Statistics show that over 80% of women wear incorrectly fitted bras. This is a staggering figure that significantly influences how actual average breast size is perceived! Bra sales figures are not perfect indicators of average breast size, yet they are one of the closest gauges we have to determine actual average size.
Many online and print sources, particularly one Time magazine article titled “If Your Bra Doesn't Fit, Go Shopping,” cite that the average breast size falls somewhere between 34B to 36C. Knowing this figure is a starting point, but it’s only part of the story.
If the bra doesn’t fit
Wearing a poorly fitting bra makes you vulnerable to unsightly spill-over (also known as ‘double bust’), bulging back fat and an appearance of looking too flat or too heavy. Over the long term it contributes substantially to the condition of saggy breasts. One of the most common errors is wearing a cup that’s the wrong size, particularly one that’s too small. Another frequent oversight is a band that rides up too high on the back; this subsequently causes the cup to fall. You might compensate for this by shortening your straps but that unfortunately puts a lot of weight on your shoulders, causing back/shoulder pain and (likely) poor posture. A well-fitting and supportive bra will also help keep your breasts looking shapely, feeling firmer and in good (Breast) Health.
Why is it important to accurately measure breast size?
Lack of standardization in bra manufacturing is one of the major causes of incorrectly measured breast size. A lot of frustration and negative self-doubt can come about simply from wearing an ill-fitting bra! There’s a good chance that all of this misery can be alleviated simply by sizing correctly, making your clothing fit better and giving you a much more positive self-image.
Statistics show that the usefulness of using bra or cup size as a measure of breast size isn’t always the most accurate. The actual fit is contingent upon the style that you’re wearing and who manufactures it. And don’t forget that cup size is dependent upon the band size! For example, a 36C is the same as 38B, but the lower digits represent the same size on a smaller frame. Your best bet is to get a professional measurement at a reputable specialist shop and use that number, not the one on your favorite bra, as your benchmark.
How to measure your breast size
If you want to try measuring yourself, we’ll show you the simple steps to do it! You need to be relaxed, standing with your arms by your side, so you will need to ask a friend you feel comfortable with to help you:
Band Size – is (by rule) displayed in even numbers. Grab a tape measure and place it at a level that’s just underneath your breast fold. Run it around your ribcage and make sure it’s horizontal and fits snugly. If the measurement that you obtain is an odd number, it should be rounded up to the next even one. If the measurement is even, your band size will likely be that number but it may need to be rounded up to the next even number (so as not to be too tight).
Cup Size - you will need your new band size and one of your current bra sizes to come up with this measurement. As mentioned earlier, cups are sized relative to the band size. Compare your new band size with your old one; if the new one is lower, you’ll actually need to increase your cup size! Every size (that’s 2 inches) that your band size decreases will require a corresponding increase in cup size. Sizes are: AA, A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G and so on.
Now you can try out your skills while you go bra shopping. An indication that you’ve got the right cup size is if the breasts fill out the cup without spilling over. For women with bigger busts, try on a bra and lift up your arms – if your breasts spill out the bottom of the cup, you’ll need a bigger one. You’ll know when the band is too big on you if it rides up your back – you ought to wear the smallest band you can comfortably carry off and try it on with the biggest adjustment. At first, bras will fit snug rather than loose because many bra materials such as Lycra will relax over time.
Even though you now know your bra size, you may still want to consider a professional fitting in order to understand the plethora of other factors in a bra, such as cut, padding (which will manipulate breast tissue), rigidity of cup, depth of cup (which if higher, gives fuller coverage of breast), underwire, stability, distance between cups (which, if too big, creates puckering), distance between straps, support, and desired shape/styling.
Breasts shape will change numerous times in your life for various reasons:
Puberty - as breasts are mainly comprised of adipose tissue, their shape and size can change over time. This occurs very markedly during puberty. The breast size may also change if you gain or lose weight. According to a 2009 publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “pre-adolescent obesity is also an important predictor of age of onset of breast development in young women, and of breast size after puberty”. Any rapid increase in size of the breasts can result in the appearance of stretch marks.
Breast Asymmetry - this is a very common occurrence during puberty with breasts often differing by as much as an entire cup size. This irregularity can cause worry and self consciousness. The good news is that over time, their shape continues to evolve and can transform into a matching pair. With all of the bra options available, this can easily be camouflaged by wearing a breast pad or add some more padding to the smaller side. The key thing is to be patient and avoid unnecessary fixating!
Pregnancy - it is typical for breast shape to change during pregnancy and this change continues throughout the breastfeeding period. The breasts become larger as well as firmer, which is due to the mammary gland’s response to the Prolactin hormone. The size of the nipples can increase and their pigmentation may also darken. In general, breasts more or less go back to their original state after pregnancy/breastfeeding, but there is a high probability of some sagging and/or stretch marks. One should revisit their bra size every so often, especially if weight has fluctuated by more than 5 lbs for any reason.
Reproductive Cycle - breast volume can fluctuate as much as 15% across a woman’s menstrual cycle, chiefly due to premenstrual water retention. Breast size can also swell as a side effect of an oral contraceptive pill; the opposite effect can occur at menopause if estrogen levels decline too much. Breasts can increase in size as a response to sexual arousal and stimulation. If ligaments elongate, breasts can start to droop, a natural process that occurs over time. Drooping can also arise as a result of too much bouncing during physical activity: this is why a bra with good support is imperative to wear when exercising.
Putting on a bra
Don’t waste that time and money spent on getting the right bra by putting it on improperly! This advice applies whether you have large breasts or small. There is a proper technique that will ensure you get all the benefits you have paid for:
Adjust the straps to their maximum length and slip your arms through. Lean forward into the cups, hooking up the bra at the back and put the straps on your shoulders (if you find this difficult, fasten the bra at the front and then turn it around, taking care not to strain the elastics, before leaning in).
Adjust the bra by slipping a hand into each cup and lifting the breast while holding the wire (if any) in the correct position with the other hand. The wire should fit along the natural crease where your breast begins while remaining on the ribcage so that it doesn’t pinch the breast tissue.
Holding the wires under the breasts, lean forward and gently shake the bra to the left and right. Your breasts will fall into the cup and sit higher when you stand up straight.
Adjust the straps; remember that it’s the bra band that provides most of a bra’s support – not the straps. The straps should therefore support the breast lightly without putting too much pressure on the shoulders; otherwise, the back of the bra will ride up and affect your posture. Drop the strap off your shoulder so that you can reach the adjusters from the side (or ask someone to help you). You only need to do this once, and the strap length will be right every time.
Now that you’ve spent all that money on a good quality bra, take care of it! This will extend the life of the bra and (just as importantly) ensure that it does it job effectively during that time. Ideally, your bra should be hand washed and line-dried so that it doesn’t shrink or damage. If you don’t do this, at least put it on the washers ‘delicates’ cycle, hook the bra clasps (to prevent twisting), shorten the straps (to help stop tangling), and set the rise for cool/cold. Finally, do NOT put it in the dryer! Leave the back clasped, fix the cups and let it hang dry.
Don’t wear cheap and ill-fitting bras! There are many stylish and sexy-looking bras out there for every occasion, whether for day-to-day or special occasion. Do yourself a favour and spend the extra required at a reputable professional retailer to ensure that you get the support you deserve! You will be glad that you did - and your body/breasts (and almost certainly your partner) will thank you for it.