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

139 Comments

  1. Makayla

    July 4, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    The bra I currently wear is a 44DD, and it is way to big in the band like extremely big. I’m not sure if I should go to a 38G , 36G or a 40DDD

  2. admin

    August 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Hello Kirsty,

    The 28dd-28e is very accurate. However, when you increase the band to a 30, the cups need to decrease to 30D-30DD, depending on the style. The 30F would be comfortable around the band. However, the cups are about 2 sizes 2 big which is why the wires are digging into you.

    As for your second question regarding the non-moulded bra, when the breast tissue does not entirely fill the cup, it could be that the cups are slightly big or the style itself is not suitable for your breasts’ shape.

    Even if your size is 28E, it does not mean that all the bras in that size will fit.

    I can offer you more personalized bra fitting help via email or on the phone.

  3. admin

    August 12, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Hello Dani,

    If the bra rides up in back, it generally means that the band size is too big.

    You mentioned 38 and 40 band sizes. If the cups fit you well when you wear a 38, I recommend a 36DD or 36E. If the same is true for the cup sizes for the 40 band size, try a 38DD or 38E.

    I welcome any questions you may have if you contact me directly via email.

  4. admin

    August 12, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Hello Jana

    Having read your description I find 2 issues, the first being the style and the second is how you can alter your bras to make them more comfortable.

    Regarding the style, I would try styles that are more demi bras or push-up bras, because the styles are wider in the front and would best suit your needs.

    As far as the second part of your question regarding the underwires digging into your breasts. I would try to bend the underwires outward in this way you will not feel the underwires digging into you, or try a style with a wider underwire that will encompass your breasts more comfortably. Or, you can try a wire-free bra.

    Let me know if you have any questions or contact me directly via email.

  5. admin

    August 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Having read your description of the issue you are having, you are definitely not wearing the correct size.

    If you are closing the bra at the loosest hooks in back and the bra is still leaving red marks, the size of the band you are wearing is too small. You need to increase the band to a 34 or add a bra back extender to the back of your bra, which will preserve the cup size.

    Do you have the same issues with all of your bras or just one?

    You also said that the bras presses in under your breast, does it press also on the sides. If it is under your breast tissue only, you should try a 32b. If the bra is tight both under your breast and on the sides, you should try a 34a.

    Let me know if you have any questions or contact me directly via email.

  6. admin

    August 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Makayla, if the band is so big, how’s the cup size? Is the bra laying flat on your breasts? Or do you think the cups need to be bigger as well? But I think you would need to measure your bust and underbust, and get back to me with your measurements so I can help you more specifically.

  7. sophie

    August 14, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Hello. I wear a 28dd but I have lost a little weight/toned up so I think I need to go down to a d cup, but my underwires are pressing against my body and I have red marks when I take my bra off. I cant go up a back size as they feel too big and ‘slip’ down my ribs. What do you suggest?

  8. Masia

    August 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Hello, I have a problem with some spillage in front or top in some bras, but buckling, wrinkling, or something in the bottom or side. I got resized in brands (Natori, Chantelle, or le Mystere) as 32D or sometimes DD/E but I think it may be off. I cannot even wear a Chantelle t- back at all now in any of these sizes, the line where I spill over in front is so embarrassing and visible, as well as the emptiness/wrinkling on sides or bottom. And the wires hurt.
    Can you tell me what shape I may have, and what brands are good? My best fit is Affinitas, going up 1 size in band and cup (34 DD) but I don’t know how the sizing and fit compare to Panache, Freya, etc. I tried Panache 32D, Andorra anyway, is a bit small and tight in band and cup. I’d love to have some more options in case they (Affinitas) are low stock.

    Thank you!!

  9. Kriti

    August 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    my band size is 26 and my bust size is 33 what is my bra size??? What is my cup size???

  10. ana

    August 31, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Hello. I currently wear a 34c but my boobs will sometimes slip under my bra when I lift my arms and when I tighten it I feel almost suffocated. Not only that when I lie down on my side or sometimes bend over my nipple will slip out from the inside of my bra. What should I do? My breasts are small so am I wearing too big of a bra and go to a b cup?

  11. melanie

    September 1, 2015 at 9:04 am

    ok, my biggest problem has always been underwire. digs into me. so i’m told that i need a bigger cup size. but i have gaps at the top in the one i wear now? suggestions? im miserable and only wear a bra when socially required.

  12. Priya

    September 10, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Hi,my size is from under bust is 29 inches and 36 inches. I am wearing right now 36B. I feel so uncomfortable by this size. My bra tissues are slip over from the bra, my shoulders are in pain all the time.
    They give me very fatty appearances. Pls admin help me, I want to get over with this embarrassment

  13. Simiya

    September 21, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    So for the past year I “self-measured” myself at a 38DDD/E. The front of my bra doesn’t rest against my sternum 100% to “separate” the girls, so I’ve just been shoving a sock or some other random cloth object between my breasts to keep them from touching.

    Yesterday, I went into a Victoria Secret and a JC Penney and I was measured at 42DD at both places. That’s a sister size to a 38DDD, so I was wearing the right bra size.

    I tried on the 42DD, and it has the same issue as I have with a 38DDD. The cups fit around my breasts all the way, but the band is too tight and the fabric between my breasts just doesn’t rest against my sternum. I tried on Bali. With a 38DDD it’s a bit too tight, but with a 40DDD the fabric mostly rests against my sternum but has too much cup room.

    For now I’m wearing a 38DDD plus a sports bra for the support. Should I try upgrading to a different size/down grading plus a bra extension thing?

  14. Stephanie Christine

    September 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Im ready to give up on bras im currently in a 30dddd… Cups fit fine anything smaller I spill out the top. My problem is all bras that fit around and in cup have the fabric where the straps attach in the front too close to my underarm and cuts at me everytime I move….errr

  15. Kuah

    October 7, 2015 at 2:56 am

    Hi, i have a problem, my bra cups have gappings in between and my bra back cannot be hooked at the last hook because it will be too tight. Im wearing 70A

  16. Amber

    October 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    I wear currently a 38DDD. I’ve always had the problem of my straps cutting into my shoulders. My cup size increases but my band size doesn’t and when I try to go down to a 36 size band it never fits around my rib cage. I can never seem to find the right bra. Do you have any suggestions for my problems?

  17. Laura

    January 11, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Hi there I recently went to a local department store & got measured at a 32F. I bought a double pack of bras, however after wearing for a few hours I am left with red marks under my breasts and it feels bumpy as well as red marks near my armpit.
    Would this indicate that I need to try a different size? If so what size should I try? I find it so confusing.

    Laura

  18. admin

    January 11, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Hello Laura,

    I am sorry to hear about your experience with an uncomfortable bra. I almost wonder if perhaps you were allergic to any of the fabrics in that bra? I would take a look at the labels if possible and see. If that is not a possibility, it could be that the band size is perhaps too small. Perhaps try going up a band size (34F) or even go to one of your sister sizes (34E) and see how that works for you. If not, please contact us again and we will see what we can do.

  19. Laura

    January 11, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Hiya, I have tried a 34 and it rides up at the back which suggests it’s too big.
    I don’t think I could be allergic I’m wondering if I need to go up a cup size?
    Would my measurements help?
    Laura

  20. admin

    January 11, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Hello Laura,

    That would be the next thing I would recommend. If you would like to send your measurements that would be helpful.

    You can also e-mail celine@nowthatslingerie.com with this information for a more detailed response.

    Thank you.

  21. Laura

    January 12, 2016 at 7:08 am

    I’m not 100% sure if I have measured right.
    Under bust 31″
    Fullest 37″

  22. admin

    January 12, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Hello Laura,

    Was the bra that you were wearing that caused irritation a wired bra? Chances are if it were, that the fact that it was ill-fitting would have caused what you had experienced. There are some other options for you here.

    It is possible that this bra was too large; it may not seem like it because you may feel the irritation was due to it being too tight, which could have been a possibility. The first thing we could recommend is going to a 32E and seeing how that works for you.

    It’s possible that the underwire of the bra you were wearing was too big; a trick to check is to take your two fingers and insert them under the wire, and bend the wire outward from your body until you can’t feel it anymore.

    Lastly, an option is to consider a wire-free bra (https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog.html?cat=130) or use a bra extender that will make the bra a little bit looser without increasing your band size, as that clearly did not work for you before.

    We hope one or all of these options help you. Thank you so much.

  23. Karin

    January 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I am wearing a 44C and the band and straps are good (some minimal slippage on the shoulders) There is a little gap at the top of the cups and the side wires poke in my arm pit/breast and make it uncomfortable. Is my cup to big or too small 🙂

  24. admin

    January 13, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Hello Karin,

    Thank you so much for reaching out to us. The slippage on the shoulders just might mean that you have to adjust them; it’s common for them to loosen with wear. You are correct in that your cup size is too small if you are experiencing those issues. Try going up a cup size and see how that feels for you.

    Thank you and please reach out if you have any more questions or follow-up questions.

  25. Nikki V.

    January 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I am wearing a 36 B and I have small breasts which are fuller at the bottom- whenever I first put my bra on it fills the cup nicely but shortly after moving around in the bra my breasts sink down into the cup causing a large gap at the top – also when I raise my arms over my head sometimes the bra slides over my breasts and they pop out underneath which is always a nightmare.
    Any suggestions?? Thank you!

  26. admin

    January 20, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Hello Nikki,

    Thank you for your inquiries. First of all, it appears that going to a lingerie store and getting measured is the first thing you should do. Your bras may be too big for you. You should never have gaps in your bras, and it should never lift up on you when you raise your arms.

    When you get properly sized and start shopping for bras, I would recommend finding bras with a sturdy underwire; if the bra fits correctly, it will not hurt you or bother you. Consider bras with little to no padding, and look for balcony or demi bras. You’ll get great support and can avoid having those gaps at the top of the cups.

    I hope that helps you and you find some gorgeous bras that fit you.

  27. Tracie

    January 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    I am wearing a 38ddd and the underwire doesn’t lay flat between my breast. Should I go down or up in cup or band size.

  28. Tiffany

    January 21, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Hello I’m wondering what is the best way to measure the fitting of a bra? Now that I’ve nursed 3 kids my bras don’t seem to fit correctly anymore or even feel comfortable. The last time I was measured at VS I was 36B, but they don’t fit correctly causing discomfort/pain. Any help would be great! Thanks!!

  29. admin

    January 22, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Hello Tracie,

    Thank you for your question. It is most likely true that your cup is too small, so you should try going up a cup size. When you do this, be sure to check for any gaps at the top of the cup or at the sides of your breasts near the arm pit. You can also consider trying a different style of bra, as underwires can vary between styles. A balcony bra or a demi-cup bra is a flattering option for all that tends to not have largely curved underwires.

    We hope this helps you!

  30. admin

    January 22, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Hello Tracie,

    Thank you for your question. It is most likely true that your cup is too small, so you should try going up a cup size. When you do this, be sure to check for any gaps at the top of the cup or at the sides of your breasts near the arm pit. You can also consider trying a different style of bra, as underwires can vary between styles. A balcony bra or a demi-cup bra is a flattering option for all that tends to not have largely curved underwires.

    We hope this helps you!

  31. admin

    January 22, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Hello Tiffany!

    As expected, having kids and nursing can dramatically change your body chemistry, including, of course, your breasts. Definitely go into a lingerie store and get measured again, as chances are, your breasts have changed since the last time you were measured. Once you get an accurate measurement again, try on different styles of bras – perhaps look for some non-underwired bras to relieve a little bit of pressure. It’s very possible to find these that still offer support (https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?underwire=10). Many women often stick to one style or type of bra and assume their size is wrong because it doesn’t fit well – sometimes it’s just that a different style is needed to complement her unique breast shape and offer a different type of lift and support.

    We hope this helps! Thank you for reaching out.

  32. Allison

    March 12, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I have been wearing the same bra size for a couple years now (34 DD), and haven’t had any issues, but in the past few months whenever I bend over my left boob will come out of my bra and I have to tuck it back in. Have my boobs grown or is it an issue with my bra? I’m only 19. Since I’m young and my boobs are big and not very perky I tend to prefer the pretty push up bras. I don’t want to have to give up sexy push up bras just because I have big boobs.

  33. admin

    March 14, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Hello Allison,

    Thank you for reaching out to us. Chances are, your breasts have grown a little bit which is completely normal. However, there is a chance, depending on how old your bra is, that it’s worn out and leading to your issues. Try adjusting that left bra strap and see how it feels. If it doesn’t help, I suggest getting remeasured as that’s the only way you’ll truly know if your breasts have grown.

    No matter what your size is, you will be able to find pretty bras with push up technology. There are some common retailers that only carry to a certain size, so you may just have to change where you buy your bras. If you do need to do some shopping, be sure to come back to us at nowthatslingerie.com and we can help you find a sexy bra that fits like a glove.

  34. Randi

    April 17, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I currently wear a 40dd but the wires tend to pop out as well as dig into my under arm area or a little more by my breast tissue I always have under fat what size should I try as I have never measured myself

  35. admin

    April 18, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Hello Randi,

    It sounds like you are wearing a bra that is too small. It’s hard to say what size you should wear, as we don’t have your measurements. However, we do have a great guide to help you self measure here: https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/how-to-measure-your-bra-size

    We hope this helps, and so you know, we sell up to a K cup so you can definitely find bras with us once you find you new size!

  36. Riley

    May 2, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I’m currently wearing a bra which fits perfectly when I stand straight.. But when I bend forward, or lie backwards, there is a gap between my girls and the bra cup. Any advise on reducing the cup size or band size?

    Thanks!

  37. admin

    May 2, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Hello Riley,

    Thank you for reaching out to us! Keep in mind that when you lie down or bend forward, your breasts will change form in a sense – they will hang or they will lie flatter, so that could be what’s causing that gap. It does depend on how big the gap is, however, If it fits perfectly when you’re standing straight, there may not be an issue, it may just be your breasts changing form when you change position. However, if you ever notice a gap between your breasts and your bra normally, or if the gap is big, then chances are you need to change your bra size. We hope that helps!

  38. Chris

    May 3, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Hi there,

    I had a fitting done at Torrid and was told I’m a 48C, they helped me pick out a bra and I can’t get used to it.

    It seems to fit well in the cup, straps and back, however the underwire extends down too low on my ribs and digs into my belly fat about 1″ under and away from the gore (which it’s flat against my skin). It leaves the area red and irritated and makes and is painful where it’s pushing into said fat.

    If I constantly push the bra up higher under my breasts from the underneath the wire, it’ll be fine for a little while, but it seems to migrate back down.

    Is my bra the problem, or am I just too fat to wear anything other than the soft cups that let me breasts sort of just hang there?

    Thanks!
    Chris

  39. admin

    May 3, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Hello Chris,

    Thank you for reaching out to us! We’re sorry to hear that you’ve been having an unpleasant experience with your bras. It definitely sounds like you are not wearing the right style of bra. It has nothing to do with your body, and it’s definitely possible to find a bra in your size with underwire. It is also possible to shop partial wire bras that will give you that support you are looking for in a wire, without it extending all the way around the bra. We’d recommend trying some different styles, like a partial wire, a balconette or demi cup which tends to have smaller underwire, or a bra without a metal underwire.

    Here are some suggestions of pages where you can find these on our website:

    Demi Cups: https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?coverage=47
    Partial Wire: https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?q=partial+wire&underwire=11&x=0&y=0
    Wire Free or Non Metal Wires: https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=non+metal+wire&x=0&y=0

    We hope these help! Please reach out to us again if finding a different style of bra doesn’t work for you.

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