The most common (and critically important!) factor women get wrong with their bra fit
(3 minute read)
When we ask women in store what size they would generally pick for themselves we almost always get the same response. Their hands cover the eyes 🤦🏽♀️, their head drops and they exclaim something along the lines of "I really have no idea 🤷🏽♀️", "it's honestly been years since my last fitting" or "I couldn't tell you what size, but I can tell you it's not working".
It's not hard to realise for oneself that the size is wrong if the bra doesn't seem to be "working" for them, but what can be hard to understand if where it's going wrong and how to fix it.
The most common part of bra fitting that women get wrong happens to also be the most important part. That being, the firmness of the ribcage band.
This is where the support magic happens, so there is no room for error. The band that runs around our ribcage is responsible for taking the weight of the breast and stabilising breast displacement during activity (that means reducing bounce 😉). If it's not fitted properly the weight of the breast tissue gets transferred to the shoulders and breast bounce simply won't be controlled during activity.
How should the ribcage band fit?
The band that runs around the ribcage should fit firmly. Firm, not uncomfortably tight. You should be able to pull the band out off your back about 1 inch, any more and the ribcage band is too loose to function optimally.
If the band sits firm, it will sit low and stay in place. We want our ribcage band to be positioned in line with the front of the bra. It should sit as per this image below 🙌🏽.
Noting that if it is fitted with the correct firmness, when you put your arms in the air the ribcage band will stay in place and the underwires won't move 🏃🏽♀️.
What happens if it's not fitted correctly?
If the band around the ribcage is too loose it will ride up the back and lose its ability to "do its best work". As you can see the back of the bra now sits high and the front sits low. The breast tissue is now unsupported. This is called the see-saw effect, it's what us bra fitters dread seeing women experience as we know they must be uncomfortable and unsupported.
Another side effect of this being fitted too loose is that the ribcage band and underwires will move when you raise your hands in the air. This is why most women don't actually like underwire, it's very uncomfortable to have underwire moving against you and poking in to you all day 🙅🏽♀️.
Tips to nailing your 'bra band' fit
- Ideally, having your bra fitted by an experienced bra fitter is going to be your best option. Shopping at smaller independent stores generally yields the best results as its often the store owners or their carefully trained staff doing the fittings. Specialty retailers really care about their customers in store outcomes 💕.
- Always fit your bra to the loosest hook (that's the hooks closest to the end of the bra) when you buy a new bra. This allows you to pull the hooks in as the bra stretches, which it will. The three hook positions on the back are designed for exactly this - to maintain the firmness of the bra as the materials stretch.
- Bras will stretch with washing and wear. Choosing the slightly firmer option (but not uncomfortably so) will get you a much better lifespan and level of support 🙌🏽.
- As a very general rule, your bra band size should align with your t-shirt size. If you are generally an XS/8 then you will probably measure and fit most accurately in to a size 8/30 bra. Its really common for us to see women with a size 6-8 frame wearing a size 12 bra thinking that a size 12 is a 'standard' size. A size 12 bra is for someone who fits in size 12 clothes 💡.
- If you go down a band size, you need to go up a cup size in order to keep the cup volume the same. So if you are wearing a size 12D, but feel you need to firm up the ribcage band then you will need to go to the 10DD to maintain the cup volume of the 12D - get it 🤷🏽♀️ ?! It's confusing we know, hence why we feel passionately about having your bra fitted when possible 💁🏽♀️.
Images kindly supplied by Panache Lingerie.
Thanks for reading along. I am the co-founder and director of She Science, a Specialty Sports and Everyday Bra store in Melbourne. I have completed Advanced Bra Fitting training both locally and internationally as well as tertiary education in biomechanics. I love to follow the latest research on breast biomechanics and Sports Bra design to ensure that She Science remains the most advanced Sports Bra shopping environment in the world. I view my bra fitting business as a vehicle to inspire and enable women of all shapes and sizes to participate actively in life. Find me online via @SheScience.