1. You’re uncomfortable.
This includes any of the following symptoms, among others:
• Straps that dig into your shoulders ( = usually cup is too small)
• Underwire that stabs you ( = cup is too small)
• The dreaded quadraboob or other types of spillage ( = cup is too small)
• Cups that bunch up ( = cup is too big)
• Back bulge ( = band is too small)
• A band that rides up your back ( = band is too big)
An ill-fitting bra can also cause back, neck, or shoulder pain.
2. You’ve never been properly fitted.
Being measured at Victoria’s Secret when you were 14 doesn’t count. VS bra fittings have an unreliable reputation, so save yourself the effort and get fitted elsewhere. You can always return to VS later armed with the knowledge of your true bra size.
Most department stores offer decent bra fittings, but the fitter’s expertise can vary. The best option is finding a specialty bra or lingerie store in your area. These types of stores sometimes give free fittings, and you can check Yelp reviews ahead of time to verify the store’s credibility.
If you’ve never been fitted, be aware that bra fitters usually have to get a little fresh with the customer. This means they’ll probably be adjusting and re-adjusting your breasts. If you’re uncomfortable with this or there’s no suitable fitters in your area, you can measure yourself at home instead.
Finding out your true bra size can be surprising, but keep in mind that it’s only a guideline. Just like with jeans, your size will change depending on the bra’s brand, cut, and so on.
3. You buy the cheapest bra in the store.
Nobody wants to spend $$$ on unexciting underwear. Those with bra sizes within the 30A to 40DD range may be able to find cheaper options at stores like VS, Aerie, and Target (unless you’re looking for a 30DD or the like). But if you fall outside that range—and plenty of people do—it’s worth splurging on a well-fitting bra rather than squeezing into a too-small cup with a too-big band. Think about it: would you rather drop $100 on a glitzy dress you’ll wear once or a supportive bra you’ll consistently use?
4. Or you buy the prettiest bra in the store.
Some of the most supportive bras aren’t the sexiest, especially if you’re trying to save money. If you can only afford to buy one or two go-to bras, make sure they’re neutral enough to wear with anything. That lacy neon pink bra may look hot, but do you really want to show it off every time you wear a white shirt?
5. You machine wash your bras.
OK, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wearing the wrong bra size. But throwing your bras in the washing machine can warp them out of their original shape. Take the time to hand wash them, especially if they’re lacy. If you must use the machine, hook and stash the bras in a lingerie bag first and use the delicates/cold water setting. And don’t you dare think about putting them in the dryer. If you want your bras to last, hang drying is the best move.
6. You’ve been wearing the same bra for forever.
Even if you’re wearing the right size, bras wear out over time. Is yours stretched out to a larger band size? Do you need to go past the tightest hook? Here are more questions to ask yourself before tossing your bra.
If you can’t bear to part with your favorite bra and the damage isn’t too extensive, consider getting it altered. Intimacy offers free alterations for bras purchased within six months from their stores. You’ll have to pay for alterations after this time limit, but the price is worth salvaging a dream bra. If you’re sewing savvy, try altering your bras at home by tightening the band or shortening the straps.
7. Your body shape has changed but not your bras.
Bodies change thanks to puberty, pregnancy, birth control pills, age, stress, etc. If you’ve gained or lost a few pounds, get re-fitted. And if your breasts get significantly bigger before or during your period, it might be worth buying a larger bra specifically for that lovely time of month.
8. You’re unsatisfied with your breasts’ size and/or appearance.
Wearing the wrong size can make your breasts look bigger or smaller than they actually are, and the media skews perceptions of bra sizes. Your breasts should not be spilling out of your bra the way Victoria’s Secret models’ do. Photoshop removes models’ armpit bulges and spillage, which are caused by wearing the wrong size.
Below are some examples of what properly fitted bra sizes look like in real life.
And a 36F (see more size examples at the Bra Band Project):
Of course, wearing the so-called “right” bra size isn’t mandatory. If you can wear a “wrong” size comfortably, then more power to you. If you want to go braless, go for it. Whatever the case, you do you.