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Blog Updates Bra Doctor's Blog Bra fitting & lingerie advice Bra Fitting Problems

Common Bra Fitting Problems & Solutions

Revised April 11, 2013 by Celine the Bra Doctor

In my experience, more than 90% of women wear the wrong bra size. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Many women also take several different bra sizes, depending on the shape, cut, fabric and brand of the bra. To add to the confusion, most women are not entirely symmetrical, meaning they may have uneven breasts – click here to read my blog on how to easily fix your uneven breasts.

Your shape is unique, making it sometimes difficult to find bras that are made in standard sizes. Many large-scale lingerie stores do not have experienced salespeople to help you find your best personal fit. Today I offer you one of the most common bra fitting problems, with tips on how to fix it. Over the next few blogs, you will find a comprehensive guide on how to diagnose and solve each fitting problem, along with some images that will demonstrate the proper or incorrect fitting for bras.

But first… In a previous blog, I asked you to try on each of your bras and go through a checklist of items to see if your bras were the wrong size. It’s fun to do this with your girlfriends too, and they can help you see things you can’t. If it doesn’t fit, or if the elastic is stretched out, toss it or even better – RECYCLE it! Ask yourself these questions when you try on each bra.

One of the most common issues with bra fitting is the cup size, which is what I’m going to cover in today’s blog. (You can read about how to fit your bra back and bra straps in Parts 2 & 3 of Common Bra Fitting Problems & Solutions.) I have seen some women with red lines underneath their arms and breasts from where their too-small underwires dug into them painfully. This is NO GOOD!

Time for a reality check. It’s normal to change sizes and shapes over time. If your bras don’t fit you, don’t keep buying the same size. I have actually met women who refused to wear D cups because in their minds, that was too big. Size doesn’t matter as long as you’re comfortable in your bra. Seriously. If you don’t like it, cut out the tags! It’s not worth walking around all day long in discomfort, not to mention unhealthy!

Here’s how to find out if your cup size is working for you. First, make sure the rest of your bra is properly adjusted to be able to evaluate. This is where the bra fitting checklist above can come in handy.

How do you know if your bra straps are adjusted properly? Adjust your straps until you can comfortably slip your index finger between them and your shoulders, and without the straps cutting into your finger or slipping off your shoulders when you remove your hand.

How do you adjust your bra back? Your bra back is adjusted when you are able to comfortably fasten it on the middle or loosest hooks of your bra back closure without any bunching or causing bumps and lumps to appear. When you lift your arms, your bra back should not lift up.

Now it’s time to check to see if your bra cups fit properly!

Once your bra straps and back are properly adjusted, you should notice that your bra cups lie flat against your breasts without any bunching or space between your breast and your bra cup. Your bra also should NOT be cutting into your breasts in front or at the sides to create an unattractive double-boob effect or overlap. Your underwire should contour and envelop the entirety of your breast tissue under your arms, and lie flat against your ribcage and breastbone.

You know your bra cups are TOO SMALL when…

You can visibly see your breasts spilling out of the top and/or sides of your bra. Never, ever wear a bra if the underwire cuts into you or leaves red marks on your breasts or under your arms when you remove your bra at night! Underwire that is painful usually signals that your bra cups are too small. This can cause you serious problems aside from discomfort, like cutting off your body’s natural circulation to the breast tissue.

If your bra cups are too small BUT your bra back fits, start by increasing your cup size by one (e.g. from A to B, B to C, etc.) or finding a bra style that offers a wider and more flexible underwire. Or, even go wire-free: contrary to what some of you ladies may believe, wire-free bras can have comparable comfort and support to an underwired bra.

You know your bra cups are TOO BIG when…

If you’re experiencing gapping or folds in the fabric of your bra cups BUT your bra back fits, this can signal that your cups are too big. There shouldn’t be any space between your bra cup and your breasts; your breasts should completely fill the space without any spillage. Your girls should never slip out from your bra when you move around or lift up your arms (this is uncomfortable, not to mention this can make for an embarrassing fashion mishap!).

To fix these bra fitting problems and to make sure your bra cups aren’t too small, try to go down a cup size, like from a C to a B, until the underwire fits more snugly and your bra fits against your breasts without causing discomfort or gaps. Use the guidelines above to make sure you  have a perfect fit.

More bra fitting tips!

Some women have come to me with their doctor’s advice not to wear underwire because it’s “unhealthy”. If you’ve heard this before, know that it’s mostly because women typically wear bras too small for them, which can cut off circulation to the surrounding lymphatic areas. Since your body needs to clear itself of its toxins, it is necessary to ensure proper and natural circulation, and squeezing your breasts into a small bra may prohibit your body’s natural functioning. As long as you are wearing the right size, and your breasts are being supported but not squished, wearing an underwired bra should not be a problem. Also make sure not to wear your bra 24 hours a day. It’s important to let them relax and “breathe”!

Always remember that you should do self breast exams periodically, but these should never replace regular breast exams with your doctor. Click here to view images from the American Cancer Society on how to conduct a self breast exam.

Stay tuned for the next installments of Bra Fitting Problems to learn how to fit your bra back and bra straps properly, and discover more helpful tips to find your perfect fit!

Need personalized help to diagnose your bra fitting problems? Want me to guide you to find the right bra size for you? Contact me! Comment here below, or email me personally at Plus, get more bra fitting tips by connecting with me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Celine, Your Bra Doctor




  • admin

    We are sorry for your experience with bra fitting experts. Sometimes it can be due to a lack of training or the pressure to sell product. As long as you feel good in your bra and it’s supporting you properly, you should wear the size you feel good in. If we could ever be of help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Bra Doctor!

    – The NTL Team

  • Kathleen

    I am 63 years old. I have largish breasts that are saggy. The old joke about having a navel between your nipples is no longer funny. So measuring for my cup size is problematic. My breasts fall out of my bra when I bend over, so I assume I’m wearing the wrong size. I am 35 inches under the breasts. I recently found a website that said to take off your bra and bend over so your breasts are pointing toward the floor that measurement is 49 inches. I’ve been wearing a 38DDD. HELP!

  • admin

    Hello Kathleen,
    Thank you so much for contacting us.
    Although you did indicate the size that you are wearing, you did not indicate the style of the bra that you are wearing. Is it a full cup, demi cup, underwire, wireless? This makes a huge difference. Let me explain. If for instance you are wearing a push up or demi cup, when you bend down, the breast tissue will overflow.
    Let’s address the size now. You indicate you are wearing a 38DDD. Is the band tight, comfortable or loose? If the band is good, are the cups big (does the cup crease), or small where the breast tissue overflows?
    Once you are able to give me more details, I will be more than happy to guide you regarding your size.



  • Kathleen

    I only wear full coverage underwire bras. The gore doesn’t lie flat. The band is comfortable, but rides up a bit. However, the bra is over 5 years old, so that’s to be expected. The cup does not crease, there is overflow. My primary question is whether or not the method of measuring I mentioned is accurate. If I measure in my current bra, the cup size is correct, but as i said, they sag. I’m over 60, and breastfed 3 children, so they’ve pretty much done their job. It just seems weird that I’d go up to a 38I which is what would be recommended with a band measurement of 38 and a breast measurement of 49 when bending over without a bra.

  • admin

    Hello Kathleen,
    Thank you for getting back to me.
    It could be that the bra has changed over the years or that you might have lost some weight.
    Normally in order to determine your proper size you should follow those guidelines:

    With a properly fitting bra on (try to avoid excessive padding), use a standard dressmaker’s measuring tape. Measure snugly around your rib cage (your “underbust”; below your shoulder blades in back) while keeping the tape as straight as possible.

    This may be helpful to do with a friend, Add 5 to that number. Once you add the 5, if the number is even then that is your Band Size. If the number is odd round up to one. If, let’s say, it’s 31, then add 1 to make it even, and it becomes 32. The best idea is to measure in inches, since that’s the North American industry standard.

    Still using the same tape measure and with your bra still on,place the tape measure under your arms and around the fullest part of your bust (typically below the level of your nipples, or at your nipples).

    Subtract the final number obtained from Step 1 above (your rib cage measurement), from the number you just obtained here in Step 2. E.X. Step 1 = 38, Step 2 = 42. 42 – 38 = 4 (a number equivalent to a cup size).

    Difference 0″ TO 1/2″ 1/2″ TO 1″ 1″ TO 2 1/2″ 2 1/2″ TO 3 1/2″ 3 1/2″ TO 4 1/2″ 4 1/2″ TO 6″ 6″ TO 7″ 7″ TO 8″ 8″ TO 9″ 9″ TO 10″ Over 10″
    Cup Size AA A B C D DD & E E & F G H I J and Up

    I hope this helps, if not please feel free to ask any questions.


  • Kathleen

    This method of measuring doesn’t take into consideration having a bra the wrong size. How can you find your correct size wearing a bra the wrong size. That’s no help. I’ll go with the alternate method I found online.

  • Marlene Clabbie

    I was wearing bra 44 F. I went for a bra fitting and the lady said when she measured me that I was a 42 E. I had lost weight. Thing is although the bra is comfy the back rides up and I am forever pulling it down. Do you think I should tighten up the band at the back

  • admin

    Hello Ms Clabbie,

    Thank you for your email. I hope all is well.
    The answer to your question is definitely yes, you need to tighten the band. When you do that, raise your arms and if the band moves again you need to tighten further, however, with that said, if you are at the tightest hook and the issue still persists, you should try a 40 band size.
    Let me know if you have any questions.

  • elaine cripe

    I am 77 and a18hr but find cup size is o.k but when I hook from front to back it will notmove does that mean a bigger band size am a 36d what is your answer?

  • admin

    Hello Ms Cripe,
    Thank you for contacting us.
    If the cup size is ok, as you indicated, and you did mention that the band is tight, if the band does not move and it’s comfortable, then that’s the size you need to stay with. However if you feel that it’s too tight, you can use a bra bra extender or try a 38c bra size. The 38c corresponds in the cup to a size 36d but has wider band.
    Don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.

  • Angel

    If my underwire is sliding down my chest and leaving a red mark in the shape of my bra when I sit (at my sit down job) does that mean the cup is too big? Also if it is poking higher up under my arm? I was measured as a 36D at Victoria Secret but also as several other sizes which left me confused. My measurements are 35 band and 39-40 bust but they are bottom heavy side set breasts.. almost nothing on top really. I cannot tell if my breast fills the entire cup but there does seem to be some slight gapping on top but mostly on the right side and mostly if Im not standing straight up. Can you give me some insight?

  • admin

    Hello Angel,
    Thank you for contacting us.
    The issue is definitely with both the size and the bra.
    The standard for sizing is as follows: If the diaphram measurement is 32 inches, add 5 inches to arrive at the body measurement (37 inches). Since 37 is an uneven number just add one more inch to arrive at 38″. If the diaphragm is over 33 inches, add only 3 inches. For the cup size, the difference between this meansure and the body size, including the 5 inches would determine the cup size. If the the difference is 1 inche, the cup is A, if 2 inches the cup is B, if 3 the cup is C and so on.
    You did not mention if your band is comfortable or tight. If it is comfortable and you can hook it in the middle or loosest the size 36 band is good. However your cup size indicates that it is too big which is why the wires are poking. The fact that the breast tissue fills the entire cup but you still have gapping indicates that the cups may be slightly padded, this has no bearing with the sizing. No 2 breasts are identical.
    Hope this helps, if not, please feel free to contact me.

  • Ann

    Iwhy ever bra I wear it hurts under my breast I am 81 and always takeing my br off. I pay many bra send up not wear because can not wait to take it off.

  • admin

    Hello Ann,
    Thank you for contacting us.
    Are you wearing underwires, if so what size do you wear?

  • Jennifer C

    I went to VS store and I had alot wire digging in etc and somes Spillage so I went up a band size to 38 it felt good they told me to go up a cup size bc of spillage and that there bras run small. So I went from a 38 D to 38 DD the cups seem to fit ok no spillage and no gaps on top etc but I’m having issue with around the side the band under my arm pit it will sometimes crease near the cup or it will flap over. Maybe it’s because there no wire bras and usually I wear or did wear wires but they just hurt me so much now with fibromyalgia since everything hurts but I hate that side crease/gold and gap.
    Does that mean the cups are to big as the band is pretty snug ? So I’m so confused I tried adjusting the straps and it just felt like any tighter it would dig into my shoulders so I had loosen some.

  • admin

    Hello Jennifer,
    It could be the style and the fabric.
    If it’s a question of sizing: If the band is big, then it would ride up in the back. If the band is too small, believe me you would feel uncomfortable. If the cups are too small, you would have spillage. If they are too big, the cups would crease.
    If certain fabrics make you uncomfortable, you should try bras that are made of cotton or modal, they are very soft.
    I truly feel that in your case, it is the VS styling that is an issue.
    Have you tried other brands? What styling in bras do you like?



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