The Secret to a Beautifully Fitting Bra

Amber Tolliver

Posted on December 20 2019

Pictured here is a Bowery bra. Follow our size guide to find the right size for you.

Is there life on other planets? Why are we here? What is my real bra size? All of the unanswered questions of the universe. Depending on the brand, cut and material I have been anywhere from a 32B to a 34D according to various bra calculators and at-home measurement formulas. I did a deep dive into bras and how to get the proper fit so you don’t have to. It’s time we start treating our racks right. 

Herstory Lesson 

The first modern-day bra was patented as the “Tucek Breast Supporter” by New York City’s  own Marie Tucek in 1893. While patents for “breast pad and perspiration shield” and two-piece corset sets had been filed by men prior to Tucek’s invention, these earlier attempts lacked the use of two separate cups and a front band bent to the shape of a woman's body. Until the late 19th century, women were donning full corsets to support their bosoms. A mixture of health concerns, World War II metal shortages and a growing feminist reform targeting the societal expectations of women’s bodies gave us the large-scale commercial intimates industry that we know (and sometimes loathe) today.   

The 1930s brought us the first commercial use of the term “cup size,” with just “small,” "medium” and “full” size as the options for every body and breast shape under the sun. However, these early systems had nothing to do with breast volume or body size. In fact, sizes 40C and 32C were the exact same bra! The advent of adjustable bands and straps, created later in this decade, allowed for great progress in bra sizing and fit. During this time, half of the patents for bras were owned by women. Invention and innovation were still male-dominated areas, but ladies continued to steer the course of lingerie and shapewear. 

Busting the Bra Myths

Now that we know all about bras past, it was time to get the present in order with my very first professional bra fitting. 

Armed with very little bra fit knowledge and a ton of questions for my fitting expert, I showed up for my appointment at a trusted British luxury lingerie brand with 80+ years of bra fitting under their garter belts. After being led through a velvet curtain to a small fitting room, I showed my bra fitting expert the very worn and very comfortable bra I purposely wore to show the level of comfort I was hoping to find with my new bra. To my surprise, she never pulled out a tape measure or measurement device. Instead, she looked at my breasts in my existing bra, felt a bit of my breast tissue nearest to my sternum and found my bra size. I had just met the bra whisperer. 

After a few more looks and touches we got down to trying on styles and talking perfect bra fit. Here's what my fitting expert told me. 

Which hook should I use? 

It's recommended that the loosest fit should be on the middle hook. You never want to purchase a new bra that only fits on the tightest hook because it defeats the purpose of getting a snug-fitting bra. You will get more wear out of the bra if you purchase to fit snug on the middle hook. Bras will give over time, but you want a close fit in your band. 

Should I still be scooping and swooping my breasts when I put a bra on? 

When putting on a bra you should first fasten in the back and then lean a little forward to allow your breasts to naturally fall inside of the cup. Then you can lift your breast tissue towards the center (sometimes called the scoop & swoop)  and lift the tissue up to set in place. 

My breasts aren’t the same size/shape - is this normal? 

This is perfectly normal. However, you always want to fit your bra to the fuller side of your breasts. 

Do I have to wear an underwire?

Most bras that will give you that great support have an underwire. It provides more structure. You can wear something with less structure, but know that it will not lift you. Women with smaller breast sizes may find it more comfortable to just wear a bralette with lace that will provide some support for your breast tissue. 

How often will my bra size change? 

It's advisable that clients come back and get remeasured every 6 months to a year. Our bodies can fluctuate greatly depending on factors such as weight, exercise, pregnancy, and stress and it is best to evaluate your bra needs accordingly... 

How long can I wear my bra?

Most women need 3-4 bras to rotate throughout the week. You can wear a bra on Monday, let it air out Tuesday, and wear it again on Wednesday. The second week, you wash it in cold water and alcohol-free laundry detergent. And lastly, a pro-tip: Invest in convertible bras with straps that can be worn in multiple ways (standard, halter, racerback, strapless). This will give you enough variety to last through multiple seasons with the same bra. 

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