How to Find a Bra That Actually Fits You Properly

Jihan Forbes
·Associate Editor
Having trouble finding the right bra? We got you. (Photo: Getty Images)
Having trouble finding the right bra? We got you. (Photo: Getty Images)

One of the cardinal rules of looking good in what you wear is having the right foundation. You could be in an insanely expensive couture gown and still not look your best if your underwear isn’t doing its job. A survey of 2,000 American women ages 18 and older done by U.K. lingerie brand Rigby & Peller found that 67 percent wear the same bra daily, and 30 percent have been wearing the same bra for 10 years. Neither of these is actually great for your bras or your breasts.

Lori Kaplan, co-founder and owner of New York City-based lingerie shop Bra Tenders, knows firsthand just how confused women are about their bras, how to care for them, and how to find ones that actually fit properly. “The biggest mistake 99 out 100 women make is they buy the band size too big and the cup size too small. Almost everybody who walks in here who thinks they’re a 36C is actually a 32DD, E, or F,” she tells Yahoo Style. “Then what happens is when the band is too big, it rides up between your shoulder blades, and the back of your bra is up here while your boobs are down here.”

So why are women so confused when it comes to bra shopping? Kaplan blames a lack of education. “Their mothers don’t know, it’s not something they learn in school, it’s not something their girlfriends know, and they go shopping at Victoria’s Secret and they don’t know how to fit,” she explains. “When I was a kid, you needed a bra, you went to a store and got fitted in the right size. Today, nobody does that. They don’t do it in department stores unless they’re having a fit event with some of the vendors there. Nobody is trained to do that in a lot of lingerie departments. And the girls working in the lingerie department, maybe the next day, they’re in the shoe department. So there’s no training, and I think women just don’t think about it.”

You’re probably wearing the wrong bra size! (Photo: Getty Images)
You’re probably wearing the wrong bra size! (Photo: Getty Images)

With a general lack of training and education, it’s hard for a lot of women to know exactly how a bra should fit them. Fortunately, Kaplan has the perfect formula for identifying a well-fitted bra. “Your bra fits properly when both breasts are sitting comfortably in their respective cups, and nothing bulges, spills, or pooches out,” she says. Your bra should fit so that both breasts are separated and defined, and aren’t pushed together into the dreaded uniboob, or, worse, the quadraboob. Your breasts should not be popping out of the sides of the bra, either. “The band should be snug around the rib cage and parallel to the floor, in the same place in back as in the front. You should be able to slip two fingers under the band when it is the right size and properly adjusted,” Kaplan explains. “The straps are just tight enough to give a gentle lift, but not so tight that you get grooves in your shoulders.”

Underwire bras are some of the most preferred among Kaplan’s customers, and it is a style that she thinks works best for most women, as it does a better job of keeping your breasts in place for a more flattering silhouette. Nonwire bras, Kaplan says, tend to form an “east and west” effect. “The boobs are more into the armpits and they’re not really centered, so they tend to make you look wider,” she says. “When you’re wearing a bra with a wire, they shape your bust in a different way, and they kind of center it in the front of your body so that you look taller and leaner, and you stand up straighter.”

Kaplan says there are a few key bras that every woman should have in her arsenal. She suggests seamless T-shirt bras and two everyday bras, in your shade of nude or black. A sports bra is another necessity, as is a strapless or convertible bra. As for your everyday bra wardrobe, you should have at least four or five in rotation — and make sure you’re washing them enough. “You can wear them two or three times, but if you’re sweating heavily and it’s hot and humid, and you get sticky, you want to wash your bras more often,” Kaplan advises. “The fibers in the bras interact with your body chemicals, and they can be harsh. They can break down the elastic. Even if you don’t want to wash them with soap, make sure that you rinse them of your sweat and deodorant.”

A good bra will make anything you wear look better. (Photo: Getty Images)
A good bra will make anything you wear look better. (Photo: Getty Images)

Another issue women face when it comes to selecting a good bra is the fact that some don’t consider their bodies when they’re looking. Instead, they look for a bra that lets them to wear the silhouette they want to, without taking into consideration that the size of their breasts might not allow for that look to be flattering or comfortable. “We work with a lot of bridal clients, and I’m seeing a horrifying trend of women who are really busty — H-cups, J-cups, K-cups — that want backless clothing. Strapless and backless. The average weight of a D-cup is about 4 pounds. By the time you get halfway through the alphabet and you’re up to an H or a J or a K cup, you’re talking about 20 pounds of boobs on each side,” Kaplan says. “I don’t know, people think that there’s the magic thing that without straps and without the support of sides or a back, that’s going to hold them up and give them the look they want. A bra is a very structural engineered garment. It’s got 37 different pieces. If you take away the straps and all the supporting structures, there is just no way for it to do its job.”

Shapewear is another category in which Kaplan says women are making mistakes when they’re shopping, particularly because they’re looking for pieces that will hold them in and are comfortable at the same time. News flash: Shapewear that works isn’t supposed to be particularly comfy. “If you buy it too big, then it really doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do and it doesn’t fit right. It rolls, it moves, it doesn’t stay in place. [Don’t buy shapewear] for comfort rather than for function.”

But in all, when it comes to underwear, Kaplan says that it’s important for women to embrace their body shape and choose pieces that will enhance what they already have. “Be realistic, be honest with yourself,” she tells Yahoo Style. She notices that many women look to what’s in magazines or on television and want to look like certain celebrities, but ultimately the key to looking good in your clothes is knowing that not everything you see in the media will work for you — and knowing what will. “You can’t look bad if you’re working with what you’ve got. If you’re dressing by trend, you really don’t get to cultivate your personal style,” she says. “You’ve got great boobs, show them off. You’ve got a great butt, show that off, but make sure you’re wearing what’s right for your shape.”

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