by Bryn Jimenez
About three years ago I learned how bras are supposed to fit and my life changed forever. After over a decade of smushing my boobs into 38/40 D/DD cups, my first properly fitted bra was a revelation.
The right size looked comically large at first. Though these days, when I see my old size, the cups look comically small for my chest! I don’t know how I wore them for so long!
Anyways, when I started wearing bras that actually fit, I noticed aesthetic things like my boobs actually being lifted and separated and my tummy being a bit flatter (because of the lift). And I noticed comfort things, like less tension in my shoulders and chest and less pain in my back.
And the first time I sang in a bra that properly fit, I noticed that my breathing was quieter.
According to the American Posture Institute, “cup size B and upwards increase stress on the spine and distort posture.” And, as we all know, poor alignment has all kinds of adverse effects on our singing. (For more details on the alignment-voice connection, check out this article by Dr. Claudia Friedlander – voice teacher and NASM certified personal trainer.)
Statistically, 80% of people who wear bras wear the wrong size – mostly bands that are too big and cups that are too small. So, if you’re not 100% sure your bra fits as well as it could, read on, and thank me later.
HOW BRAS WORK:
Bra sizes are meant to be proportional. The band size (32, 34, 36, 38, etc.) is supposed to correspond to the wearer’s rib cage measurement. The cup sizes (A, B, C, D, etc.) represent the difference between the wearer’s rib cage and bust measurements.
Bras are designed to fit snugly around the under-bust. The band provides 80-90% of the bra’s support. (Don’t worry, singers, since bra bands are stretchy, you will still have plenty of give to expand your ribs when breathing.)
The other 10-20% of the support is provided by the straps – which can also be adjusted to tweak the fit of the cup.
TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR BRA FIT:
There are many factors to consider when identifying a proper fit.
Your band should fit snugly around your rib cage. It should not ride up nor should you be able to pull it down.
If you can fit more than a couple fingers between your bra band and your back or if your band rides up or can be pulled down in the back, it is too big. The band should fit snugly against your back, and it should extend in a straight line from the root of your breasts. When the bra is new, it should fasten snugly on the loosest hook (so you can still tighten it as you wear it and the elastic stretches out).
Your bra straps should fit comfortably on your shoulders.
If your bra straps tend to fall off your shoulders, your band is too big. If your band is the right size, even a loose strap is unlikely to fall of your shoulder. If your straps dig painfully into your shoulders, it is likely that your cup is too small and/or your band is too loose, and your straps are supporting too much of the weight of your breasts.
All your breast tissue should be contained in your bra cups.
If you have quad-boob, armpit rolls, if your breasts pop out the bottom of your bra, if you get additional or exaggerated back rolls when you wear a bra, or if your underwire pokes into your breast tissue, your cup is too small. When the cup is too shallow to contain your breast tissue, it creates rolls either by digging into your breast tissue or by displacing it. The underwire should curve fully around your breasts and rest against your rib cage at all points without digging in. There should also be no space between the root of your breasts and the underwire.
The goring should tack.
When your bra fits properly, the goring (that bit between your bra cups) will tack (rest fully against your sternum), creating the “separate” part of lift-and-separate. If the goring doesn’t tack, the fit problem could be with the band or the cup. When your cups are too small your breast tissue can displace the goring. When the band is too big, the goring will fall forward a bit, even if your breast tissue isn’t displacing it.
The fabric of your bra cup should lie smoothly, and your nipple should be centered in the cup.
If there are wrinkles in the fabric of your cup, it is too big. Your breast tissue should completely fill the cup of your bra and smooth out any wrinkles in the fabric. And while breast shape and bra shape can be a major factor in fit, it is likely the bra is not right for you if your nipples aren’t more or less centered in the cup.
*It’s really hard to wear a bra with a band that’s truly too small.
While you can sometimes squeeze yourself into a band on the small side, it is unlikely that you will be able to fasten a band that is too small. Very often, when bands feel too small it is actually because the cup is too small.