This weekend, after FIVE years of saying I was finally going to do it, I dragged my sorry ass boobs to the mall, took the escalator up to Nordstrom’s, got myself a proper bra fitting and – for the first time in my life – a properly fitting bra. That’s when the heavens opened up and a choir of angels started singing.
Let me tell you, every single other bra that I have ever owned in my entire life was a lie. Because it turns out that I am not a 34 C or D, as the lovely ladies at Victoria’s Secret had assured me I was. Nope, I’m a 34 DDD or DDDD, depending on the bra.
I didn’t even know such sizes existed.
For most of my life, I hated wearing a bra. In fact, there was a time in high school that I didn’t even wear one at all. Now, since having kids, and then being a nursing mama for a long freaking time, I have mostly worn loose-ish sports bras. They’ve been the only thing that are comfortable.
But they’re not exactly attractive or supportive. My boobs are basically smooshed together in there, making my chest appear as one giant blob — and the whole thing hangs way the heck down.
Now that I have three new bras in the right size, I can understand why I always hated wearing a traditional bra. The underwires pressing into my skin and chafing me. The ridiculous spillage of my boobs out the top. Always having to adjust the straps. Feeling like I was wearing a harness. It was absolute misery.
A lot of the discomfort was because I wasn’t wearing the right damn size! Wearing my new properly fitting 34 DDDD’s have been a revelation. They are comfortable, they look great, and I don’t want to claw myself out of them within 20 minutes of putting them on (though I still prefer to be braless by the end of the day!).
Listen up, ladies, it’s not just me. According to research from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., a whopping 80% of women are not wearing a properly fitting bra. This sounds bonkers, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. After all, it took me 41 years to finally own a bra in my size.
And it’s not just about how unattractive ill-fitting bras often look – wearing a bra that doesn’t fit is uncomfortable and actually bad for your health. As Popular Science points out, improperly fitting bras can lead to boob pain, chafing, bad posture, and neck/back/shoulder pain. Sometimes a crappy bra can even lead to chafed skins and breast skin damage (from stretching the skin).
Holy yikes. Makes sense that I couldn’t tolerate my shitty bras for all those years.
So how do you know if you have a poorly fitted bra and how should you go about getting a good one?
This video from The University of Portsmouth has some excellent advice for how to figure out if your bra is a good fit or not.
According to the video, there are five basic steps you can take to ascertain if your bra is a good fit:
1. Check that the underband (the part of the bra that goes under your breasts and across your back) is level around your body. You should be able to jump and the underband should stay in place. The underband should be snug, but not too snug. You should be able to fit two fingers under it.
2. Your shoulder straps should be tight enough that you can fit no more than two fingers under the straps. They should not dig into you, but they should also not slip off your shoulders.
3. Make sure the cups are a proper fit. Most of us wear cups that are too small. Your boobs should not spill out the top!
4. Next, check the center part of the bra (the part that sits between your breasts). It should sit flat on your chest.
5. Finally, make sure the underwire is doing its job, and nothing more. The underwire should not sit on any breast tissue, including under your arms.
Once you’ve figured out if you are in need of a new bra (spoiler alert: you probably are), I recommend you go directly to a store that specializes in bras and has bra cup sizes beyond D. I am in no way trying to advertise for Nordstrom’s, but they are well known for proper sizing and having a ton of bras in all sizes. There are many local bra boutiques and stores that friends of mine recommend – you can ask around in your community for good ones.
You may find luck in some online stores if you follow their instructions for sizing very carefully. Once you get a bra from an online retailer, try it on and see if it meets the requirements for a good fit (see video below), and be sure to return it if it doesn’t.
Keep in mind, too, that part of what can be confusing about all this is that bra sizes are not uniform. So what might be a 38 DDD in one bra brand might be a 36 DD in another. This is another reason to get fitted in store if possible and/or make sure that your bra fits properly before just accepting all that boob spillage and chafing.
And remember, too, that bra sizes change throughout your lifetime, especially before and after kids, so get yourself checked regularly.
Most of all, don’t wait 41 flipping years to do this. I know – I know. You’re a busy mom who can’t even make time for a haircut. You haven’t visited the dentist in 3 years. Well, you’re out of excuses. You should get yourself to that bra fitting – and you should do all those other things too – even if you have to drag your toddler to the store and placate them with an iPad.
Why? Because things like getting yourself a properly fitting bra is self-care, and far too many of us women and mothers put that on the back-burner for far too long. So get to it. Your boobs will thank you.