Bra 101 – Fit Matters!

What do bras have to do with back, neck, or headache pain? Well, in many cases, they can have a direct influence on the the musculoskeletal system.

A bra that fits you correctly, and is the right size and shape, will allow the body to function at its maximum potential. It's common for me to treat women with neck or mid-back pain all from wearing a bra that isn’t the right fit. And, while there are so many things that can cause headaches, an ill-fitting bra can definitely be one of them. Because of a lack of support, the muscles in your upper body work harder.

When your muscles are under strain for longer periods it can contribute to some types of headaches. If your bra isn't putting in the work, the rest of your body may start to compensate to help support your chest.

Wearing the correct bra can make the difference between feeling (and looking) great, and dealing with neck and back pain.

Check out our past blog post about headache types here.

We've brought in the experts on bra fitting.
Sherri and Jolee from Suelto Boutique in Bozeman, Montana are here to give us a rundown on all things breasts and bra fitting.
1) How do I know if my bra fits well?

Is it comfortable? Yes, bras should be comfortable, never painful.  I often compare a new bra to a good pair of leather shoes. You may need a week or two to break them in but they should be worn comfortably all day. If you find yourself doing the bra dance to rearrange your bra and breasts during the day than there’s a good chance it’s stretched out or it never fit well in the first place.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the band of your bra ride up your back during the day? The band provides the bulk of the support, lifting from below and behind. It should feel snug and remain parallel around the torso to perform well.

  • Do you find yourself cranking down your shoulder straps to get more lift? If so, you’re most likely pulling your band up your back and your breasts and shoulders are now supporting the bra. I bet your band is loose or lacks the architecture to hold up your breasts.

  • Does the center of your bra, we call this the gore, rest on your sternum between your breasts or does it pull away from your body? The gore provides separation between the breasts. If the underwires are protruding then the cups are too small. If the gore lies flat but it looks like the breasts are being pulled down then the cup is probably one size too small. Always check your silhouette!

  • Do your shoulder straps slip off of your shoulders? If you find yourself constantly sliding your shoulder straps towards your neck then you will benefit from a triangular or heart shaped bra. Avoid wide-set balcony or demi bras. Shoulder straps help keep your bra in place and to alleviate bounce. You want them working for you, not against you.

  • Look in the mirror and raise your arms over your head. Do your underwires stay in place or raise off of your body? If your wires float on your torso then the cup is too small; your breast tissue is effectively pushing the wires away from the body. If the tissue is falling underneath the wires then the cup may be too small or the band too loose.

  • Keep your arms at your side and dip forward like you’re touching your toes. When you rise do you need to rearrange your breast tissue in the bra? Your bra may be too small or you may need a 3-part cup to keep the tissue from folding out the top. We all carry our tissue differently. Also, tissue density is different with every body and changes over time with age, pregnancy and menopause.
2) What are most common bra ill-fits you see?

A loose band, we size almost every woman down. The band is what holds up the breast tissue. For this reason it should fit snugly around your torso. "Locked and loaded" is the term I like to use for a well fit bra. Ideally, you should buy a bra that fits snugly on the loosest hook-and-eye setting. As the bra stretches with wear, and it will, you then have room to tighten up the band. This fit tip will extend the life of your investment, giving you more bang for your buck!

I have seen exceptions to this rule. Opera singers and those with medical conditions causing sensitivity to restriction.  We will tell you if a bra fits but we can’t tell you how it feels. Fittings require a conversation.

In some circumstances, you may be wearing the correct size but wearing the wrong shape. Every bra fits every body differently. We are each unique which is wonderful!

3) How is the training and experience you have in fitting bras different than what is available at large department stores?

I can’t tell you what to expect in a department store. It’s been 11 years since I’ve shopped anywhere else! We carry over 40 brands in the boutique.

Many of our brands provide fit training and knowledge; some even travel to Bozeman to work with us. Training is offered at the national trade shows as well.

We tell our employees it may take 2-3 years to learn all of our product and a lifetime to become a seasoned fitter. Bra construction requires technology and it’s always evolving.

At Suelto Boutique we provide a service and an education with every fitting. We start with a measurement using a tailors tape to narrow down your size range but this is just a starting point. It takes trying a few bras on to determine your size, shape and how you carry your breast tissue. Your breasts are perfect but not perfectly symmetrical. If it’s noticeable to the eye we fit the larger side.

Do you know the difference between a 30G, 32F, 34E and 36D? Each of these sizes is the same cup volume. The cup size (A, B, C) is a different size, or volume, on each band (30, 32, 34).

We keep fit notes for each customer at Suelto. We note your size in each brand, shape and any preferences you may have for style, color, and comfort. We automatically update these notes each time we fit you.

Bras are an investment.  We will teach you how to care for them as well.

Lastly, what makes Suelto really different than a department store is that we get to know you and you get to know us. Over the years, we have been so lucky to make many of our customers our dear friends.

4) Do large department stores have the sizing or fit options many women need?

In larger metropolitan areas, most likely. Know that it’s not just about options, but quality of options. We strive to offer product that is fit tested, ethically sourced and produced, as well as guaranteed. A seamed bra may be comprised of over 30 pieces. This is not a mass produced product. It can take 6 months to a year for a company to launch a new style. Several of our vendors employ their own seamstresses!

The fit from brand to brand, even between collections within a brand, does vary and you will find that your size varies between each. Also, European brands size differently from the US and the UK. We have the knowledge and experience to decipher your size in each and to determine what style and what brand may fit your shape and your lifestyle best. This information allows us to order product specifically for you should we not have a solution in stock. We are a small business with limited space but we have access to hundreds of options. Currently, we can fit up to a size K (or 12 D’s). The industry sizes up to an O cup on a 58 band.

5) You suggest getting fitted for a bra about once a year, why?

Obvious reasons include pregnancy, a change in weight or muscle mass, post nursing, adolescence, augmentation and menopause. In addition to known factors, our bodies are in constant flux. We are fluid beings. These changes may be slight and go unnoticeable as your bras stretch out and warp with wear. Unless your bra has become uncomfortable you may not notice it is no longer working in your favor.

6) Why is it important for women to invest the time and effort in getting a great fitting bra if hardly anyone (I suppose this depends) sees it anyway?

Well fit, beautiful undergarments are empowering. Foundations can be both beautiful, whether understated or lavish, and functional. Every outfit starts with a great foundation. Your silhouette, clothing, and attitude all benefit.

Do you have a drawer full of bras you never wear? It is better to invest the time, energy and money into a few, great fitting bras you wear daily then a dozen you can’t stand to put on. Give an expert 30-40 minutes of your time to get properly sized.

My Personal Experience

I had been fitted for bras at Victoria's Secret and Nordstrom in the past, with different size suggestions at both places. The bras I wore fit pretty well, or so I thought. After getting measured by Sherri, she suggested a few options for me in a significantly different size than I had been wearing for YEARS! Needless to say, my mind was blown. The bras fit completely differently than what I'd been wearing (and by different I mean sooo much better), and at 37 years old I'm finally sporting a bra that fits me the way they are intended.

If you're in the Gallatin Valley, this is THE place to go! Your body will feel better, look better, and the correct bra may just the thing you need to help resolve that nagging neck and back pain!

If you're interested in getting some help with your headaches or neck pain, click the link below to schedule a time to speak with me by phone.

Talk to Amy on the phone

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