10 tips to finding your perfect-fitting bra

Expert tips on shape, cut and care. Plus, why you should take your time when it comes to selecting a bra.

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Woman getting fit for a bra
Photo: Masterfile

Upon arriving at Secrets From Your Sister for my first real bra fitting, I was a bit intimidated and, on a freezing Toronto night, not exactly thrilled to be de-garbing when what I really wanted was to wrap up in a blanket.

Within minutes of meeting my fitter Frankie however, I was comfortable and – after three quick measurements — notified that I was two cup sizes larger than I thought. “This is going to be eye-opening,” I thought to myself, and it was. I felt more like a bride looking for her wedding dress than a confused bra amateur.

With each bra we went through the details of how it felt and fit. If I liked one standing up, Frankie encouraged me to take a few minutes (in my oversized change room) to dance, jump around, or pretend to be sitting at my desk, to ensure the bra not only felt great on, but felt great no matter what I’d be doing in it.

Admittedly, I was shocked at how little I knew about the proper fit and feel of a bra – and a little disappointed that I had been wearing the wrong bra for so many years.

Here are the 10 most important things I learned about finding the right bra:

1. Always use the loosest clip first 
“The first time you wear a bra is the tightest it’s ever going to be,” Frankie told me. If the band feels a little snug at first know that it won’t stay that way, and be sure to only use the second and third clips as the band needs tightening.

2. Never flip the cups over
There’s nothing wrong with clipping your bra in the front and then spinning it around (though you should be very gentle), but Frankie discouraged those who clip it in the front with the cups upside down and then flip them up once in the front. This can twist and damage the delicate underwire.

3. It’s not just about the cup size, but the cup shape
All breasts are created differently, which is why the standard mold at some larger chains may not be right for you. If your shape doesn’t happen to be the same as the mold they used to pump out thousands of bras, it’s not going to fit regardless of whether the bra is ‘your size’.

4. Be sure to scoop
Once you’ve put on a bra, it’s essential to pinch and pull. Hold the wire on the side firmly against your rib and reach into the cup ensuring your entire breast is in place. This may be a trick you use when trying to boost cleavage, but Frankie says its essential to do every time you put on your bra. (It also surprised me how much differently it made each bra fit.) Be sure you’re holding onto a reinforced area so not to put your finger through a more delicate bra.

5. The wire should be snug
There should be no gaps between your ribs and the wire anywhere (especially underneath) and the wire should sit firmly against your ribs in the middle. If you’ve been wearing an ill-fitting bra this sensation may take a bit of getting used to.

6. Don’t rely on the straps
The support of your bra should come from the band, not the strap. If you’ve got large strap marks in your skin when you take your bra off it could be a sign the band is too loose.

7. Understanding size
I was shocked to learn that every time you go up a band size, the cup gets a size larger. For example, a 36C and a 34D are the same cup size. For this reason, women who can’t find a size larger than a DD in their favourite bra will often increase their band size in order to get a larger cup, but this justification is incorrect.

8. It takes time
I think this element is the one I underestimated the most. I now know that you can’t run into a store and grab the first bra in your size thinking it’ll fit. I tried on about 12 bras in the course of an hour and was surprised by how differently each one fit. It took some planning but was worth it.

9. Think about your wardrobe
If you wear a lot of t-shirts you’ll be looking for something different than a woman who wears dress shirts everyday. Bring a few shirts/dresses/blouses with you to ensure you don’t end up with creases or seams where you don’t want them and go for something nude or blush if you wear a lot of white or sheer shirts.

10. Wash with care
Gone are the days of throwing my bras into the wash.

Frankie explicitly told me only hand washing from here on out. She gave me an all-natural, Toronto-based product called Soak that does the scrubbing for you. Simply fill the sink with (cold) water, let the bras sit for 10 minutes (gently rubbing any parts that may have deodorant or sweat), rinse and hang to dry (no wringing).

Washing is suggested after 1-3 wears to extend the life of your bras by removing body oils from the fabric. And if possible, don’t fold the cups into each other, but use the “sunny side up” method if you’ve got the room.