If you’re a woman, chances are you’re wearing the wrong size bra, even if you think it’s right. (Totally work safe)

Preface:  This post is not going to be exciting, titillating, or otherwise sexy.  It is meant as a public service and informational post.  There are no photos, and the post is entirely work safe.  I had a conversation on this very subject with a friend and her boyfriend (who was sitting in between us) actively tried to extricate himself from the situation.  It’s not something that most men care about.

Bummer!   But totally true.  I’ve been learning so many things about clothes and beauty that I wish I had learned (and I feel like many girls do learn) in high school.  Alas, I am on a quest for properly fitting clothes, easy beauty tricks, and quality products.  I had recently come to realize that my bras weren’t fitting quite right, as my boobs was overflowing from the cups, causing a major case of what the internet refers to as “quadboob” or “quadding.” So when I happened upon a post that someone on reddit made, I read it, absorbed it, and made a point of taking some measurements that night.  Reddit was right.  My bras were decidedly ill-fitting. Below is a portion of the post describing things that a bra that doesn’t fit will do.  I’ve highlighted the things that my bras were doing.  Maybe some of these sound familiar?

  • A bra that doesn’t lift — it simply sits ontop of your breasts and mooshes them
  • A gore (central part of the bra) that doesn’t tack, especially after swooping and scooping
  • A band that rides up
  • Straps that curve away from your body in the back (band is too big)
  • Strapless bras that slip down constantly
  • Straps that fall down
  • Gapping in the top of the cups (this can happen at any size, but especially seems problematic among A and B cups)
  • “Quadboobing” or excess breast tissue that has nowhere to go in the cups
  • Breast tenderness when you take off your bra that has nothing to do with your time of the month
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Straps that dig into your shoulders
  • Breasts that fall out of the center of the bra
  • Breasts that fall out of the bottom of the bra
  • Excess “armpit fat” (this can actually be breast tissue)
Yeah.  I had pretty much every base covered.   The bras that I was wearing were Victoria’s Secret brand(they really don’t make very good bras), in 38C.  Based on the measurements from the beginners guide, my correct size was 36F.  It’s a bit of a difference, and an F cup seemed excessive. It didn’t seem right, so I went to Soma, an “intimates” store in the mall near my house, and got fitted.  The woman their “fit” me at a 38DD/DDD.  And I bought a bra.  But after wearing it for a while, I began to have the nagging suspicion that the band was too loose.  And it was.  But let’s determine how I figured that out.
The band of a brand new bra should hook on the loosest hooks.  As you wear and wash the bra, the elastic in the band will become less and less elastic, and you will need to switch to the next set of hooks, etc.  This allows you to get the maximum amount of use out of your brassieres.  By the second day with my new bra, I was wearing it comfortably on the tightest set of hooks.  Red flag.  Unfortunately, on day 1, I ordered 3 bras in 38DD, so I waited for them to come in and tried them on.  Suspicion confirmed.  Cup and band size were incorrect.  No tacking at the gore, and quadboob everywhere.
I returned and ordered a few bras in 36E.  The band felt a little tight (though they stretch over time, and I have read that most American ladies aren’t used to wearing a correctly fitted band, so they really can feel extra tight initially).  Unfortunately, I was still quadboobing a little, so I returned, and reordered the next size up, 36F.  This may sound ridiculous, but I assure you, it’s not.  My breasts are not the size of a watermelon.  Not even one of the little personal-sized ones.  They are pretty standard.

After some trial and error in finding bras that fit, I found a couple that were great.  Did you know that it’s not uncommon for a woman to try on 25 different models of bras before they find one that’s truly a good fit for the shape of her breasts?  There are that many different shapes.  Really.  It only took me 8 or so different bras before I found one that was great.  I got lucky.

Now let’s talk about how a poorly fitting bra can actually negatively affect how the girls look.  Besides the obvious of not providing enough support, having a band that’s digging in in weird places, causing bulges where they shouldn’t be, etc, a bra with cups that are too small can actually push and migrate your breast tissue back into your armpits. That’s where much of the armpit fat that a woman has comes from.  This sounded like poppycock to me, but I can attest to it after wearing a properly fitting bra for over a month.  My armpit fat has migrated back to where it’s supposed to be, and my breasts fill the cups of my bras even more.  Not quite enough to justify a full cup size jump, but it is noticeable.  Plus, less fat in my armpits!  That’s always good!

OK.  So hopefully I’ve talked you into at least measuring yourself and evaluating how well your bra fits.  What’s the next step?  Well, trying on bras!  Some Nordstrom stores have great size selections.  Other ones do not.  Also, Nordstrom is expensive.  If you are the type that needs something brick and mortar, try them though. There aren’t a lot of places you can go buy bras that have a cup size larger than DD(which is total BS, because even DD is not that large). If you are comfortable with online shopping, and have an Amazon Prime membership, put it to good use.  Amazon has numerous quality bras.  Look for brands such as Cleo, Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate, etc.  Cleo is both inexpensive, and I have found more of their bras that fit than any other, but of course my body isn’t the same as yours.  Your mileage may vary.  Regardless, Prime-Eligible items ship 2nd day, and if they aren’t quite right, returns are as easy as selecting the item in your order screen, saying that it didn’t fit, and printing a return label.  In my experience, as soon as the label has been scanned by UPS, my return is processed and the money lands back in my account, ready for another round of bra ordering!  I personally prefer this method because it is cheaper than Nordstrom (many of the same brands though!), easy to try on and return for free, I loathe going to the mall, and getting half naked in a cold dressing room.  When the bras are at home, I can have a glass of wine (makes trying on 5 bras that don’t fit very well a lot more palatable), lock myself in the warm bathroom, and try everything on.  I keep a notepad and pen in there to make notes regarding what about each bra did and didn’t fit, and I usually take a couple photos.  When I have a few minutes later on, I enter all of my notes into a spreadsheet that I made.  The photos help me recall what about each particular bra wasn’t quite right and what was awesome about it.

Once I found a bra that fit pretty well (that is, the wires hit in the right places, and the cups were the correct shape for my breasts), I went onto bratabase.com, and found that model of bra.  From there, it gave me suggestions for other bras that fit similarly.  It’s a very powerful tool!  Anyway.  Bratabase has pointed me in the right direction, and I now have 3 different models of bra that fit well and comfortably, and 2 different colors on one of the models.  I have a few different types that I look forward to trying that I haven’t seen on sale yet, but it’s nice to know what fits, so if I find a great sale somewhere that I can’t easily return, at least I’ll know whether or not it’s likely to fit!

And I just realized that if you’re not particularly clear on how bra sizing works, this has potential to be very confusing.  Let’s go over that quickly.  The number 32, 34, 36, 38, etc is the band size of the bra.  That is, the measurement around your chest, right below your breasts, where the base of the band goes.  The cup size (letter part of the bra size) is a little trickier. That is where you take the measurement around the fullest part of your breasts, without a bra on, and then subtract the lesser number. What your left with in inches loosely correlates to a letter of the alphabet, thus the size. For me, my chest measurement was 35.5(rounded up to 36) and my larger measurement was 42.  That got me into E cup (UK) territory.  It’s not exactly a science, but it got me close enough that I was able to size up and find some really great stuff that fits like a glove.

Measurement (in.) US Size UK Size
1 A A
2 B B
3 C C
4 D D
5 DD DD
6 DDD E
7 G F
8 H FF
9 I G
10 J GG
11 K H
12 L HH
13 M J
14 N JJ
15 O K
16 P KK
Incredible chart borrowed from A Sophisticated Pair

Please ladies, give yourselves the respect of having properly fitting undergarments.  I can’t believe that I didn’t do this sooner.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!  I would love to give anyone that I can some help in this department.  It’s a pretty steep learning curve!

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