Your bra may be invisible to the outside world, but there's nothing more noticeable and distracting than wearing an ill-fitting bra. With the right fit and design, intimate wear can empower you like a secret weapon. Don't put yourself at the mercy of ill-fitting undergarments. Grab a tape measure and a pen, calculate your perfect size, and give yourself the comfort you deserve.
The first step to finding your correct size is to measure the band, the part of the bra that wraps around your torso. Wearing a lightly-lined, non-padded bra, wrap measuring tape snugly across the back of the band. Continue underneath the arms and to the center front of the bra, called the gore. Remember to keep the tape parallel to the ground, and round down to the nearest inch. If you don't have a measuring tape, use yarn or a strip of fabric, and then measure the length against a long ruler or tape measure.
Once you've recorded your band size, wrap the measuring tape across your back at the band once again. Bring it around to your front, but this time holding the tape across the fullest part of your bust. Take a few deep breaths to make sure the measurement isn't too tight. Round down to the nearest number, unless it falls on the half-inch, in which case you round up.
Now that you have your measurements, all it takes is a little bit of math to determine your cup size. Using inches, subtract the band measurement from the bust size. The difference determines your cup size; for example, a difference of 2 inches indicates a B cup, and a difference of 3 inches means your breasts are a C cup. Consult a bra sizing chart to determine your band size, since it will not be the same number as your measurement. A sizing chart will also help you find your sister size, which is an alternate bra size that gives you an equivalent cup volume and band width. Each body is different, and sister sizes account for slight variations in torso and breast shapes.
Some of the most common signs that your bra doesn't fit are also the most obvious. Gaps between the breast and cup, or straps and bands that slide around are clues that your bra is too big. A bra that is too small will dig into your skin, and your breasts may spill out of the cup. If you're wearing an underwire design, it may ride up and create "underboob," where the bottom of your breasts peek out from underneath your brassiere.
You know you're wearing a correctly-sized bra when you forget you're wearing one at all. The straps should stay put on your shoulders without slipping or digging into the skin, and underwire should fit snugly beneath the breast without pressing into your underarm. There also shouldn't be any bulging around the band, including strapless styles. When properly sized, a strapless brassiere will not slip or lose support. Longline strapless styles offer more support than a regular bra, with some styles extending to the waist or hips. These designs must also accommodate your torso dimensions, so don't be surprised if your fit is different than usual.
Nursing or maternity bras are made with convenience and adaptability in mind. Both the band and cups offer support while stretching to remain comfortable and supportive while the breasts increase in size during pregnancy. Plus, there's a top clasp on the cup that opens, making breastfeeding easy to accomplish without having to remove the bra. This means they're useful from the middle stages of pregnancy right through until weaning.
If you're active, you definitely want to look into a high-quality sports bra. Many designs are great for everyday use, too. Fits vary depending on your needs, and they come in three structured impact levels.
Low-impact bras are nice for daily wear and lighter activities like yoga or walking. Medium-impact bras often offer the option of having cups in addition to simply a compression band. They're ideal for aerobics or cycling. Finally, high-impact bras are all about firm support for intense sports like running or gymnastics, when we want to keep bouncing to a minimum.
People who have a smaller cup size sometimes enjoy the lift offered by a push-up bra. This style enhances cleavage while providing medium support and works well with dresses and fitted tops.
Usually a demi cut, these cups tend to have additional padding on the bottom and sides to push the breasts up and toward each other. The lower neckline design allows for minimal or no visibility when wearing low-cut shirts.
Whether you're full-figured, your chest is larger, or you simply like the idea of added support when asleep, sleeping bras are a wonderful option. They're a dedicated style specifically for overnight wear.
Sleeping bras are all about comfort. They use soft materials, eschew underwire, and have specific features tailored to unique needs. Some focus on thermo-regulation or softness, while others are designed to relieve back pain. There are even designated sleeping bras for nursing.
If you like to wear daring, feminine outfits like off-the-shoulder dresses or sheer tops, a strapless bra is one of your best options. Though the lack of straps means they can offer only light coverage, these bras have to have a sturdy support band. It's important to test this style before buying to see if the elasticity will hold up to your needs.
Though strapless is an option for a range of cup sizes, many people with larger breasts can confirm they tend to work best with smaller busts.
Offering medium coverage and flattering those with a smaller chest, bralettes give a soft and gentle look. They're wonderful for loose-fitting tops or any fabrics with a light feel.
Bralettes are a comfortable alternative for people who desire only minimal support but don't want to go fully bare under there. Without wires or molded cups, they provide a smooth shape and silhouette, and they're often very pretty, as well, which accounts for their growing popularity as lacy crop tops under blazers or cardigans.
Full coverage bras have larger cups designed to cover nearly all of your breasts. This type of bra is ideal for large busts and helpful in providing more support and preventing breast spillage. A properly-fitted full coverage bra cradles each breast without gaps or wrinkles. Plus-sized bras, on the other hand, are designed to comfortably support larger bra sizes with cups, both big and small. They come in a variety of styles, from underwire to soft cups, making it easy to find a sexy or fashionable design.
Sometimes, your breasts require a little more TLC beyond what your standard bra can provide. Invest in a quality sports bra for workouts. With low to high-impact designs and compression styles, you're sure to find the right combination of support and breathability. Sleeping bras, another option for large busts, are designed to keep breasts from falling uncomfortably to the sides at night. Nursing bras are convenient for breastfeeding mothers and easy to clean with removable pads. Unique designs are also available for post-mastectomy and surgical recovery.
A quality bra won't last forever, but it will maintain its shape and continue boosting your breasts for a while if you care for it properly. Hand washing is the best method for cleaning lingerie. Wash your bras every 4 to 5 wears to keep them fresh, and be sure to use a mild intimates detergent. Cleansers meant for wool blends will break down the elastics in the fabric. To clean your bras, separate them by color, and soak in a sink or basin filled with soapy water for up to one hour. Rinse and pat the bras with a clean towel, hanging them up to finish air-drying.
Your bra might be destined for the garbage if the band or straps are loose-fitting. You might also see tiny "hairs" poking through the fabric, which means the elastic is breaking down. The cups may not fit properly, or the shape is warped and noticeable through your clothing. Replace your bras every 6 to 9 months, depending on your bust size and how often you wear them. Everyday bras will wear out sooner, as will full-figured bras, so it may be a good idea to increase the number of undergarments in your rotation.