It's too bad really, considering how easy it is for women to go in and get a bra fitting for free at their local lingerie retailer. The problem is that not all brands and styles fit the same way, which means you're not necessarily always the size you think you are. With Valentine's Day around the corner and many women on the hunt for special undergarments, we enlisted Jene Luciani, a style and bra expert and author of "The Bra Book," for tips to ensure that you are wearing the best, most flattering, and yes, most comfortable bra possible.
Do you really think 64 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size?
Through my research I think this number is more like 85 to 90 percent! The biggest complaint I hear from women who go to bra specialty stores is that the fitters don't tell them what they're doing. They just try to upsell and make shoppers reliant on them so they keep coming back. It's important for women to be educated consumers when it comes to bras, and that's part of why I wrote "The Bra Book," so women could get educated first and have fun with it too.
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So how can you tell if you're wearing the wrong size? The underwire beneath the cups should not be riding up or digging into breast tissue. This could mean that you need a larger cup size or the band size is too big, causing the bra to shift around on your body. The bridge, which is the center piece between the two cups, should lie completely flush against your ribcage. If it is extended away from your body, you likely need a larger cup size or a different-style bra.
Are certain styles of bras dramatically better for different shapes and sizes of breasts?
Absolutely. Most women have their favorite style of bra, but it's important for women to really shop for bras based on their body shape and their breast volume and shape. Most fuller-busted women with large, heavier breasts might not opt for a padded push-up T-shirt bra since that's just going to make them appear larger. Women whose breasts are fuller at the bottom do need a push-up of some sort, but they may want a lace style with an underwire as opposed to a molded-cup T-shirt bra that's going to possibly give them gaping at the top. It's all about trial and error.
We often assume that expensive is better. Is it possible to find a great-fitting bra on a budget?
My biggest recommendation is to go to a store with a large selection. Stores like Marshalls and T.J.Maxx are great choices because they carry a variety of really high-quality and brand-name lingerie at amazing prices. With bras, you do get what you pay for, so you want to buy quality, but that in no way means you have to go to a specialty shop and spend $100 on a bra. Since we need to switch out our bras at least once a year due to wear and tear, you'll feel a lot better doing that when you've spent less on a bra without sacrificing quality.
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How tight should the band be, and which hook are you supposed to use?
Ideally, you can use the middle hook so you have a place to go when, for example, you have your period and your breasts are a little larger you can switch to the loosest hook. Or, if your bra is starting to stretch out but it's too soon to toss, then that's the time to switch to the tightest hook.
What does it mean if the band keeps riding up in the back?
This could mean a couple of things. For women who have very large, heavy breasts, it could simply be the weight of their breasts. It could also mean that you're wearing a band that's too big. When it's fitting properly, it should lie horizontally across your back. Also check your straps – if they are adjusted too tightly, it could cause the band to ride up.
What about straps? They're often either falling down or digging in.
If they're too loose, they either could be getting stretched out from wear and washing, or the band size is too big. If they're digging in, you may need to adjust them, or you may need to look for cushion straps or something with a higher comfort level.
We've heard before that a 34C is about the same as 36B, and so on. Is this true?
Yes. Bra sizes are based on volume, and the number works with the letter. They're not independent of one another. Therefore, if you go down in band size and up in the cup, you generally get the same-size bra. However, there is no consistency in brands with their fit models, so you could be five different sizes in five different bras. It's trial and error at the stores, and sizing is only meant as a guideline.
How often should you wash a bra?
They should be washed between every use! The dirt and oils in our skin really break down the elasticity in the fabric, causing them to wear out faster.
And finally, how do you know when your bra has worn out and it's time to pitch it?
There are lots of signs to help tell, such as tearing or shredding, stretching out of cups or straps, bending of underwire, and just not fitting right anymore. Then it's time to toss.
For more tips on undergarments, check out the video below:
The Most Flattering Lingerie for Your Body Type
Finding the perfect bra size
Your Ultimate Bra-Shopping Guide