How to Fit Yourself in a Bra
Most women have seen the articles, websites, advice, tips, etc. on how to fit a bra and how a bra should fit. I know, it can be confusing. You may be like I was, thinking some of those bra "tips" are more myth than fact. I was wrong, and now I want to keep other women from making the same fitting mistakes I did.
THE BASIC NUMBERS
Let's start with how to find your size. You can find the same advice all over the internet, with one variance - the band measurement.
First, you will need some tools - a soft tape measure (not the metal kind you use in the garage), your most comfortable bra, a pad and paper, and a friend. You can do this on your own, but having a friend makes it easier and can give more accurate measurements.
Step 1 - Wearing your comfy bra, take your band measurement. The tape measure should lie flat against your ribcage, just under your breasts where the band is. This is where your friend comes in. She (or he) can see the numbers better and make sure the tape is horizontal around your torso. Write down your measurement.
Now this is where different sites and people will differ. Some say to add 3 inches, or even 5 inches to the measurement you just got around your torso. I say, take the number you have. If it's an odd number, round up. There is no need to add inches to get your band size. For example, I measure a 33 around my rib cage, and wear a 34 band.
Step 2 - Time to measure your bust. This is the hardest part to do on your own. The tape measure should rest on the fullest part of your bust, over the bra. This is often right over the nipples. Again, it should stay horizontal around your torso. Write down your measurement. To continue my example, my bust measurement is about 43 inches.
Step 3 - Time for math. Subtract your band number from your bust number. This will tell you your general cup size. It's pretty simple. For each inch difference, you go up a cup size. Start at A for 1 inch. My bust measurement, 43, minus my band measurement of 34, is a difference of 9 inches.
Now it gets tricky. You may look at a size chart on a website and say, "Wow, a 9 inch difference is an I/DDDDDD/G/H/FF cup!" Different sites cater to different brands, and there is no standard. US brands offten can't seem to get past the letter D. They will just add more Ds to make bigger sizes. Some European brands just follow a nice straight alphabet. In the UK, they have a different chart: A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, and on from there. That is, most UK brands.
You see, there is no standard for labeling bra sizes. According to the UK cup sizes, I am a G cup. This holds true for most UK brands.
Let's try another. Say we have a young woman who measures a 32 band and 36 bust. With a difference of 4 inches, this puts her at a D cup. A nice round D that has the same place on all cup charts.
HIT THE RACKS
We got a base size to start with. That's right, you went through all that measuring and math and confusion for a starting point. Not all bras are the same. Since I make such a great example, let's continue. I wear my measured size, 34G, in my favorite UK brand. In other brands I wear a 34H (they didn't have the GG), or a 34FF. Bands can also differ sometimes, depending on brand and material. Strapless bras are often made with sturdier fabrics, and you may find yourself going up a band size. It can be frustrating, but I highly recommend trying on a bra before purchase. Most store clerks are familiar with the products they carry and can help you find a decent fit.
What about sports bras? We'll save that for another time. They can be an entirely different story with factors such as fabric, level of support, and compression versus separation.
MAKE SURE IT FITS
Now that you are in the dressing room, how do you know if the bra actually fits? Fortunately, I've never seen anyone disagree on these points. First and foremost, the bra should be comfortable. Never settle for an uncomfortable bra, no matter how pretty it is.
The band should fit snuggly, and rest horizontally around your torso. If the band starts to ride up in the back, it's too big. If the band pinches, it's too small. You should be able to easily slide 1 or 2 fingers under the band. Remember that 90% of your support comes from the band, so it needs to fit, preferrably on the loosest hook.
The cups should do as their name says, cup the breast. Once you have the bra on, lean forward and wiggle the bra into place. You may need to actually lift the breast into the cup - just scoop up the breast in one hand and set it into the cup. Now test it. Bounce, jump, and jiggle. Lift up your arms. Do you see breast peeking out anywhere? Check the sides, the tops, and under the band. If you see breast peeking out, go up a cup size. If you see wrinkling fabric, loose fabric, any extra fabric, try going down a cup size.
The straps are only 10% of your support. If they fall off your shoulder, tighten them. These shouldn't pinch or put undo pressure on your shoulders.
The center of the bra, where the cups meet, should rest flat against your chest. I used to think this was just a myth until I started wearing a G cup. A little bit of space, about 1 finger, is ok, but the center should touch your chest. If the center is farther away from your chest, you need a larger cup size.
GET SOME HELP
Women should not be afraid to get a professional fitting. They may know some tips or tricks that you haven't learned yet. Some department stores have fitters in their lingerie departments. You can also now host your own bra party in your home. Have your girlfriends over, take turns being professionally fitted, and even order bras from someone who knows how to fit you into the brands they are selling.
There are many online sites selling bras as well, but be careful of their return policies. Many people will order a couple sizes and try to return the ones that don't fit, so make sure you fully understand the return policy before ordering, or you could be stuck wtih the same bra in multiple sizes.
If you are having trouble finding your size in stores, don't give up! This is also where a professional can help. Ask around, look online, and you will find your size. Please, do not settle for the wrong size of bra! Your chest will thank you.