Bra fitting guide

Bra fitting guide

Confession: My girls are difficult to control. And no, I’m not talking about my two daughters.

I’ve always been busty, and like 80 per cent of North American women, I’ve never worn the right bra size. My cups runneth over — and spill out of the sides. For years I stuffed my ample bosom into 36C’s until I was fitted in my 20s and discovered I was a 32F (a size I didn’t even know existed). Shana Tilbrook, bra fitter and co-owner of Toronto’s Tryst Lingerie, says that’s typical of most women — we often wear a cup size too small and a band size too big.

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Fast-forward a few years. After two pregnancies, lingering baby weight, a different body shape and wearing out two uncomfortable, puke-stained maternity bras, I got my girls measured again. My new size is a much better fit: In a 38G boulder holder, my breasts are properly and comfortably harnessed. (And if I may say, they look spectacular.)

It’s true that finding a perfect-fitting bra is one of the most uplifting experiences you’ll ever have — literally. Proper undergarments instantly make you look and feel better. “The right bra should fit like a glove,” says Tilbrook. “If you’re so comfortable that you don’t want to rip it off the minute you get home, you’re wearing the right bra.” If not, one visit to a trained fitter (at a department store or bra boutique) can tame your ta-tas and help poor posture, relieve back and shoulder pain, boost your confidence and give you an all-over slimmer look (major bonus). Here are three expert tips to finding the right fit:

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Check yourself out

Stand in front of a mirror in your favourite bra. Your bra is too small if your breasts pillow or balloon out of the top and sides (think double boobs), the back band rides up and isn’t parallel with the front, or your straps dig in and leave marks. It’s too big if your straps fall down on their tightest setting, the fabric puckers or there’s a gap between your bra and your body. (The middle of the bra should rest flush against your sternum.)

Go to a pro

My advice: Book a fitting. An experienced professional will size up the shape of your breasts and take measurements across your chest and around your back and rib cage, then across the fullest part of your breasts. You’ll try a variety of styles — from balcony to full, demi to push-up — that suit your breast shape and size. Expert tip: Bras should be done up on the loosest hooks to prevent stretching. (If it’s too loose on that hook and you fit the cup properly, try a smaller band size.) When it’s on, put one hand inside each cup and pull your breasts up. With your two pointer fingers, smooth out the top of your cleavage.

Get over your ABCD’s

“The letters are only about proportion,” Tilbrook says. “They represent a ratio between your bust and back measurements.” So if you thought that double-D’s were reserved for the very well-endowed, you might be pleasantly surprised. “There’s a misconception about breasts and bra sizes,” says Tilbrook. “We still think of D cups as being a large size, but more than half of us are a D or bigger.” With 150 bra sizes, and styles generally ranging from 28A to 52KK, D cup breasts (think the size of apples) really don’t seem all that big. Me? I’m blessed with cantaloupes.

Originally published in Today's Parent October 2011

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Gallery: Better bras for every body type