There are lots of issues that can contribute to a poorly fitting bra, you may experience all, just some or only one of these issues. Even if you only see one of these signs while wearing your bra, it is worth considering how it can be addressed and fit improved.
Let’s do a check right now of the bra you are wearing, just thinking about what you can feel in relation to the points below. Next do a proper check, think about wearing your best fitting most comfortable bra and examine the fit in a good sized mirror, looking out for all the signs detailed below. You will need a pen and paper to note down your current size and then suggestions for size alterations depending on what issues you find. Bear in mind that the older a bra is (more than six months) the more likely it is to have stretched or have had its shape/wires distorted from washing and wear. Older bras may not provide a true indication of fit issues that may arise in a new bra of the same size.
1 – Band - riding up your back or too tight
Do you find yourself pulling down the back of your bra throughout the day? Even if it is just a bit, you may be wearing a band size that is too big for you. Try one or two back sizes down to get a firm fit. The band should sit level all the way around your torso, the back of your bra should be in-line with the bottom of the underwires at the front. If the band is higher at the back or arches upwards this will mean your bust is sitting lower than it should be at the front and the weight of your chest is not being properly supported by the band. The band of your bra provides 80% plus of the total support offered by your bra, so it is really important to get a snug fit - it is the foundation of a flawless fit. You should only be able to just get two fingers under the band and if you take your straps off the band should not move and still support your bust. A new bra should fit firm and snug on the loosest set of hooks.
TEST: Place your thumb facing outwards under the back clasp of your bra and try to pull the band away from your body. If you are easily able to pull more than around an inch away from your back then the band is too loose. If you aren’t able to pull even close to an inch your band may be too tight, you may experience the band cutting into your skin and harsh red marks. In this case you may need to increase your band by one size.
2 – Cups – Spilling over at the sides and/or front or baggy cups/wrinkles in cup material
Spillage describes where breast tissue is bulging out over the top or sides of the cups. The top of the cup may be too tight and digging into the top of your breast, and or the cup isn’t offering the coverage on the side that you need. Spillage can be subtle or quite obvious, you may have a ‘double boob’ effect or it could be less noticeable.
TEST: Put on your closest fitting t-shirt type top over your bra. If you don’t get a smooth line between the top of the cup and your skin, then you have some spillage. Try standing side on to see your profile, look closely when taking a breath and expanding your ribcage to see if bulging occurs.
Spillage indicates that the cup size is too small and you should consider going up a cup size.
If you have already found you need to go down in the back and have some spillage in your current bra it may mean you need to go up a couple of cup sizes or more. If you are unsure try using our measuring guide on the “Finding your Start Point Size” page.
If you have wrinkled cups or bagging where there is loose material, the cups may be too big for you. Check that your straps are adjusted correctly to the top of your shoulder, they should not be digging in or leaving indentations on your shoulders but should pull the cup material flat against your skin to support the volume of your breasts.
If you still have wrinkled cups you may want to try a cup size down, remember that the band size also affects the cup size, so if you find your band size needs altering your cup size will also need to be changed, even if you don’t experience any spillage in your current bra.
3 - Underwires – Poking or rubbing at underarms/Too high under the arms/Crossing in the middle/Digging in at the centre between boobs/Being held away from the body by breast tissue
Do you find the underwires poking into your breast tissue at the sides or digging in under the arms? Your breast tissue starts under your arms and maybe further back than you first thought. Your cups may be too small if you find the wires rubbing or digging in here, try going up a cup size. Equally if the wires are digging in at the middle you may find a larger cup size helps. A cup size that is too small for you may make your band feel artificially tight or uncomfortable even though the band may also be too big, bras are complicated things!
If the underwires are coming up into your armpit then the cup may be too big or you may have a breast shape that this particular style or shape of underwire doesn’t work well for. See more about different breast shapes, tissue height and type on our “Flawless Fit Factors” page. If your underwires are crossing in the middle the cups are most probably too big for you.
If you find the wires are being held away from your body by breast tissue then the cups are definitely too small to accommodate the volume of your breasts and you need to test out some larger cup sizes. The underwires of your bra should fully enclose each breast and sit flat against your torso all the way around the cup finishing back under the arms. The centre Gore of the bra should sit flat against your breast bone (described as good tacking). Soft or wireless bras may not tack well due to their construction and can depend on the fit and shape you have, particularly if you have a full bust.
Remember if you adjust your band size you also need to adjust your cup size, as the two work in conjunction with each other. If you go down a back size you will need to go up in the cup and vice versa, if you go up in the band you will need to go down a cup size.
4 - Straps – Digging in and leaving indentations in your shoulders OR Slipping off all the time
Straps digging in are often a symptom of too loose a band. Many women tend to over-tighten the straps in order to make up for the lack of support in the band. Again the band makes up 80% or more of the bra’s total support for your bust, the straps only cover the left over 20% shared with the cups. The straps don’t really provide the uplift that a bra should give, it is mostly about getting a snug band to lift and support the weight of the bust. Try loosening the straps a little and check the fit of your band, you may need to go down a back size or two.
Slipping straps could be just that they need to be adjusted or that the straps have stretched over time and need to be tightened. You should think about checking the straps every few wears to ensure they are still in the correct position, this applies to everyone and not just those ladies that experience slipping straps.
TEST: When straps are adjusted to rest at the top of your shoulder see if you can put two fingers under them. If you can great the straps should be comfortable and supportive but not too tight. If you can’t easily get two fingers under then your straps are too tight, if you can fit more than two fingers then your straps might be too loose.
Straps may also slip on certain styles of bra, if you have narrow shoulders. A Balcony/Balconette style bra for example has wider set straps than other styles in order to give a square shape neckline and to work better with boat neck or slash neck tops. Ladies with narrow shoulders can still wear this style bra but may need to try different brands to find a compatible fit. You could also try some strap converter products to bring the straps in at the back. These useful clip-like accessories convert the straps into a Racer back style and will help to keep slipping straps in place. Strap converters also help to give added uplift as they change the angle from which the straps pull the bust up as well as helping to hide straps in Racer back style tops and dresses.
The final reason for strap slippage could again be down to the band being too loose. If you adjust your straps when first putting on a bra and everything seems fine but then over the course of the day the straps slip, this could be the band. If the band is too large and riding up your back throughout the day; the straps then aren’t held down in the correct position at the back, have too much slack and slip off. Check the fit of your band as above, you may need to come down a back size.
Ok ladies well done, you have now covered all the basic fit points and checked your bra, did you find some signs of a poor fit? What next? Well now is the fun part, choosing lots of styles to try using your suggested size adjustments and running through the fit checks above. It may seem time consuming but see it as an investment in yourself, finding that flawless fitting bra can be a transformative experience!
If you found lots of issues with your bra fit or are just a bit confused and want a start point size to work from try using our “Finding Your Start Point Size” measuring guide.