Many of us have a love/hate relationship with our bras. Most of us wear them every day, yet bras are frequently an item that we loathe to discuss, shop for, or even think about. Why is that? Well, finding one that fits is a nightmare for many of us, and bra shopping something we avoid like the plague. “My bra doesn’t fit” leads to uncomfortable days and underperformance by you – because you are distracted, uncomfortable or limited in what you can achieve. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
In this post, I’m going to talk about five common reasons why the bras we wear day after day don’t fit us and aren’t doing us any favours.
Five reasons why your bra doesn’t fit you
1. You bought your bra without trying it on.
You know your bra size is a 36D. It’s the size you always buy, have for years. You know the style and brand that you like, so you walk into the store, pick up that 36D in your favourite brand, and buy it. Who wants to go to all the trouble of stripping down in the harsh light of a dressing room and looking at ourselves in a mirror while a kindly, teeny tiny-chested salesperson waits outside?
Well, there are several possible problems with this scenario.
- your bra size can vary not only over the course of years, but over the course of the month as your hormones change. Your breast tissue and skin change as you age. It is very unlikely (though still possible!) that you will wear the same bra size your entire life.
- Bra manufacturers change suppliers for materials. Companies may have to change fabric and elastic suppliers for a number of reasons – and a new elastic supplier means your bra doesn’t fit.
- All bra manufacturers are not equal when it comes to sizing. A 36D from one company may be the equivalent of a 38C in another, or a 34 E. You can be different sizes in different brands or within the same brand.
To find a bra that fits, you need to try them on.
2. Your bra is more than a year old, and you put it through the washer and dryer.
Admit it – when you find a bra that finally fits or is comfortable, you wear that sucker until it falls off. If you’re anything like me, most of the bras in your underwear drawer are more than a year old, and a number of them likely don’t even fit anymore at all. You have one or two bras that you reach for every day.
Why is the age of your bra important? It’s a highly engineered garment that is worn next to your skin, tightly, day after day. The stitching, fabric, and elastics are under a lot of strain. If that garment isn’t cared for properly, the materials start to fail. Even when cared for properly, the materials will eventually fail. When it does, your bra doesn’t fit.
Your bra is designed to hold and support you, but that design is based on the stretch and tension of the materials used in its construction. If your elastics and fabric don’t return to their original shape and size after stretching, your bra can’t do its job properly. If the stretch is exhausted, it can’t work. Make sure it is washed properly (see below) and that you have enough bras so that you can alternate wearing days. What does that mean? If you wear a bra for a day, it should have the next day off to allow its elastics to rest.
Which leads to 2 A – You’re washing your bras wrong.
If you looked at your bras after reading 2 and thought, “hmm, this bra isn’t that old, but the elastics are overstretched. It must be cheap elastic!” you might want to ask yourself how you’ve washed and handled it.
Bras that go through the dryer with your regular clothes are having their elastics destroyed from the combination of heat, entanglement, and stretching. Your bra is a piece of engineering, much like a cantilever bridge. Bridges age too – if not properly maintained their lifespan is much shorter than expected.
Why would you go to the trouble of finding a good bra that fits, then tossing it in the dryer and ruining it? All that work and struggle and frustration in finding that bra, you buy it, you dry it, your bra doesn’t fit. Why would you do that to yourself? All your bras should be hand washed and air dried.
I can hear you sighing from here. Who has time for hand washing piles of clothes? Not this gal. Well, you wash your face every day, don’t you? Have a shower? Give the kids a bath? Take a few minutes while you’re doing these things to:
- give your bra a soak in warm water and a little soap (use a little bit of shampoo if you don’t have fancy soap for delicates.)
- Rinse it out and place it in a towel. Push on the towel to pat as much water out as you can (don’t wring it.)
- Hang it to dry by a non-stretchy part (the center between the cups, known as the bridge, is non-stretch on most bras.)
Done! That easy! A good way to remember is to associate it with another task that you do every day. I sometimes even take mine in the shower with me for its wash. Most non-foam bras will dry overnight.
3. Your tool selection doesn’t match the job description.
This one is quite simple – you’re wearing the wrong bra for the job you’re asking it to do.
Examples of this:
- Wearing a high compression sports bra all day when you aren’t doing a lick of exercise – or wearing a non-sports bra when you are exercising. These bras work by compressing you, which means that all parts of the bra, including the straps, are pushing in on you. Racerback styles in particular can place a lot of pressure in the wrong places on the muscles in your shoulders and back if you are wearing them for too long, especially if you have large or heavy breasts.
- Wearing lounge bras, bralettes, or seduction lingerie as everyday, all day bras. The materials in these bras are not designed to support you in moderate activity – they are generally made from soft, stretchy, comfortable materials that feel great, but won’t hold you properly unless you have breasts that support themselves. Result? Headaches, sore shoulders and neck pain.
- The band, cup and strap styles don’t give you the support you need. This particularly applies to women with larger cup sizes. Teeny tiny straps and bands may look lovely, but remember this is a garment of engineering – and it needs to be built for the job it’s going to do.
The same goes for the style of cup you are wearing – if you choose a demi cup or plunge style for every day when you do a lot of bending over, you’re going to end up spending a lot of your time tucking yourself back in!
- Wearing bras make of the wrong material at the wrong time. If you are going someplace hot and humid, a foam cup bra is going to make you a lovely swimming pool next to your skin, which can cause rashes and discomfort. A stretchy jersey knit and lace bra make look wonderful, but after 3 hours the stretch in the cup and strap will leave you drooping down, tightening straps and feeling shoulder pain. A seamless t-shirt bra may alleviate your fear of nipples showing, but it may have a sharp upper edge that shows through your clothes, make your breasts look like “foam domes” and add extra volume to your chest that you don’t want or need.
When you are bra shopping, don’t try to get one bra that will do everything. Get the right bra for the right job. At the very least, you should have 3 bras – a good sports bra and two supportive bras that you can wear everyday. Bras are like shoes – everyone needs several good basic pairs. They also wear out faster when you only have 1 or 2 that you wear all the time.
4. You’re off the grid.
In this case, off-grid isn’t about green energy or living – it’s about how bra manufacturers build their products and the proportions between sizes. These are closely guarded secrets in the lingerie world. Developing the sizing grid and patterns is laborious and expensive. That’s why manufacturers will generally stick to serving a certain segment of the size population instead of providing a large range of sizes – it’s tricky to get the sizing right, and even trickier once you get outside of the BCD cup range.
When it comes to your bra fitting you, there are three important points to measure or fit – the underwire size, the band size, and the cup size. Every bra manufacturer has a grid of sizes for these three elements (picture a spreadsheet.) For instance, that 36D bra might have a cup that projects 4″ out from the ribcage, fits a ribcage measurement of 32″, and a wire size of 38. The wire size, the cup size, and the band size all increase and decrease proportionally, depending on the company, by a certain amount. Band sizes usually increase and decrease by 2″ per size, for instance.
If your body shape is such that your ribcage, wire size, or cup size don’t line up, their bra is not going to fit you. Your measurements don’t line up to a single cell in the spreadsheet – they are in multiple places. If that’s the case, then the bra won’t fit.
5. You weren’t properly fitted by a knowledgeable professional.
The job of a salesperson in most chain stores is to sell the bras they have in stock. They deal in volume, they don’t like special ordering, and they don’t do alterations. They want you to buy their product. Many of them don’t have proper training in bra fitting. That isn’t to say there aren’t knowledgeable people working in these settings but this is generally the case. They will find the product that they have that is a reasonably close fit for you and try to sell it to you. Not only that, they will bombard you with their demoralizing, sexy marketing telling you that you aren’t sexy enough, thin enough, good enough, the entire time you are in their store. So after you’ve spent 40 minutes trying on everything they have, you can’t leave the store empty handed, despite the fact the bra doesn’t fit, because you’ve been bombarded with the notion that you need it to feel sexy so much you start to believe it.
This salesperson probably didn’t show you the proper way to put on a bra. (What? You can put a bra on wrong? Yes! But that’s a whole other post.) She may or may not have measured you properly – if you were measured over your clothes, you weren’t measured properly. She may not have the style of bra in the store that is best for you. When a bra is too small, especially in the cups, she probably told you to try the next cup size, or perhaps even the next band size up (remember that grid!) because they don’t carry a 36E, but the 38D is the same cup size.
That may be true; however, your ribcage is still the same size and the 38 band is too big. Almost all the support in your bra comes from your band, and if that bra doesn’t fit, it won’t do its job for you. If you have to use the second or third hooks to pull the bra to its tightest on the day you buy it, it will not fit you after a few hours of the elastic stretching.
A good bra fitting should take a minimum of 30 minutes. You should discuss the things you like and dislike in a bra, how you are planning to wear it (every day vs. special occasion or exercise) the fabrics you like and dislike, and any medical issues you have that may affect bra fit and comfort. The salesperson should ensure you get into the bra properly and adjust the straps for you. She should check the fit of the cups, the band, and the wires/bridge.
That’s it! That’s five reasons why your bra doesn’t fit…but they aren’t the only five reasons.
If you are tired of struggling with a bra that doesn’t fit, don’t despair! During your initial consultation with the Queen of Cups, we discuss these things and many more issues to ensure the bra we build is the best fit possible for you and for how the bra will be used. You can read more about our process here, and if you’d like to book your consultation, contact me today!