Wearing the correct bra size and style impacts the way you look in your clothes. The right bra smooths out your silhouette, accentuates the waist, creates feminine curves, and gives the bust a flattering shape. The right bra will also feel a lot more comfortable than an ill-fitting one. 

Here are the eleven most important facts and tips that I’ve learned about bras and bra fitting over the 23 years I have spent in the fashion industry.

1. Bras are Expensive for Good Reason

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting bra manufacturers in South Africa, France and China and it was an eye opener. The bra is amongst the most intricate of wardrobe items to produce. Bras are made up of many, many pieces — up to 40 per bra — that are hard to sew together because they are small, stretchy and delicate. The labour is skilled and the fabrications are pricey. That’s why the best bras cost north of $90. 

2. Most Women are Wearing the Incorrect Bra Size 

Most women go too wide on the band width and too small on the cup size. Most of the bra’s support comes from the back, so the band needs to be a comfortable snug fit. This holds true for any bust size. I can’t tell you how many of my clients thought they were a 36B, when in fact they were a 34C, 34D or 32DD. It’s also common for small busted ladies to think that they are 34A when in fact they are a 32B or 30C.

I was wearing the incorrect bra size for years until I had a professional fitting. I used to wear a 32C and wondered why the elasticity felt loose shortly after purchase. Turns out my true size is a 28DD, or 30D in a brand with a very narrow cut, like a Simone Perele. Wearing the right size bra is SO MUCH BETTER. 

3. Cups Sizes Increase with Band Size

A cup size is NOT a standard size. The cup size increases as the band width increases. So the cup size on a 36D is larger than the cup size on a 30D. That’s why a person who wears a 30D looks like she has a regular size bust, while the person with a 36D looks like she has a larger bust. 

4. Bra Sizes are not Created Equally

Like clothing, bra sizes are not standardized. The same size bra can fit very differently in a different brand that runs smaller, larger, or is shaped differently on the cup or under the arms. This is excellent news because we all carry our breast tissue a little differently. The variation in fit in the same size across brands can help us to find a more accurate match to our body. 

5. Have a Professional Fitting at a Reputable Retailer

Do not buy another bra unless you know your correct size. That means having a professional fitting at a reputable retailer like a department store or specialized lingerie store that stocks a range of different brands and sizes. Do not have a professional bra fitting at Victoria’s Secret because they lack a deep assortment of bra widths and cup sizes to make the right fit assessment. For example, they start their bra widths at 32 and only go up to a DDD.  

Bra fitting is an art and requires an experienced fitter, especially when you’re larger on the bust or wear an uncommon size. The fitter should measure you in the correct way as a starting point, and have an in-depth knowledge of which bra styles are best for the shape of your bosom. Talk to the fitter about how the bras fit and express your concerns along the way. Finding the right bra can be a problem solving process that requires a bit of collaboration. 

6. Bras Can Be Altered to Fit 

Sometimes it’s hard to find a perfectly fitting bra straight off the rack. Bras, like other clothing items, can be altered. This might be well worth the expense. Clients who have had surgery can also have bras altered or made to fit their new bodies.

7. Have a Professional Bra Fitting After Weight Loss or Gain

Your bust size changes with significant weight loss or gain, so take the time to be refitted whenever this happens. It is also important to be refitted post pregnancy when you’re no longer nursing. 

8. Try Bras with Clothing Too

Fit a top, or a camisole and a top, back over a bra once you’re happy with the fit of the bra alone. That way you can asses whether you like the shape of your bust in clothes. Also asses whether the surface of the bra is sufficiently smooth under clothing layers. 

9. Buy Bras Online When You Are an Uncommon Size

You’ll find the widest assortment of bra widths and cup sizes online, which makes that your best bet when you’re an uncommon size. Online stores like Bare Necessities provide some of the largest size assortments and offer regular discounts.

10. Buy Bras That You Can Return After Wear

Sometimes, the only way to adequately test the comfort of a bra is to wear it a few times. Only then will you know if it doesn’t rub under the arms or hurt in other areas. If road-testing is the only way to assess the true comfort of a bra, purchase it from a retailer that will accept the return of worn items. 

11. Look After Your Bras

Bras are expensive wardrobe workhorses and deserve a little TLC. Looking after your bras makes them last longer and fit better over time. Bras should be laundered in a mesh bag on the delicates cycle of the machine, or hand washed in the basin. They should be air dried and NOT tumble dried. Tumble drying ruins the shape and elasticity of the bra. Bras should not be worn for more than three days in a row because excessive wear alters their fit. The elastic needs to rest and tighten during the laundry process.  

It can be an expensive and tedious process to find the right bras and replenish them over time. But it’s worth it when you’ve found a comfortable set of bras that feel secure and enhance your shape. Please add your own knowledge about bras and bra fitting in the comments section below.