Tutorial: Give Yourself a Bra Fitting!

I know how hard it can be to find a bra that fits, and is comfortable and supportive as well. Believe me. I know. There are many lingerie and department stores out there who offer complimentary bra fittings. If you have the chance to get one, I highly recommend that you do, because it can be very helpful.

But, I know that there are many people out there who aren’t comfortable with having a stranger fitting them; I’m one of these people. Even though I was once a certified fitter myself, I still find it a bit embarrassing to be fit.  And, I have to admit that even when a store offers a complimentary fitting, the associates are still required to try and sell you their product.

My reason for posting this tutorial online is simply this fact: 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong size bra. Most women don’t know they are wearing the wrong size; this is usually because they have worn it for so long, and have become used to the wrong fit. Once again, this also applies to me. I had been wearing the wrong size bra since I was 13!

When I started working as a fitter, I thought I knew everything there was to know about bras. Boy, was I wrong! I was completely blown away at how much I didn’t know. Bra fitting is pretty complicated because there are so many different body types and so many different breast types (seriously!). Because there’s so much information,I'm going to ask you to bare with me. I promise it'll be worth it!

So, are ya ready to start? Here we go!

The Basics

Information You Should Know:
  • Hate your bra? You shouldn’t! A well-fitting bra should be comfortable, and support the bust in a natural position without pressure.
  • Your bra is the first thing you put on in the morning, and the last thing you take off at night! You wear it all day, even if you change your clothes. You deserve to have a good fit!
  • Contrary to popular belief, the support of a bra does not come from the straps; 80% of your support should come from the band. Breast tissue, depending on your cup and band size (A-DD), weighs anywhere from 1, up to 30 pounds!  Because of this, the band needs to be snug enough to prevent it from sliding up your back while supporting this weight.
  • Your body shape changes often, even when your weight doesn’t. Because of this, it is important to be fit often. Six months is the recommended time between fittings.
Measuring Yourself:

What you'll need:
Measuring Tape, silly! :)

Two quick notes:
1. I'm going to sound a bit technical in this part, because I want you to have a great fit. Bare with me, though! I promise it's super easy once you understand it all! 
2. Always measure with your bra on, as you'll get a more exact measurement.

Step 1
Take a snug measurement, by placing the measuring tape around your back, under the arms, and above the fullest part of your bust. The tape should be high on your shoulder blades. Record your measurement; this should be an even number. If you get an uneven number or are between numbers, round up or down to the closest even numbered inch.  Remember, this is just a starting point, so if you are off by a bit, it's okay! This will be your starting band size.

Step 2
Now, place the measuring tape around your back, and across the fullest part of the bust. This measurement doesn't need to be snug, but it shouldn't be too loose. Record your measurement.
Step 3
To determine your starting cup size, find the difference in inches between the two measurements. Every inch in difference counts as a cup size. So, if your difference was 1 inch, your cup size is A, if it was 2 inches, your cup size is B, and so on...

For example: In step one, your measurement was 36 inches. In step two, your measurement was 39 inches. The difference is 3 inches.
So: 36 inches (1st measurement) and 3 inches (difference) = C cup

So, here would be your approximate bra size:
Band: 36

Does that make sense? If it doesn't, let me know and I'll help you out!

Finding a Fitting Bra:

There are so many different types of bras and body shapes out there. Because of this, there are may things that can go wrong. I'm going to cover the most common problems, and if you have any other problems, feel free to email me!

Now that you have your magic number, it's time to go out and try on some bras. I recommend starting out by finding 3 or 4 different styles of bras that appeal to you. Then you'll find your size in each bra, and try them on.

Before you check the fit you'll want to make sure the tissue is completely into the bra. You can do this by "scooping" or "wiggling."
With the bra on, Scoop the tissue up and into the bra with a hand.
Hold the bottom wires or seams of the bra while slightly bent, and wiggle a bit.
The bra should rest flush against the chest wall.

Once you have a bra on, use these checkpoints to ensure a good fit:
  • The bra should rest flush against the center chest wall. (see above tip)
  •  The breast tissue should be contained well in the cup. this includes the top, bottom, and sides of breast.
  • The band should be snug. You shouldn't be able to stretch the back of the band more than 2 inches (about 2 finger-widths). Don't forget that your support comes primarily from the band of the bra, so you want a good fit. Snug band = lots of support.
  • Are the straps tight or loose enough? If not they could "slip." You should only be able to slide a thumb underneath.
  • There should be no wrinkles or gaps in the cup of the bra.
  • Is it comfortable? As you know, this is so important! Sit down, move around, jump a little. The bra should not dig, pinch, or pucker. Keep in mind, though, that if you've been wearing a bra that's too loose, then having a snug, well fitting bra may take some getting used to.

Of course, there is more to it than just those checkpoints. Some problems require extra attention, and others can be fixed easily. Here is a troubleshooting guide that will hopefully help with the problems you may encounter.

Penelope, you said that I should have a snug fit, but this is too snug!
If you find that you are feeling too restricted, try loosening the straps a bit and see if that helps. Sometimes the straps can be too tight, making the rest of the bra feeling like it's enclosing on you!

If that doesn't help, then you'll need to go up one band size. If you do that, though, you'll need to go down 1 cup size. Why? Because the cup size is relevant to the band size. The larger the band size, the wider the cup needs to be to make up for the extra room. So, a size 34B is a smaller cup size than a 36B. Got it?

Wrinkles, and puckers, and gaps, oh my!
If you find any of these things in the cup, the first thing you should do is to tighten the straps of the bra. This will usually solve any of these problems. But, of course, sometimes it doesn't. If this still doesn't work, you'll need to change the bra size. Keep the same band size, but try a bra 1 cup size smaller.

My cups overfloweth...
Easy fix! Keep the same band size and try a bra 1 cup size larger.

My straps slip!
The first thing you should do is make sure you are wearing the right size bra. Since you are already doing so by reading this, I'll assume that your straps are still slipping.

This problem, which occurs most in people with either narrow or sloping shoulders, is a bit more tricky to solve. (I do envy you; I have huge, broad shoulders!) What you'll need is a bra with straps that are closer together than the average bra. This is called a "toed-in back." You'll most likely want to have someone in the store help you find a bra with this back, as they'll most likely know exactly where they are. (Or you can email me, and I'll give the most detailed instructions I can).

Another solution (though not as popular) is to find either a t-back bra, which is similar to the back of a sports bra, or one that will let you crisscross the straps in the back. This will guarantee no slipping. The only drawback to this is that you wouldn't be able to wear shirts with wider necklines.

These straps are killing me! Why are they digging in like this?
This bra is not supportive, and is giving me back problems!
The first thing you should do is to loosen the straps so they aren't as tight. Does that feel better?

If that doesn't work, then this means that your bust is being supported by your straps. This can hurt so much! If this is your problem, then you'll need to...you guessed it...change your bra size. Try going 1 band size smaller and 1 cup size larger. If you have a lot of breast tissue and are experiencing back problems, you need to look for a very supportive bra. My favorite brands (period, but they also happen to make bras for larger-breasted women) are Wacoal and Le Mystere. These bras are super supportive, comfortable, and last forever!

I am frequently "fixing" myself, and adjusting my bra. It is so annoying!
This is the hallmark of an improper fit. If the bra fits well, it should stay put (for the most part, unless you're exercising, which you shouldn't be doing in your "good" bra!), and not slide anywhere. A bra should last only 3-6 months, and should then be replaced. The reason for this is that bras stretch over time, and loose their support. I suggest either being fit by a certified fitter, or following this tutorial and fitting yourself.
I truly hope this helps you get a bra that fits well. I have tried to answer the most common problems that occur. Of course, there are always other problems that can arise when you are trying on bras; some people are between sizes, some bras don't fit all everyone, people come in different shapes and sizes, and so do bras, and so on.

If you have another problem that I didn't cover, or if you have a question, please feel free to email me at:
lifessweetpassions {at} gmail {dot} com
I will try to answer you questions as best as I can.

Don't forget to come back again! I'll be posting more information later this week on:
The different types of bras, and how they effect your fit, and care instructions for your bra!
Thanks for reading Life's Sweet Passions! :)


  1. I'm excited to go home and try this out. I don't think I'll be doing this at work.... haha! I'll let you know how it works out and if I was in the correct size! Haha! :)

  2. Thanks for the info. A question for you, the bra expert. How often should you replace your bra? Besides when it's falling apart and unraveling.

  3. Good info! I have the same question as Jennifer :)

  4. Ashley: I'm glad you're excited! Let me know how the fitting works out!

    Jennifer and Danette: Great question! There are two answers; a long one and a short one.

    The short answer is that the general recommendation for replacing your bra is every 6 months.

    The long answer is that it depends on you and your bra. Your body shape changes often, even if your weight doesn't fluctuate. You bra can also loose it's shape and/or elasticity, which would lessen the support it gives you. Most of the time you can "revive" the bra just by washing it. But, after a while, even that won't work.

    Because of this, I recommend that you replace your bra whenever you feel that it's not up to par anymore; If you feel you aren't supportive enough, or that the fabric is stretched out, or if you are having to adjust it constantly. Depending on the bra's quality and how it is cared for, this can last anywhere from 1 month to 7 months.

    Of course, it really isn't feasible for everybody to buy new bras this often(who has the money to replace their bras that often? I don't!). I try to hand-wash my bras whenever I can, which helps to prolong their life. Also, I never put my bras in the dryer, which kills the elasticity in them. I have a separate bras for working out, day-time, and of course I have my "good bra," which I only wear for family and special events, or nights out. These all lessen the time between bra purchases.

    So, there you have it, the long and short answers. Put simply, it is really up to you when you replace your bra. The important thing is that you are comfortable in it, and it's still working for you!

    Hope this helps!

  5. THAT was GREAT. However, I'm still gonna need help.

  6. Thanks! I don't hand wash them but I have been keeping them out of the dryer and it makes a huge difference.

  7. I noticed that there is only 2 inches difference between the first measurement of 36 and the second measurement of 38. Is there something I missed on calculating that? Great info! I am going to try this. I always wanted to get a bra fitting but was a little embarrassed to do that. This will help enormously!

  8. Pam: I'm so glad you caught that! Yes, it should have been a difference of 2 inches. I meant to put the first measurement at 36 and the second measurement at 39. I've changed it, so it makes sense now! Thanks, and I hope this helps you! :)

  9. Wow - everything I ever wanted to know and then some! ;-) I *finally* got fitted after son #1 and found I had been wearing the wrong size, too! (I was fitted again after son #2 just in case but found I hadn't changed sizes.) Its totally worth a few minutes of uncomfortableness (is that a word? is now) to be more comfortable every day - just about any store will do it free of charge!


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