You know your bra doesn't fit right. You look at yourself in the mirror and you can see that something is off. Maybe the straps are digging in or the back is riding up. Maybe your cups are gaping or your back is bulging. Recognizing that there is a problem is easy. It's figuring out how to fix it that's the hard part.
By Charles Manning
"A lot of women just hold onto their bras for way too long," says Michelle Lam, founder and CEO of online bra boutique, True & Co., and overall bra-fit badass. "If you're the kind of woman who wears the same bra every day, you need to be prepared to replace it every 3 to 4 months." The reason, Michelle says, is that bras stretch out over time, especially if you have a larger bust, since your bra has to work that much harder to support you. "Think about it: if you're wearing your bra for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 4 months, that's over 10,000 hours of wear time. Of course it's going to get stretched out!" You can prolong the life of your bra by making sure it fits on the loosest set of hooks when you first buy it, but that's not much help when you're at home trying to figure out what to do with the bra you already have on. Some issues can be solved with a simple adjustment, but others require that you bite the bullet and go spend some money on a new bra. Here's how you tell the difference.
1. The Problem: You straps are falling down. The Solution: Adjust
"First off," says Michelle, "get a bra with some pretty straps so you won't mind so much when they fall down. Second, understand that straps stretch out faster than the rest of the bra, so they need to be adjusted more often. Definitely after every washing and, depending on how large your bust is, sometimes even in the middle of the day."
2. The Problem: Your straps are digging in. The Solution: Adjust
Tighten your band. "The band stretches out over time," says Michelle, "and needs to be adjusted so the straps aren't left to do all the work." If your straps are still digging in, look for a bra with wider straps for more even weight distribution, especially if you have a larger bust.
3. The Problem: Your band is riding up in the back. The Solution: Adjust
If your band is riding up in the back, but your cups a sagging in the front, Michelle suggests you try tightening the band for added support. But, if you're otherwise well supported, you may be able to achieve a better fit just by loosening your straps.
4. The Problem: The center gore is digging into your sternum. The Solution: Shop
You can try wearing a bra with no underwire, but if you're not getting the support you need, Michelle suggests opting for a plunge-style bra. "It won't connect with your sternum in the same place so it should be more comfortable, especially if you have a bonier chest."
5. The Problem: The center gore and the underwire are being held away from your chest. The Solution: Adjust
"I see this a lot in women with larger busts," says Michelle. "try tightening the band, but if that doesn't work you may need to go down a band size."
6. The Problem: You're popping out of the top of your bra (aka quadra-boob). The Solution: Shop
"If you're just popping out a little bit, try changing to a demi cup or balconette style in the same size," says Michelle. The reason is that demi cups support your breasts differently, allowing them to pool naturally instead of hiking them up and strapping them to your chest. If you are still bulging, though, you may need to go up a cup size.
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7. The Problem: Side boob. The Solution: Shop
A little bit of skin folding is natural. "We call it chicken wing in our office," says Michelle, "but if it really bothers you, try switching to a triangle bra to cover the area." Of course, if your spillage is more than just skin, switching to a different shaped bra probably won't cut it. In that case Michelle suggests going up a cup size to give your self more room.
8. The Problem: Your underwire is digging in on the side. The Solution: Shop
If your breasts come more from the side and your underwire is digging in, Michelle suggests going up a cup size until the underwire no longer pinches, then adding padding to fill any open space in the cups themselves. Yes, this will make your breasts look larger, which you may not want, but you're going to have to pick your battles.
9. The Problem: Back bulge. The Solution: Shop
Unfortunately, this is another time when a simple bra adjustment isn't going to cut it. Instead, look for a bra with a wider band and more of a scoop shape in the back, which will provide more even support and is less likely to leave you with unsightly back rolls.
If adjustments aren't cutting it, but you're still unsure what kind of bra you need to buy, try taking the bra fit test at trueandco.com and see what they have to say. The site is filled with cute, affordable options for every size and the people there are absolutely fanatical about fit.