I like to say a bra fits when it is comfortable, but that isn’t a very complete answer. What makes a bra comfortable?
Here is what you want to look for in fitting…this is most likely going to be the right mix of support and usability that will leave you going to a bra again and again because it is “comfortable”.
Band: Breasts are heavy, larger breasts are heavier and lactating breasts are heaviest. From an engineering point of view, the band (or frame) of a bra is the key to taking weight off your shoulders and back. Here’s the checklist:
• the band should sit horizontally around your torso, not riding up in back.
• the band should be snug, perhaps more snug than you are accustomed to (if your bras have not been comfortable).
• you should be on the loosest or second hook in when your size is stable*. This generally gives you one or two hooks to make it more snug as the fabric stretches over time.
Cups: Think of your bra cup as a cup or bowl that your breast should fit into – completely. The rim of that cup or bowl is your chest wall; if the rim is not sitting against your body, you need a larger size cup. If there is an underwire, it should always sit at the point where your breast and body come together. Here’s the checklist:
• your breast should fill the bra’s cups completely and individually when you lean forward.
• when you stand up there should be a smooth profile as the bra ends at the neckline…no extra lumps.
• when you raise your arms, your band and underwire should stay in place and you should not see your breasts peeking out below the band.
Straps are the last thing you adjust as you put on your bra. Yes, they will offer some support and need to be snug enough to stay in place. But it is not the job of the straps to hike your breasts up higher; that is a recipe for sore shoulders. Here’s the checklist:
• straps should look and feel like they are going to stay in place. Too loose and they will fall off your shoulders.
• there should be some leeway for shortening the straps after the fabric stretches a little. Some bras only have a small area for adjustment.
• make sure none of the strap hardware (metal slides or hooks) is sitting right on a bone.
Those are the basics. Certainly everyone’s definition of comfort is different when discussing the width of the straps or whether there is lace or how much stretch the fabric should have.
When you have a few minutes, try on the bras in your drawer and run through this checklist. Chances are it’s time you had a couple of new bras. The ones that have been comfortable have probably been worn and worn and worn. And why keep the ones that aren’t comfortable?
* I know pregnant and breastfeeding women’s size is far from stable. See “How Big Will I Get?” below.