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Tomima Talks: Right Bra Size. Why Doesn’t It Fit?


You’ve been professionally fitted. Or, you have bras that fit great. Hence, you’re confident you know your bra size. So, why is this new bra you found not fitting?

Many conclude the faulty fit lies with the bra manufacturer – after all, they made it. But here’s the truth; very, VERY rarely is the manufacturer to blame for fit. For those of you who have read past Tomima Talks, you’ve learned that the bra brands HerRoom carries are OBSESSED with accurate bra fit. The good brands have to. A huge up-front investment in materials and factory quantity commitments are made prior to bringing each bra to market. Therefore, the brand’s design team nurtures a unique squad of women with varying bra sizes, then relentlessly fit tests them. Not until a bra’s fit has been mastered does it make it to market and thus offered on HerRoom.

But back to my premise; why would a bra in your correct size not fit? I have some answers.

Putting on a Bra

We all know how to put on our bra…right? We’ve been doing it for years. We don’t need a mirror. We can do it in the dark. It’s muscle memory. Well, let’s just pause for a moment. How are you putting it on exactly? And, when you first put on a new bra, are you taking some time with it or quickly casting it aside without a fair chance? A little effort, in the beginning, can transform a new bra into a terrific fit. Think about how you try on a new pair of jeans. You pull them on. Slide your hands in the pockets so they lay smooth. Maybe run your hands down the back to make sure no VPLs (visible panty lines) exist. Tuck in your top. Maybe test your belt in the loops. Fasten the front to check its rise… Well, a new bra style deserves some similar consideration.

Straps – Jumping into the Wayback Machine, my first bras were sold in a box with their straps on their shortest adjustment. In order to try them on, immediate attention needed to be given to adjusting the straps. Today, bras are found hanging with pre-adjusted straps to help speed up the exercise of trying a bra on for the first time. I would argue this pre-adjustment is a disservice. It has created complacency. Most are assuming the straps are already adjusted. But that adjustment is probably not the best one for you. Strap adjusting is huge and many women are simply wearing their bras way too low.

Here’s the same model in the same bra. The “Before” image has her in the pre-adjusted strap setting. The second is “After” adjustment. Her breasts are higher and fuller:

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? Watch this video: Why your straps keep slipping.

Breast Tissue Manipulation – You fastened your bra. You adjusted 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 to pull all your breast tissue inside the circular shape of your underwire to totally fill your cups. You can also lean forward and do this if you have large breasts – it will be easier. Then, repeat using your right hand with your left cup.

Adjusting breast tissue is a game-changer. I’ve seen women actually cry after doing this — they look thinner and their bustlines look amazing. They’ve put all their malleable breast tissue inside their cups and their breasts are now front and center — where the bra designer designed them to be. I know women who’ve always worn a C cup discover they are a DD and even a DDD cup size. It only takes a few seconds to adjust your breast tissue into your bra each day. And taking the time to do this in a new bra is needed as well.

Want to learn more? Here’s a great video showing a woman moving up two cup sizes to a better fit.

Bra Design Features

How are you picking a new bra? You like its color? You like a certain feature? It’s pretty? A friend’s recommendation? These are all good reasons, but you are unique. You need to know what kind of breasts you have, then know the bra features to look for to accomplish a great fit for you. Without the right features, a new bra – even in the right size – may not provide you the correct fit.

Center Panel Design – Most don’t pay attention to how the two cups of a bra are connected. But a center panel can make or break a great bra fit. I’m a good example. I have wide-set breasts – I can put two, almost three fingers vertically on my sternum before they touch breast tissue. A bra with a tight, narrow center panel that has the tips of the underwires touching will be a bad fit for me. But, if your breasts are close-set, this center panel style will be a win for you.

Most front-closure bras create a nice distance between the cups. Many demi bras have a wide center panel and the ends of the wires do not touch in front. These styles are great choices for average to wide-set breasts. Plunge and semi-demi bra styles have shorter underwires and a much smaller center panel. Both of these styles are great for touching and average-spaced breasts. Have a high tummy that comes right up between your breasts? You should look for an arched center panel that carves out room for your upper tummy – especially when you sit. If you have this type of tummy and not an arched center panel, your band will feel too tight. So, study the center panels and know which are best for you. Here are some examples:

Cup Structure – When being fitted, a bra fitter will (should) use a seamed cup bra. It’s by far the most supportive and best breast-shaping cup style. And you can’t cheat – you can quickly tell if your bra cups are too small or too big. Contrast this to a t-shirt bra which is pre-shaped and lined with foam for modesty. Its structure can mask your fit. I love t-shirt bras, so this is not a gripe. Just know that when you make a cup style change, your fit, too, can change:

Seamed Cup Bras – come in a variety of configurations. If you really want breast support, a vertical underbust seam is a must. The more seams in the cups, the better your breast shape and support. Outer breast side support panels either sewn on the outside or inside of the cups bring your breast tissue front and center. Here are some examples:

Contour Cup Bras – also called t-shirt bras – have been pre-shaped with a mold and have a thin layer of foam in the cups for modesty. Deflated and soft tissue breasts will find a contour cup gives them a better shape and more fullness. And, a woman with uneven breast sizes will find a contour cup bra will give her a more even look (fit to your larger breast).

Seamless Cup Bras, too, are shaped with a mold, but they do not manipulate your breasts into a predefined shape as much as seamed cup or a contour cup. Most have a little stretch to their cups. Women with full and somewhat firm breast tissue will enjoy these bras that give them a little more relaxed and natural shape. But they’re not so great for deflated and pendulous breasts which are not able to fill these cups in a flattering way.

Strap Location – The location where your straps are attached to the cups, too, is important.

Center-Pull Straps are attached more towards the center of the cups and give additional upward pull for more breast support. The cups are usually more triangular-shaped with this strap location. Here are some examples:

Wide-Set Straps are attached near your underarm and can be designed to pull in a way that tumbles your breasts more towards each other, giving a similar effect to a halter top or crisscrossed straps. Some women, particularly those with smaller cup sizes, like this because it gives them more breast fullness and a bit more of a cleavage line. But not all wide-set straps do this. The ones that do have a more cat-eye cup shape like the ones shown below.

DD+ Bra Cup Sizes

Women with cup sizes larger than a D cup may not know that their cup size can have more than one letter name. For example, a DDD cup size can also be called an F or an E cup size. It depends on the sizing system the manufacturer uses. So, you may think you’ve picked your correct cup size but accidentally did not. This can be the cause of your new bra not fitting.

It is for this reason that I invented the “Universal Cup Sizing™” System (UCS®) for HerRoom. Every bra we sell tells you which sizing system is being used (US, EU, or the UK) and its associated UCS size. Continuing with my DDD example above, a DDD cup size is a D3 UCS size. So, DDD(D3), F(D3) and E(D3) are all the same cup size. Simply find your UCS size and you’ll find your correct bra cup size every time. Here’s a simple graph example to help you better understand this.

Rookie Bra Brands

Knowing what I know about our industry, any new lingerie brand that appears gets careful consideration by my buying team. Most new lingerie brands lack the technical skills and the historical bra fit knowledge to make a great fitting product. Many retailers will dip their toe in the lingerie category and hire a factory to make an “in-house” exclusive lingerie label just for them. Or a manufacturer of, say jeans or workout clothes, decides they need to expand their brand into lingerie. History has proven these attempts mostly fall flat – at least in the initial years. The reason being that lingerie is far more technical and exacting than any other clothing type. Expertise in the category is a must for a quality product.

Rookie mistakes with new lingerie brands include creating a bra in just one size, then mathematically grading the pattern up and down to create the size range desired. The fit from grading is only minimally successful. Worse, a new brand will simply make their bras in t-shirt sizing – S, M, L, etc. Other mistakes have to do with the factory being selected to make the bras.

All bras are currently made offshore (none in the USA due to high labor costs) and many factories all over the world claim they can make bras. Most cannot. A factory will provide good pricing but will also require that their sewing have tolerances. But bras require exact sewing. The tolerances can cause the fit to be off. Cute fabrics are found, but their stretch is not analyzed, and the fit is strange. Interesting designs are created only to learn later that most customers don’t have the figure to wear them or they’re very difficult to get in and out of.

I know this sounds like a plug for the brands we carry at HerRoom, but in over 20 years, we’ve seen it all. This is why we scrutinize every new brand we offer at HerRoom. We research who’s behind the brand, where it’s made, and then we fit test their products before we make them available for sale on our site. And, we closely track the product reviews you leave. You help us quickly find any dud that needs to be removed.


Tomima Founder & CEO

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