Up there with bathing suit and jean shopping, bra shopping fills most women with dread. The seemingly lifelong quest for the perfect-fitting brassiere has left many of us frustrated and avoiding lingerie stores at all costs.
We asked the lingerie professionals at Rigby & Peller to give us the lowdown on bra mechanics, and they revealed some surprising—and extremely common—ways that women (us included!) are wearing their bras all wrong. Don’t worry, with these tips you’ll be on your way to well-fitted undergarments in no time.
01. You’re wearing the wrong size.
You know that frustrating gaping that occurs in your cup? That’s from wearing a band that is too big. You would be surprised to find that most women need to size down in the band and size up in the cup.
How is this possible, you ask?
Most women actually carry breast tissue on their sides and confuse this breast tissue with the width of their rib cage. This causes women to think they should size up in the band, rather than the cup, meaning you should be a 34C, not a 36B. But the majority of a bra’s support comes from the band, so when the band isn’t snug, the result is cup gaping. Your band should be fitted but comfortable.
02. You’re wearing it in the wrong place.
Bras work like a seesaw. If the band is low in the back, the breasts will be high in the front. If the band is too high up on your back, your breasts will be too low and unsupported, causing more cup gaping. A band that is too high or too low also has a tendency to create bulging because it catches and presses on skin that it’s not supposed to. The band should be in the middle of your back, level to or below the underwire.
03. You’re wearing underwire incorrectly.
The underwire should act as a shelf for your breasts—you should place the wire right underneath when you are putting your bra on. The center of your bra should sit flat against your breastbone. Many women think that an underwire bra equals a push-up. When an underwire bra has too much padding, it makes for an ill-fitting bra that is uncomfortable and offers no actual support. When women complain about breast tissue sticking out, this is from overly padded cups that create spillage. The correct use of underwire means that your breasts are comfortably sitting inside the cups without any breast tissue sticking out.
04. You’re on the wrong hook.
Many of us put on a new bra and immediately clasp it on the tightest hook, as if the looser hooks are optional depending on your size. You actually should clasp your bra on the loosest hook—that’s the proper fit for a new bra. The other tighter hooks are there for when the band naturally starts to stretch from extended use, allowing for you to use a tighter hook to make up for the loss of the band’s snugness. If you start out by wearing your new bra on the tightest hook, you reduce its life span because you’re prematurely stretching it out. When trying on new bras, always clasp on the loosest hook first, so you can judge the fit correctly (which will be helped by sizing down, per No. 1!).
05. The adjustable straps are too far up.
This is another part of a bra’s anatomy that most women use incorrectly. The adjustable bra strap slide is not a way to customize your fit; the slider should always be a good two fingers up from the bottom of your strap. If you buy a bra with the sliders on top of your shoulders or all the way down to the bottom of the band, you’re actually compensating for an ill-fitting bra. If the bra feels too big, don’t make up for its poor fit by overly tightening or loosening the straps. Trying to correct an ill-fitting bra with the straps will affect the way your whole bra fits because if the underwire is being pulled upward, you will naturally pull it down and cause the back strap of your bra to go up. Find a bra that fits well in that neutral position, and then use the adjustments for tweaks as the elastic wears.
06. You’re wearing one bra too often.
Ideally, women should be wearing their bras two to three times between each wash. What most women do is wear their favorite bra all the time. But this ends up stretching out your trusty bra, and then you’re left with a misshapen undergarment that hardly fits the way it’s supposed to. Preserve your favorite bras by rotating them throughout the week so that you’re never wearing the same bra day after day.
Bras featured available at Rigby & Peller