How-to shop for bras effectively is not as easy as it may appear. To ensure purchase of the best-fitting bra, there are a series of tests and techniques which are not obvious to the casual shopper, including how one is fitted, how a bra is constructed, and even how one puts on the bra.
How to find a good fitter
The very first step to finding a good fitter is to first try determining fit for yourself. Armed with this knowledge of possible size and fitting technique, it is easier to figure out if a fitter is practicing proper bra-fitting method, or something else inaccurate. Some retailers are known to practice inaccurate fitting methods, such as Victoria's Secret. This does not necessarily mean that their bras are not worth purchasing, but it does mean that fitting advice must be taken with a grain of salt.
There are, however, many offline retailers that offer excellent fitting services and products. Department store fitters may or may not prove highly variable; try looking for a store that says it caters to "hard-to-fit sizes", such as D+ cups, bands under 32, and bands over 38. Such stores have a much larger array of sizes, thus, a fitter has more stock through which to search when finding a better-fitting bra for a customer.
What to look for in a supportive bra
There are several features which can help identify a supportive bra.
In a maximally supportive cup, there will be seams. Seams running either vertically or diagonally provide increasing support for larger, heavier breasts, with diagonal seams considered the most supportive. And with advances in production technology, seams now provide an excellent, natural-appearing shape, meaning aesthetics do not necessarily need to be sacrified for function.
Well-joined back straps
The best bras for larger busts have back straps which are not simply "tacked on" to the band, but continue along the band all the way to the closure. This type of strap join is called a leotard strap, and helps distribute the weight of the breasts throughout all regions of the band.
The importance of a snugly-fitting band cannot be emphasized enough, as the band is where the most support comes from. Sister sizes may do in a pinch, but for complete support, the proper-fitting bra is unmatched.
Trying on the bra correctly
- Main article: How-to put on a bra
There are a few specific measures to take when trying on new bras to determine fit.
- Fasten the closure on the loosest hook-set possible. As a bra ages, the band will stretch; this long-term loss of elasticity is compensated for by progressively fastening the hooks on tighter and tighter settings. Thus, when trying on a new bra, assume zero stretch and fasten it as loose as possible.
- Adjust the shoulder straps using the sliders, paying attention to the fit of the cups. If the cups do not seem tight enough, tighten the straps; if the cups seem constrictive, loosen the straps.
- Use the "scoop and swoop." One cannot determine the fit of a bra until one is wearing it correctly. Thus, make sure to scoop all breast tissue, including migrated breast tissue, into the cups of the bra before judging its fit.
- Even after scooping all breast tissue, some may "muffin-top" out the top of the cup. This occurs even in well-fitting bras; unfortunately, breast tissue won't automatically position itself within a bra. Gently try smoothing this tissue back into the cup. If all the tissue goes within the cup without displacing breast tissue out the back and sides again, then this cup fits. If a considerable amount of breast tissue will not fit into the cup no matter how hard you try, then this bra may not be the right one.
- After this, all that remains is to determine goodness of fit.
- Main article: How-to tell if a bra fits
A poorly-fit bra can manifest itself in multiple ways. Although a fitter may assist in finding the signs, it is useful to be aware of them for oneself. However, keep in mind that before any evaluation can be performed, the bra must be worn correctly (see above).
A few tips:
- Cups. Is my breast spilling out the top? Sides? Bottom? Is the cup wrinkling? Do both cups fit comfortably, or is one too small? Does the gore (that little bridge between the cups) NOT lie flush against my chest? If yes to any of these questions, this bra DOES NOT fit.
- Underwires. Is the underwire/bottom edge of the cup not resting in my breast fold (the bottom of the breast, where the breast tissue meets the ribcage)? Is it uncomfortably poking me in my armpits/breasts/chest? If yes to any of these questions, this bra DOES NOT fit.
- Straps. Do the straps dig painfully into my shoulders? If I loosen them to comfort, do my breasts sag? If yes to any of these questions, this bra DOES NOT fit.
- Band. Is the band too tight? Does it sag down or ride up? If yes to any of these questions, this bra DOES NOT fit.
For a more detailed guide as to how to fix these issues, see: How-to determine bra size#Troubleshooting .
- If buying and wearing correctly fitting bras for the first time, do not spend too much money buying too many bras to fill up your collection. Often times, wearing a correctly sized bra (coupled with proper bra-wearing technique) for the first time will change one's breast size over the next few months, as migrated breast tissue returns back to the breast mound. Bras in a different size will most likely need to be purchased at this time.
- Wear a fitted, lower-necked shirt when trying on bras to get a better idea of how the bra fits. A shirt with a high collar or a loose fit obscures the overall fit.
- When purchasing a strapless bra, look for a "grip strip" along the band--a stretch of rubbery or latex material which will help the band stay in place on your body. Also remember that since there are no shoulder straps to keep the cups in place, a larger cup may be required to prevent the cups from "folding" into the breast. (This is largely dependent on breast shape.)