Shopping for Bras: A Guide

Monday February 10 2014
by Becky

Riddle: What's the only thing worse than shopping for jeans?

Answer: Shopping for bras.

Ok that was a terrible joke. But finding a bra that works for you can be seriously hard work.

My recommendation: get a bra fitting. Don't leave! It'll be ok! The idea of getting a bra fitting used to horrify me too. Then I started working as a bra fitter. Now it's no problem at all.

If you haven't had a bra fitting before, here's what you can expect. First of all, a bra fitter will measure you. They take a measurement around your ribcage and then one around your bust. The ribcage measurement shows you your back size. That's the number you see if bra sizes; it's the 14 of the 14DD. Your cup size (the A, B, C etc) is the difference between the ribcage measurement and your bust measurement. The bigger the difference, the higher the cup size. Make sense? Most bra fitters will take these measurements over your bra and t-shirt. This gives us a reasonable idea of what your bra size will be.

Pro tip: Don't wear a mega padded bra to a bra fitting.

The next step is to try on a few bras. Your bra fitter should be grabbing you some things to try to narrow down your size. You'll need to show her how each one looks on you so your bra fitter can make sure the bra is fitting properly, or get you to try a different size.

Pro tip: Wear a skirt or pants to your bra fitting so you're not just wearing undies when your bra fitter checks sizing.

Now that your bra fitter has found out your size, it's time to find some bras you like. But remember, not all brand and styles fit the same, you're still going to need to try them on. It's probably a good idea to let your bra fitter see these on you too.

You're done! Whew.

Unless. If you suspect there isn't going to be an abundance of bras in your size (for example if you have a large cup size; we're talking DD and above) it pays to have your bra fitter help you find some bras to try. They will know exactly which bras come in your size and save you from traipsing round the shop for half an hour getting more and more frustrated.

Cool? Less daunted?

Ok so where should you go? Personally I would recommend a department store as they have the largest range of sizes. I've heard stories of people going to smaller stores which only carry sizes 10-14 A-D and getting fitted into these bras when really they should be wearing a different size. These stores are cute and great, but not for fittings. Also, try to avoid outlet stores. Again great for cheaper bras, but the staff there can be to busy to really give you the attention you deserve. Wait til you're a bit more confident in knowing how a bra is supposed to fit.

Remember, bra fitters are there to help. We've seen it all before. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a person going home wearing a bra they feel great in.

I spent three years fitting bras at a department store. Here are some of my tips and tricks

- In my experience, most young women are wearing a bra that is too big around their back. The band of your bra should be doing most of the work holding your bra up, so it needs to be quite firm.

- Your back size does not necessarily correspond to the size you wear in clothes.

- Bra sizes work on a sliding scale. So a 14B has the same size cup as a 16A as a 12C as a 10D. So if you suspect that your band might be too loose but your bra fits otherwise, go down a back size but up a cup size.

- Women with bigger breasts often compensate by buying a bra with a much bigger band than they need to get a cup as big as they need. I've seen lots of girls come in in 14D's when they really need a 10E, but they've been in a 14D because this size is more accessible.

- Women's bodies come in all different shapes. Some styles of bra work better for some women than others, regardless of size.

- Also you'll find that some brands suit you better than others.

- If you have trouble getting bras that fit, and you find one that does, buy one in each colour.

- Studies show*, and my experience confirms, that the bigger your breasts are, the more likely you are to be wearing the wrong size bra.

- Go get a fitting. You'll feel 100% better afterwards.

- Don't put your bra in the dryer!

- I highly recommend visiting the bendon website. It has everything you need to know about how your bra should fit. Also have a look at the fitting myths section.

One thing to clarify before I go, guys. I've been talking a lot about wearing the 'wrong' size. I want to clarify. 'Wrong' means not wearing a bra the way the manufacturer has designed it to be worn. It doesn't mean YOU are wrong for doing so. If you want to buy a bra that doesn't fit quite right but is super pretty – rock on, sister. I'm here to educate you in your choice.

And one more thing. As with clothes, your boobs are never wrong for a particular bra. It's wrong for your boobs.

There's nothing wrong with you.

Any questions about bra fitting? Ask me in the comments!


*Wood, K., Cameron, M., & Fitzgerald, K. (2008). Breast size, bra fit and thoracic pain in young women: a correlational study. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 16(1), 1.

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