During a fitting with a client recently, I was helping her into her new bra. I fastened it for her and adjusted the straps to the proper length. I was mentally assessing how it fit, making note of what I might have to adjust slightly on the final version of her bra.
"Does it feel right?" I asked.
"How am I supposed to know what right feels like?" she shot back. "I've never had a bra that fits me - I'm not sure how it's supposed to feel."
She had a point.
So many of us have no idea what a bra that actually fits us feels like. We've never experienced a bra that actually does the job it's supposed to do. When faced with communicating to me what the bra felt like, my client wasn't sure what she was supposed to say.
To help her, and you, with your future bra shopping, and with getting to know your body and needs better, I decided to try and describe what it feels like.
Home is where the bra isn't
We've all seen those memes, or heard the jokes about the first thing many of us do when we get through the door of our homes is take off the bra, the torture device, the trap...
A bra that fits properly is one that defies this meme. Let's go through how your bra should fit and feel on each part of your body.
The band of the bra should rest snugly and flat against your torso. It should feel smooth, with no rough edges or poking bits. You can breathe easily and move your arms and neck freely. It should also avoid resting on any areas that might cause you pain, and it shouldn't fold or roll. When you have it fastened, you should be able to slide two fingers underneath it quite easily.
When you lean forward and straighten back up, the bra shouldn't move so much that you would need to adjust it. If you lift your arms up over your head, the band should remain in place - your breast shouldn't fall out of the bottom. If you take a look in the mirror, you don't see your flesh being squeezed out or bulging above the band, as it travels under your arms and around your back. A little bulging is normal, though, for most of us - our bodies aren't solid!
When you've got the bra fastened, the breast should be entirely contained within the cup, regardless of whether it's a wired or unwired bra. If it has a wire, the wire should follow the curve of your breast right where it meets your chest wall, and the wire should lie flat against your body.
When you do take off your bra, there shouldn't be deep red marks, rashes, or pinch marks from the band.
Straps that feel right - and left
What do properly fitting straps feel like? Ideally, after a few minutes of wearing, you'll forget that the straps are there. They rise up from the cup and over your shoulder at a point between the edge of your shoulder and your neck that keeps it from sliding off, but also isn't so close to your neck that it places pressure on your trapezius muscle.
Because most of the weight of your breast is being carried by the band, the straps are there to hold the cups up in place. They rest gently on your body, without digging in or causing pain. If you move your arms, the straps remain in place.
The straps also shouldn't "grow"- the main length of the strap should have very little stretch in it. If they do have stretch, you'll feel like your breasts are "sinking" over the course of the day.
You should feel like standing up straight is easy and comfortable.
What does a bra cup that fits feel like?
Really, if it's doing its job, you should almost forget that your breasts are in a bra.
We already mentioned where the wires should sit, or the edge of the cup should sit. When your bra cup fits properly, your breast feels supported and lifted. The upper edges of the cup sit smoothly against your skin, and you notice that there is no bulging out over the top. When you lean forward, your breasts don't fall out. The fabric of the cup will smoothly cover your breast without wrinkles.
You can feel the centre front of the bra (the bridge) resting easily against your chest wall in the centre of your body. At the edge against your arm, the elastic rests gently on your body, but doesn't cause flesh to bulge out over the top. Where the strap joins the cup, there isn't any chafing or digging in.
Use these tips to help you the next time you're trying on a bra, whether it is custom made or off the rack at your favourite lingerie store!