THE BRA GUIDE : an honest look at bras

bra guide thumb 3.5

80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.

 

Think about that. Flip it. Only 20% of women are wearing the correct size. The most common mis-sizing is bands that are too large, and cups that are too small.

For years, I too wore the wrong bra size and I had no idea. The lack of support left me with tension headaches, back pain, and boobs hanging lower than necessary. And it’s not just a big boob problem: As long as I’ve been a person with boobs, the struggle has been real. The difference for Big Boob Betties, is that improper support can cause health issues, and many times stores and their sales staff are ill-equipped to help: The don’t carry larger sizes and they don’t really know what our needs are. For years I was shopping at chain bras stores in the mall, where they carry up to cup size DDD or F- if I was that lucky. Even in the plus size stores the options above a F are dismal.

They’d measure me and say I wore a 44F and so I wore that for years- but the band would ride up, the cups / boobs would droop, the center would gap, underwires would poke and it would dig into my shoulders. It didn’t help that when I was younger I was obsessed with all my bras being sexy, lacy, push up, etc. While I worked at Costco I constantly had quad boob or needed to readjust because my bra style was inappropriate for the activity, and was completely the wrong size.

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One thing that helped me immensely was getting a proper bra fitting. I got mine done at Nordstrom. I had bought Oprah’s favorite bra online, on recommendation of my friend, who’s name also happens to be Cora. (Hi Cora!) It didn’t fit so I went to return it to Nordstrom. BTW Nordies has a great return policy. The gal was like- I can see this is the wrong size for you, let’s measure you. I’ll admit I figured she was just trying to sell me stuff but I went along with the ruse anyway. In the private dressing room with patience and zero judgement, she said my size was actually a 42G UK, 42H US. She brought me a ton of different styles to choose from.  They all fit! From minimizers, retro inspired bullet bras, smoothers, to sexy lacy numbers! In each of them my boobs were back up where I’d like them to be, and the band felt pleasantly snug but didn’t ride up. The center rest against my breast bone. I nearly cried in the dressing room- finally bras that fit. I couldn’t believe it. It bought 5.

Three factors led to this watershed moment: A store that carried my size, a store that carried a huge selection of high quality, well designed bras build for my body from many different brands, and a caring and most importantly knowledgeable sales assistant. I cannot stress that last one enough.

You can measure yourself at home but a true bra fitting is more of an art than a science. Two women with different breast volumes and levels of muscle tone might wear the same bra size on paper but have different support and shaping needs. Well trained bra experts will be able to determine your needs.

Another thing I cannot stress enough- cup sizes are not equal across the spectrum. A 32g is a smaller breast volume than a 42D. Don’t get hung up on your size, just find what works for you- all boobs are awesome.

If you have a Nordstrom, I highly recommend them because it’s free, and they have wonderful Customer Service across the board. If you don’t have one near you, I recommend a bra specialty shop, vs just popping into your local lingerie chain (especially if you have a feeling they don’t make things in your size, I’m looking at you Victoria’s Secret). You might get lucky and find a well trained and honest person at a retail store, but in my experience, they will try to fit you in what they have available because they need to make a sale. I wore a bra with a band too large and my breasts overflowing or constantly popping out for years due to this. Another thing to consider, if you’re feeling pressured to buy, you’re not going to make the best decision for your needs. Go into the store thinking I’m not buying something if it’s not perfect. Keep the receipt just in case.

Black bra with a measuring tape isolated on a white background

General bra measuring guide

 

If you can, have a friend assist you. Measure around your body just under the bust, keeping the tape as straight as possible. This if your band size. You might try taking two measurements, loose and super tight and then using the number in-between. Next, measure around the fullest part of your bust. Try measuring when you’re standing up relaxed, one bending over at a 90 degree angle. The reason to do this is because if you have less perky boobs, you may have trouble measuring around the fullest part of your bust when standing, and that may hang lower than your band measurement. Again take the number that is in between both if they are different. Ok- have this number? Subtract your band number from your cup number. Each inch is a cup size, so if you have 7 inch difference that’s a G cup US. Now to finish, band sizes are even numbers so if you wear a 41 you’ll want to round up to a 42, or down to a 40 depending on the bra itself. A tip for the over 30 crowd: If your breasts aren’t as perky as they once were, you may want to move down one cup size due to the lack of volume to ensure better support.

conversion chartbra_sizes

 

Bra Construction and Support

 

The support of a bra should come from the band and the cups- the shoulder straps are just for a little extra help in keeping the bra in place. If they are digging in, you’re causing unnecessary strain on your shoulders, neck and back, particularly if you have heavy breasts. If it’s digging in, you need to loosen the straps. That’s a general rule and some people are just more prone to digging in based on their muscle tone and age, and I’ll have more info about how to ease this that in the accessories section below.

The wider the band is, the more support for your heavy boobs. Sadly this also means more hooks. We’ve all seen the “grandma bra” jokes in movies. Nowadays I don’t give a damn- just give me that support. For my younger friends, I know this can be difficult to accept. As a teen in the locker room I was already sporting double D’s and it was really embarrassing to not have two hooks like everyone else. But less support isn’t doing anyone any favors. Just do what’s right for your body; Poor support can lead to life long back pain, tension headaches, and a whole host of stuff much worse than having 3, 4 even 5 hooks in the back of your bra. On the flipside, if it’s too tight you could be over-squeezing your body and it can cause breathing issues. Having boobs- it ain’t for sissies.

While this isn’t always possible, I do recommend doing a bit of due diligence and looking for the best quality bras you can afford. Note I didn’t say the most expensive- there are tons of poorly constructed bras that cost a small fortune. Trust me that you’ll know quality construction and a good fit when you see it. Buy quality, and take excellent care of them, and they’ll last.

When you first purchase a bra, it should fit snugly on the last row of hooks- meaning the right row. You shouldn’t be able to get more than two fingers in there comfortably. sometimes this is down to poor quality/overly stretchy materials used to make bras. The extra rows of hooks are for when the bra inevitably stretches out so that you can fasten it tighter. The standard is 3 rows, so just keep moving it on down to the the left as the bra become looser.

BRA TYPES FOR EVERY OCCASION

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Now let’s talk about different bra types that might be useful depending on your lifestyle and the silhouette you’re hoping for.

Minimizer/Smoother/Full Coverage – I like ones that are smoothing, and pack the girls in with full coverage. I wear these when I need to move around and not worry about over the cup spillage, such as when I’ll be out and about all day running errands, or when I’m wearing a t-shirt, or something where I’d like my boobs to be more contained, like when wearing certain dresses or a button up shirt that is otherwise tight in the chest. These are also great for when your boobs hurt your back- by keeping them up and right up against the body it makes it easier to support their weight.

My favorite is the Basic Beauty by Wacoal- this is sold in lots of sizes so it’s good for everyone. A little pricey but they last for years (solid construction, good materials). Another thing I like is it packs flat; A lot of molded cupped bras can be a pain in the ass to store when you have big boobs .

Wacoal Basic Beauty I wear a 40H http://bit.ly/1S9XxKA
Wacoal Basic Beauty (link for smaller cup sizes) http://bit.ly/1sKkAqZ

T-shirt Bra – everyday bras that provides comfort and support but aren’t very noticeable under clothes. The Wacoal is OK for this but because it is full-coverage, it comes up higher and might show under a tank or other wide neck tops. I tend to prefer an Elomi Etta under just about anything. It does give a slight retro boob look though, so if you like a rounded silhouette you want to look for something lightly padded, molded supportive cups like the Lane Bryant Balconette. A few other styles I love and recommend:

Strapless/Multiway The number one bra related question I get is somehow related to strapless bras for the well endowed. For my plus size friends, the Lane Bryant multi way is a godsend. For everyone, what you want are molded cups to add volume and shape, a rubberized band to minimize slippage, and boning on the sides to add support.

Strapless Bra from Lane Bryant – http://bit.ly/1S9XbUi

Longline – perfect for under fitted bodice dresses, vintage clothes and if you can find a strapless one, perfect for under strapless dresses. This whittles your waist and makes you stand up straighter so it’s excellent for posture. A must if you like vintage styles. Unfortunately, mine was discontinued but I’ve heard great things about the Goddess Longline- they use a different sizing guide so be sure to check before you order.

Longline Bra- http://bit.ly/1PyP4kk

Sports Bra- I like hella support for my big boobs because without it running on an elliptical is unbearable. I love the  Glamorize Double Layer Sports bra because it has a firm hold and this double layer allows you to customize the hold. Sadly this is the only one I can strongly recommended- however it comes in most sizes, a black and white version as well as a pink and orange one I just bought while researching this video.

My Favorite workout Bra – http://bit.ly/29qcpuz

Lounge Bras – For general paling around the house and comfort, I tend to favor underwire-free bras as well as those with a thicker band for support. With that said it can also drive me nuts when my breasts touch too much on a hot day. Most of the time I just wear the Elomi Etta as I feel it’s the perfect combination of sexy, comfort and support. Another great option is…

No-Wire Cooling Bra – http://bit.ly/29roEDH

Bralettes- Torrid!!!! I know other places have them, but this is where I bought several different styles. Now in terms of real support- these aren’t doing much for my tig ol bitties, however they are great for around the house when I just want a little support, or for when I want to add some sex appeal to an outfit, I’ll wear one over a regular bra. Speaking of sexy….

Torrid Bralettes – http://www.torrid.com

Sexy- when buying these I’m less concerned with support, and more with what looks amazing. I’ll fudge bandwidth, number of hooks and cup size for instance.. Sexy is subjective and I can’t say this is what a sexy bra looks like but here’s where I like to shop for them:

Hips and Curves- Sexy Bras, Lingerie, Stockings, fishnets, corsets and costumes. It’s like a naughty candy store! http://shrsl.com/?~cuun

Lane Bryant- great for contemporary lingerie, nice for chemises and the odd sexy bra http://bit.ly/1S9ZAOO

Elomi- vintage inspired styles like the Etta  http://www.elomilingerie.com/lingerie/latest-collections.aspx

Torrid-Bralettes-
http://bit.ly/1sKoRKZ

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Bra lingo

Band vs Bandless- means the bit of fabric under a bra. If you have trouble with your bra digging in, look for bras with a band.

Bra accessories

Chicken cutlets or other boob enhancers. These are little silicone or fabric pieces you put in your bra to give you a boost in volume and cleavage.

Bra extenders – a handy tool, lots of places have these, just make sure the hooks of the number match the number hooks on your bra- and uneven amount can cause uneven tension on the hooks and wear out your bra faster.

3 hook bra extenders $8.00 http://bit.ly/1S9QcuG
Assorted sized of bra extenders $15 http://bit.ly/1sKcjDm

Strap Clips: to clamp the two straps together when your top is narrower than your bra naturally lays (these rarely work, they usually itch the shit out of me. Best to get a multi-way bra or a bra with a J-hook. Elomi and a few other higher end bra brands included these in several styles.

J-hookScreen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.06.56 PM

Rubber strap cushions- keeps them in place and also helps minimize dig-in. Down side it they are pretty visible so not great for under all clothes.

Comfy Straps $12.50 http://bit.ly/1S9QzoUScreen Shot 2016-06-17 at 12.45.17 PM

BRA CARE

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I invested time, money and research into finding the perfect bra for each need- I want to keep them in tip-top shape! With that said, I’m not a sucker for fancy delicates soaps or gingerly washing them by hand, under the full moon by candle light or whatever the cool kids are doing. Good bra care is as simple as washing in a machine on gentle cycle in a delicates bag. You can get these at a dollar store- I found a cute Minnie Mouse one at Daiso. Then to dry simply hang them up to air dry- Do not put your bras in the dryer- this will make the underwire more prone to snapping and wear down the fabric and stretch them out. DON’T DO IT.

My hope is that this bra guide has helped you in someway. I’ve poured months of work into this, and it was an absolute labor of love.

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24 Comments

on “THE BRA GUIDE : an honest look at bras
24 Comments on “THE BRA GUIDE : an honest look at bras
  1. Amazing post! I would also suggest brands like Freya, Panache. And for even sexier bras needed in bigger sizes Comexim and Ewa Michalak. They are Polish brands so you need to convert measurements and currency. however they are lovely bras with many blog reviews searching in Google!

  2. Best Article ever! I am going to my local Nordstrom ASAP. I will swallow my embarrassment and get measured correctly. I’m sick of having my bra straps digging into my shoulders! Thanks k you, thank you, and one LAST thank you for this blog post

  3. This was great info.thnx so much for taking the time to provide us this information, love love love ur beauty channel and of course love you God bless you

  4. I would love to recommend the butterfly bras from Ashley Stewart for larger breasts. They are so comfortable and have amazing support!

  5. Thank you so much, Cora! I HAD a decent handle on bra size until pregnancy, and now everything is different! I went from 40D to not-a-40DD-but-that’s-all-target-had. I have a Myotape which makes one handed measuring easy so I used your instructions. 40G! I just placed an order for the minimizer and sports bra above in that size to hold me over until I need nursing bras in December (and plus size maternity is a whole new challenge!).

    You’ve really had some fantastic content lately! Your skin care videos saved my face when the initial pregnancy hormones started making me oily and breakout! You da bomb 😀

  6. In case there are any other small boobed big girls reading this (they do exist, its a cruel trick of nature, but we’re out here) I’ve found bra extenders to be incredibly helpful. I’m supposed to be a 46 or 48 A, try finding that anywhere. What I have found is that by using bra extenders I can manage a 44c. It’s not an ideal fit I’m sure, but its comfy and my boobs aren’t swimming in cups too big for them. I have also noticed that when I wear a padded or boost bra (makes you look 2 cup sizes bigger) my silhouette looks much better overall. I feel much more confident as a bigger woman when my belly isn’t sticking out more than my chest.

  7. This is so helpful. For a few years I had the same issues and when I went to a store to get some new bras, the lady who was helping me look had made a comment about how she thought that wasn’t the right size for me and then helped me get the right one. I seriously felt like I could breathe so much easier when I got the right size.

  8. Dear Cora, sooo many thanks for this post, I live in Italy and for me is quite impossible find a bra that fits properly. I was once fitted in a London shop, finding a whole new world of amazing bras that made my figure change completely. Since then I lost a lot of weight, and also have undergone a breast reduction, so now I don’t really now which “real” size I have. Your post was really clear and I will try to find out soon as I can! I have just a question. You wrote that after subtracting the band size from the breast measurement, that number is equal to the cup size. But how does it work with multiple letters? A 7 could be both a G or a DDD. Anyway, thank you againg for the big advice!! Every woman should wear a proper fitting bra at last once in her lifetime, it makes your self esteem go up to the stars. Kisses!

  9. Thank you muffin I am a master fitter for a company and people think I am crazy when I tell them all this. Bra shopping is a science yes it can be very annoying but if you work with a sales person who knows how to fit properly it can be an amazing experience.

  10. Really great read. Cora takes away the mystery of bra fitting, and gives us good examples of bras that work. I personally have breasts that are closer together, and find that Chantelle bras work well for me, but they can be pricey. Anyway, Thanks Cora for all the hard work!

  11. Fabulous, fabulous guide!! Excellent!! THANK YOU!! I am on the opposite end of the spectrum as you, lol. And I was just researching this very subject just a couple of weeks ago. If the measurements I took are correct I’m a 30B which blew my mind because I always thought I was never smaller than a 32, and an A cup to boot. What a difference when you bother to take the measurements! And yes, I had the same problems as you, for YEARS, minus the spillage, lol. For years I would have given my right arm to have the endowment that you have, lol! But as I got older I finally accepted myself and embraced my size and became comfortable with myself. In school my nickname was “flatso”. Yeah. Anyway, although my hubby helped measure me I’m going to take your advice and check out the local Nordstroms. Thank you so much for doing all the hard work of researching for this truly, very important article. Cheers! 🙂

  12. hi cora, this has been one of the most informative post/video that you have posted that i have ever seen. it made me rethink bras. I have ordered the wacoal bra you have featured from amazon and i am very excited to try them on..thank you for this post. love your posts and videos

  13. First off Cora—a earth-sized thank you for posting this video. I do not think in my entire bra wearing days (starting at age 10—full-figured since birth) have I ever been wearing the correct size. Because I was larger to start off, going shopping for a bra was like forcing me to ride a roller coaster with no seat belt—I kid you not. I grabbed what I thought was would “work” and that was that. Years later, I decided to put on the big girl panties and ask the sales assistant to “guide” me into the right size section…we all know what that is like… jumping to this week, and after watching your video, I have the first ever perfectly fitting bra!!! Some will laugh, but there is a joy unlike any other when you don’t even feel like you are wearing a bra!! Again, I cannot thank you enough for sharing all of your knowledge, humor and realness. I am a fan for life.

  14. You and are so completely lovely for doing this in depth post. I watch you all the time on YouTube and you are always so helpful in your info so thank you so much! Also I am in the process of losing weight so I’m afraid to get measured for a bra since I’m just going to be reducing it…should I get measured anyway? By the way what is Oprah’s favorite bra? Did you like it when you finally got the correct size?

  15. First thank you so much for this post and video, it has helped me understand how a bra should fit. It pushed me to go for a smaller size band(a better fitting size for me) which has in turn made my boobs look even better and boosted my confidence. Now I do have one question how long to Lane Bryant Bra’s usually last?

  16. Amen sister no one likes a snapped underwire! BTW great video! I’m a 42DD and I LOVE Godess Bras and Torrid Bralettes but I’m totally checking out those sports bras you mentioned. Thanks for the input ❤️

  17. Thank you for this! I’m a new mom and look forward to rediscovering my correct size after breastfeeding. I was a pre-pregnancy 40DD and tried nearly a dozen nursing bras that were all awkward or extremely uncomfortable (not to mention underwire, which I prefer, can cause milk passage issues, so underwire is out while breastfeeding). I finally found the Bravado Body Silk Nursing Bra, and it has saved me from giving up breastfeeding due to being uncomfortable all day. The Bravado offers more support than I ever imagined a non-underwire bra could do. They also include a strap altercation kit so you can remove the part that makes it a nursing bra, and continue wearing it as a regular bra when your breastfeeding days are over.

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