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Bras 101

Bra Fit

If you cannot get into a boutique for a fitting, or you are not comfortable with someone else in the fitting room with you, please use the following instructions as a guide. Please note that measurements are not always 100% accurate, but will give you a starting point.

You will need a soft measuring tape, the kind used for sewing. Without a top on, and in your best fitting bra (non padded), take the measuring tape and place it around your ribcage just under your bust. Make sure that the measuring tape is straight all the way around, and that it is pulled firm. A loose tape will not give you accurate results. Take note of this measurement as this will give you your band size. Whatever number you got for your underbust measurement, add two inches and this is your band size. For example, if you measured 34 inches, your band size would be a 36. (Note that all manufacturers are different, and some you will use your actual measurement, rounded to the closest even number)

Next, take your measuring tape and place it around the fullest part of your bust line. Again, ensure that the measuring tape is straight all the way around and firm, but without digging into your breast tissue. Take note of this measurement. To find your cup size, you will take your full bust measurement and subtract your underbust measurement. The difference between these two will give you a general idea for your cup size. For example, if your full bust measured 37 inches, then we subtract the underbust measurement of 34 inches, and your result is 3 inches. Using the information below, your cup size would be a C cup, and your bra size would be 36C. This will give you a starting point, but I find that measuring with real bras through fittings is more accurate than a measuring tape alone. Also remember that all brands are cut a bit different, as are styles even within a brand, so you may find you are a different size from bra to bra.

CUP SIZE CHART
Measurement Difference North American Size United Kingdom Size
1" A A
2" B B
3" C C
4" D D
5" DD DD
6" DDD E
7" G F
8" H FF
9" I G
10" J GG
11" K H
12" L HH
13" M J
14" N JJ

Once your bra is on, you want to check the main features for a good fit. Your band is the most important part of the bra when it comes to fit. This is where most of your support comes from, at least 80%. Your band should be straight across your back and firm; if it is curving or riding up your back, the band is too big. You should be able to pull the band away from your back no more than 1.5-2 inches, or the width of two fingers. When you fit your bra, you should have the hooks on the loosest row. This way as the bra stretches out, you can tighten the closure and get more wear out of your bra.

The second thing to look at are the cups. Your bra cups should run flush with your breast tissue, neither spilling over the edge or gapping. Your cups should also be smooth, with no wrinkling or pulling. If there is wrinkling or gapping in the cup, you need a smaller cup size - NOT band size. If your cups are spilling over or pulling, you need a bigger cup size - NOT band size.

The third thing to look at is the centre gore, which is the centre of the bra between the cups. The centre gore should be laying flat against your breast plate/sternum. If it is not laying flat, this generally means you need a bigger cup size, as there is not enough depth in the cups for your breasts to fill out so it lifts the bra away from your body.

You also want to look where the wire is resting once you have your bra on. You want the underwire to fully encase your breast tissue and rest behind it. If you are wearing the wrong cup size, the wire may be resting on top of your breast tissue, which will be painful and over time cause breast tissue migration. Conversely, if the cup is too big or a style not right for your body, the wire may rest very far back on your ribcage, or come up too high into your underarm. You want a wire that rests just behind your breast tissue, and does not rub against your underarm or dig in.

Lastly you want to look at straps. Most people think straps are a major part of the fit, which is why they tighten their straps only to become more uncomfortable. In actuality, straps account for less than 10% of the fit of your bra. Basically, you should be able to jump up and down with your straps off and your bra should stay in place. You want to be able to comfortably get one finger beneath your straps. Any more than that and your straps are too loose, less and they are too tight. Your straps should rest near the centre of your shoulder to avoid slipping off or causing strain. 

It's important to note that different sizes and styles will fit differently depending on the shape of your breasts. A woman who is very bottom heavy is not going to fit a bra the same as a woman who is top heavy, or a woman who is full all over. Your shape can affect the cup size and style that works best for you.

Once all of these features of your bra look and feel proper, you have found a good fitting bra! But remember, you won't be the same size in every brand or style, and there is no wonder bra that works for every person. We all have different breasts, so the perfect bra that your best friend raves about might not be your perfect bra. It's all about trying them on and finding what works for you. Don't be afraid to ask a boutique associate for help either; with all their experience they can help you find the perfect fit.

Lifespan of a Bra

We all have those bras in our drawer that are on their last leg; four years old, worn almost every day, falling apart at the seams. Yet we still won't throw it away. I can tell you from experience, those bras are not doing their job anymore! Your bra is an investment, not only as part of your wardrobe, but towards your overall health as well. Once your bra becomes old and worn, it no longer supports your breasts properly. While we all have those old faithfuls we have trouble parting with, it's good to know how often you should be replacing your bras.

The general rule of thumb is to go bra shopping every 6 to 9 months. We all think our bras last for years, but the truth is they don't. When you are wearing your bra regularly throughout the week, its doing its best to keep you properly supported, lifted, and comfortable. But with each wear, it loses some strength and elastic retention. That being said, women with larger cup sizes are going to have to replace their bras more often. It may seem unfair, but gravity is gravity, and the more weight your bra has to support, the harder it has to work. The quality of craftsmanship will affect the life of your bra as well. Obviously a $20 bargain bra will not have the structure, quality fabric, hardware etc. and will not last as long as a higher end bra. This doesn't mean all expensive bras are good bras either; it's all about the contruction and materials used. Your daily activity will also help determine how long your bra will last. If you sit at a desk, your bra is going to last longer than if you are running around all day or doing manual labour. How often you wear your bra is a big factor in their lifespan. That dainty lace bra you only wear once every few months on special occasions or in the bedroom is going to last so much longer than the T Shirt bra you wear everyday. If you don't give your bras a break, the elastic doesn't have a chance to contract back to normal and will remain stretched out. Finally, how often and how you wash your bra affects its life. The more often you properly wash your bra, the longer it will last. Your sweat, body oils and skin will wear down your bra much faster than caring for it properly. So you want to hand wash with a lingerie detergent and lay flat or hang to dry after every other wear. If you work hard during the day, then I would suggest after every wear. If you can't bring yourself to find the time to hand wash your bras, which I strongly suggest, then use a lingerie bag so your bras won't catch on other items and stretch. You also want to make sure your wash is on cold water and set to gentle cycle. But I seriously have doubts as to how gentle the washer can be on your bras, so I strongly suggest hand washing them. And you never, ever want to put your bra in the dryer. If you do, you might as well throw it out.

 

Bra Wardrobe

It is recommended to have at least 6 bras in your regular rotation. This will help your bras last longer, and give you a break from washing them everyday. As far as what styles you should have, here are some helpful tips:

  • Skin Toned T Shirt Bra - A T Shirt Bra is a moulded style bra with smooth cups. They are invisibe under pretty much everything, and are a comfortable basic that is probably most women's everyday bra. Most women opt for white as their basic, but when wearing lighter colours you will see the white bra contrasting against your skin. Beige or (your) skin toned colour on the other hand is closer to your natural colouring and is less likely to show. (Nifty trick; red doesn't show up under white, so bust out those red bras ladies. For darker skin tones, purples tend to blend well too.)
  • Cut & Sew Bra - This style is a fabric cup, with seams for strength and support. Normally consisting of 3 parts to the cup, but can also have 2-5 parts, this style is one of the most supportive. Because the cup is more structured, it can conform to your shape easily, while still giving you a lot of lift. Cut & Sew bras are available in almost every style, from full cup to demi to balconette and more.
  • Plunge Bra - A Plunge style is great not only for sexy dresses, but also for V neck sweaters and tops. They can be full cup or demi cup coverage, but if you are heavy busted you may find there isn't enough coverage/support to be worn everyday.
  • Seamless Bra - A seamless bra is a fabric cup with no seam structure. Often they utilize a stretch fabric and contouring which makes for an easy fit. This style is good for mature breasts, that have been through breast feeding or have aged and lost some density.
  • Convertible Bra - Styles are nearly endless with a Convertible Bra. Cross straps, one strap, no straps, halter strap, asymmetrical strap; this style is a chameleon and works with everything in your closet.
  • Sports Bra - Even if you have a great day wear bra, it's not going to offer the support you need during a workout. So invest in a good Sports Bra! They range in style and design from low to high impact, and can be compression or encapsulation style. The right Sports Bra will keep your breasts in place and reduce pain due to bounce, and also reduce damage to the ligaments in your breast tissue.
  • Show Stopper Bra - It's important to have an amazing Show Stopper Bra in your drawer at all times. I argue with my boyfriend all the time about lingerie being empowering for the woman to wear, and not just eye candy for her partner. The confidence you gain from wearing an amazing bra set is unmatched, even when no one else sees it. It's sexy and beautiful and just for you.

 

How to Put on Your Bra

A lot of women aren't aware there is a right way and a wrong way to put on your bra. If you do up the band and pull on the straps and head out the door, you can be sure your breasts are not sitting properly in your bra cups. Just because you put your bra on your body does not mean your breast tissue automatically settled in the correct place.

So once you have your bra done up and straps on, you want to lean forward almost 90 degrees. This helps your breast tissue naturally fall forward. Next, you want to take the opposite hand and reach past your cups under your arms. Gently pull any breast tissue forward in a scooping motion, following the lines of your bra. If you try to scoop everything into the top of your cup to get more cleavage, it won't fit quite right, so be sure to follow the lines of your bra. Stand straight and assess how your bra is fitting. You might need to adjust a bit to make sure your breast tissue is fully contained in your cup. Your "scoop and swoop" move will help stop breast tissue migration, and make sure you are properly supported and comfortable for your day.

 

Things to Know

Below are some helpful and interesting bits of information regarding the items worn closest to you; your bra.

  • It is recommended to have 6 or more bras to keep in regular rotation.
  • The average life of a bra is 6-9 months.
  • The more often you properly wash your bra, the longer life it will have.
  • The average woman will change bra size 6 times in her lifetime, so make sure to get a fitting done about once a year.
  • Most women fluctuate a lot in their breast tissue, so any time you lose or gain weight, change your fitness level, have a child, or go through surgery, it's important to get a fitting done.
  • The wrong bra can cause damage to your body and your health, including migrating breast tissue, back and neck problems, muscle strain, and ligament damage.
  • If you wear a push up bra on a regular basis, you may experience premature sagging because the Cooper's ligaments begin to atrophy. These ligaments are responsible for your breasts' lift and shape.
  • Straps account for less than 10% to the fit of your bra. At least 80% of the fit comes from the back band.
  • You will likely be a different bra size between brands, and even styles within a brand.
  • Putting a bra in the dryer is basically murdering it!

 

Care

Proper care is paramount to your bras' lifespan. Keep in mind that sweat and body oils, skin, perfume and lotion can degrade your bra quickly, so properly washing regularly is key.

Ideally you want to handwash your bras. Fill a sink or tub with cool to luke warm water, with a specialty lingerie detergent. Lingerie detergent is designed to wash away body oils and soil while leaving the fibers of your bra intact. We carry Forever New, a popular choice as it is citruc based and dissolves oil without harming the fabric. Let soak for up to 5 minutes, while gently agitating. Thoroughly rinse with cool water, and squeeze excess water out or roll in a towel to remove water - do not wring. Blot dry with a towel and lay flat to dry, or hang by both straps. Make sure to reshape moulded bras before they dry.

If you absolutely do not have time to hand wash your delicates, make sure to put your bras in a lingerie bag to avoid getting caught on other items and stretching. Use a mild detergent, like Forever New, or Woolite, and set your washer to cool water and the handwash or gentle setting. Make sure to roll in a towel, lay flat or hang by both straps to dry. The dryer will ruin your bras. It's important to note that moulded cup bras may still become damaged and distorted even in a lingerie bag on gentle cycle.

 

Watch Our Bra Fit Video!