How to buy a bra that actually fits (and why it’s so important)

It’s estimated that 70% of women are not wearing the correct-sized bra. Here, Curvy Kate’s expert bra fitter, Katie Weir, shares her advice on how to find the right underwear for you. 

Bra shopping can be mind-boggling. From understanding what size to buy and navigating the choices of style and colour, to the worry of buying an uncomfortable bra that digs in; it’s no wonder many of us don’t enjoy bra shopping.  

A study by Dr Jenny Burbage, a sports biomechanist at the University of Portsmouth, found that “traditional methods of bra fitting were inadequate, especially for larger-breasted women”, as well as noting previous studies that suggest “70% to 100% of women are wearing the wrong-size bra.” But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Wearing a bra that fits correctly is incredibly important. Not only do bras provide support for your breasts, but a bra that fits well can change your entire perception of your body. “Boobs can affect you mentally and physically, especially if you have a negative relationship with them,” expert bra-fitter Katie Weir, who specialises in fuller-bust underwear at lingerie shop Curvy Kate, tells Stylist.

My mum took me to get fitted for my first bra when I was 13. I can remember worrying about getting my boobs out for the bra fitter and feeling nervous about how uncomfortable wearing a proper bra would be. After my first anxiety-ridden experience, I ditched all professional bra fitters and lived in soft lace bralettes, avoiding the need to be fitted. I didn’t think bras suited me or added any positives to my life. That was until last summer when I had a bra-piphany and became a total convert.

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I had been wearing a 36C bra, which provided no support, little comfort and lacked any shape. After many conversations with lingerie companies and bra fitters, including Katie, I discovered that I’m actually a 38E. Now, I’ve ditched the bralette and wear a correctly fitting bra every day – I couldn’t be happier.

It’s ill-fitting bras that led Katie to where she is today. “I had the most horrific bra fitting when I was 15. The woman presented me with a size 38DD granny bra that came up to my neck in the most unflattering conical shape. I cried for a week afterwards,” she tells me.

“It wasn’t until I got a job with a leading lingerie brand and got fitted there that I fell in love with my actual bra size – a 32G,” says Katie. “It was life-changing and from that moment I wanted every woman to know they can feel confident and that bras over a DD cup don’t need to be ugly. It just takes a bra fitting to help you.”

To buy a bra that fits you correctly, it’s imperative to get fitted by an expert. Although this may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Here are some takeaways that will help you purchase the best fitting bra for you. 

Always see a professional for a bra fitting 

Seeing a professional bra fitter is essential. If you’re nervous about going into a shop in person, virtual bra fittings are available at the touch of a button. Curvy Kate’s own online bra whisperer service skyrocketed over lockdown, fitting over 1,000 women at virtual fittings.

“We saw such high demand that we now have a team of virtual bra fitters on hand to fit ladies across the globe and we truly do; from Barbados and Russia to New York and Scotland,” says Katie. 

Virtual bra fittings usually take around seven to 10 minutes. Katie doesn’t use a measuring tape or calculations: “It is more based on the bra style that you are wearing, your underwear size and height.” 

During the virtual bra fitting, Katie will do a visual assessment of the bra, “asking the customer to do a few moves first, including a jiggle. This gets the breast tissue into the bottom of the cups. She then asks people to do a ‘scoop and swoop’  – a signature move that brings all of the breast tissue from the armpit area into the bra cups. “From here I can see the spillage, how the underwires, back band and the straps sit,” says Katie.

All of these factors help indicate what bra size someone should be wearing, and styles that will suit their bust shape and frame best. “During an in-person fitting, we would do all of the same moves, but I would be there to help put on the bras, ensure we get into them properly and dance around the room a bit together!” 

“It’s normal to feel embarrassed, worried or shy” 

Bra fitting is “perhaps the most intimate experience a woman can have other than a bikini wax,” says Katie. She sometimes sees women in their bras who might not even show their partner, so it’s understandable to feel shy

“I want every woman to know that there is zero judgement,” says Katie. “I only ever want to help you, to offer my expertise and advice to ensure you feel wonderful in your bra.”

Katie recalls a time that she helped a lady who was incredibly shy and nervous. “To her, boobs were a vessel for negative comments and unwanted attention, she just wanted to hide them under oversized hoodies to disguise the size,” she tells me. The lady was reluctant to take off her hoodie, but after Katie shared some similar stories,  the lady took off her top. 

“I transformed her size from a 38FF to a 32HH and as she walked to the mirror she cried. I asked her to put on her hoodie to show her that her boobs would appear smaller because they were encapsulated in the cup. She felt so happy and confident – something she hadn’t felt about her boobs for a very long time. I made sure I fitted her in our most supportive and full coverage bra. It was a beautiful moment.” 

Curvy Kate specialises in fuller-size lingerie.

Don’t be tempted by a super-cheap bra – invest in lingerie if you can 

“A good quality bra will not only last longer, but it will also fit better and offer the best support,” says Katie.

“Look for bras with power mesh that hug and hold your band for the best support,” says Katie. “We also have some bras with laminated cups to offer further support and a beautifully rounded shape.”

“Bra straps should also be firm so they don’t over-stretch. Finally, stretch lace works wonders for fuller-bust bras too and a stretch lace top cup accommodates bust fluctuations perfectly.” 

Get fitted every six months 

A woman rarely stays in the same bra size all of her life. “Our bodies fluctuate, and life’s journey means that we lose or gain fullness to our boobs,” says Katie.

Sometimes our weight might fluctuate. “This is why we always advise having a bra fitting every six months,” Katie tells us.

Katie likens bra shapes to jean styles: “We may be one size in a skinny jean and a size smaller in a mom jean – this is also the same for cup shapes.” It may be worth consulting with an expert before changing styles. Padded bras offer more volume so you might need to go up a cup, “but again this is down to your breast shape and it is always best to ask the professional fitting you,” says Katie.  

“Wearing a bra that fits correctly is incredibly important.”

Which bras are best? 

Katie advises choosing a balcony bra or padded half-cup style if you’re looking to add fullness. “These styles really help to place the bottom breast tissue further up into the cup,” she says.

If you’re after a defined cleavage, Katie recommends transitioning to a non-padded bra. “It could make all the difference to your shape and help fill the cups as the bra sits closer to the breast tissue,” she says.

If you are above an F cup, look for bras with a three hook and eye back band for added support.

It’s also best to buy bras from reputable retailers who specialise in lingerie. Katie recommends Curvy Kate, Scantilly – “this brand changed my life!” – and Flirtelle.

Don’t be afraid to ask your bra fitter questions

“Ask us anything bra and boob related,” says Katie, explaining that you should never hold back when consulting your expert.

“Ask for your bra-fitters top tips when it comes to washing your lingerie or putting the bra on. Perhaps you have an outfit you have never been able to wear because you can’t find the bra – I’m sure they can help find the solution. All of these are valid and will enhance your life.” 

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Image: VeranikaSmirnaya/Getty, Curvy Kate