Common Bra Fitting Problems & Solutions

By  |  77 Comments

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.

Bra Fitting Problems: When Your Cup Size is Too Small or Too Big by Bra Doctor - Now That's LingerieYour 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.

Bra Fitting Checklist by Bra Doctor - Now That's Lingerie

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.

Bra that fits properly - Bra Doctor

Your bra fits when the underwire lies flat against your body under your arms, below your breasts and at your breastbone, without any spillage or gapping in the cups. Style shown: 4001 Brigitte bra by Bra Doctor

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

77 Comments

  1. admin

    January 28, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Sherry,

    From what I understand here, depending on the brand you may need a 34DD bra (which for some companies is a 34E or could also be equivalent to a 32E with a bra back extender). But to know for sure I’d have to find out more information about the styles you are trying (because depending on the bra style, your bra size could be different). E-mail me at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com – I’m happy to help you more personally to find the bra styles that would be best for you. :)

  2. admin

    January 29, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Megan, thanks for your question.

    I understand that when bra cups “fold over” the bra band the cups may be a little small, so the breast tissue is straining too much against the cups and therefore folding the bra band. The material of the cups is probably very soft to do this. If you are getting red lines, you likely need a 36 band. As for the cups, I would need to know if there is any spillage of your breast tissue on the sides of your bra.

    It seems that your bra is likely too small for you, and also that your bra offers very light support. When a bra fits properly and is supporting you adequately at the cup level and also at the back level, you won’t feel the need to adjust your straps so tightly.

    I hope this is helpful to you. I can also help you more personally if you email me at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com. :)

  3. Emily

    January 31, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Hello! I am currently 6 months pregnant and am having all kinds of bra drama. It didn’t take long for the 36 B I was wearing to become very uncomfortable with my growing bust. I then decided to to with more of a sports bra or “flexible size” bra, such as one by Bali that is simply “small, medium, and large” sizes, but have found that 1.) They are not as supportive, and 2.) After only a few weeks I find these bras cutting under my arms, especially when driving and it is very uncomfortable. Do you have any recommendations for a good bra I can check out and recommendations for fitting during pregnancy? I’m definitely on a tight budget, but a few good bras would be considered worth it over a bunch of new bras that don’t fit or only fit for a short amount of time.

  4. N

    February 2, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    hi,

    im 17 and wear a 32DD at the moment however i have noticed the underwire appears to be digging in under my breasts and leaving red marks however it appears to be almost flat against my skin with no gaps in the band. help please!?!

  5. N

    February 3, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    hi,
    since then i have noticed a little gap by the sternum but its very uncomfortable and keeps riding up into my breasts.

  6. Analea

    February 6, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I’m kind of having the same problem as N, except I wear a 32A. It looks like my breasts fill the cups at the tops and middle, but there’s a tiny bit of space between the outer edges and the bottoms–the outer “corners” of the cup and the middle of the bra stick up a little bit. When I push those gaps down, my breasts look rounder. If I wear my bra on the lowest hook, the outer edges stay down, but the bra feels slightly too snug (I currently wear it on the middle hook). Also, if I raise my arms above my head, the cups ride up a bit. The underwire leaves indentations, but I don’t notice any pain–my measurements are 27″ and 29″, if that helps. Should I consider moving to a 30B? Or 34AA?

  7. Mary

    February 13, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Recently I was professionally fitted for a 32K bra. I don’t fall out, I don’t slip under, on almost all counts it fits perfectly. But for the last few months (both before and after I got fitted) I have gotten red marks under my breasts from the underwire. I don’t go a whole day without them, and they are very painful. It has not resulted in scarring yet, but it still hurts. I have tried a few different brands and different band/cup sizes. Is there anything else I should look for? Or should I invest in putting padding along the underwire in my bra?

  8. admin

    February 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Hi Mary, great question.

    While adding some cushioning along the underwire area so it’s more comfortable for you is not a bad idea, it may be that you are getting red marks because you are not wearing the right size or styling for you on a cup level, or the underwire is not the right shape for your body. However you may also be experiencing this because the bra back is too small.

    Where are you closing your bra back now? Loosest, middle or tightest? How are your straps being adjusted? A big issue is a lot of gals like you with a small back and big cups, often feel a lack of support in their bra so tend to adjust their back and straps too tightly to try to get more lift. This can also cause red marks.

    If you’re at the loosest in back but it’s still leaving red marks, A quick fix and test would be to first try a bra back extender, which may help add a few inches in the back of your bra (you can optionally adjust this to your own comfort). You can find an extender for any width of back band by clicking here.

    I’m happy to help you more personally if you want to contact me at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com.

  9. admin

    February 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Hey Emily, congratulations on your pregnancy!

    So many women are uncomfortable during pregnancy because of all the crazy changes that happen to your body. Boobs especially.

    Seems that your bra back is too small or the way that the wings are shaped are not offering any real support so that you experience discomfort under our arms. This is also potentially a bra cup size issue.

    I ALWAYS recommend a good wire-free bra for women who are pregnant, like these from Royce Lingerie (from AAA to K cups) which are total winners and can still be worn after you give birth.

    I think some handy blogs for you to check out are: All You Need To Know About Maternity Bras and also Underwire or Wire-Free Nursing Bras? – A Mother’s Prerogative

    One more recommendation is a bra back extender – they are some of my pregnant clients’ favorite tool because you can add 1-3 extra inches to your back band – meaning a more flexible fit for someone whose size seems to be fluctuating all the time!

    I hope this helps but feel free to contact me directly at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com.

  10. admin

    February 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Hi N,

    To help I really need more info as to where you are closing/adjusting your bras in the back and at the straps.

    Also do you notice this more at certain times in your menstrual cycle? Would you say your breast size fluctuates often depending on your cycle?

    I think your cups are a bit too small and your bra back too big, causing you pain. (You may be better off in a 30E bra, for example, but depending on the style and brand.) The riding-up effect can also happen when the back is too big and doesn’t lay flat all the way around, which makes you feel a lack of support which can in turn give you the urge to adjust your bra straps even more. If you feel this urge you most likely are not wearing the right size.

    Also because you are young and growing, it may be that the shape of the underwire is no good for you (e.g. not wide enough to completely encase your breast tissue). I can also recommend for you some bra styles that would be good for your fluctuating bust if you email me at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com.

  11. admin

    February 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Analea,

    You’re totally right that you’re having sizing issues and need to change your bra size.

    It sounds to me that it’s not just the bra size but also the bra shape that is causing you some difficulties.

    I think maybe your A size bra cups are too small and your bra back is in between a size 30 and a size 32. I would suggest a 30B with a bra back extender. The extender will give you extra room to move around in the back, but the 30B cup is equivalent to a 32A (approximately) but will gather your breast tissue more from under your arms. The extender will transform your bra into a makeshift 32B, but not a real 32B (because a real 32B is equivalent to a 30C cup and would be too big).

    Another common problem for women with A or small B cup breasts are that the shape of the bra are often not made for someone with a smaller bust, especially if you have a wider breast. I would try a balcony bra shape or demi shape that is a bit wider at the underwire so that it covers your breasts on the sides more and then gather all of your breast tissue to create a more round shape and a better fit.

    You should watch our video: Small Boobs: 5 Most Common Bra Fitting Problems SOLVED!

    Honestly it would be best to communicate with me personally at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com so I can know what you have tried in the past and the brands you are wearing now, to recommend a proper bra size in each style for you.

  12. Stephanie

    March 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Hello, I am also having bra issues. My measurements are 28″ and 35″. Right now I am wearing a 34C, and I know that is incorrect. The gore of my bra does not lay flat against my chest and I am always tugging at band and the wires in my cups. Would you have any idea what bra size I should be wearing? I have been fitted before and always get 30D or 30DD. Do you agree?

  13. admin

    March 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Stephanie,

    Although it sounds like you could certainly wear a 30DD, this is not necessarily the only size for you – and also the size you take in one brand may not be equivalent to the same size in another brand. Your remark that “The gore of my bra does not lay flat against my chest and I am always tugging at band and the wires in my cups.” is a bit unclear – are you tugging at the band because it’s too big (which is likely the case), and is your bra not laying flat because it’s rising up? What’s happening to your underwires – are they digging into you at the sides, bottom or between your breasts? How are you adjusting your back band and your bra straps? These are important to know as well so I can provide you with the best possible bra fitting advice for you!

    To be 100% sure to get the right fitting, it would be advisable to contact me directly at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com.

  14. Steph

    April 9, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Hi there. The problem I have with bras is my boobs are 2 different cup sizes. I fit the bigger one, but with this I then have gaping in the smaller one. My boobies are saggy :(, but I have a beautiful child to thank for that :). I have spent hours trying on bras and seeing what fits best and what feels best. Other than the different cup sizes (I am not going to have surgery to correct this so I want to figure out what to do with this). I also do not like having a bulge on the sides where the bra sits, a 36 is too tight around but a 38 is too big around as no matter what type of bra it always starts out great at the beginning of the day but with all my moving around it seems to stretch during the day, thus it starts to ride.. any thoughts on this? I have wondered about adding a set of bra eyes (not the hook part).

  15. admin

    April 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Hi Steph,

    You should try a balcony or demi cup style that will help minimize the appearance of unevenness.

    Always fit the larger breast, as you are correctly doing. For the gapping side, fill with a bra pad to minimize the difference.

    For your back band, it sounds like you need a 36 with a bra back extender, rather than a 38 (you are probably more like a 37, so a bra back extender will help you achieve this quickly and effortlessly as it clips directly onto your bra without sewing required).

    After you try your bra with the back extender, and if your larger breast is not fitting properly in the bra and is spilling out the sides or top, you need a new bra size.

    If you need more help I can personally assist you if you email me at bradoctor@nowthatslingerie.com.

  16. Pingback: Bra Fitting, Some Bras Just Won’t Fit You… | Better Bras Canada

  17. Mishka

    June 13, 2014 at 4:01 am

    Hi Celine, I really think I’m not wearing the right brassier. I feel like my bra fat is suffocated. I really want to get rid of my back fat. I read an article from http://www.enhancementscosmeticsurgery.com/5-ways-get-rid-bra-fat/ which gave a lot of exercise tips and I really think your checklist is a great help to maintain right fitting and get rid of painful red lines. Thanks for this entry.

    Warm thanks,
    Mishka

  18. Nicole

    June 15, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    I currently wear a 34C and I have gaps between my breasts and the bra, but also have red marks in my underarms after removing my bra. What am I supposed to do?

  19. admin

    June 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you Mishka! I’m always happy to help. :)

  20. admin

    June 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Hi Nicole, sounds like your bra cups are too big. You may need a B cup rather than a C cup or need to try another style. Where are you closing your back band currently?

  21. Weberk12

    July 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Hi, I currently wear a 38C. I love the way the bra fits but it irritates me when my breast fall out of the bra, I like to wear padded plunge type bras. Should i change the style of bra i wear or do i need to go up a cup size. Which is the next cup size? 38D?

  22. admin

    July 24, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    If your breasts are falling out of your bra, you probably need more coverage, like with a balcony style bra. But if you like the plunging look then definitely do go up to a 38D to see if it is because you need an extra cup size. If that’s too big, then opt for a balcony bra instead.

  23. a safo

    July 26, 2014 at 10:42 am

    pls help I have problems with the breast tissue near my under arms it spreads out when I wear strapless bra and it looks funny when I wear sleeveless clothing. I was considering sewing in the side panel would that help? I am a 36 DD and have gone up in cup size to prevent such but it still happens .

  24. admin

    July 27, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Sounds like you need a bra fitting. A proper fitting strapless should envelop virtually all of your breast tissue and not cause lumps or bumps. I don’t know if a side panel would work but a bra with wider back wings that is the right size should also do the trick.

  25. admin

    July 27, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    I am not sure if the reason your breasts are falling out are because your cups are too small or that it is a plunge style you are wearing. Yes the next cup size up is 38D, but keep in mind that plunge styles are a deep V shape, and do not offer much support and expose more of your breasts, so if your breasts are falling out of the front then going up one more cup size may not solve the problem. You should probably consider a bra with more support and coverage, like a balcony bra. Don’t worry! Balcony bras are still very sexy and offer a beautiful cleavage. Check out some of our balcony bras here, from cup sizes B to K.

  26. Trinity

    August 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Hello, I’ve been having bra problems for about a year now. My measurements are 31 underbust and 41 bust. I started having issues when I outgrew the 36 DD. I have tried the 36 DDD in a full coverage but it is too large in the cup (perhaps a push up would fit in that size?). Since then I have bought three different bras in the 34G (US) Curvy Kate (balcony), Parisa (pushup) and Rosme (full coverage). Though they fit right in the cup (excluding the Parisa, because it was a push up it was about two cup sizes too small). They all give me the same problem. The underwire is not wide enough to encompass the tissue under my armpit and leaves red marks on my rib cage, it is almost like my breasts are pushing the wire into my ribs. I have tried bras in the 38 D but they are way too large in the band. My breasts are wide and low. Please help me!!!

  27. Trinity

    August 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    *****Also I have been bra fitted three times. It seems that the bra fitters were more interested in making a sale then finding me the right bra. Victoria’s Secret didn’t carry my size. JC Penny convinced me to buy a 36D which I returned the next day. And the last fitter only had minimizers in my size….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>