My first bra was very easy to pick out, mainly because I didn’t need it. I just wanted one because my friends at school were wearing them, and God forbid I not also give the gals a little unneeded support. It was lacey, white, and way too big for my barely-there breasts. But hey, at least I was just like my friends.
It was later that I learned about the discomfort of wearing the wrong bra. And as my breasts changed, it was a topic I had to constantly revisit. Finding the right bra isn’t like picking out a shade of lipstick; you can’t buy the same one over and over. Breasts change, and your bra has to change with them. Otherwise, you’re forced to endure a series of annoyances that range from spilling out of a garment to experiencing surreal back pain because the support you thought you paid for is MIA.
Still, it’s so easy to slip into the pattern of purchasing the same bra year after year, especially if you don’t know whether the bra you’re wearing is working for you and the girls. So look out for these signs that you’re wearing the wrong bra and need to move on.
1. Your Straps Keep Falling Down
Having a perpetually loose bra strap is one of life’s major annoyances. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If your straps keep coming loose, “Most likely, your bra is not the right size,” explains Karen LaPorte, senior manager at Manhattan lingerie store Journelle. “Try adjusting to a smaller band. If your cup volume is good, you will go up a cup size.” Another possible reason for perpetually loose straps? Dainty, Lady Mary-like shoulders. If that’s the case, try a u-back bra, which will fit more snugly and securely.
2. The Bra Band Creeps Towards Your Neck
Your bra band should stay on your back. If it regularly rises towards your neck, the LaPrte says your band is too large. She recommends seeing a fit specialist to address this particular issue. Ideally, you should find a bra whose band rests firmly on your rib cage without suffocating you.
3. You Feel Like You’re Wearing Battle Armor
If you feel so constrained by your bra that you can’t take a deep breath without pain, then this is not the bra for you. “Make sure to wear new bras on the loosest hook setting,” says LaPorte. “If still too tight, try a larger band. To keep cup volume the same, go down a cup.” Unless, of course, you’re experimenting with some 50 Shades of Grey-level fetishes. In which case, you do you.
4. You’re Barely Covered
Even if you like showing off a bit of cleavage, a good, well-fitting bra should provide coverage. “You could be wearing the wrong size or are choosing a style that is not best suited for you,” says LaPorte. “If you have a fuller shape, some demi-cup styles will not provide enough coverage for you.”
5. You Don’t Know The Anatomy Of A Bra
All this time I’ve been going on about the specific parts of your bra… but do you even know the difference between the gore and the wings? No? Then it’s time to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of your bra so you can figure out what’s going wrong (just look at this handy-dandy bra guide on Bratabase.)
6. You Wonder If You’re Even Wearing A Bra
Some bras are so comfortable, you forget you’re wearing one. But if you aren’t feeling support, then that’s a whole other story.
7. You Can’t Wait to Take It Off
Granted, there’s no greater feeling than unhooking your bra the second you get home. But that should be because you want to feel free and not because the straps have been digging into your skin all day. Take a good look at the band, which LaPorte explains does 80 percent of the work. “Your inclination will be to grab a larger size, but you actually most likely will need a smaller band,” she says. If your ribcage is bearing the brunt of the pain, then LaPorte says you should look into a larger band.
8. You’re Hung Up On the Numbers
So you think that you’re a certain bra size, but your bra still isn’t giving you the support you need? Don’t get too attached to the idea of 34B or 36C, which Women’s Health notes are two popular bra sizes regardless of whether they’re the right fit. Instead, see a fitter to reevaluate your bra size.
9. You’re Constantly Adjusting
While it makes sense to tweak the straps before wearing your bra for the first time, you shouldn’t spend your day should pulling, shifting, and generally adjusting your bra. “You shouldn't have to touch your bra all day until you take it off,” says LaPorte, noting that this is another case when the band may be too big.
10. You’re In Pain
For ladies with larger breasts, a bra can provide much needed support. If you’re experiencing regular neck or back pain, “it may be from not wearing a size to give you proper support,” says LaPorte. Wearing a more supportive bra keeps your weight closer to your body, which in turn helps you avoid back pain, Dr. Neil Kirschen, medical director of the Pain Management Center at South Nassau Communities Hospital, told Everyday Health.