Published On: Wed, Apr 30th, 2014

Tips for bra shopping

BRAAh, bra shopping ... the joys. If the first thing that comes to your mind is super feminine floral print dressing rooms and long lines of rather somber-looking females that extend out into the far reaches of the store, well, you might not be too far off. For some of us, brasserie shopping is a breeze. But if you're reading this, you most likely haven't quite mastered the process yet.

And that's ok, bra shopping can be tricky. With a few pointers, you may find your bra-buying experience is substantially shorter this go-round. Unless you already have a favorite type of bra from a trusty brand, chances are, it's going to take you more than 5 minutes to select a bra. Hey - there's a lot to consider. Are you looking for strapless, everyday, or fun and flirty? The fabric you choose can make a huge difference in the versatility you'll get out of a bra, as well.

In addition, once you target which type of bra fits you best (underwire, lace, full cup, demi, etc.), you'll have a much quicker go of it. In the meantime, here are some bra-hunting basics to get you started.

Do: Research before you leave.

If it's been a while since you went bra shopping, or maybe you recently lost or gained weight, it may be time to do a little sizing. Most women's specialty stores can take your measurements at the store. If you're a rather modest gal, and the mere thought of someone else's cold hands wrapped near your torso or "girls," (gulp) makes you cringe, then do a little field work on your own. All you'll need is a bra and measuring tape.

First, measure just below your breasts, around your rib cage. This measurement is the band size that will work best for your bra (we commonly see these range from 32 to 44, and up).

Second, measure the widest part of your chest. This means you'll need to extend the measuring tape from the middle of your back to the middle of your breasts.

Then you'll look at the following criteria to determine your cup size:

  • If your bust measurement is 1/2 inch larger than your band size = AA cup.
  • If your bust measurement is 1 inch larger than your band size = A cup.
  • If your bust measurement is 1 to 2 inches larger than your band size = B cup.
  • If your bust measurement is 2 to 3 inches larger than your band size = C cup.
  • If your bust size is 3 to 4 inches larger than your band size = D cup.
  • If your bust size is 4 to 5 inches larger than your band size = E cup.

Don't: Buy a bra solely because it looks cute.

Well, if you've got some extra money set aside in your bra budget, this is fine. But if you're out because you need a versatile bra you can wear with a tight white t-shirt, workday suit or layer under a slinky dress, then that hot pink lacy number with no cups or liners probably is not the best bet. Remember, this bra will have to go under whatever you have on, while still staying inconspicuous. So unless you want to wear your new bra the few times a year you pull on that thick wool sweater, you may want to reconsider your selection.

Do: Gather several bras in a couple styles you like, in your designated size.

While you don't want to overwhelm yourself, you also don't want to be repeatedly shuffling through dressing room lines every time you try on a bra that doesn't fit. Even bras of the same size may fit differently from style to style. For instance, a full coverage bra is going to need to hold more of your breast than a demi, which just covers 3/4 of your chest. If you have a specific color or style in mind, all the better. If not, just grab a variety in your size, to ensure you'll find something you like.

Don't: Try on the bra, take it off and move on to the next one without testing it.

To get an idea of how the bra fits and moves with your body, you're going to need to keep it on for more than 20 seconds. If you chose an underwire bra, make sure it isn't digging into your back or sides. Check to see if the center strip of the bra, between the cups, rests flat against your sternum. If it doesn't, try a bigger cup and smaller band size.

Bend over and look in the mirror. Yes, of course you look silly, but see if your breasts spill out of the cups. If they do, most likely the bra cups are too small or the band is too big. Finally, reach your arms over your head. Look for signs of pinching or riding up. If you get pinched, you'll want a smaller size. If the bra slips, you may want to go up a band size.

Do: Try on your bra and then put your top back on.

This is such an important step to any bra shopping adventure that so many women forget. Even if the bra looks adorable on its own, we'll most likely be wearing this puppy under our clothes, and we want to make sure it flatters our silhouette. Once you've tried on your bra, put your shirt or dress back on and see how it fits. Ponder a few questions, like how does the bra separate your breasts? Do you have an undesirable uni-boob look, or worse yet, Madonna-esque points? Look at yourself from all angles to see how the bra gathers under your clothes. Is there distracting color or embroidery that shows through your top?

By following these pointers, you're well on your way to finding the perfect support system for your body and your curves.

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