Got bra fit problems? It's not your fault.
Sure, women's breasts are always changing and moving around on our chests. So it's easy to blame ourselves when a particular bra—even in our correct size—doesn't fit. But you need to keep in mind the way bras are made, sized, and sold. It turns out we may wear more than one size, depending on the make and model.***
The next time you go shopping for a new bra, keep the following in mind.
1. There's more than one bra style to consider.
Like boobs, bras come in all sorts of shapes. A push-up style with a smooth, molded cup lifts breasts into round mounds. If you chose a cut-and-sewn lace bra, your boobs are brought together front and center. And balconette (or balcony) and demi-cup bras separate breasts and reveal more of the upper half of your chest. A plunge bra moves breasts together to create deeper cleavage. So then, when you add in unique boob shape and placement to different styles, bra fit problems arise, no matter the "right" number or letter size combination.Eberjey (Wireless) India Bralette Available in 3 Colors Fits S/M - M/L via HerRoom Natori Feathers Plunge Bra Available in 10 Colors Fits Bands 30 - 38, Cups A - G via Bare Necessities
2. Bra brands use different methods to measure you.
Using a measuring tape doesn't guarantee precision. The perfect fit is more trial and error, given all the different breast shapes and body types. Some brands and bra fitters measure you while wearing a 'fitting bra.' Others use the much-maligned +4 bra fitting method to come up with your ideal size. Many others use a unique formula for how their bras fit. If you're buying more than one style or brand (especially if made outside the US), you'll want to look at the manufacturer or international fitting charts. Your number/letter size may not be the same in every bra.Lively The No-Wire Push Up Bra Available in 2 Colors Fits Bands 32 - 38, Cups A - DD via Nordstrom
3. Bra design, quality, and quantity of materials vary widely.
Think about all the pieces that go into a bra: underwire, lace, padding, wide or thin straps, one or multiple hooks, etc. Bras are subject to the same rules as the rest of the fashion world. Some clothes are made of higher quality fabrics or are so well-constructed that they fit you like a glove. Others fall apart after one washing. The same holds for bras. Cheaper materials, especially when asked to support the weight and motion of your boobs, won't wear as well. And before you know it, your "right" size is causing bra fit problems.Chantelle Shadows Underwire Demi Bra Available in 2 Colors Fits Bands 30 - 38, Cups B - G via Nordstrom Elila Full Cup Stretch Lace Underwire Bra Available in 5 Colors Fits Bands 34-46, Cups E-K via HerRoom
4. Cup size is not the same across bra bands (or why E can equal C).
Sister sizing is the term to describe the way cup volume changes over the length of a bra band. It's another reason why your letter/number can vary. That means a 34D cup equals that of a 32DD or E (again, depending on the brand) and a 36C. If your bra fit problem includes wearing too big a band, you must go down a band size and up a cup size. If you only reduce the band size, you'll end up in a smaller cup size.Elomi Charley Longline Underwire Bra Fits Bands 34 - 40, Cups E - H via Nordstrom
Given the realities of the bra industry, it's no surprise that brands claim that up to 80% of women wear the "wrong" size. It's more like 100% when factoring in all the different brands and styles. And when boobs change, which happens at least once a month, the bra sizing game begins all over again.
Maybe it's time we all stop talking about "right" or "correct" size and accept a more fluid "Bra Zone." We can't find the perfect bra if we aren't open to trying a range of brands and styles.
My bra zone extends from 36C to a 34D or DD to a 32E or F. My boobs fit best into a cut-and-sewn and demi-cup styles. It's less about one letter or number and more about how the bra fits and makes me look in (or out) of my clothes. After all, no one sees the size anyway.
What about you? Do you wear the same size across all bra styles and brands? Do you think the bra industry could do more to address these bra fit problems?
***Updated August 2019