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Does my bra fit?

A well-fitting bra lifts and supports. But in order to find one, first you have to know your real size
A well-fitting bra lifts and supports. But in order to find one, first you have to know your real size
©iStockphoto.com/AtnoYdur

Heat-activated, anti-wrinkle, iPod-charging … today's bras are about as high-tech as computers. They have complex support systems and multiple operating modes. They're priced just a bit shy of a PC.

The quest for the perfect bra can lead women to extremes of shopping, trying on and spending without ever finding the One. And there's a reason for that: There is no perfect bra. High-tech bells and whistles and the brand new, ultimate design are just the side show. The main event is much simpler. It's the fit.

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A well-fitting bra does two things: It supports and it enhances. Holds 'em and shapes 'em. End of story.

Except that it's not. It's stunningly difficult to find a bra that does what it's supposed to. And that's not because today's bras, high-tech or not, aren't perfectly wonderful and well-designed. It's because eight out of 10 women are wearing the wrong one [source: Oprah].

The right bra makes a woman feel more comfortable and look younger and thinner. The wrong bra makes a woman look older and dumpier. She may even want to rip the thing off and give up. It's easy enough to tell the two apart in a general way; it's harder to pick out the specifics that are causing the problem.

In this article, we'll do just that. We'll go through the steps involved in calculating an accurate bra size, find out how a bra is supposed to fit and see how to tell if it doesn't.

While finding the right bra can sometimes be an epic journey, it's easy enough to figure out if the one you're wearing is wrong.

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This bra isn't just too tight; its tiny back strap won't be able to adequately support the bust.
This bra isn't just too tight; its tiny back strap won't be able to adequately support the bust.
Olaf Kowalzik/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

If your bra is uncomfortable, it's the wrong one for your body. If you don't look better with it than without it, it's the wrong one for your body.

It really is that simple. But here are some more specific clues that you need to go back to the lingerie department:

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  • The straps are either falling off or digging into your shoulders
  • The band either pinches your rib cage or rides up in back.
  • The cups gape or your breasts are oozing out of them (sometimes causing a "dented" look under clothes).
  • The underwire either digs into your rib cage or catches your arms when you swing them forward.

Any of these problems can indicate you're wearing the wrong size, the wrong style, and/or the wrong brand. Step one is to find out if you're the bra size you think you are, so grab a tape measure, stand up straight, and:

  1. Place the tape measure just under your bust, all the way around your torso. Make sure it's level, parallel to the floor, in the front and back. Round to the nearest whole number. If the measurement is an even number, add 4 to it to get your band measurement; if it's an odd number, add 5.
  2. Now move the tape measure up, and measure around the fullest part of your bust, still keeping the tape measure level all the way around. Round to the nearest whole number.
  3. Subtract the band measurement (after adding the 4 or 5) from the bust measurement. For each whole-number difference, you go up a cup size. So, if the bust measurement is 37 inches, and the band measurement is 36 inches, the bra size is a 36A. If the bust measurement is 38 and the band is 36, it's a 36B.

Measuring for a bra is not an exact science; it can sometimes help to be fitted by a professional at an intimates shop. This is especially true if you measure above a D cup, since larger sizes are a trickier fit.

Now, when you head into the dressing room with an armful of new undergarments in the correct size, you're in the home stretch. But you're not done. You're looking for one with the right fit, too.

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Shopping for a bra can be overwhelming. It helps if you come knowing your true size and what styles suit you best.
Shopping for a bra can be overwhelming. It helps if you come knowing your true size and what styles suit you best.
Hitoshi Nishimura/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

No two bras fit alike, even if they're the same style. Every bra manufacturer makes a slightly different product, so a Warner's demi cup is going to fit differently from a Le Mystere demi cup. A Hanes full-coverage won't feel just like a Calvin Klein full coverage.

By all means, if you've found a brand that works with your shape, stick with it. Otherwise, you've got work to do. But at least you know your size. You're in better shape than most.

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In the dressing room, you're looking for the following fit:

  • Cup: Smooth and taut, with no "denting" or oozing anywhere; if there's an underwire, it should fully contain the bottom of the breast and neither poke in nor stick out.
  • Band: Snug, with no gaping, but you should be able to get one finger in between it and your skin. It should be level all the way around. If it's causing the "back fat" thing, it's probably not sitting level.
  • Center panel: The part of the bra in between the cups should lay flat against the sternum. With wireless or minimizer bras, that may not be possible; but with an underwire, you want it nice and snug against your chest.
  • Straps: They should stay put, but not dig in. The straps aren't where you should be getting support: They should only bear about 10 percent of the weight of your bust [source: Intimacy]. The band does the rest. If they're falling off your shoulders, try a bra with the straps positioned closer together, or check out a racerback style.

If it's truly a great-fitting bra, it should smooth, lift and round out your shape, and it should do it without causing pain.

If it doesn't, head back to the racks. You can also check online, where you'll probably find a wider selection.

Or, visit a good seamstress. Yes, you can have a bra altered so it fits perfectly. There's really no reason not to -- the right bra is out there, but it may be a custom job.

For more information on bra fitting and related topics, look over the links on the next page.

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Related Articles

Sources

  • The Bra Revolution. Oprah Magazine.http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/The-Bra-Revolution
  • Bra Talk: Myths and Facts. Intimacy.http://www.myintimacy.com/myths.html
  • Everything You Need to Know About Bra Fitting. Her Room.http://www.herroom.com/bra-fitting-advice,901,30.html

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