A proper-fitting bra can make a woman look taller, slimmer, and give her a more defined waist. Not to mention, it’s a lot more comfortable. But if you’re like many women across America, you’re probably wearing the wrong size.
Susan Nethero, owner of bra-fit specialty store Intimacy Boutique, estimates that as many as 80 to 85 percent of women are in the wrong bra for their body.
We asked this experienced fitting expert to talk us through finding the right size:
What’s Wrong With My Bra?
“Most women buy bras that are too big because we associate looseness with comfort,” Nethero says. When the bra is too big, it can ride forward, putting stress on the breast tissue.
Women also tend to think that larger, looser sizes will hide dreaded “back fat,” but Nethero says it’s actually too-big bras that are to blame.
“Back fat is a symptom of a bra being too big,” she says. “We associate looseness with not showing any fat, but when a bra fits firmly where the back is more lean, you don’t get back fat.”
When buying a bra, make sure you take into account the fact that the material will stretch. Many women try their bras on with the clasp hooking in the middle, which means the bra will eventually end up being too large, putting stress on the shoulder straps and allowing the breast tissue to sag.
How Do I Get the Proper Fit?
“Your bra should fit firmly in the loosest [clasp] position,” Nethero says. “That way, when the bra stretches, which it will, you’ll be able to tighten.”
Nethero emphasizes having a firm, close fit, and stresses the importance of supporting the breasts with the proper back width, and not the bra straps. With a firmer fit around the body, the more lifted the chest will be.
“We can give someone at least an inch of lift if we get the right size fitting around your body,” she says.
A good guideline: If you are standing sideways in a mirror, the top of the bra clasp should be level or lower than where the bra's underwire is.
Getting the Right Measurement
Nethero points out that while there are some basic guidelines — certain sizes like 32 are made for a smaller frame, or a 34 for a medium build and so on — there are no hard and fast rules because bras are made from different materials and each one fits differently.
With that in mind, Nethero prefers to measure women with bras, and not the commonly-used tape measure, to "examine the fit by using your body as the standard.”
"Every bra is going to fit a little different and that’s why it's so important to fit it to her body," she explains.
How Will the Right Fit Make Me Look?
When fitted properly, a woman can look “at least ten pounds” thinner, Nethero says.
The combination of lifting a woman’s bustline and centering it in her body frame with the right fit can have the effect of making her appear taller and slimmer by making her look more proportionate.
“All the sudden the waist starts to show. They look more proportionate. They fit in their clothes better. They can wear clothes they couldn’t wear before,” she explains.
Anything Else I Need to Know?
Bra fittings are free, and only take a few minutes. "Most women don’t realize they can get the expert advice of someone who knows how to put together a wardrobe of bras," Nethero says.
When it comes to outfitting your bra wardrobe, Nethero emphasizes quality over quantity.
"We know that half the bras that women own they don’t wear,” she says. We tell women they should have between five and seven good bras.
“It’s worth it to spend a little bit more,” she says. “You’ll see the difference.”