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.
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.
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.
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
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 .
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:
- Lane Bryant Smooth Balconette http://bit.ly/29qcq1J
- Elomi Etta http://bit.ly/1sKhJOP
- Elomi Cate http://bit.ly/1sKihnK
- Elomi Caitlyn http://bit.ly/1S9UNwP
- Elomi Amelia http://bit.ly/1S9W4UI
- Elomi Hermione http://bit.ly/1sKjxas
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
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.
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.
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.
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/1S9QzoU
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.