Our top 12 tips for going bra shopping

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Finding the perfect bra isn’t rocket science, but it can be a surprisingly stressful shopping experience, for such a small item of clothing. Anyone who has worn an ill-fitting bra will be familiar with the discomfort of either the band digging into their skin, straps slipping off the shoulder, underwire poking at the sides or even the awkward spillage situation for ladies blessed with a bigger bust.   

There are a few telltale signs that you may not be wearing the correct bra size but thanks to these tips, shopping intimates doesn’t have to be a guessing game anymore. Here are 12 things you should consider on your next shop…

1. Take your measurements beforehand 

A bra that fits correctly means you can wave goodbye to slips, pinches and chafing. To save you time, take your measurements at home before you go shopping. 

Don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than it sounds and all you need is a non-padded, non-wire bra and a tape measure to hand. Start off by wearing your favourite bra so that your boobs are positioned comfortably and how you want them to be, then…

Taking your band size 

Standing with your back straight, measure around your back and under your bust (just where the band of a bra would sit), ensuring that the tape is going around in a steady and level line. Tighten until it feels snug but not too tight, if the measurement is an odd number, round it up to the nearest inch. 

Figuring out your cup size

Next step is to wrap the tape around you and over the fullest part of your breast, this is your bust size. Finally, subtract your band size from your bust measurements and the difference denotes your cup size. 

For example, let’s say you’re 51 inches in bust and your band size is 46 inches. 51-46=5, 5 is DD on the cup chart which means that your benchmark size when shopping should be for a size 46DD.    

0=AA; 1=A; 2=B; 3=C; 4=D; 5=DD; 6=DDD & F; 7=G; 8=H; 9=I; 10=J; 11=K.

2. Have an idea of what you are looking for

Are you looking for something comfortable to lounge in? A new sports bra for the gym or a nude bra that won’t show through that cute white slogan T-shirt you just bought? Making a list of potential bras you want or may need will save you time, and prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the plethora of options available – because there are a lot.

3. Wear a tight white T-shirt while you shop

So that you can see what each of your selected choices of bra will look like under the sheerest circumstances, wear a white T-shirt whilst shopping; that way you won’t get any surprises the first time you wear it. 

4. Keep an eye out for the following

Always go in the fitting room with a critical eye. Check if there is any crinkling on the cups, too much gap in the cup, awkward boob spillage, or if the underwire is poking the side of your boobs (or the middle of your chest). Don’t forget to check the back too as the band can be very telling of a poor fit; there shouldn’t be any bulging or gaps nor should it be riding up.

5. Pay close attention to the band

Cups hold the breasts in place but it’s actually the band, which wraps around your body, that is responsible for 90% of the actual support. The band should be snug and not loose or suffocating, it should also be level around your body and not riding up your back. Rule of thumb: if you can slip two fingers while wearing it then it’s perfectly snug, but if you can fit more than two fingers then it’s too loose. If you can fit only one or no fingers at all then it’s too tight.

6. Utilise the clasp

When you’re trying on bras be sure to always use the loosest hook. This will keep your band fitting as well as possible for as long as possible. Over time, the band will stretch out so when it starts to feel a little loose you can use the second and third hook for more grip.

7. Adjust the straps

Avoid straps either slipping off or digging into your shoulders by making sure that they are adjusted correctly. They should be loose enough to be able to slide one finger underneath the strap, but you shouldn’t be able to lift it. Straps will normally shift in fit due to movement every three to four wears, so be sure to revisit these if you feel like they’re feeling a little loose.

8. Don’t worry too much about your size

Remember it’s just a number (and letter), and the proper fit will ensure that your bra is comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. It’s completely normal for bra sizes to fluctuate too, and there are so many reasons why it can do so such as weight gain, ageing, hormonal changes, pregnancy etc., plus, like everything else in life, bras have a lifespan.

9. Your bra fits perfectly when…

Start by doing your bra up on the loosest hook, then adjust the straps so that it’s tight but not digging into your shoulders. Then try raising your arms up and around your head, if you feel that the band is riding up then it’s not the right fit. A correctly fitted bra should feel as though you aren’t wearing anything at all, and you don’t have to keep readjusting it after certain movements.

10. Avoid spillage by…

For the bustier ladies, look to go a cup size larger or look for underwire bras that offer a wider wire shape for better containment.

11. Even out asymmetrical breasts

It’s surprisingly common and totally normal to have one breast that is slightly larger than the other. To even out the appearance of your breasts, simply fit a bra to the larger breast. If the difference is significant enough to make shopping for bras little more complicated, you can add a silicone cleavage booster to the smaller cup or buy a bra with removable pads and remove the pad on the bigger cup.

12. Care for your bra

With all that said, the life expectancy of a bra is normally up to a year on average however, it all depends on how you care for your intimate item. Washing bras by hand (roughly after every three to four wears) will help keep the bands from stretching out. If you need to put your bra in the washing machine, place it inside a protective garment bag and then leave out to air dry. Never put bras in the tumble dryer as this tugs and pulls at the band and straps which will stretch it out quicker.