How can I get my bra straps to stop slipping?
February 12, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Bra straps consistently slide off my shoulders. Who makes non-racerback bras that don't have this problem?

I'm a pretty common bra size with slightly sloping shoulders- the ladies at the bra fitting places say I'm "very average". However, since I started wearing bras, I have always had the problem that after five minutes of wear or so, straps creep down my shoulders to my upper arms, which can be very distracting in a meeting, on a date, etc.

The only bras that are exempt are sports bras and racerback bras- but the racerback bras all seem to be built to use as armor. Their straps cut into my back, their underwires are so thick and heavy that they leave marks on my chest for a half hour after I take them off, and they don't work with a lot of the garments I wear. I have a few and I never wear them because they really hurt to wear.

I like pretty, light-weight bras and don't need much support. It seems like the strap problem would be alleviated by moving the back straps in a little bit towards the center of the back, but I haven't been able to find bras in that style. My preference are minimal coverage (plunge, demi, balconette), non-itchy bras. I like Ochi verde, la perla, princesse tam tam and the like.

Things I've tried: Adjusting the straps tighter, wearing different sizes, making sure the straps were centered, using the middle hook, buying newer (not old/stretched) bras...

I've been fitted by three bra ladies, who all suggested I purchase bra clips that clip the straps together. I don't want to buy bra clips and add another 30 seconds to my morning routine, I want to buy a bra with straps that won't slip!

Any suggestions (other than racerback or bra clips) very welcome. Price is no object.
posted by arnicae to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your straps are too long- have you considered having them tailored so they fit properly?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:49 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

This may or may not be welcome advice, but have you tried adjusting your posture? Square your shoulders, sit up a little straighter, slouch a bit less, and I'd think that might help keep the straps in place. It really sounds like you're kind of "shrugging" off your straps inadvertently.

Caveat: I am a guy and may be completely off the mark, and if so, I'm terribly sorry.
posted by explosion at 10:52 AM on February 12, 2009

I have this exact same problem and have never figured it out. I hate racerback bras and have yet to figure out why a few of my bras stay up and the rest don't. Super stretchy straps seem to be better but even that's not a sure thing. And it's not about too-long straps, I can make them plenty shorter but then they end up pulling up off my breasts, which is way more uncomfortable.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:57 AM on February 12, 2009

Calvin Klein's 356 adjustible strap bras sound like what you want, but I believe they've been discontinued (which I'm not very happy about). You might want to try and find them online, though - I'd post a link, but I'm writing this on my phone. The straps can connect to the back either in the usual place, or ~2 inches in. I like to wear them the latter way so that my bra straps don't show when I wear tanks, and it might also solve your problem.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you seen these gadgets advertised on TV? They might help salvage the bras you already own.
posted by carmicha at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2009

I have this problem too! I also prefer comfy bras and don't need much support, but the straps are always sliding off no matter how short I make them. I think part of it is my bad posture combined with the slope of my shoulders. Sorry that's not much help, but at least it should give you hope that there are enough women with the problem, so someone has to have a solution.
posted by thejanna at 11:02 AM on February 12, 2009

Apologies for not noticing that you didn't want clip suggestions.
posted by carmicha at 11:04 AM on February 12, 2009

I have this same exact problem. (I think explosion is completely off the mark -- please go wear a bra for 12 years and come back to this thread). I think some people just have sloping shoulders not conducive to bra straps. It sucks in the winter when you have so many layers of clothing on and underneath it all, the strap slips. The only bras I've been able to find that work are those "convertible" bras where you can configure the straps in all different ways. I usually use the "cross in the back" configuration which seems to help the straps stay up. Once you clip the straps in place, you don't usually have to move them again every time you wear them(although they sometimes come out in the wash). However, these bras are not pretty, but they can be light weight.
posted by bluefly at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2009

can't help you with any specific bra recs but perhaps there's a way to DIY a more grippy surface on the underside of the bra straps? some of mine have little "comfort" bead-like things on the underside. they're not particularly more comfortable (as far as i can tell) but the extra 'friction' helps.
posted by mittenedsex at 11:07 AM on February 12, 2009

After seeing you're a kitty!'s suggestion about the Calvin Klein bra, it seems that quite a few of their bras have convertible straps that you can criss-cross in the back. I think I'll order one right now...
posted by thejanna at 11:08 AM on February 12, 2009

ThePinkSuperhero- I've adjusted the straps until they are VERY tight on me (painfully tight) and there is still room to adjust smaller, so I don't think that is the issue.

You're a kitty! - thanks, checking them out now.

explosion- Posture is definitely not the problem. Ask some women you know well, most of the ones I know well enough to ask have this problem. I'm very petite and work in a field dominated by big guys, so you can bet I have great posture.

Thanks for the words of encouragement, ladies- and right back at you, every woman I've talked to has this problem to some degree. I just want to know why bra manf's don't make bras that fit better (or pretty front-clasp bras, but that's another
posted by arnicae at 11:16 AM on February 12, 2009

I still think visiting a tailor would be a good idea- if the straps are painfully tight and slippage is still an issue, something is wrong with the proportions of how the straps are fitting you. A tailor could address those issues.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:25 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Looking at the problem from another direction, you might consider strength training. I had the same bra-strap problem for years until I started lifting weights. Doing some dumbbell lifts (shoulder press, lateral raise) or pushups should help build your deltoids a bit and alleviate the "sloping shoulders." As a bonus, you'll be able to carry a purse on one shoulder without it slipping off.
posted by libraryhead at 11:43 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

This may sound weird, but could you try either painting or spraying a little Plasti-Dip (~$6, Home Depot/Lowes) on the inside of the straps where they contact your shoulders? It's normally used as an all-purpose permanent anti-slip coating, adheres very well to fabric, comes in lots of colors including clear, and should hold up reasonably well under gentle washing conditions.
(Disclaimer: I've only ever used the stuff to make a DIY nonskid coating on the bottom of some dancing socks, but it worked beautifully for that purpose, and I'd imagine would work equally well to prevent smooth straps from slipping off your shoulders. Worth trying once on an old bra, at least?)
posted by Bardolph at 11:53 AM on February 12, 2009

You could try "body glue" that pageant contestants use to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.

I agree from experience that weight training will help a lot, but of course it's not an immediate solution.
posted by jgirl at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2009

It seems like the strap problem would be alleviated by moving the back straps in a little bit towards the center of the back

If you think this would work, it´s easy to cut the straps and resew them in a new spot by hand. If you don´t know how to do this, perhaps a friend can help you.
posted by yohko at 12:02 PM on February 12, 2009

This may sound weird, but could you try either painting or spraying a little Plasti-Dip (~$6, Home Depot/Lowes)

This is exactly what I clicked in to suggest! I don't know why it has never occurred to me to try this, as I have the same annoyance!

Perhaps I will get some and report back.
posted by bilabial at 12:06 PM on February 12, 2009

Have you tried "convertible" bras that allow you to reposition the straps to your liking? (E.g., they let you remove and re-attach the shoulder straps to switch from normal to racerback, and occasionally other configurations as well.) Most of these seem to be designed so that you can wear them strapless if you choose, which means they might still be too heavy-duty for you, but it could be worth trying one on. Here is an example--chosen basically at random, as I don't know enough to recommend any particular brand.

Come to think of it, I imagine you could also modify one of these by sewing new attachment points that move the shoulder straps further toward the center of your back. Might be more straightforward than cutting and re-sewing the actual straps.
posted by fermion at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2009

FWIW, tightening your straps too much can contribute to making the problem worse. You want the straps firm but comfortable -- the bra band should be doing the supporting.

If you've got sloping shoulders, loosening off your straps a touch won't solve the problem, but it might help, won't hurt, and will make your shoulders hurt less.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2009

It's a physics thing. If the bra is manufactured for an average build (and while your bra size may be average, being petite with sloped shoulders is not the shape bras are designed for), you will have slippage. Clips are your best bet and that 30 seconds will prevent you from wasting more time and frustration adjusting straps.

If you get a bra custom made, you should be able to work with them to get the straps positioned more usefully for your physique.

That said, bra makers are coming out with new innovations all the time, so I'm hoping my cynical perspective is made irrelevant at some point soon.
posted by batmonkey at 12:25 PM on February 12, 2009

There's two aspects of bra-fitting - it has to fit in the straps and it has to fit around. Otherwise you'll get slippage, either because it rides up in the back, thus loosening your straps or because it's not high enough up your ribcage so it's not able to get the correct angle on your shoulders. Cheap bras suck. Not that expensive bras are always great but if you need anything for support of any kind, a $12 Walmart bra isn't going to do it. I recommend getting fitted at your local undergarment store (the place where they sell mastectomy stuff and bras for ladies that wear a size 48) for the right size.
posted by fiercekitten at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tangentially related, but go read Bitch Ph.D.'s ultimate bra post. Some of the links might help you out as far as fit. (I am a petite nursing mom and I cannot WAIT to get back into real bras that don't require me to totally reconfigure the straps.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:34 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've found that different bra styles tend to make my straps slip more than others. Ones that have more of a balconette style tend to never slip on me. Bras that have more of a plunge style slip all the time. Maybe it's the style of bra you're wearing?

Also, wider straps tend to slip less than thinner ones on me. And it might be worthwhile to be sized by a professional. When I gained weight but tried to wear the same bra, I had a major slipping problem. If your whole body is a bit bigger, there's more of you for your bra to try and support (and wrap around in the process). If you lose weight, the problem goes away. Just a thought...
posted by Grrlscout at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2009

I get the same problem with my left shoulder, go figure. Well for this and when I get a gap in button down shirts, I use Hollywood Fashion Tape. Me being cheap, I cut the strips in half because they really are quite long.
posted by spec80 at 1:13 PM on February 12, 2009

I've gone pretty much strapless because of this. I have no need to lift and separate - I just need the things to be still.

I do have one stretchy bra that has rubberized straps. They stay up because they stick to my skin. But even that one will fall off after about six hours.
posted by lysdexic at 1:37 PM on February 12, 2009

I'm not sure how you feel about victorias secret bras, but I used to buy Pink ones which had lacey back straps (so, kind of pretty?) and built in bra hooks--so they're not completely convertable, the straps stay put, but you have the option of hooking the little hook in the back. Prrrresto.
posted by shadowfelldown at 2:08 PM on February 12, 2009

I have a Chantelle bra that does exactly what you want--the straps can be moved in a little toward the center of the back, it's non-itchy, and has minimal coverage. I think, but am not sure, that this is it. I definitely got it at Nordstrom but the description online is too vague to be sure if it's this model. I'm sure the Nordstrom ladies would know.

It is a convertible bra but I really only ever wear it the way you're talking about, and for the same reason.
posted by HotToddy at 2:29 PM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

P.S. That's a really awesome price on a Chantelle bra--if you think it might work, you should snap it up! Can always return it.
posted by HotToddy at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2009

My mother bought me a pair of these, and although I haven't tried them (I wear tank tops pretty much all the time and so they'd show), she said they work well. I know you said you're not interested in a clip, but these seem much easier and quicker to use (no bodily contortion required).
posted by pluckemin at 8:04 PM on February 12, 2009

I have had this problem all my life. I recently re-examined my bra size and realized I was buying too small a cup size and too big a band size. Now, I am a big chested woman and my bras are iron-clad affairs but, ever since I started buying a smaller band, I haven't been sneaking under my shirt to pull up my straps. Perhaps a smaller band might solve your problem, too.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2009

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