Getting a good fit
Wearing the wrong size bra can cause back pain, general discomfort and make your clothes fit poorly. A staggering 80 percent of women wear the wrong size bra, Dillard’s bra fit specialists say.
A correctly fitted bra, on the other hand, can give a woman a slimmer silhouette and a more defined waist, which makes clothes fit better. It also offers the correct support, which can relieve back pain and discomfort.
“A good bra is an investment,” said Ashley Graham, a bra fit specialist with Dillard’s. But that doesn’t mean you can wear that bra forever or even for five years.
“Bras don’t wear out, they stretch out,” she said. “You start out wearing it on the loosest hook. As it stretches out you move to the second, then to the third, then you toss it. It should last you about a year, if you take care of it.”
That means never putting it in the dryer. Graham said putting your bras in a lingerie bag and throwing it in the washing machine is OK but “a dryer is death to a bra.”
“We recommend buying three bras — one to wear, one to wash and one to rest,” said Victoria Barnett, Dillard’s regional lingerie manager.
And, even if you’re good about replacing your bras every year, that doesn’t mean you just go grab the same size every time. “Even a gain or loss of five pounds can change your bra size,” added Barnett.
Our models were both fairly confident they were wearing the right size bras until Graham and Barnett began the fitting. “There are three body types: full-busted (the bulk of the breast tissue is at the top of the breast), average (breast tissue is fairly evenly distributed) and shallow-busted (the bulk of the breast tissue is at the bottom of the breast),” said Graham, going on the explain the five universal fit points of a bra as she took out her tape measure and went to work.
The first is the “bridge,” the area between the bra’s two cups. It should lie flat between the breasts to lift and separate.
The “frame” or cup of the bra should actually come in contact with your breast and come back as far as possible on the sides so there is no “spillage” of the breast. There should also be no spillage from underneath the cup when you raise your arms.
“When you press against it (on the side), you should feel your rib cage, not breast tissue,” said Barnett, adding that this is why many women don’t like underwire bras. “They give you most support but can be real uncomfortable if you’re not wearing the right size.”
The band of the bra should be snug, with about two inches of give. It should also not ride up but fit securely and evenly with the front. “Typically, if you go up a band size, you go down a cup size and vice versa,” continued Barnett.
The straps should have about an inch of give when you run your fingers underneath them. “It’s the snugness of the band that holds up your breasts not the straps,” said Graham. Relying on the straps to support your breasts is not only uncomfortable but will cause the bra to wear out more quickly .
Our average-size bust model came in wearing a 36C bra. Graham put her in a bra, asked her how it felt (“Great!”), then asked her to guess what size she was wearing. Having no clue, she was flabbergasted when told she her correct bra size was 32DD. “I was excited when I got to a C cup,” she confessed, laughing.
Next up was our full-busted model, who came in wearing a 40DD. Rarely at a loss for words, she was speechless when told her correct bra size was 34H.
Putting their shirts back on and staring in the three-way mirror from every angle was all the proof they needed that size does indeed matter.
“Women get all hung up on the cup size,” said Graham. “They need to not focus on that. It’s more important to have a bra a fits you right and makes you feel good and look good.”
“This is why we love our jobs,” added Barnett. “We get to change women’s lives everyday.”