Whatever your size, we can all agree on one thing: no feeling is more euphoric than ripping off your bra at the end of a day.
But why have we resigned ourselves to being uncomfortable— the angry red indents, the back and shoulder pain, the pinched skin—for 12 hours a day?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There’s a bra style suitable for every taste, every breast shape (sisters, not twins!) and every size.
Here’s how to buy a bra that will make you—and your closest pals—incredibly happy.
First things first: measure
You may have an idea of your bra size, but an updated measurement is where all bra journeys begin.
Blessed be, this is easy to do yourself.
Grab a flexible tape measure and wrap it around your ribcage, just underneath your breasts—this will help determine your band size. Then, wrap the tape measure around the fullest part of your chest, which is typically in line with your nipples.
Take both numbers and enter them into a handy dandy bra size calculator, like this one.
(Keep in mind that this is just a starting point. Like denim, you may be a different size depending on the brand. The most foolproof way to get a proper fit is at a lingerie retailer.)
Shopping tip: Plus-size bras usually begin at a size 38 band, and straight-size retailers typically stop at a 36 or 38. If you’re in the 38 range, it’s always best to shop at stores that specialize in plus-size lingerie, because these garments, often made with wider bands and straps, are designed with curvier bodies in mind.
Fit issue #1: The band
Time and time again, women tell the tired tale of a too-tight or too-loose band, that either constricts their ribcage or sags to the point of being pointless. Many bra-fit issues, from slipping straps to breast spillage, are the result of improper band size.
When trying on bras, you want to make sure the band is not too tight and not too loose. You should be able to fit two fingers comfortably underneath it, and it shouldn’t move too much when you raise your arms.
The back of the band should be parallel to the ground, and not be straining upwards in the centre around the clasp.
Finally, the part of the bra that sits against your sternum—the bone between your breasts—should lie flush with your skin.
All these boxes should be checked when your bra is on the loosest clasp. That way, over time, you’ll be able to move towards the inner clasps as the band stretches.
Fit issue #2: The cup
Contrary to popular belief, a bra cup isn’t meant to hold only your breast, but also the flesh around your breast and underneath your armpit. The goal is to feel like all this skin is being held up by two hands.
Once your band is done up, lean forward and allow the flesh to collect inside the cups. You might have to shimmy a bit to make sure it’s all in there before slipping your arms into the straps.
Once the straps are securely over your shoulders, reach your opposite hands into the opposite cups, pulling any extra flesh into it.
If the bra has underwire, it should reach underneath to about the middle of your armpit for the proper fit, with all of the tissue comfortable in the cups.
If you notice one breast is spilling out (again: sisters, not twins), choose the larger cup size to accommodate.
And remember that most brands carry many different styles of bras, so try different ones to find a style that works best for your breast shape.
Fit issue #3: The straps
It may take some getting used to at first, but bra straps should be worn snug enough so your breasts feel supported.
They shouldn’t, however, dig into your shoulders. Nor should they slide off them (if they do, your bra is too big).
If you have narrow shoulders, slippage may occur: look for a style where the straps connect to the band closer to the centre clasps.
Your straps and band work in tandem. If one is off, you may have to adjust the other.
Don’t be afraid to try on different sizes
Now that you’re an expert in your own chest, it’s time you tried your “sister size.”
Every size bra has a “sister size,” meaning equivalents in the same cup volume but different band size. Stay with us, it’s simple: If your band is too small, go up in the band and down in the cup, and vice versa. For example, the sister sizes for a 34D are 30F, 32E, 36C, 38B and 40A.
This basically gives bra shoppers at least two chances to get it right. It’s genius.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to go up or down in sizing, and don’t get attached to what you think a bra size “looks” like.