Are you wearing the wrong size bra?

80% of women today wear bras that are the wrong size for them. Are you one of those 80%? Is your number, or band size, correct? What about your letter or cup size? While it’s best to buy your bra with the help of a bra-fit specialist, they’re often not available in stores and intimate apparel departments. Chances are that you bought your bra on your own and are just not sure whether it fits the way it’s supposed to. Even if you did receive a fitting when you originally purchased it, weight changes, pregnancy, and breastfeeding may have since changed your size and shape, creating new doubts in your mind. Not to worry. With the help of a mirror, there are some easy ways you can determine on your own whether you’re wearing the wrong size. The key areas to look at are the principal components of every bra: the band, the cups, and the straps.

So how do bra size works?

Most people know that bra sizes are made up of two parts- a number and a letter. The number is known as the “band size” or “back size,” and the letter is the “cup size.” However, what many people do not realize is that cup sizes are in proportion to the band size, so a D cup, for example, is not the same size in every bra. A 32D is the same size as a 34C or 36B, but on a smaller frame. A 28F is actually five cup sizes smaller than a 38F, so it’s not as big as it sounds! If you’re fairly slim, then you may well need a large cup size even though your bust doesn’t look any bigger than average.

Larger women may still need a small band size because this relates to the size of your ribcage only- you can still be curvy everywhere else! And losing or gaining just a few pounds is likely to have an effect on your bra size but it’s not often considered even when other clothing is resized. And then there are the times when you go for so long wearing a certain size that you don’t even realize it doesn’t fit well anymore and you stop noticing the discomfort and treating it as “normal”! If you’re looking for a better fit, here’s how to find your true bra size.

Before we begin, remember that when evaluating the fit of a new bra, make sure to try it on using the loosest hook. Over the bra’s lifetime, washing and wearing will cause it to stretch, so you’ll want to be able to use the tighter hook settings in the future.

Signs that Your Bra Band is the Wrong Size

1. The band cuts into your skin.If the band digs into you and creates back-fat bulges or red marks on your torso, it’s too tight and you need to move up a band size.

2. You can pull the band more than a couple of inches away from your back. If you can pull the band back that far, it’s too loose and you need to move down a band size.

3. The bra straps are cutting into your shoulders. This is perhaps the most misunderstood sign of an improperly-fitting bra. The bra band’s responsible for providing 80% of the support for your bust. The straps should only be doing 20% of the work. If the straps are digging into you, they’re shouldering too much of the burden. Your band is likely too large and you need to move down a band size. Making this change will allow the band to do its fair share of the “heavy lifting.”

4. The band doesn’t lie parallel to the ground. If it’s curved or riding up on your back, it’s too loose. You need to move down a band size.

5. You don’t have two fingers of space between your bra band and your back. If you can fit more than two fingers between your band and your back, your band’s too loose and you need to move down a band size; if you can’t fit two fingers back there, your band’s too tight and you need to move up a band size.

6. The band doesn’t rest flatly against your back.If there’s space between the band and your back when it’s fastened, the band’s too loose and you need to move down a band size.

The bra band’s perhaps the most important, functional component of your bra. Making sure it’s the right size is critical. But, keep in mind, if you move up or down in band size you may need to make an opposite move in cup size in order to maintain an overall correct fit.

Signs that Your Bra Cups are the Wrong Size

7. The underwires rest on your breast tissue.The cups, including the wires, should completely contain your breasts. The wires should rest on your rib cage. If the wires rest on your breast tissue, your cups are too small and you should move up a cup size.

8. The underwires poke you under your arms.If you’re being poked in the sides, where the cups meet the wings, your cups are too small and you should move up a cup size.

9. The underwires lift off of your rib cage.If the underwires don’t lie flatly against you, the cups are again too small and you need to move up a cup size.

10. Your cups are wrinkling.If you’re wearing non-molded cups, and there seems to be extra fabric at their tops, the cups are too large and you should move down a cup size.

11. Breast tissue is bulging from the edges of the cups.If part of your bust appears to be jumping from the top of the cups, or spilling out from the sides of them under your arms, the cups are too small and you need to move up a cup size. Again, the cups should completely contain all of the breast tissue; wearing cups that are a size too small to enhance cleavage only produces an uncomfortable fit.

12. The center gore, or the fabric connecting the bra’s two cups, doesn’t rest flatly against your sternum. If you can put your finger between the fabric and your skin, your cups are too small causing your breasts to exert too much tension on the center gore. Again, try moving up a cup size.

When evaluating the fit of your bra cups, keep a couple of things in mind. First, few women have two breasts that are exactly the same size. When determining the right cup size for you, always judge the fit according to your larger side. Second, a great way to judge “spillage” out of the cups is to put on a tight T-shirt over your bra. You’ll be able to see any excess tissue more clearly than by just wearing a bra alone. If bulges are apparent, you’ll need to move up a cup size.

Signs that Your Bra Straps Don’t Fit Properly

13. The straps slide off of your shoulders. Bra straps shouldn’t slide off of your shoulders. If this occurs, they’re too loose. Increase their tension if they’re adjustable.

14. You don’t have two fingers of space between your bra straps and your shoulders.If you have adjustable straps, increase their tension if more than two fingers fit underneath them; decrease their tension if two fingers can’t fit underneath them.

Bras that fit correctly are comfortable, improve posture, create a thinner appearance, and bolster confidence and self-esteem by creating an overall better silhouette. They can be the most important items in any woman’s wardrobe.