Your bra size is very near and dear to your heart—literally. It's easy to get a little too hung up on the numbers and letters we see on the tag and end up in the wrong size because of it. In fact, there are two particular sizes tons of women think they are—even though they're not. The culprits? 34B and 36C.
They sound pretty average, right? That’s exactly the problem. “A lot of women think of these sizes as the norm, so they start off there when shopping and never really learn how a proper bra should fit,” says Jenny Altman, fit and style expert for Aerie. “Even I wore one of those sizes for years.”
If you wear one of these sizes and are suddenly questioning everything you thought you knew about your breasts, don’t panic. Find a mirror, ditch your T-shirt, and look out for these signs that you’re wearing the wrong size.
You Can Slide Your Band Up and Down
“If you have your band on the tightest hook and it can still move around, your bra is too big,” says Altman. The band, not the straps, support your breasts. This is especially important if you’re a C cup or above and depend on your bra to avoid back pain and keep the girls up where you want them. A proper band fit is also extremely important when you’re wearing a convertible or strapless bra because you don’t have straps to help compensate for a too-big band.
Other signs that your band is too big: straps that dig into your shoulders or constantly need to be tightened.
So say you wear a 36C and your shoulders ache by the end of the day. Try going down to a 34 band and up to a D cup. “A lot of women have what I call ‘the fear of D’ because they think it means they’re big or overweight, but that’s not true,” says Altman.
Still not sure if your band is the right size? Check out the back of your bra in the mirror. Is the band straight across your back, parallel to the floor? If yes, then it’s probably a good fit. If your band is riding up or pulling, you need a smaller size.
You've Got Boob Bulge
Look at the front of your bra. If you’ve got boob overflow (a.k.a. “double boob”) either in the front or on the sides, you don't have enough room in the cup. Cleavage is great, but bulge that can show through your clothes, not so much.
“Also, if the center area between the two cups is floating away or not touching your skin instead of laying flat against you, it’s time to move up a cup size,” says Altman.
All of Your Bras Are the Exact Same Size
Not all bras are created equal. Just because you’re a 34B in a demi bra doesn’t mean you’re a 34B in a full-coverage bra. “Think of it like jeans,” says Altman, “You might be a size 28 in boyfriend jeans, but you may need a bigger size in skinny jeans.” Like denim, different style bras have such specific fit and can vary by brand.
Demi bras are low-cut—sometimes called “half cups”—and they have significantly less material than a full-coverage bra in the same size. So you may wear a 34B in a demi bra but a 34A in a full-coverage, says Altman.
Still Not Sure?
When in doubt, head to a specialty store for a bra fitting. “A good fitter will bring you a few sizes and a few styles so that you can really find what’s right for you,” says Altman. Wear a light T-shirt so that the fitter can get as accurate a number as possible when taking measurements.
“Would you wear a size 8.5 sneaker when you know that you’re an 8?" asks Altman. "Absolutely not.” Your boobs deserve to be treated just as well as your feet (if not better).