While that didn’t happen, his theory has stuck with us ever since.
To test the veracity of Pechter’s claim, the Swiss bra brand, Triumph, conducted a survey among 10,000 women in 2014. The survey showed that 64 percent of the participants were wearing the wrong bra size. Of those women, only 29 percent knew it.
How to Find the Right Bra Size
Of course, not knowing your bra size doesn’t make you any less smart than women who do know their size. Apart from the lack of standard sizing, a woman’s breasts can – and will – change, as well.
“Women don’t realize that their bodies are often changing, even subtly, as is their bra size,” says Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of the bra company Lively. “We often acknowledge changes in our dress or jean size, but don’t always remember to check in on our bra.”
That said, finding a comfortable, supportive bra is not impossible. The key is in trying it on and checking some important factors, according to the Research Group in Breast. Below are six foolproof steps to finding the correct fit for you.
1. Check the band.
The first thing to check is a properly fitting band. The bra band should stay level around your rib cage throughout the day. That means it should not ride up in the front or around your spine. To test if the band fits properly, use your fingers to pull the band away from your torso. You shouldn’t have more than a two-inch gap.
You should also make sure that the band stays level know matter how much you move. Lift your arms up a few times and try twisting around. Test the bra with vigorous movements. The band needs to stay in place no matter how much you move around.
2. Make sure the cups hold your entire breast.
The bra cups should hold your entire breast with no bulging or gaps at the sides, the top, or below. Experts suggest that you employ the “scoop and swoop” technique to get your breast into the cup. That is, scoop the opposite breast upward with your hand and then tuck it into the bra.
Your breasts should stay in the cups when you bend over. That means you should bend over in the fitting room when trying on a new bra.
3. Check the underwire.
If the bra has an underwire, make sure it follows where your breasts naturally crease. The wire should track all the way to your underarm area. Be sure that it does not rest on top of your breasts at any point along the way.
If the cup fits, but the wire doesn’t follow the crease, you should try a different style of bra. For bras without a wire, you can use the same method for checking the bottom seam, instead.
4. Check the straps.
The straps should not slip off or dig into your shoulders. If they do, try adjusting them. Many women have asymmetrical breasts. This means you don’t have to fuss and worry about making the strap adjustments even.
Remember, the middle of the bra should rest flat against your breastbone. If it doesn’t, you need to get a larger cup size and see if that helps.
5. If need be, try sister-sizing.
If you run through these steps and still find an awkward fit, researchers suggest that you try “sister sizing.” For instance, if you find the band on a bra is too tight, but the cup is a good fit, try going up a band size and down a cup size. If – say – you are a 36D, try a 38C.
6. If your breasts are of unequal size, always base your sizing on your larger breast.
Because a person’s breasts can be of unequal size, base your fitting on your larger breast. This way you don’t spill out of a cup. For particularly difficult fits, some stores and tailors offer simple alterations for bra straps, bands or cups. However, fees vary, so it’s best to request a quote before you have the bra altered.
Finding the Right Bra Size
Like many women, you’re likely to have a few bras you avoid wearing because they don’t fit well. Or maybe you’ve made up your mind to wear them even though they pinch or squeeze your breasts.
Wearing an uncomfortable – or unflattering – bra can be both painful and frustrating. You might try to convince yourself that a good fit doesn’t exist – or that something’s wrong with your breasts. But you’d be lying to yourself.
Finding the right bra size isn’t difficult but it does require patience. You may have to go through a whole mess of bras before you find the right fit. But it’s always worth your effort.
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