life·12 min read

How to Find a Bra That Fits: What to Know About Sizing and Which Ones to Buy

Let's talk about bras, baby.
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Cuup
Aug 19, 2021

This was originally published in August 2021 and has been updated.

Bras: Love ’em. Hate ’em. Have a lot of feelings and questions about ’em. We know that finding the right one can be tricky — especially if you’re doing it online. So we chatted with Cora Harrington, founder and editor-in-chief of The Lingerie Addict, for some tips, tricks, and deets. We’re talking: how to properly care for your bras, what to look for when buying a new one, how to get the best fit, and more. Plus, some recs for our fave bras — including sports, maternity, and wireless options. Let’s go.

How to tell if you need a new bra + how to make the next one last longer

  • Look at the elastic on your bra (specifically at the underband) and see if it’s all stretched out. “Most of the support for your bra comes from the band,” Harrington says. “So if you find that your band isn’t snapping back, your elastic has lost all its recovery and its ability to snap back to its former size and shape. Then that's a sign that it is time for another bra.” Also, if the underwire is popping out…buh-bye.

  • When it comes to laundering: “The holy grail is to hand-wash and hang to dry.” Otherwise, Harrington recommends grabbing a mesh garment bag (pssst: we like these), hooking all your bras together, tightening the straps, and putting ‘em in an empty washer. Then run a cold, delicate cycle — because “heat is the number one ruiner of elastic” — and hang to dry. Capeesh? Great. 

Breast shapes and bra sizes, Skimm’d

You can get a bra fitting at a boutique or take your own measurements. Either way, Harrington says to keep in mind that cut-and-sewn bras (aka bras with seams) will have more support than molded bras or T-shirt bras.

Plus, there are five common breast shapes, according to Harrington, and it’s helpful to keep yours in mind when shopping. Here are her recs for the best types of bras for each:

  1. Full on bottom: most of your breast volume is below the nipple → try a demi-cup or balconette, because the top of the cup is more open, but bottom gives support.

  2. Full on top: where most of your breast volume is above the nipple → try a balconette bra, because you get the volume on top. 

  3. Full all around: equal distribution of breast volume. Many bra styles will work.

  4. Pendulous: where most of your breast tissue is below the breast fold (which is where your breast meets your chest) → try a full-coverage bra that’ll help contain, lift, and shape your breast tissue. It’ll “give you the lift and projection that you’re not getting from your natural breast,” Harrington says.

  5. Tuberous: where your breasts have little tissue and are more elongated, more narrow, and cylindrical in shape → try a T-shirt bra for a smoother, more rounded shape under clothing.

How to find a bra that fits

  • We cannot stress this enough: Use the size charts. It might sound obvious, but brands use varying sizing models, as do different countries. (And if you’ve got different-sized breasts, fit toward the larger one.) 

  • Then, Harrington relies on three easy Q’s to ask yourself:

  1. Is the band in the back parallel to the ground? It shouldn’t be rising up — if it is, try a different size. 

  2. With a wired bra, is your breast tissue fully contained within the cup? The wire shouldn’t be sitting on top of your breast tissue.

  3. Is the gore (aka the center portion of a wired bra) lying flat against your sternum? Note: In wire-free bras, the gore will not lie flat against your sternum, Harrington says. In that case, make sure your breast is fully contained within the cup area and not sliding over into the band or under the cups.

And now? It’s time to shop. (Oh, and if you’re someone who sweats a lot, Harrington recommends staying away from cotton bras, despite how comfortable they may be, as cotton absorbs sweat rather than wicking it.)

Underwire bras

Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner

Wire-free bras

Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner

Sports bras

Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner

Nursing and post-surgical bras

Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner
Loading Spinner


Skimm'd by Lindsay Schneider, Emmy Favilla
fbtwitteremail