Bra Fitting Done Properly
How the Band, Cups & Straps Should Fit Properly
A correct bra fitting can do wonders for your figure, and for your comfort level. Not only will it lift your breasts up, it will also take the weight of doing that off of your shoulders. But how do you know that the fit is right? And how can you fix it if it’s not?
It’s often said that 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. That particular figure has since been disproven, but it is true that many of us aren’t wearing our ideal size. The most common issue is wearing a too-large band and too-small cup size, which can lead to both back pain and breasts that look saggier than need be, especially if you have a large and heavy bust.
The aim of this guide is to teach you how to fit a bra correctly. We cover what to check for on the three main parts of the bra – the cups, band, and straps – and give a few additional fit tips for strapless bras and sports bras.
How Bra Cups Should Fit
In a perfectly-fit bra, the cups will fully encapsulate your breast tissue with no excess space. This means that the top edge of the cup will neither dig in nor gape. In an unlined bra, a too-large cup may look wrinkled (rather than gaping), because your breast tissue isn’t filling it out completely.
The bra underwires should lie in the fold where your breast joins your torso – not lower, and definitely not higher, on top of the breast tissue! This should be the case all the way along the wire, from the center-front through to the underarm.
Before checking for cup fit, always lean forwards and scoop your breast tissue upwards into the cup. This ensures that 100% of your breast tissue is inside the cups, so you can see how they really fit.
How Bra Straps Should Fit
Most of the support in a well-fitted bra comes from the band. The main job of the straps is to hold the cups in place so they don’t flop over, not to lift the breasts up.
That means that your bra straps should never be digging in. If they are, it’s because too much weight is being put on them – which indicates that the band isn’t fitting well enough to do its job. Digging straps are uncomfortable and can lead to shoulder ache.
Bra straps should also not be slipping off your shoulders. This can also be caused by a band that’s poorly-fitting. If the band is too loose, it doesn’t ‘anchor’ the straps in place, meaning they will move about too much.
Remember though that your bra straps are adjustable! Before blaming your band, check that it’s not simply a case of needing to lengthen or shorten the straps. Over time, the elastic in them will stretch out, so they should be re-adjusted periodically.
How The Bra Band Should Fit
Everything else on a bra forms the band. Sometimes this is a continuous section running all the way around the ribcage. Other times, it’s made up of two ‘wings’ at the sides plus a piece of fabric between the cups (with nothing joining them below the cups). The latter is called a ‘band=less’ bra, but it’s a misleading name – it definitely still has a band!
How should a bra fit in the back?
The band should lie horizontally across your back. A too-large band size is easy to spot because it will arch up at the center-back. It’s being pulled up because the weight of your breasts is pulling down on the front, and the band is too loose to stay anchored in place. So you won’t be getting as much lift as you could be.
It shouldn’t be too tight however. If your bra band feels painful, or the underwires feel like they are digging in, you may need a larger size.
How should a bra fit in the front?
The area of fabric between the cups is called the gore. This should ‘tack’ (lie flat against your skin) on an underwired bra. If it doesn’t, keep reading for the solution.
How A Strapless Bra Should Fit
If you’re wondering how a strapless bra should fit compared to one with straps, the answer is that it’s pretty much the same! As already covered, it’s the band that does the vast majority of the support work, so the lack of straps doesn’t affect things as much as you may think.
However, it is absolutely crucial not to wear a band size that’s too large in a strapless bra. In a regular one, if the band is too loose then the weight of your bust ends up hanging off your shoulders – that can cause shoulder and neck aches, but at least your bra won’t be falling down. If a strapless bra band is loose enough for the band to start slipping down however, there’s nothing to stop it doing just that!
Even if the slippage is only minor, the loose band will mean less lift. Your bra is like a seesaw – your breasts want to move downwards with gravity, and only a band tight enough not to ride up at the back will prevent that.
How Should A Sports Bra Fit?
Similarly to a strapless bra, the basic ‘rules’ for good fit in a sports bra are the same as for a normal one. You want a firm-fitting band, cups that are the perfect size for your breasts, and straps that don’t dig in or slip off.
Getting the straps right is the easy part, because many sports bras have racerback style straps. This means they’re joined (or can be joined via a hook) at the back, forming a T or X shape. This pulls them in towards the spine so there’s no way they’ll be falling down as you run, jump or somersault!
A perfect band fit is, again, crucial here. It needs to be tight enough to provide maximum support, and hence minimize uncomfortable breast bounce. It also needs to be just right to avoid rubbing – if it’s too tight, or loose enough to move about, chafing can become a major problem for your workout.
Although you don’t want cups that are too small (which can cause some unsightly overspill), the bigger issue is avoiding ones that are too big. That’s because your breasts would have space to bounce about inside the cup, so the bra wouldn’t be able to do its job. Holding things firmly in place is the whole point of a sports bra!
Solutions for bras that won’t lie flat
We briefly touched on how the gore (center-front) of your bra should fit in the section above on band fit. But what do you do when the bra gore doesn’t lie flat? When there’s a gap between it and your sternum?
When the bra doesn’t lay flat in front, it’s because the cups are too small. There is not enough cup fabric to wrap all the way around your breasts and back down to your body, so the gore ends up being suspended a little apart from your skin. The solution is simply to choose a larger cup size that can fully encapsulate your breasts.
Note that this is only applicable to wired bras. Your breast tissue is pushing the cup outwards, so without an underwire there to force the cup into a specific position, it’s normal that a soft, non-wired one may not stay put against your sternum.
Conclusion: How to know you’ve found the perfect bra fit
Mastering the Correct Bra Fit: We’ve covered a lot of points above, and it can seem like a daunting amount of information to take on. So let us quickly summarize. Here’s how to tell if a bra fits correctly:
Good cup fit:
✔ No ‘overspill’ along the cup edge (seen as a bump from the side, especially in a fitted t-shirt)
✔ No gap between the cup edge and your skin
✔ Cups do not look wrinkled or baggy
✔ The underwires lie flat against your sternum at the center-front
Good band fit:
✔ Runs horizontally across your back
✔ Not so tight it’s uncomfortable or hard to take a deep breath
Good strap fit:
✔ Not cutting in and/or causing pain
✔ Not falling down onto your arms
If you can tick off everything on the list above, then congratulations, you’ve got a bra that fits just right!
Still have some boxes left to check? A professional bra fitting is always an option, and a great one at that. But if you prefer your privacy or just like to shop online, you can use these eight points to confirm if a bra fits well yourself. Why not make a note of them so you’ve got it to hand the next time you are trying on bras?
If your bra fit is very off and you’re not sure which size to try next, don’t forget that you can also use our bra size calculator to see what size it suggests. Good luck on your hunt for the perfect bra fit!