We’ve all been there… you have a choice of your greying, old, comfy bra (possibly still the breastfeeding one, even though you haven’t breastfed for two years but, y’know, it’s comfy) or your brand new, pretty, lacy, brightly coloured, a little bit sexy but a little bit uncomfortable bra… which one do you opt for?
I’ve got a little secret I want to share with you. There is one very simple thing every woman can do that will improve every single outfit you wear. You got it. A properly-fitted bra (that will be comfortable to wear yet supportive) fitted by a trained and experienced bra expert. Having your boobs in the right place will alter your proportions and make your waist longer… particularly important if you are short waisted, or don’t have much of a waist. But equally important for anyone, regardless of your body shape and no matter how big or small your boobs are.
But I’ve been fitted… they measured me…
When I say properly trained and experienced bra expert, this does not mean someone putting a tape measure around you. It means properly assessing your body and breast type with an expert eye. In fact, tape measures shouldn’t be needed at all, so if you have been fitted in a department store, then you might want to read on!
It’s estimated that 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size and that 60% of women are not wearing the right bra for their body and breast type. The type of bra is just as important as the size of the bra, and that all depends on your breast type and your body.
How to tell if your bra fits you.
I asked bra fitting expert, Rosie Leggett of Bella Rosa Lingerie, what to look out for:
1 . The Back Band
85% of the support of a bra comes from the back band, so it needs to be firm in order to give you lift without cutting in. If the back band rides up, it is too big for you! The back band should be positioned at a right angle with your arm.
2. Shoulder Straps
Shoulder straps are only to keep the bra holding it's shape, not to hold you up. You should be able to slide two fingers underneath the straps. Any more and these are too loose. Any less and you will end up with these cutting in and forming ridges in your shoulders.
3. Swoop and Scoop
When you put the bra on, you need to pull all breast tissue from under your arms forwards and into the cup. This should fill out the material. If, after this, you have excess material the cup size is too big for you. Similarly, if you find this give you the dreaded double boob, or as my Mum calls them "udders" then you need to move up a cup size.
Certain cup styles will not sit perfectly on your chest bone between your breasts. The golden rule is to always press on the underwire underneath your arms - this should feel firm and be pushing against your rib cage. If when pressing, this feels squishy, it is still on breast tissue and you need a larger cup size.
Just take a look at some of these images of these before and afters to give you some idea of how much difference the right size and shape can make.
I’ve been fitted by a bra specialist, so I’m ok thanks
Even if you have been fitted properly, you need to get fitted for a new bra every six months as your body actually continually changes throughout your life and it is important to make sure your old faithful bra is still giving you the support you need. Think of it like a dental check up!
What you actually need to own
The minimum you need is one to wear, one to wash and a spare - I would say a nude bra that you can wear under white (I wouldn’t bother with white bras, they just show through white), and a black bra for darker outfits. However, there are actually 7 different shapes of bra out there and every one of them will give you a completely different look for different outfits. So you also need a t-shirt bra and a full cup for every day wear.
In the Summer, you might want to add in a strapless bra or a racer back bra that you don’t mind showing off. In that case, you might need a little more variety and more colours, it’s always good to try the bra on with the ‘tricky’ item - the backless, strapless, racer back or spaghetti strap top. You could get a contrasting colour, and I would advise against a nude bra if the straps will be showing - black or a bright colour - I personally love a red bra and they’re more useful than you think too! I was delighted that Rosie agreed with me on the red bra front, she says:
“I always say every woman should own a red bra. It is the ultimate pick me up when you’re feeling low. If you know underneath your outfit you have on red lingerie, you are ready to conquer the world.”
A red bra can sometimes be better than a nude bra underneath a see-through white t-shirt too - weird, but it sometimes works!
Rosie also says that you should always, always, always try a new bra on and make sure it fits properly. Even within the same store, sizes will come up differently. And bear in mind that black lingerie [and in fact all clothing] has a tendency to come up smaller than others as the fabric has a habit of shrinking when dyed with dark colours.
You also need a proper sports bra for exercise - no matter what your cup size, when exercising, you can move up to 16cm in all directions. Your breasts are only made of tissue, not muscle. If you stretch the tissue, you aren't getting that firmness back! Yikes!
I don’t have time to go and find a bra specialist
Well, if you live in London and the South East, I have some great news for you! Rosie will come to your house (for a minimal fee) with her trunk full of beautiful bras from sizes 30A to 44K (which should work for most people from a UK size 6 up to a UK size 24) and get you into the right size.
If you live further afield, Rosie can actually help you to find your perfect fit from just a few photos of you in your current bra. Since she fits by eye, she is able to advise what size you are and recommend the best shapes and styles she has available for you. Amazing!
I have learnt so much from speaking with Rosie, and I can’t wait to get fitted again and update my bra collection - I’m booked in for next month and I can’t wait!
Book Rosie by contacting her via email or give her a follow on Instagram at @bellarosalingerie
PS. How to care for your bras
Rosie’s top tips for washing your lingerie - always hand wash! Industry secret... Fairy Liquid is actually the best thing you can use! Leave your bras to soak in warm bubbly water over night, rinse off in the morning and leave to drip dry and hey presto! Also, fabric softener is a big no no. It actually rots Lycra which is why you end up with little holes appearing.