How to find the perfect fitting bra, according to an expert

Watch: Bra expert shares how to tell if your bra is badly fitting

We've been wearing bras for decades. Yet, with a lack of easily accessible information out there, many of us still don't realise we've got the wrong size on, or know how to find the perfect fit.

And while some may choose to go bra-free, those who favour support shouldn't have to suffer in silence.

Here, lingerie expert Katie Weir, of Curvy Kate, shares (and demonstrates) everything you need to know on choosing the right bra for you to achieve both comfort and style, how to look after it, and why so many women actually need to size up.

"There are many signs that point to someone wearing the wrong bra, unfortunately, many of these have been normalised as just a normal feeling, which really shouldn't be the case!" says Weir.

The difference between a badly fitted bra and a perfectly fitted bra:

Good and bad fit bra. (Curvy Kate)
Are you wearing a bad or good fitting bra? A Curvy Kate model shows the difference between a badly fitted bra, and a perfectly fitted bra. (Curvy Kate)

Weir told Yahoo UK that the common signs of badly fitting bras include:

  • The feeling of wanting to take your bra off halfway through a day

  • Underwires digging into your underarm area

  • Quad/double boob (your breast tissue spilling out of the cups)

  • Straps digging into your shoulders

  • Neck/back pain

  • The back band of your bra riding up

  • The wire that sits between the breasts (known as the centre gore) floating away from the body

On the other hand, the signs of a perfectly fitting bra includes:

  • You don't even feel like you're wearing a bra (it isn’t irritating or painful)

  • Underwires reach right around all of the breast tissue, encapsulating the bust from the armpit area right to the centre gore

  • Breast tissue sits within the cups, and the bust is separated even in a plunge bra style with no overspill or squishing

  • The backband is firm, offering 80% of the bra support, meaning your straps aren't digging in and your sliders are used to give extra oomph to the bust rather than all of the support

  • The centre gore sits flush against the breast bone, or as close as you can get dependent on your bust shape

  • A new bra should be worn on the loosest hook and eye at the back, this way you can tighten it as you wash and wear

Watch: Bra expert shares top tips for finding the perfect fit

The impact of wearing the wrong bra size

"Wearing the wrong bra size can take a huge toll on your body confidence," says Weir.

As well as any neck, back and shoulder pain and general discomfort, the wrong-size bra can have other effects, both physical and mental, including poor posture.

Weir also added: "It won't make the most of your outfit and can often distort the look/shape/cut of the clothing style. It can contribute to a negative body image, which can affect your mental health due to low self-esteem and confidence."

Wearing the wrong bra size can take a huge toll on your body confidence.

Ultimate bra guide. (Getty Images)
There are ways to experiment with bras and still flatter your boob shape. (Getty Images)

What is the best type of bra for your boob shape?

"Many people that I have bra-fitted in my career have been told they can 'only' wear a balcony bra or plunge shape. I am quite against that narrative as with all style, you want to be able to experiment," says Weir.

"There will of course be styles that are best for your bust but if you want to wear a plunge bra with THAT dress – with the correct expert on hand to help – you will be able to find the right plunge bra for your breast shape."

While there's no need to feel limited by anything, here are some of Weir's guaranteed top tips for different boob shapes...

1. Close set boobs

Close set boobs don't have much of a gap in the middle.

"This bust shape will struggle to feel comfortable in balcony and full cup bra styles because the centre gore comes up very high between the bust, which makes it difficult to sit flush and can also feel uncomfortable," she explains.

"Plunge bra shapes are best and more shallow cup balcony bras that don't have such a high gore."

2. Bottom heavy bust

This is where the majority of your breast tissue and weight sits, in the bottom of the breast.

"Many people want to lift the bust and put all of the breast tissue into the top cup for a fuller look! A half cup/demi balcony bra is the perfect shape for this, as the bra does just that (as opposed to a plunge bra)," says Weir.

"When the bust is lifted upwards, it creates fullness in the top cup and you can even achieve a Bridgerton look too with the right padded half cup shape!"

3. Asymmetrical bust

While most people have one boob bigger than the other, in some cases this size difference can be more significant.

"To balance the bust, choose a stretch top cup bra shape, which will accommodate both sides. The stretch will fit to the fuller boob (we never want to compromise the fuller boob by choosing a smaller cup) and will sit back to the smaller side without distorting the fit of the bra or creating an emptiness in the cup," advises Weir.

"Tighten the strap a little more on the smaller side, to really lift that breast tissue into the cup. It is a real game changer for people who have always felt uncomfortable as they have worn smaller bras for the smaller side."

Reflection in the mirror of attractive young woman at home in the morning getting dressed - hooking her bra. The shot is executed with available natural light, and the copy space has been left.
What type of breast shape do you have? (Getty Images)

If you feel pigeonholed by what you can and can't wear, Weir suggests talking to a bra fitting expert as it can sometimes just be a case of getting a slightly different size, in a different shape.

How to know you are wearing the wrong bra size

"Some 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, but I would go as far to say this is higher, especially since the pandemic when many women ditched the bra and may not have had a bra fitting since," says Weir.

"I do a lot of bra fitting events where 100% of the attendees are wearing the wrong size. This is mainly because they haven't been going for regular bra fittings, their bodies have changed or they are holding onto their old bras due to the cost of living. A bra is such a great investment though as it is the foundation to every outfit that you wear, even if you rotate three-four bras in a year and look after them well."

Why can women also often choose the wrong bra size?

"Often because they are hung up on the narrative that DD’s are 'HUGE'," says Weir. "The media has led us to believe that many of our fuller bust icons are DD, but they would be more likely fitted as GG-J cups.

"A-DD is also the size range we are met with on the high street, so we grab the bra that fits the best out of them.

"Education comes when we understand the width and breadth of bra sizes and how the back band should fit firmly to offer the best support. Bra fitting isn't taught in school, as women we often work all of this out in our mid-20s upwards from word of mouth or social media.

"My best piece of advice is that even if you have been wearing a B or D cup for as long as you can remember, seek professional advice from bra fitting experts like Curvy Kate and Bravissimo who carry a wide size of back band and cup sizes (so you don't feel alienated by small size range)."

Woman buying underwear - bra
When was the last time you had a professional bra fitting? (Getty Images)

How often should you get a bra fitting?

"Overall, bras shouldn't be a bane of your life, they should uplift your life and bust! You want your bra to do the most for the boobs that you have. To ensure the perfect fit, it is important to get a professional bra fitting every six months whether in person or virtually," says Weir.

"As bodies are constantly changing, checking your fit is the best way to ensure seamless comfort."

How long should you wear a bra before washing it?

"I recommend washing your bras every four wears unless you have gotten particularly sweaty! Hand-washing is ALWAYS recommended when washing your lingerie due to the delicate nature of bras. The underwires need to be protected at all costs to stop them stabbing you in the armpit," says Weir.

"Another top tip of mine is leaving fabric conditioner out of your lingerie wash as this can prematurely age your bras and snap the elastics, which are needed to hug and support you!

"NEVER tumble dry your lingerie, dry flat or air dry over a clothes horse – this will ensure the longest life for your bra!"

And if you are set on machine washing your lingerie, Weir suggests preventing the shape and wires being distorted by "using a lingerie wash bag and reducing the spin speed of the washing machine". However, this is never advised by the washing label in your bra, so if a wire pops out, you can't return it.