underwire bra pain

Six Tips to Eliminate Underwire Bra Pain

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

An underwire bra is like a good friend to me. So why are some such a pain?

Underwire bras provide great shaping, support, and lift. They come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, too. I’m a 34DD at the moment, but as a 34C cup a few years back, it was my go-to bra style of choice. I like how these bras look and support my boobs.

But not all underwire bras fit me the same way. Some pinch, dig into breast flesh, pop out of casings, or cut off circulation around my torso.

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Over the years. I've learned a few bra buying, trying, and wearing tricks to reduce my suffering. Here are six tips to help you eliminate underwire pain:

1. Get to know wire lengths and shapes on different styles. I did a random survey of three of my favorite bras and found wire lengths ranging from 9" to 11". Some are more of a "J" or "U" shape. Some hit me higher in my armpit, even though they fit beautifully everywhere else. I've learned to gravitate toward wire lengths that suit my shorter, upper torso, like those found in demi-cup bras. Where breasts rest on the chest, make some underwire styles easier or harder to wear. (For more on wire shapes, see this helpful article from The Lingerie Addict.)

floral bra
Triumph Mon Amour Floral Bra
via Bare Necessities 

2. Wire width changes across bra bands. I am not my cup size. Wires are larger or smaller as you move up and down in band size. For example, a C cup on a 34 band is equivalent to the volume of a D cup on a 32 band and a B cup on a 36 band. If you're happy with your band size, but it's your boobs that are spilling out or squished, you'll get relief by going up the cup alphabet. Don't think of it as wearing a bigger size as much as choosing a better wire width to match your lovely breasts.

underwire bra pain

Panache Andorra Full Bust Bra
via Nordstrom

3. Know your "bra zone" not bra size. You won't fit in the same cup and band size across all bra brands. How can this be true? Some calculate band size by the measure of your ribcage. Others add 3, 4, or 5 inches to that measurement to get your correct size. But those calculations don’t work for everyone. I'm less than 32” under my breasts but find most 32 bands too tight for my tastes. If I use the Plus 4 band sizing method, a 36 band is way too loose. I'm comfortable in a 34D or DD but know I can move to 32E or 36C territory on occasion.

underwire bra pain

Lula Lu Petites Demi Cup Bra
via Lula Lu Petites 

4. Look at wire casings and bra construction. Wires vary in quality. They are sewn onto bands using single or multiple stitches. Some brands wrap their wires within the casing. Here are two examples from my lingerie drawer. One casing is sewn on top of the band and the other underneath. These little details can make a huge difference in comfort.

underwire bra pain

underwire bra pain

5. Be kind to your underwire bras and they'll thank you. I put up with wires popping out and digging into my skin for years. Why? I was tossing my bras in the dryer and beating them up long before they were worn out. High heat destroys elastic, no matter quality of materials and construction. I learned the hard way: never put a bra in the dryer. I've found it easy to care for lingerie with no-rinse wash solutions. At a minimum, lay a bra flat or hang to dry.

6. Know the finer points of putting on a bra. I've been wearing bras for 40+ years and still need to remind myself to "swoop and scoop." That pinch I'm feeling might be the result of not getting every bit of my boobs inside the cups. It works for all sizes, too! Here's a handy little video to refresh your memory:

[youtube_sc url="" title="how%20to%20put%20on%20a%20bra"]

There are some times when no matter how good a fit or quality, your bra hurts. Could be you've been wearing it too long. I can’t go more than a few hours in a pair of high heels, either. Like my shoes, some of my underwire bras are gorgeous but weren’t meant to wear all day and night. If you know that about a particular bra, don’t put it on when you'll be out all day, and instead wear it when it's coming off soon.

What's your view? Do you live with underwire bra pain? What brands make you more comfortable?

Featured image: Prima Donna Madison Full Cup Bra via HerRoom

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