In the last year, my bra size has been guesstimated at 32C, 32D, 34A, 34B, 32B, and 34C, and I’ve got a drawer jammed with lacy underthings to prove it. Some of them may actually fit, though I couldn’t tell you which.
Neither can most women. The statistic most often cited, from Oprah to the New York Times, is that 85 percent of us wear the wrong bra size, which can cause back pain, sagging, and aesthetic disaster.
“The right bra should be snug, with room for no more than a finger or two inside the band, and your ribcage-not your shoulders-should bear the weight,” says Merit Tukiainen, owner of Night & Day Lingerie. The store’s two locations in Andover and Newburyport specialize in fit (other area stores that offer bra fittings include Nordstrom, French Lessons, and Andrea Raymond Apparel). “Most women wear bras that are too big around, and too small in the cup,” says Tukiainen.
At Night & Day’s Andover location, I stand in the dressing room in jeans and a pretty lace bra by Natori, size 32C, while Tukiainen gives me the once over, twice. “It’s cute,” she says, “and fits around, but see this extra material at the top?” According to Tukiainen’s tape measure, I’m a 32B. Bras are sized not unlike pants, however, and just as a two at Ann Taylor might mean a six at Calvin Klein, cup and girth often vary between brands. Which is why a trained eye, your significant other excluded, can be more than just a luxury.
“One woman started crying when she saw herself in the mirror,” recalls Tukiainen. “She’d been wearing 38D. She left wearing 34F, and looked ten to fifteen years younger just by virtue of her breasts being where they should be.” Over the course of an hour, I’m handed more than 20 bras, and together Tukiainen and I decide which are keepers-her eye towards fit, mine toward form (nude or black, lightly padded, and very simple).
The process is remarkably easy, and a lot less touchy-feely than I imagined. I leave with a $90 Chantelle bra in a practical nude. In it, my clothes look better. My shoulders and back more relaxed. And my breasts, by God, a little bit perkier.
If the Bra Fits… Clues Hide and Peek you’re wearing the wrong size.
1. You adjust your bra constantly. The band of the bra should lie between your shoulder and your elbow, says Tukiainen. If the straps fall throughout the day, your bra’s too big.
2. Your cups runneth over (or under). You want your breasts to completely fill the bra. This may mean wearing a bigger cup size than you’re used to, or tossing bras whose cups have stretched beyond usefulness.
3. The bra rides up your back or digs into your shoulders. “Your bra should be snug,” says Tukiainen. “Snug means it’s supportive. Even if you have to deal with a little bit of bulge.” Too little support around can put too much pressure on strap-bearing shoulders.
4. You remove your bra as soon as you get home. If it’s that uncomfortable, says Tukiainen, something’s wrong.
Night & Day, 63 Park St., Andover, 978-475-0343; 58 Merrimac St., Newburyport, 978-463-0343; nightanddaylingerie.com. Private appointments available. -Alyssa Giacobbe