Nothing ruins your day like an ill-fitting bra. The constant adjustments, poking wires, and slipping straps consume your day and eat away at your soul. We’ve all dealt with a bra from hell that should probably be thrown away, yet we hang on to it for some reason.
Even founder and CEO of Bloom Bras, Elyse Kaye, has struggled with bra problems. “Prior to starting Bloom Bras, I would take a safety pin and secure the straps at the nape of my neck to eliminate pulling down into my shoulders,” she told me.
Now, get ready to kiss those bra worries goodbye. I had the chance to chat with some of the most knowledgeable experts about the most common bra problems, as well as what to do to solve them.
You’re wearing the wrong size
After talking with the experts, it seems pretty clear that nearly all bra problems come from not knowing your true size. “Most of us do not know our true bra size,” says Kaye.
Do yourself a favor and have a proper bra fitting. It’s quick and painless, and can save you years of wearing the wrong size. Our bodies change over time, especially if we’ve had children, or lost weight. Make sure you’re wearing the right size, so you can avoid most of the most common problems.
You’ve got spillage
If you’ve ever felt like your bra cups aren’t quite holding everything, you’ve experienced spillage. If your cups overfloweth, your bra is too small. Feeling like you’re spilling out of your bra is a common problem and can distract you all day.
“This issue is particularly common in women with larger busts,” DKNY‘s executive vice president Cathy Volker told Refinery 29. “To prevent cup spillage, consider a full coverage bra — a full cup provides extra support and coverage.” Aerie fit expert Jenny Altman agrees that it’s all about the cup size. “Keep your band size as is, but move up at least one letter in your cup size (A to B, B to C, and so on).”
Your underwire is digging in
Feeling your underwire digging into your skin is one of the most annoying bra problems out there. Even when you feel like you’ve got it under control, one small twist or turn can send that wire jabbing into your side again. If you frequently notice your underwire bothering you, it may be time to switch up the type of bras you buy.
“Feeling your bra digging into the underside of your bra is a fairly common issue that women face, and this is usually due to a mix of your breast shape and the wiring in your bra,” Sam Williamson of Macom Medical told me. “Switching to a different wire bra won’t help, as you’ll just experience the same kind of pain. The only way to alleviate this pain is to switch to a non-wire bra.”
Is there anything more annoying than constantly having to adjust your bra straps as they slide down your shoulder? I think not. Fortunately, the solution may be as simple as tightening your bra straps.
“If slipping straps persist even after tightening, you may have narrow or sloped shoulders, so bra straps are more prone to falling down your arm,” Orit Hashay, CEO of Brayola.com, told me. “Fit experts recommend tightening your straps every other month.” Hashay recommends the Glamorise Elegance Front Close Underwire Bra.
If you love the bras you have, it’s possible to have the straps adjusted so that it’s harder for them to slip down. “Yes, you can buy a racerback or convertible bra, but this limits your choices. Instead, with many bras, it is possible to have your tailor move the straps in the back so they are closer together where they meet the band,” image consultant Ginger Burr told me. “Some stores offer this service to make it convenient. Your straps will stay put and not slip off your shoulders ever again.”
If you’re in a hurry, you’re probably used to just hooking your bra, throwing on some clothes, and dashing out the door. However, most women need to do a little adjusting to make sure their bras are fitting properly before they’re good to go for the day.
Rather than just throwing on your bra and moving on, take a minute to make sure everything is fitting correctly. “Instead, you want to scoop your breast into the bra. To do this, after putting on your bra, bend over, gently scoop the breast starting under your arm and lift it into the cup,” says Burr. “This quick adjustment makes your breasts look more lifted, less squished, and better supported. You won’t believe the difference until you try it.”
It offers no support
While most of us think of digging underwires and slipping straps when it comes to bra problems, sports bras are just as important to get right. When you’re running or jumping, you need some serious support for both comfort and function. Owner of WheelPower Studio, Donielle Stutland, spoke with me about being able to find comfortable sports bras that provide enough support while still looking chic.
And personal trainer at the studio, Tracy Chudnow, has an added challenge when it comes to finding the right sports bra — she’s pregnant!
“Lululemon has the best sports bras for both of us. It has been expanding its line for fuller-chested women, to add the Invigorate bra to the already trusty favorite Energy bra and the Ta Ta Tamer,” Stutland told me. “Tracy has been loving the comfort of Lululemon bras while pregnant and every once in awhile they have a zip-front style, like the Ready, Set, Sweat bra [which] makes nursing pre- or post-workout a cinch!”
The band is too tight
If you’ve gained some weight lately, or shrunk your bra in the wash, you may be noticing the band is suddenly too tight. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to walk around like this all day, but it’s also stretching out your bra. Fortunately, you don’t need to run to the nearest lingerie store just yet.
“If you gained a bit of weight or you are expecting and find your bra band a bit too tight, no need to get a new bra, just get an extender,” owner of Baba’s Lingerie and bra fit expert, Dionne Morrison, MBA told me. “A bra extender is an accessory which gives you an extra 2 inches in width to allow for a more comfortable fit.” More comfort and saving money? Yes please!
I know Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw always looked chic with her black or electric blue bra straps showing, but for most of us, a visible bra is not a good look. Especially if you’re spending your days in an office, or chasing your kids around the playground, chances are you want to keep some things private. “If your bra straps are always showing or slipping then a bra clip accessory is perfect,” says Morrison. “It pulls the strap into a racer back. There, problem solved!”
If you plan on sporting a low back top or dress for date night, don’t worry. You can still wear your favorite bra. “If your bra is showing in the back, chances are it is not low enough for that outfit — no problem, get the low back extender,” says Morrison. “It is an accessory clipped to your bra that lowers the back and gives you the option of wearing those daring low styles.”
You’re in-between sizes
One of the reasons that it can be so difficult to find the right bra size is that you may not fit into conventional sizes. “Almost 40 percent of women between A and E cups are actually in between standard cup sizes, with other common problems being slipping straps, digging straps, and rising back band,” Ra’el Cohen, ThirdLove’s Head of Design told me. “As a solution, ThirdLove developed signature half-cup sizes from AA through G, and for slipping straps, we recommend tightening them every other month to keep them snug and supportive.”
If it seems like you are between sizes, talk with the consultant at your local lingerie shop. Bra sizes are not standard across companies, so she may have suggestions about which brands run small or large, depending on what you need.
The straps dig in
When your bra straps are digging into your shoulders all day, it can be hard to think about anything else. I had assumed that digging straps meant the straps were too tight, but it turns out it says more about your band size.
“If your straps are digging into your shoulders or the back band is rising, chances are your band is too big or has stretched out over time and you should consider buying one band-size smaller — that might do the trick,” says Cohen. “You’ll know you’re in the right band size when you can slip two fingers underneath the back of the band.”
It’s creating back fat
We can all feel self-conscious when a bra doesn’t fit right. Some bras can actually create the look of bunching skin or back fat. Fortunately for our egos, it’s just the bra that needs adjusting — not your body.
“It’s a common problem we hear, and the good news is that it’s the bra,” says Brayola.com CEO Hashay. “Many women are wearing the wrong type of bra and probably don’t know that there are bras specifically designed to smooth out your back.” For a flattering, smooth look, Hashay recommends the Wacoal Ultimate Side Smoother Contour Bra.
You’re not sure how to shop for one
So you’re ready to commit to some new bras? Many women put off bra shopping, because we already have so many, or don’t want to deal with the hassle of waiting to be measured by an over-eager salesperson.
Vice President of Blush lingerie, Tiffany Ajmo, recommends paying attention to all of the details when investing in new bras. “I’ll start with what we don’t see…the inner side of a bra cup. The wire casing should be brushed and soft. This will be the difference between a bra that you are happy to wear all day, and one you can not wait to take off,” she explained to me. “Wire casing that is not soft can cause irritation!” And it’s not just the fabric you should check out. Those little rings and slider adjusters on the bra should be metal, not plastic. “Metal will last much longer, and nickel-free metal is always great,” says Ajmo.
You don’t know when to get a new one
If you’re anything like me, you wait way too long to invest in new bras. I asked some of our experts how often we should actually be shelling out for new ones.
“With frequent use, bras wear out, and stretch out, just like your favorite shoes,” Jessica Pfister, Vice President of Le Mystere Lingerie told me. “After about 6 to 8 months of regular wearing, the elastics on your bra are just not as strong as they used to be, so chances are that your wings are no longer laying horizontally across you back. When this occurs, you find the back of your bra hiking up towards your shoulder blades and your breast drooping forward.”
Keep in mind any recent body changes when deciding if it’s time for new bras. Have you recently lost or gained weight? Or has your body changed from a new workout routine or diet? If you’ve recently had a baby, you know how differently your bra can fit after birth and nursing.
A good bra loves you back
Once you’ve put the time in, to pick out the perfectly-sized new bra, don’t stretch it out in the washing machine. Quality bras can be pretty delicate, and need to be treated gently.
“Hand wash in warm water with a gentle detergent like the delicate wash from the Laundress,” recommends Pfister. “If you can’t possibly find the time to hand wash, please, please put your bras in a wash bag with the hooks closed ( to prevent fabric snags) and use the gentle cycle on your machine.” Once you’ve washed your bras, lay them flat to dry. A dryer will almost certainly damage them.
Take good care of your bras, and they’ll take care of you!