Common Bra Fitting Problems & Solutions

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Revised April 11, 2013 by Celine the Bra Doctor

In my experience, more than 90% of women wear the wrong bra size. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Many women also take several different bra sizes, depending on the shape, cut, fabric and brand of the bra. To add to the confusion, most women are not entirely symmetrical, meaning they may have uneven breasts – click here to read my blog on how to easily fix your uneven breasts.

Your shape is unique, making it sometimes difficult to find bras that are made in standard sizes. Many large-scale lingerie stores do not have experienced salespeople to help you find your best personal fit. Today I offer you one of the most common bra fitting problems, with tips on how to fix it. Over the next few blogs, you will find a comprehensive guide on how to diagnose and solve each fitting problem, along with some images that will demonstrate the proper or incorrect fitting for bras.

But first… In a previous blog, I asked you to try on each of your bras and go through a checklist of items to see if your bras were the wrong size. It’s fun to do this with your girlfriends too, and they can help you see things you can’t. If it doesn’t fit, or if the elastic is stretched out, toss it or even better – RECYCLE it! Ask yourself these questions when you try on each bra.

One of the most common issues with bra fitting is the cup size, which is what I’m going to cover in today’s blog. (You can read about how to fit your bra back and bra straps in Parts 2 & 3 of Common Bra Fitting Problems & Solutions.) I have seen some women with red lines underneath their arms and breasts from where their too-small underwires dug into them painfully. This is NO GOOD!

Time for a reality check. It’s normal to change sizes and shapes over time. If your bras don’t fit you, don’t keep buying the same size. I have actually met women who refused to wear D cups because in their minds, that was too big. Size doesn’t matter as long as you’re comfortable in your bra. Seriously. If you don’t like it, cut out the tags! It’s not worth walking around all day long in discomfort, not to mention unhealthy!

Here’s how to find out if your cup size is working for you. First, make sure the rest of your bra is properly adjusted to be able to evaluate. This is where the bra fitting checklist above can come in handy.

How do you know if your bra straps are adjusted properly? Adjust your straps until you can comfortably slip your index finger between them and your shoulders, and without the straps cutting into your finger or slipping off your shoulders when you remove your hand.

How do you adjust your bra back? Your bra back is adjusted when you are able to comfortably fasten it on the middle or loosest hooks of your bra back closure without any bunching or causing bumps and lumps to appear. When you lift your arms, your bra back should not lift up.

Now it’s time to check to see if your bra cups fit properly!

Once your bra straps and back are properly adjusted, you should notice that your bra cups lie flat against your breasts without any bunching or space between your breast and your bra cup. Your bra also should NOT be cutting into your breasts in front or at the sides to create an unattractive double-boob effect or overlap. Your underwire should contour and envelop the entirety of your breast tissue under your arms, and lie flat against your ribcage and breastbone.

You know your bra cups are TOO SMALL when…

You can visibly see your breasts spilling out of the top and/or sides of your bra. Never, ever wear a bra if the underwire cuts into you or leaves red marks on your breasts or under your arms when you remove your bra at night! Underwire that is painful usually signals that your bra cups are too small. This can cause you serious problems aside from discomfort, like cutting off your body’s natural circulation to the breast tissue.

If your bra cups are too small BUT your bra back fits, start by increasing your cup size by one (e.g. from A to B, B to C, etc.) or finding a bra style that offers a wider and more flexible underwire. Or, even go wire-free: contrary to what some of you ladies may believe, wire-free bras can have comparable comfort and support to an underwired bra.

You know your bra cups are TOO BIG when…

If you’re experiencing gapping or folds in the fabric of your bra cups BUT your bra back fits, this can signal that your cups are too big. There shouldn’t be any space between your bra cup and your breasts; your breasts should completely fill the space without any spillage. Your girls should never slip out from your bra when you move around or lift up your arms (this is uncomfortable, not to mention this can make for an embarrassing fashion mishap!).

To fix these bra fitting problems and to make sure your bra cups aren’t too small, try to go down a cup size, like from a C to a B, until the underwire fits more snugly and your bra fits against your breasts without causing discomfort or gaps. Use the guidelines above to make sure you  have a perfect fit.

More bra fitting tips!

Some women have come to me with their doctor’s advice not to wear underwire because it’s “unhealthy”. If you’ve heard this before, know that it’s mostly because women typically wear bras too small for them, which can cut off circulation to the surrounding lymphatic areas. Since your body needs to clear itself of its toxins, it is necessary to ensure proper and natural circulation, and squeezing your breasts into a small bra may prohibit your body’s natural functioning. As long as you are wearing the right size, and your breasts are being supported but not squished, wearing an underwired bra should not be a problem. Also make sure not to wear your bra 24 hours a day. It’s important to let them relax and “breathe”!

Always remember that you should do self breast exams periodically, but these should never replace regular breast exams with your doctor. Click here to view images from the American Cancer Society on how to conduct a self breast exam.

Stay tuned for the next installments of Bra Fitting Problems to learn how to fit your bra back and bra straps properly, and discover more helpful tips to find your perfect fit!

Need personalized help to diagnose your bra fitting problems? Want me to guide you to find the right bra size for you? Contact me! Comment here below, or email me personally at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com. Plus, get more bra fitting tips by connecting with me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Celine, your Bra Doctor

bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com

172 Comments

  1. Nancy

    July 16, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Hello,

    I just bought a 40B bra. It seemed to fit well in the store. But when I wear it, after a few hours, the band rolls up and I’m constantly tugging on it. What’s up with that?

  2. admin

    July 17, 2016 at 5:20 am

    Hello Nancy,
    Thank you for contacting us.

    When you tried the 40b in the store it was comfortable however after wearing it the band stretched a little and is riding up because the band is too big. If the cup is comfortable then you should try a 38C size bra. A 38c would have a similar cup to a 40b but the band is smaller.

    Please let me know if you have any questions.

    Have a great day

    Celine

  3. Amy

    July 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I have been fitted numerous times at a 32c before and after having children. I get gaps between my breast and cups. However, a 34b band is too big. How do I fix this problem?

  4. admin

    July 21, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Hello Amy,
    Thank you so much for contacting us. The gap or unfilled space in the cups means that the cup is slightly too big. A 34 band would not help because you did not mention that the band was too big. You basically have 4 options. The first get a padded push up bra in 32c https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?cat=67&padding=8&size_1=279. A push up bra will push the breast tissue upwards and fill the gap of the cups. The second option is to get a push up pad https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/febf39010-silicone-flirt-enhancers.html. You can insert the pad at the base of the cups and this will have the same effect as a push up bra. The last option is get a smaller cup size which means going from a 32c to a 32b. The last option is to try tightening your straps to see if the gap is less noticeable. You should try a 32b if the gap is significant because you will be change a full size. Don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any other questions. Have a great day. Celine

  5. Jamie

    July 23, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Hi there! I’ve been having the most awful time getting a good bra since gaining some weight during nursing school. It’s so bad that I’m wearing a 5ish year old bra because it’s the only one I have that’s supportive even though I know the size is wrong! I’ve tried plenty of stores and bras since and spent a lot of money on bras that I hate within weeks. My issues always seem to be:
    -everyone sizes down my cups when measured, but with the slightest movement I’m busting out and my cups run over big time. Generally want to put me in a D, I’ve been known to wear a DD-DDD.
    -despite that, I’m still gapping at the front with any movement.
    -my straps always dig in. I’ve attributed this to my larger bust, but I’ve never had a good example of what it should be.
    -I was a 34 band, now I measure in 36 apparently. In the latest bra I purchased, it’s riding up and is completely unsupportive.
    HELP!

  6. admin

    July 24, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Hello Jamie,
    Thank you for your email.

    I hope all is well.

    From your description it is evident that you are not wearing the proper size and style.

    Going forward DD+ cup size bras requires a full support bra. If the band rides up it means that the band is too big. The size of the brand is proper if you hook in the middle or loosest and it is comfortable. When you have the bra on you can lift your arms and if the band does not move, than the size is perfect. Let’s address the cups. You did not mention if you are wearing underwires. I would suggest an wireless bra so that you can be more comfortable. As far as the size is concerned I would try a 34E or 36E which is between DD and DDD. After having adjusted your straps, there is breast tissue overlapping on the sides increase the cup size, from DD to E or E to F and so on. A good example of a supportive bra is the following https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras/577-rhianna-wirefree-full-support-bra-royce-lingerie.html. If both the band and cups are properly sized you will not have the issue of the straps digging in. You can also find shoulder cushions for the bra straps https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/40007-silicone-shoulder-cushions-by-fashion-essentials.html. They will definitely help. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Have a great day. Celine

  7. Kristen

    July 31, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I have trouble finding bras that fit well. The same bra will have cups that are both not wide enough (it digs into both the inside and outside of my breasts) and too big (it gaps a lot at the top). Even with wireless bras where the armpit area isn’t as much of an issue, I can’t find a bra where the connector between the cups lays flat against my chest. It’s like my breasts are just closer together than normal bra cups and also extend farther around under my arms. Are there any non-uniboob bras that DON’T try to separate the breasts? Wireless is also a plus so it doesn’t dig on the outsides. Also, my torso is short so I need straps that can be adjusted significantly shorter and preferably cups that don’t come up too high. Demi cups fit me like normal cups fit normal people and full cups show in most shirts I own like normal v neck and scoop neck shirts – Nothing very low cut. Is there anywhere that makes custom bras? Is that my best bet?

  8. admin

    July 31, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Hello Kristen,
    Thank you for your reaching out to us.
    As soon as you wrote that the cups gap at the top, I knew immediately the issue. It is with sizing and styling. Let me explain. The full cup bras you have are too deep and thus the top gaps. When you said that the demi cups fit you like normal it is because you need a balconette style. If the bra has underwires they need to be very wide. I would be more than happy to suggest a few styles. Would you be able to let me know your size and the color you are looking for?
    Have a wonderful day

    Celine

  9. kacey

    August 9, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    My bra Underwire bra digs in under my breasts….please help…I am wearing a 36 d

  10. admin

    August 10, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Hello Kacey,
    Thank you so much for contacting us.

    The bra can dig under your breasts for a couple of reasons. The band may be too small and the wires are digging in under your breasts. The solution to this is try a 38C cup bra which is the equivalent to a 36d in the cup but wider in the band. You can also get a bra extender https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/bf50504-bra-back-extender-2-hook-special-european-bra-back-extender-fashion-essentials.html which will definitely alleviate the pressure from the underwires. You can also try bending the underwires outwards and retry the bra to see if you feel the wires. Lastly, it could also be that the styling for the bra is not convenient for your silhouette. You would get a style with a wider wire like the following https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras/p5191-padded-bra-by-affinitas-parfait.html. I welcome any questions you may have so please don’t hesitate to ask. Have a great day. Celine

  11. Mari

    August 21, 2016 at 1:02 am

    I bought a wireless bra from target in 34B. Usually 32B is too tight for me. But while wearing it the band of the bra rolls upward and creates a lump underneath my clothes…I read on here that it indicates that the band is too big…but I’m not sure that’s the case for me as the 32B seems to be too small on me… Any suggestions??

  12. admin

    August 21, 2016 at 5:29 am

    Hello Mari,
    Thank you for contacting us. I hope all is well.
    Not all bras are made the same so it could very well be that the one you purchased has a big band. Hook your bra in the middle, adjust your straps and raise your arms, if the band rolls up, the size in in fact too big. I also need to indicate that going from a 32B to a 34B, both the cups and band increase. If you were looking just for the band to be bigger and the cup to have the same size the size up would be 34A.
    Please let me know if I you have any questions. Have a great day. Celine

  13. Meghan

    August 21, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Hello! I was recently fitted into a 36H, but the fitting didn’t include any breast tissue adjustment after putting on the bra. When I scoop myself into the cups, there is about 2 fingers width of fabric between where my breast ends and the underwire at the bottom of the cup. There is no spillage over the top of the cup, the gore sits firmly on my body. All my tissue is contained in the underwire on the sides under my arms, butthe wire might be back too far on my body. I’m not sure. Does that extra space between my breasts and the underwire underneath indicate that the cup is too big?
    Thanks!

  14. admin

    August 21, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Hello Meghan,
    Thank you for reaching out to us. Once you scoop the breast tissue into the cups there should not be any space between the breast tissue and the underwires. Make both the straps and the band a little tighter. Retry the bra, scoop the breast tissue in the cups and see if you do in fact obtain the same effect, if you do, either the style or size is not convenient. If the bra is the correct size and style, there should not be any excess material. I welcome any questions you may have, so don’t hesitate to ask. Sincerely, Celine

  15. Sideah Taylor

    August 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Hey so I wear two different sizes… The first one is a 40c but my breast don’t stay in.So I went a size which is a 42c but my bra rides up my breast and there’s a gap between the bra and my breast.I love the full look the 42c gives but obviously I’m not wearing the right size please help.

  16. admin

    August 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Hello Sideah,
    Thank you for contacting us. I hope all is well. Because your explanation was excellent the answer is very easy. The size 40 band is comfortable but the breast tissue is too big to fit in the C cup. In the 42 band the bra rides up because the band is too big but the cups are comfortable. All this to say that your size is 40D. Let me explain. 42c = 40d in the cup but not in the band. So size 40D would be your ideal size. Let me know if yo have any questions. Sincerely, Celine

  17. sandrakendall

    August 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    I wear a 42ddd but the back rides up. If I went to a 40ddd will this solve my problem?

  18. admin

    August 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Hello Sandra,

    Thank you for contacting us. If the bra rides up you do need a 40 size band however you would need an EE or FF cup so the size you have to try would be a 40FF. A 40ddd has a smaller cup than a 42ddd. I hope this helps. I welcome any questions you may have. Have a great day. Celine

  19. Sideah Taylor

    August 23, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Thanks so much! Will that the same size apply for a strapless bra?

  20. Tara

    August 23, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Hi,

    I’ve had numerous bra fits throughout school and have been told I am a 30DD only to be measured the same day (by a different fitter) and told I was in fact a 32D. One year later, I was measured once again and am currently wearing a 32C. This bra size fits fine, except there is a slight breast spillage at the side which is noticeable when I put my bras on and sometimes the strap at the back will start to climb up my back. I am tired of being told of sizes that are unrealistic for my body shape or breast size, so what should I do before buying more bras? (Something I am considering since the wire has poked through on a couple, causing me to throw them away) Should I avoid fitters and attempt to measure myself, or is this a problem that can be easily fixed?

  21. admin

    August 23, 2016 at 8:45 am

    You are most welcome Sideah. This size would apply for the strapless or sports bras as well. Let me know if you have any questions. Sincerely, Celine

  22. admin

    August 23, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Hello Tara,
    I hope all is well. Thank you for contacting us. I would like to address the fact that not all bras are made the same and it is a fact that you will wear different sizes. Sizing depends on the fabric and style. You were first measured 30DD and then 32D. The cups are the same however with the 32 the band is a little bigger, that’s the only difference between both sizes. With that said a 32C bra is smaller in the cups which results in the spillage or overflowing of the breast tissue you are having. This is not the size for you. Since the cups are the same for 30DD and 32D, the only remaining thing to do is to find out the preferred band size. This will determine your exact size. If with the 32 band you hook up the bra to the tightest and when you lift your arms the band moves than you need to go to the 30 band and therefore 30DD. If at the loosest not the tightest hook the 30 is too tight than you need the 32D. I hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to email me should you have any questions. Sincerely, Celine

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