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What makes a well-fitting bra? How to identify the perfect fit!

It digs in a bit, slips down a bit and is a little too tight: an ill-fitting bra can make your life just that little bit harder and even cause health problems in the worst-case scenario. You may have noticed red marks caused by straps that were too tight, or experienced headaches and back pain after wearing uncomfortable bras. To stop this from happening again, we explain what makes a well-fitting bra.


8 September 2023 • 6 min reading time

Woman with a bra from the series 'Cate'

Bra tips for the perfect fit and more confidence.

What makes a well-fitting bra? From cups to underbust band

A bra consists of various elements, all of which contribute to the perfect fit and ideal comfort. A bra should not only produce an attractive cleavage, but also support the breasts and optimally distribute their weight. We explain what to look out for when it comes to the fitting of cups, underbust band, bra straps, etc.

Cups: everything perfectly ‘packaged’

The cups enclose the breasts, ensuring a full, feminine cleavage, depending on the cut. Regardless of whether you choose cups with a balcony, triangle or bandeau cut, or opt for padded or unpadded, the right cup size helps ensure that your breasts are securely enclosed and won’t slip out, either at the side or at the top. In addition, the cups shouldn’t protrude; instead, the entire cup should lie flat against your skin, without squashing the breast.

Underwiring: the perfect shape for small busts

Not all bras are underwired. Wireless bras are often recommended for large busts in particular, as the wires integrated into the cups can pinch uncomfortably if you have heavier breasts. However, underwired bras can produce a great shape, especially for small busts, as they make the lower part of the breast appear rounder. To ensure that the wires don’t pinch, it is extremely important to choose the right bra size and try it on.

Underbrust band & centre gore: the be-all and end-all of every bra

Many women think that it is primarily the bra straps that support the weight of their bust; but this is not the case – or at least it shouldn't be! In fact, the underbust band is the part of the bra that provides the most support. So it should also fit perfectly, extending around your body in an even horizontal line, neither too loose nor too tight.

To check whether the underbust band is the right size, your index and middle finger should fit comfortably under the underbust band, side by side. For particularly large busts, broader underbust bands are often recommended. The centre gore, which often merges seamlessly into the underbust band, is positioned between the cups and should also neither protrude nor pinch.

Straps: only for secondary support

While the underbust band holds almost the entire weight of your bust, the straps are only designed to provide secondary support. If the underbust band is too loose, they will have to take more weight. As a result, they often pinch your shoulders or may even dig in; a common cause of headaches and neck pain! When the underbust band fits correctly, you can usually infinitely adjust the length of the straps. Make sure they don’t slip off your shoulders when you move, but are not too tight.

Step-by-step guide to a well-fitting bra

You now know all the elements that contribute to a well-fitting bra. The following five steps explain how to adjust and check these correctly and how to find the right bra size.

Step 1: calculate your correct bra size

To ensure that your bra fits correctly, you should first determine your bra size. Establish your underbust size by placing a measuring tape just under your bust and measuring the circumference horizontally around your back. Your underbust measurement represents the number in your bra size, e.g. 80.

To find the right cup size (A, B, C, D, etc.), your breast circumference is also important. You measure this in the same way as your underbust size, by measuring the fullest point of your bust; this is usually your nipple. You can now determine your cup size from the difference between your breast circumference and underbust width and use a size chart to find the correct bra size.

Step 2: check the fit

Once you have established your bra size, you can order and try on a bra in that size. The bra may still not fit well, despite it being the correct size. But what makes a well-fitting bra?

As already described, make sure that the cups completely enclose your bust and lie flat against your body. The cups should not protrude away from the skin either at the sides or at the top; nor should they allow your bust to spill out or become indented or misshapen. Make sure that your breasts remain firmly in place even when you jump or bend over.

In addition, the underwire should not result in any gaps or indentations. Check that the wire begins under your arms and extends around the lower part of each breast.

Just like the centre gore, the underbust band should not pinch, protrude or be too loose. The band is considered to be too loose if it rises up your back instead of extending around your body in a horizontal line. You can tell if the underbust band is supporting enough weight by the fact that your straps lie comfortably against your shoulders without being too tight, digging in or pinching.

Step 3: make adjustments

If your bra doesn’t fit correctly, you can usually alter the straps and adjust the underbust band. Even though your bra should ideally be fastened using the middle set of hooks-and-eyes, you can change this whenever you like, to suit your menstrual cycle or if you gain weight, for example. Bra extenders are also available for attaching additional hooks to your bra in order to make the underbust band wider.

Step 4: try different bra styles & sister sizes

While some women prefer underwired bras, others only like triangle bras or unpadded bustiers. To find your favourite, we suggest trying on different bra styles.

If your bra doesn’t fit correctly, it is often also worth trying on the sister size for your actual bra size. Because even if you are confident of your bra size, the fit of a bra varies greatly depending on the shape and spacing of your breasts, as well as from one manufacturer to another.

Sister sizing means that you go up a cup size and down an underband size and/or go down a cup size and up an underband size. The two sister sizes for 80C would be 75D and 85B, for example.

Step 5: follow your instincts

At the end of the day, of course, you alone decide what makes a well-fitting bra in line with your needs. It may be that your favourite bra isn’t the size you've measured yourself as. The important thing is that the bra fits comfortably, provides adequate support and doesn’t dig in or pinch anywhere or cause you any other pain!

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