After 10 years working for Panache, a 30-year-old U.K.-based bra company specializing in D-cup-and-up bras, Kay-Lin Richardson has become something of a bra-fit genius. Panache is a favorite of busty celebs like Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Simpson, and Kay-Lin often conducts VIP bra fittings out of the company’s NYC showroom. In Kay-Lin’s experience, many of the women she fits don’t even realize they are wearing the wrong size bras and are surprised by just how different their actual bra size is. For this reason, she suggests every woman take a good, hard look at the bra she’s wearing and ask herself these seven simple questions:
1. Is my underwire is sitting away from my chest wall?
This means your cups are too small. Your underwire should fit firmly against your chest without any gaping. Assuming your straps are properly adjusted, you’ll know you’ve found the right band fit when you can lift your arms over your head without the underwire rising up.
2. Are my bre@sts bulging out over the top, sides, or bottom of my cups?
You should probably go up a cup size. The cup should hold your entire bre@st without the dreaded quadra-boob. “I always suggest women bring a T-shirt with them to try on bras,” Kay-Lin says. “They might think a bra looks great, but then they put a T-shirt on over the top and realize it actually isn’t giving them the shape they want. Or they might feel so-so about a bra and then put the T-shirt on and realize it’s perfect.”
3. Is my strapless bra slipping down?
You need to go down a band size. In fact, you may need to go down a few band sizes. With only the band to hold your chest up, a proper, firm fit is essential if you don’t want to spend the whole night hiking up your bra. Kay-Lin also suggests shopping for formal dresses and bras in tandem so you don’t end up with a dress that leaves you unsupported. “A lot of brides in particular want to go with these strapless, backless styles, but that can be tough when you’ve got a large bust to support. Sometimes they have support built in, or it can be added later, but not always.” For this reason Kay-Lin advises taking your dress (wedding or otherwise) with you when you go to try on bras, or even finding the strapless bra that works best for you before dress shopping.
4. Are my straps digging into my shoulders?
You need to go down a band size. In order for the bra to provide proper support, the band and straps need to work together. If the straps are digging into your shoulders it’s a sign that the straps are doing too much of the work for you.
5. Are my bre@sts falling to the sides instead of going straight forward?
Ditch the T-shirt bra for something seamed. “A lot of women favor seamless, molded-cup T-shirt bras because they’re worried that seamed bras will show up under their clothes,” Kay-Lin says, “but especially with larger busts, those seams are mostly under the bre@st and are rarely noticeable under clothing.” For best results look for a bra with a four-part cup, like the one below. The additional seam on the side, known as a ‘side sling’, is great for helping guide your bre@sts forward.
6. Is the back of my band riding up?
Again, your band is probably too large. Instead of bowing up, your band should fit firmly and horizontally across your back.
7. Are my cups wrinkling or gaping?
In this case, your cups are probably too large. You should either go down a cup size or, especially if only one cup is loose, add padding to help them out.