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You know your bra size because you’ve been fitted. Or, you know your bra size because your current bras all fit great. So, why is it that sometimes when you try on a new bra style it doesn’t fit? This is a recurring question my bra fitters tell me they hear from you, our customers. Most who ask already concluded it’s the manufacturer’s fault – after all, they made the ill-fitting bra. But here’s the truth; very rarely is the manufacturer to blame. Having worked with numerous bra design teams in our industry, I have seen first-hand the arduous steps taken to design and manufacture a new bra style. Bra manufacturers are OBSESSED with fit. They have to be. A huge investment goes into every bra designed and brought to market. They are therefore financially driven to make sure it has a great fit and so have an army of differently sized women they use to confirm fit. So, what is going on? Why will some bras fit right and others not when you purchase a new bra style in your correct bra size? I have some answers.
Putting on a Bra
Stay with me here. We all think we know how to put on our bras. We’ve been doing it for years. We can do it in the dark. But stop and think for a minute. How are you doing this exactly? And, when trying on a new bra, are you giving it a fair shake? A little more effort with a new bra up front can transform it into the right fit. Think about how you put on a new pair of jeans. You pull them up. Tuck your hands in the pockets to make them lay smooth. Maybe run your hands down the back to make sure your panties aren’t creating a VPL. Tuck your shirt in at the waist to check if you like the height of the rise… Well, a new bra style deserves some similar consideration.
When I first started wearing bras (many, many, MANY moons ago), they were displayed in stores on their tightest adjustment. This meant no woman could quickly try on a new bra – she had to first adjust its straps. This is no longer the case. The manufacturers now ship bras with their straps “pre-adjusted” to some pre-determined length. Doing this has made us complacent with strap adjusting – we assume it’s correct because we can now try on a new bra immediately. We expect the strap adjustment to be correct for us, but it’s probably not. Let’s use me as an example. I know I’m short-waisted. My basic alteration will almost always be to shorten the straps. I recently read a product review on our site where she said her new bra fit, but there was a slight pucker in the top of her cups, so she returned it. Guess what? That pucker would have disappeared if she had just tightened her straps! So, the first thing I do with a new bra is put it on, then stand in front of a mirror and lift my straps up from the shoulders to see if it makes the cups fit better. It usually does. The lesson here is to first play around with your bra straps on a new bra before giving up and concluding it’s a bad fit. Want to learn more? You should watch the video: Why are my bra straps slipping?
Breast Tissue Manipulation
You fasten your bra, you adjust your straps. Now, you need to adjust your breast tissue. This is true for all women regardless of breast size. With your left hand, reach inside your right cup and make sure your breast tissue under your arms and along your chest is inside the circular shape of your underwires and filling the cups. You can also lean forward and do this if you have large breasts – it will be easier. Then, repeat on your other side. I’ve seen women actually cry after doing this – they look thinner and their bustline looks amazing. They’ve put all their malleable breast tissue inside their cups thus positioning their breasts front and center where the bra designer designed it to be. I’ve seen women who have worn C cups for years discover they are actually a DD cup size and even larger after doing this. It only takes a few seconds to adjust your breast tissue into your bra. It’s a game-changer in helping you get a proper fit and the right bra size. Want to learn more? Here’s a great video showing how to find the right cup size. It might mean moving up 2 cup sizes to a better fit.
Bra Design Elements
How do you choose the bra styles you try on? You like a feature? It’s pretty? A friend’s recommendation? These are all good reasons, but you really should know what kind of breasts you have and what features you need in a bra to accomplish a great fit. Without the right features, a new bra – even in the right size – may not provide you the correct fit.
Center Panel Design
You probably never pay attention to it, but the center panel between the cups of your bra can make or break a great bra fit. Again, let’s use me as an example. I have wide-set breasts – I can put two and almost three fingers vertically on my sternum before touching breast tissue. My bras, therefore, need more space between the cups. The first thing I do with a new bra is inspect its center panel. If the ends of the underwires touch, it will not be a great fit. I look for a wide center panel and check to make sure the tips of my underwires do not touch in the center. Demi bras, wide center panels, and front closure bras are some of the bra styles I lean towards because they generally will have a wider center panel. Now, contrast me to one of my daughters who is full-busted and has touching breasts along with a small band size. She doesn’t have much room (if any) between her breasts, so she needs a bra where the underwires touch in the center. They also cannot be too tall -they will dig in to her breasts. Her bra fit is better in a semi-demi, sweetheart or balconette style where the underwires are shorter or center touching. Women with a tummy that comes up between breasts when sitting need an arched center panel that gives the top of their tummy space. Otherwise, even in the right size, a bra without this feature will not fit comfortably for her and the bottom of the underwires will not rest in the under breast crease where they need to be. See below for some examples of the different shapes your center panel can take.
Cups with seams will give all breasts (full or not) their best shape. Seams give structure to a cup, thus shaping malleable breast tissue into a structured shape. T-shirt and seamless bra cups have been pre-shaped with a mold. They do not have the seams to force your breast shape so the fabric and foam being used is important. Some are rigid and others are stretchy. Full and firm breasts don’t need rigid. Deflated and soft tissue breasts do. T-shirt bras with firm foam mask uneven breast size and erect nipples but can have some gapping appear as you move. Many bras also have side support panels. These can be located inside the cups or can be incorporated into the design of the bra. You can see an example of this below. These panels help bring your breast tissue front and center. If you have breasts that rest east/west, have large, or wide-set breasts, side-support panels are a design feature that has been specifically created for you and will give you a better fit.
There are lots of different bra cup shapes. Not every cup shape works for everyone. Full coverage cups cover the entire breast – a great choice for women who want breast containment. However, it can be too much coverage for a petite woman. Demi cups are very flattering and show off upper breast tissue, but these may not flatter women with shallow upper breasts. Triangle-shaped cups have made a comeback in recent years. There was a trend for several years where most bras were designed with wide-set straps that rested more towards the edges of your shoulders. Though they appear very flattering, most women can’t wear this style all day without frequent strap slippage. Thus the return of the triangle-shaped cup where the top of the triangle lands almost directly above the apex of your breast. The strap is now more centered on the shoulder, pulling breasts directly upward and stabilizing the straps. Many women find this cup/strap configuration more comfortable, and narrow-shouldered women are delighted. I personally wear my center pull strap bras in the summer when wearing sleeveless tops and tanks – the strap is in the perfect place to remain hidden. Our site navigation allows you to filter on center pull straps.
There are many more bra features I could speak to, but what I hope I have made clear is that knowing the features you want and need will go a long way in helping you select your next bra style and maybe giving that style a little extra consideration before rejecting. My team and I work diligently to identify and document all features for every bra in our “details” and “fitters comments” sections. We are also proud of our best-in-category filtering capabilities. You can actually search by multiple features to narrow down our offerings into the right bra styles for you. You may have also noticed our “measured” image that’s available on every bra style we sell. It may not be the most glamorous image, but its value is priceless when it comes to comparing similar bras. Here are 3 measured images of very similar bras that I pulled from my site. You can quickly compare breast coverage, cup shape, center panel height, and strap placement.
It’s great that you are confident about your bra size. Now, learn to be confident in the bra features you want and need. The next time you go bra shopping, you will be armed with the information to make the best choices for your unique bustline.
Tomima Founder & CEO