Bra Shopping: A Survival Guide

Ohhhh no, there it is again – that familiar feeling of being quite literally let down as you’re running for the bus, the taxi, the subway, the dog or your child. Your bra is sliding south, your breasts are bouncing to and fro, then settling at last, somewhere near your waist.

But this is a brand new bra you’re thinking. You bought it only yesterday. It felt so soft and comfy in the shop. You were sure this was the one. Wrong again. (Don’t be seduced by soft and comfy, unless you’re shopping for a sleep bra).

Sound familiar? Probably. Most of us shop for bras the way we always have, and yet we still expect a miracle. As in life, we have to modify how we do things in order for the result to change. In other words, perhaps we have to shop for a bra differently to get the result we want – which, quite simply, is a bra that fits. Ideally, a bra should support the girls, feel good and look good. And no, it’s not too much to ask!

So much has changed in the world of bras while you were busy with life! With new technology, there are many more cup and band sizes available now – waaaay beyond the DDD’s you might remember from your last visit to the bra department. It’s quite possible these are sizes you’ve never heard of. Elomi, Goddess, Fantasie and Freya to name a few brands, offer B – K cups, and band sizes from 28 – 56. This makes it possible to find a bra that fits like it was made for you and you alone. Best of all, these bras are pretty – believe me they’re nothing like the bras your grandmother wore!

Let’s change the scenario, and start again:

First of all, I’m a firm believer in going to an expert. If at all possible, treat yourself to a professional fitting. It saves time, money and lots of frustration! Most specialty stores and some department stores have qualified fitters eager to help you. It’s a free service, so why wouldn’t you take advantage of it? If there’s no shop available in your area, there are several excellent online resources with comprehensive fitting guides and a customer service team to help you find your perfect size.

Some things to look for on the road to a perfect fit:

1. Let go of the letter and the number thing. Please! You are the size you are, and the letters and numbers don’t define you or your size. They’re just a way to describe the size of a particular style. All manufacturers have their own unique way of expressing size, so you’ll most likely walk out of the shop, or leave the website, with a variety of bras in different sizes. Which all fit you. Don’t be alarmed, it’s totally normal and generally means the fitter knows her stuff and has done a great job!

2. Bear in mind, the number 1 faux pas women make when shopping for a bra is:
• The band (the number) is too big and the cups (the letter) are too small. Most of the time you’ll find the fit will improve if you go down in the band, and up in the cup. With all the cup sizes available these days, it’s easy peasy.

3. Remember, by definition a bra is a support garment. Your bra has one job, and that is to support your breasts.

4. Three things have to happen for a perfect fit:
• The underwire should sit behind the breast tissue, on your ribcage. Not on your breast tissue. It should surround every scrap of breast tissue. If you feel the underwire “biting” into your breasts, it’s a sure sign the cups are too small, so go up in the cup. In fact, never be afraid to go up a cup, or even several cup sizes.
• The center-gore (the bit of fabric between the cups) must “tack” (come right up against the ribcage). This helps to anchor the band in the front and assists with support. If you find the center-gore isn’t tacking, it most likely means the cups are too small. Go up a cup size.
• The band should fit firmly around the rib-cage. It should feel like a snug hug. If you’ve been wearing a bra with a band that’s too loose, expect a snugger band to feel strange for the first day or so. Yes, you should feel it, but in a good way. Remember, the curvier you are, and the fuller your breasts, the more support your breasts need. A snugger band will provide more stability, and more support.

5. Too often, women make the mistake of relying on the straps for support. It’s really the body of the bra (a snug band, the center gore tacking, and the under-wire sitting behind the breast tissue) which provides the support. The straps just come along for the ride. Just think of how a strapless bra stays up…

6. Last, but definitely not least, it’s important to adjust your breasts into the cups. I call it the “swoop and scoop,” and here’s how to do it: Bring your opposite hand into the opposite cup. Reach to the back end of your under-wire, and scoop your breast tissue from the back to the front into the cup. Make sure all of your breast tissue is in the cup in front of the underwire. This is just as important as finding the correct size, and the right style! In fact, don’t be surprised if you find you need to go up another cup size, and then probably down a band size, as you’ve moved the breast tissue out of the band, and into the cup.

A bra that fits properly can truly change your life! It will change your posture and how you move through life. It can get rid of back pain. A great sports bra will make it possible to be active in whatever way you choose. If the bra is doing its job, it will free you from worrying about what your breasts and the bra itself are doing throughout the day. It will make you feel good. Most of all it will give you the confidence to go out and get what you deserve!
Now go out and shop like you mean it!