Help me diagnose this bra-fitting issue? Pregnancy edition.
February 18, 2013 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Having problems getting a comfortable bra. Trips to Nordstrom or other fancy bra-fitting places are out of forseeable time range. Can anyone give me advice on what I should be looking for?

Ok, so, with pregnancy it seems that I need a new bra every month or so. Ideally, I'd like not to spend too much on bras of these transitional sizes, since I'm sure I may grow more, then eventually return to my regular size. I started out wearing a 36DDD. I'm now in a 38G, but I suspect this size is not right for me now. The band feels very tight along the sides of the body (to the point where it leaves deep red marks when I take it off at night), but the front of the bra, where the two wires meet, doesn't touch my breastbone. It projects out about an inch from the actual centerpoint of my chest. Also, the bottom of the underwires seems to -- droop, for lack of a better word -- and rub against my stomach. I thought the issue might be a larger cup size, so I tried on some bras in a 38H this weekend, which all seemed the have the same fit issues. H seems to also be the limit of what even the most well-stocked stores near me carry. I'll probably have to buy online which, ugh, has never really worked out for me, but the nearest Nordstrom is just too far for me to cram a trip into my overextended schedule.
Hope me?
posted by Kitty Stardust to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might check through this post from a while back and see if you can find anything helpful in the links there.
posted by dilettante at 6:44 AM on February 18, 2013

Are you looking at nursing bras at all? I know you don't need one yet, but they tend to carry them in bigger sizes at ordinary (maternity) stores, plus there's a chance you can use them postpartum so it won't feel like such a waste.
posted by Mchelly at 6:52 AM on February 18, 2013

A decent stopgap while I was pregnant was a bra extender. You can order them from Amazon and a lot of maternity stores carry them.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:54 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I ended up going with the Spanx Bra-lelujah and used it all through my pregnancy. The stretchy bands on the sides were super comfy and the lack of underwire was a must for me.
posted by Leezie at 7:01 AM on February 18, 2013

If the bra is tight around you, then you need a larger band (or a bra extender). If you can't get somewhere to be properly measured, you can do it yourself.
posted by amro at 7:03 AM on February 18, 2013

Came in to suggest a bra extender too! I wouldn't rush into buying nursing bras until you are right at the end of your pregnancy, or preferably post-partum. However, a soft, no-underwire sleep bra might be a more forgiving thing to pick up, if you can be comfortable in a no-underwire bra. Another place to get measured is a mom and baby specialty store near you, like Pea in the Pod, or one of the independent ones that have nursing and baby supplies, lactation consultants etc. they have a good range of bras and can advise the best way to stay comfortable.
posted by Joh at 7:04 AM on February 18, 2013

I think maybe you need to go up another cup size *and* a band size. I think with a bra extender the cups are still going to be too small (when you try on the bra, your boobs should fit inside the cups, you know? it sounds like yours are not, and while extending the back will make it more comfortable and not dig in, your boobs are still not going to fit in the cups).
posted by mskyle at 7:07 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

If the band is not touching your rib cage all around, that definitely means the cup size is too small, regardless of how it fits elsewhere. Essentially, your boobs' volume is pushing the whole bra's construction forward so the band isn't sitting flat.

I'm not sure what size that put you in exactly (the math doesn't always work out for me, I'm a 32E in some brands, a 34DD in others, etc) but it seems the solution here may be to look for a stretchy bra, like one without underwires or rough, tight bands of any kind. I like Leezie's suggestion of the Bra-lelujah, and I know other companies make similar products. A firm, tight stretch fabric weave should keep your boobs 'in check' without being too uncomfortable or leave marks on you.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:07 AM on February 18, 2013

My wife is pregnant and had to go bra shopping recently. So I hear what you're talking about. She discovered that she was definitely wearing the wrong size, and had been pretty much forever. I think her days of buying bras at department stores are over.

It projects out about an inch from the actual centerpoint of my chest.

That just may be the shape of your torso. To no one's great surprise, human bodies are not of a uniform shape, and there is actually a fair degree of variability in the shape of the torso. Pectus excavatum is a real thing, and while it can be a health risk in severe cases, a minor concavity of the chest is (1) not terribly uncommon, and (2) not that big of a deal. The Haller index is basically a ratio of the horizontal breadth of the rib cage to the distance between the spine and the sternum. A ratio of 2.5 is average, and when you get to 3.25 and higher (really bad cases are in excess of 5) you're looking at a bad case. But anything between a 2.3 and 2.7 ratio doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. A slight concavity might cause the sort of thing you're talking about without being all that big of a deal from a health perspective.

All of which to say that this may just be a thing, and it may not have anything to do with pregnancy.

But this. . .

The band feels very tight along the sides of the body (to the point where it leaves deep red marks when I take it off at night)

. . .ain't right. You need a bigger band, even if that means a gap in the front. If the next size up is too big, an extender should make the smaller size fit better. That's what my wife has to do.

the bottom of the underwires seems to -- droop, for lack of a better word -- and rub against my stomach.

Sounds like you might actually be a cup size too large. That's not how that's supposed to work.

From what you're describing, and from I've gleaned from my own reading and my wife's ongoing efforts to deal with this herself, I think you've got too small a band and too large a cup. Which is unusual, given the way most bras are sized these days, but hey, it happens.

the nearest Nordstrom is just too far for me to cram a trip into my overextended schedule.

Understood. It is for us too. I think the nearest one is in Chicago, which is like three hours off. But even in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my wife was able to find a relatively upscale lingerie store that had pretty much exactly what she needed, plus knowledgeable staff that were able to fit her properly. Your profile indicates you're in a city somewhat smaller than Fort Wayne, but I have to think that there's got to be something within an hour or two.

I could be wrong, of course, but I never thought my wife would be able to find something around here, and it turned out to be no problem.
posted by valkyryn at 7:07 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some types of bras just don't work for me, and although I've never been pregnant I can imagine how it can mess with breast and chest shape/size!

I can't get the center band of most styles of bra to sit flat between my breasts. It has to be a very specific style (Fantasie balcony t-shirt bra without molded cups, or something very similar). What I did is make one trip to Nordstrom (or any other high-end bra boutique) and try on basically every style of bra they had on in my size until I found one that fit, then ordered more for half price on eBay (I can regularly find new bras that retail for $70 for around $30). If you stick with one brand and style of bra with a wide range of plus-sizes, like Fantasie or Wacoal, as your size changes it's easier to figure out what changes you need to make. I don't usually have to get re-fitted unless I'm changing brand/style.

Honestly, as a large-chested woman, I feel your pain, but ordering bras blind online and hoping they'll fit is a recipe for HUUUGE frustration.
posted by muddgirl at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that giving up on underwires for the duration may help. Stretchy and bigger - both band and cup are probably in order and yes a maternity store may do better by you. It's frustrating because your size will continue to change through pregnancy and nursing so something stretchy and soft is your best bet.
posted by leslies at 7:42 AM on February 18, 2013

I disagree with valkyryn about the cup size being too large. A lot of times, underwire can seem to droop if there is not enough volume at the bottom of the cup for your breasts. It's not uncommon for breasts to become bottom-heavy during pregnancy. If the cup slopes up slowly rather than having a full, rounded bottom, your breasts might have to sit higher up because it's the only place they fit, which would cause the underwire to seem droopy. To illustrate, the bottoms of some bras are shaped like > and some are more like c. I hope that makes a little sense?

If the gore (the center bit where the wires come together) doesn't lay flat on your sternum, that's another sign of the cups being too small.

The bratabase troubleshooting section (mentioned in the post dilletante linked) is an excellent resource.

Best of luck!
posted by SugarAndSass at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm on an iPhone right now so can't look up extensive links, but Google for's troubleshooting guide. Also, look into nursing bras by Bravado. They're not the utmost in lift 'n separate, but they're comfy, cute, and fit a range of sizes per bra, which is super helpful when your body is changing every few minutes.
posted by houseofdanie at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2013

Keep this in mind, too:

then eventually return to my regular size

Probably not going to happen. It's not impossible, for sure, but don't bank on it.
posted by cooker girl at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Frankly, I'd give up finding the perfect underwire pregnancy bra. Maybe something like the Ahh Bra would work? There's one offered on HSN by Rhonda Shear and there's also the Genie Bra. I know it's not the ideal solution, but it's what I (42GG) resorted to durning my pregnancies.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:54 AM on February 18, 2013

Came in to say the same thing as muddgirl. I've never been pregnant, but if the shape of your breasts is changing (not just size), it might help to switch from molded to non-molded. Or vice versa, but my experience it's that non-molded tend to be a but more forgiving.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:57 AM on February 18, 2013

Bra extenders, if you want to go that route, are also available at Joann Fabrics on the notions wall.
posted by sarajane at 8:59 AM on February 18, 2013

Pregnancy is so messed up. I agree that you probably need a bigger cup and band size, but if you could find a large enough cup size, that might help. The problem is, of course, finding those elusive cup sizes. Based on my own experience, this is likely to be very temporary. You are probably not going to wear this bra after giving birth.

What I did was order the cheapest bra I could, and just lived with it. I probably needed something like a 36 JJ or something (I was busting out of my Fantasie 34 G (UK size, so that would be US 34 I.) I bought a 40G on JC Penney and lived with it for the rest of my pregnancy. Not ideal, but it worked.

Can you search ebay and UK sites for sale bras in larger sizes? It doesn't have to be a perfect fit. Save that for after giving birth / once breastfeeding is established.
posted by peep at 9:51 AM on February 18, 2013

Looking near you, it looks like La Boutique de lingerie & bridal has at least some bras that range up to JJ. Soma only goes up to G, but that might be enough in a 40 or 42. Motherhood Maternity, if you want to go the nursing bra route, got up to an 44H or 46F. Hope you find something nearby that works for you.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2013

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