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

276 Comments

  1. Kristy

    February 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Hello. I have now tried bras in a number of sizes – 32D, 34D, 32DD and 32DDD including a couple different brands and I am experiencing the same problem with all of them. The underwire in the centre on one side cuts into the bottom of one breast and is really painful. All I want is a basic t-shirt bra that does not cause pain and trying different sizes has not helped. Apart from the underwire cutting in the bras fit and look fine so I still wear them. What would you recommend? Thanks.

  2. admin

    February 14, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Hello Kristy,
    Thank you for contacting us.
    The reason why you have this issue is because the bra cups are all sized the same, meaning the left and right cups are identical. Most women don’t have identical sized breast tissue. In order for you to be more comfortable, I would suggest you bending the wire outwards, try the bra and repeat as necessary until you feel more comfortable. I hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Have a wonderful day. Celine

  3. Jamie

    March 4, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I’m having a problem with every bra I try on and am hoping someone can help me. I’m a 32 DD and with every bra I try on, the cups dig into the sides of my armpits. It is not the underwire that is bothering me. The underwire lays flat and comfortably where it ends. It is the actual side of the cup, between the strap and the wire. That part digs into me. I have no idea what to do. If I wear smaller cups that don’t cut into my armpits, my breasts are bulging out of the bra. I have been told I might be smaller than a 32 (28-30) but most places don’t sell 30 DD. Does anyone know about my issue? Could it be band size? Thanks for reading!

  4. admin

    March 6, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Hello Jamie,

    Thank you for contacting us. I hope all is well.

    If it is the underwire that is digging on the sides where the wires end, I would suggest you bending the wires outwards. You are, however, indicating that it is the cups that are an issue.

    We can address the sizing of the band now. Basically if you raise your arms and the band moves, you do in fact have to either tighten the band and if you hook the band to the tightest this still persists you need to go down a band to size 30 e or f. https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?size_1=231

    Now, let’s address the cup issue. If the breast tissue overflows at the sides, it means that you need to go up a cup, from 32DD to 32E or 32F. https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?size_1=273

    Should you want to talk we an set up at appointment, free of charge, if you email me your contact info or you can call me at 1-855-521-4244 .

    Have a great day. Celine

  5. ansu

    March 8, 2017 at 4:26 am

    Hi my bust size measure 33inch and underbust measure 28inch.which bra size will be perfect for me 32A or 32B or 32C?

  6. Ashton

    March 11, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I am having problems finding a good bra. I have been wearing a 38DD.. The band fits perfectly around, doesn’t dig in and doesn’t ride up in the back. My problem is the cups. DDD is too big, and DD doesn’t fully cover like it should (spillage in front and at sides of breasts is never covered correctly) I’ve tried other sizes, but nothing fits great. If the coverage is decent, it makes my boobs look pointy. I honestly just want a bra I can feel confident in and fits like it should. Im lost and have no idea where to go from here… Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer…

  7. admin

    March 12, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Hello Ashton,
    I hope all is well.

    I can definitely understand the issue and will try to help the best I can. I need to indicate that not all sizes are made the same. Going forward ater 38DD, 38DDD, 38E, 38F. You are most likely in between sizes. Since you mention in your email that the breast tissue appear conical it means you are wearing a padded bra. I would suggest one with memory foam which will appear rounder. Addressing the issue of the size, there are 38dd that are made deeper than others https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/9020-the-essentials-pure-plus-t-shirt-bra-by-montelle-intimates-72305.html. 38DDD sometimes = 38F. Hope this helps, if not please let me know.

    Have a great day. Celine 1-855-521-4244

  8. Jamie

    March 16, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you very much for your help, Celine. I’m going to try your suggestions!

  9. Amanda

    March 16, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Hello,
    Sorry for the delayed response. When I wear my bra and it has been freshly washed I put it on the last hook making it the widest it can go. The next 2 days I put it on the middle hook and then I wash it again. When I left my arms the band always moves. I only have one bra that the band does not move and it has no underwire, no padding, nothing, itseems my most comfortable bra but it is my night nursing bra.
    The brand of my nursing bra is motherhood, and non nursing ones that I have always had issues with are all one of 2 brands, Calvin Klein and LA Senza. None of my bras are padded or push ups ( which would be nice to wear on occasion) because my boobs spill out of those type giving me the double boob look..lol.
    Once again, I am sorry for the delayed response and thank you so much for responding to me. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you

  10. admin

    March 18, 2017 at 6:47 am

    You are most welcome Jamie,
    Don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
    Have a wonderful day
    Celine 1-855-521-4244

  11. admin

    March 18, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Hello Amanda,

    Thank you for your email and you are most welcome.
    If when you lift your arms the band moves, you definitely need to decrease the size of the band. You can also have a padded or push up bra in your size that would not give you the double breast look. It’s all in the size.
    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
    Have a great day.

    Celine 1-855-521-4244

  12. admin

    March 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Hello Ansu,

    Thank you for your question. According to your measurements, you want to go with a 32C.

    If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

    The NTL Team

  13. Emz

    March 30, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Just a note to say thanks for the advice – always assumed I was way too tiny for a B but as I was wearing 34A fairly tight I went down to 32B and was amazed how much better the cups fitted – no gaping at all. Also much easier to find choice in this size so I’m delighted. Band is now on the loosest setting as it did feel a little tight but aaauming it will stretch. It’s nice to feel secure and not worry about flashing someone anytime I wear a lower top.

  14. Fiona Jones

    April 6, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Hi Celine

    I am about to undergo shoulder surgery. I would like to purchase a Bra that closes in the front whilst i recover & rehabilitate etc. My problem is that after a bust reduction and settling etc I find that the Cup size I am wearing is a 24DD (Australian) but that the backis not wide enough so i need to put an extender on.

    I want to get the right bra to fit and will probably have to purchase from USA. How does one extend the size of the bra across the back but also get the right cup size as well? I can get the bra fitted cuurently with my shoulder issue.

  15. admin

    April 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    You are quite welcome.

    Sincerely

    Celine 1-855-521-4244

  16. admin

    April 6, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Hello Ms Jones,
    Thank you for your contacting us.
    I hope all is well.
    If the band is not wide enough you would need to increase the band to 26. If the cups of the 24DD are good then you would need a 26D because 24DD and 26D have about the same cup size. In the US this size corresponds to about a 50.
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
    Have a wonderful day
    Celine 1-855-521-4244

  17. Emily

    April 13, 2017 at 4:43 am

    Hello.
    My measurements are: underbust 28 and breasts 34.
    I’m currently wearing a 32DD but wanted advice on what bra would be best for me.
    I have no marks around my back or on my shoulders but I do get marks on my sternum and under my breasts and around the side of my breasts near my arm pits. The bra fully covers my boobs and does not rise up. I do sometimes find I yank down the middle part of the bra as it feels uncomfortable after a while.
    I wear t shirt or plunge bras, I can’t wear balconette bras as they hurt my middle part too much by digging in with their high under wire.
    I’ve used two measuring sources online and one suggested I would be a 28G and one suggested I’d be a 28E.
    Any advice would be great, I’ll also try to book into a bra fitting soon. Thank you

  18. admin

    April 14, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Hello Emily,
    Thank you so much for contacting us.
    I hope you are doing great today.
    I suggest you gently bend both underwires outwards and retry the bra. You should not feel the wires and thus feel more comfortable.
    As far as the sizing is concerned, we will address the band first. If you wear the 32 band bra at the tightest and when you raise your arms the band moves, then you need to decrease the band to a 28.
    From the measurements you have given me a 32DD, 32E, 32F would be convenient depending on the style. Some european countries do not use DD sizing instead the DD is replaced with E.
    This is the webpage for plunge and push up bras https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?cat=67&size_1=269. Our best seller and one that I would suggest is https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras/9020s-the-essentials-pure-plus-t-shirt-seamless-bra-by-montelle-intimates.html.
    I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
    Have a great day
    Celine 1-855-521-4244

  19. Leslie

    April 24, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I am 6′ tall and long in the torso. I have been fitted at a bra store but few brands have straps long enough for me at their longest length. I think I need to alter them but matching the strap material is difficult. Any suggestions?

  20. admin

    April 25, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Hello Leslie,
    Thank you so much for contacting us. I hope all is well.
    Instead of making the strap longer and looking for the same elastic, I would purchase satin of the same color and get a seamstress to make it longer and attach it to the circle at the bottom that holds the strap. You can use satin, non stretch lace, even chain as long as there is not stretch. It`s like giving a beautiful appearance to the bra and at the same time you getting exactly what you need.
    Hope this helps, if not I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
    Have a great day
    Celine
    1-855-521-4244

  21. Asha

    April 25, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Hlo my underbust measures 28.34inch and overbust 33.858inches.what would be my perfect bra.I haven’t got my perfect bra yet plz help.

  22. admin

    April 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Hello Asha,

    Thank you for contacting us. You would need a 34 e according the size you indicate. https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/all-styles-catalog/womens/lingerie/bras.html?size_1=291

    You should also take into consideration that not all bras are made the same. I welcome any questions you may have so don`t hesitate to ask. Have a great day. Celine 1-855-521-4244

  23. SHIVANI PATEL

    April 27, 2017 at 10:16 pm

    I want to wear a push-up bra but I always have this problem that when I choose to buy 34B, my boobs dont occupy all the space in the cups. But if I try on a 34A I am more likely to squeeze my breats to death. What do I do ? I would be glad if you help me.

  24. admin

    April 28, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Hello Shivani,
    Thank you so much for contacting us. It is evident you are in between sizes however I suspect that since not all bras are made in the same way, there may be a brand or style that would be suitable for you. Do you always purchase the same brand or are experiencing the same issue with all the bras?

    As far as a style is concerned, I would highly suggest a push up bra with removable pads in 34b. The purpose of a push up bra is to make the breast look larger in volume. I hope this helps. Please don`t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Celine

  25. Kathleen molloy

    April 30, 2017 at 2:05 am

    Hi there can you help me. I wear a 38dd and my boobs are very slightly popping out. What size is next up to that please

  26. admin

    April 30, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Hello Ms Molloy,

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Since the breast tissue is overflowing you would need need a deeper cup so the next size up would be 38E or 38F. I will explain. Some brands do not have 38DD instead they have 38E which is the same equivalence so the next cup would be 38F.
    Hope this is helpful, if not please let me know.
    Have a great day.
    Celine
    1-855-521-4244

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