My friends are all wearing bras, do I need one?
Everyone grows breast tissue at different stages, so even if your BFFs have made the move to bra-ville and you’re feeling the pressure to get one too, it doesn’t mean you need one. However if you’re self-conscious then of course, go for it.
The only time you really need to invest in a bra is if not wearing one is causing you issues. That could just be that you feel awkward without extra coverage, or if you've noticed pain while doing things like sport.
How will I know when it's time for a bra?
You’ll know you need a bra when your breasts start developing and need some extra support. When this happens the first thing you’ll notice is the buds (these are behind your nipples) will start growing. You may feel some tenderness or soreness as this happens - this is totally normal and nothing to be worried about. Your nipples and areola (the circle of skin around the nipples) will get darker and bigger too.
Once this happens, it’s time to hit the shops with your friends or ask your mum or dad to take you.
I’m nervous/slightly mortified about shopping for a bra. What’s going to happen?
However embarrassing you think it might be, it won’t be. Generally, it’s like shopping for any other piece of clothing and you should never be embarrassed to ask for the assistant’s help - it’s what they’re there for.
Rachel Underwood, Head of Buying at Bras N Things says, “All our team members are specially trained Fit Experts. Getting your first bra professionally fitted is important as it means you’ll have the correct size and style for you.”
But, you know, what actually happens?
“Firstly, they will measure you over the top of your clothes,” explains Rachel. “They’ll take two measurements, one is to measure your back size and the other is your cup. From here they will ask you a few questions about what sort of bra you would like and then suggest a range for you to try on.”
The assistant will then find a selection for you to try so you can find the right one for you. Take your time, don't just pick the first one you see cause it's the prettiest and you're rushing to get out of there.
“Once you’ve got one on the assistant will check the firmness of the back of the bra and that the straps are firm but not tight. They also check the cups are perfectly covering the full bust and not digging in.”
I’m confused about bra sizes. What do they mean?
When you read the sizing of a bra you will see that there's a number followed by a letter, 12A for example. This means there are actually two parts to the sizing of a bra: the band that goes around your middle (this is the number) and the cup (this is the letter).
The bra band size is obtained by measuring under your bust and around your rib cage, while the cup size is measured around the body and the fullest part of the bust. This why it's so important to have a fitting - you may think you're one size, but body shape also plays huge role in what bra size you really are.
For example, if you hear the sizes 14C and 10DD you may assume the 14C is way smaller based on the letter alone. But the cups on both of those bras would actually be the same size, while the band on the 10DD would be the smaller one. It's like bra magic!
Do I have to get a bra with underwire?
These days there are so many different styles, some with wire and some without. Rachel suggests you try on one of both so you can make your decision. “Some women are nervous about wearing wires as they worry it will be uncomfortable, but when wearing a correctly fitted bra you should not be able to feel the wire at all. The choice is yours though and there is no wrong or right answer.”
Other options include sports bras and crop tops which are wire-free and often have a cross-over back which give the breasts support, and bralettes which have soft cups and are often in the same style as a bra. They often have an extra layer of fabric covering the breast panel area so your nipples don’t show through your top. They offer minimal support so are a good option if you're smaller-chested.
Help, I got a bra and it’s so uncomfortable. Now what?
A correctly fitted bra should be comfortable, so if it’s not then you need to try another size or style. There are five key ways to know if your bra is fitting well, says Rachel.
1. The hooks: the bra should be done up on the first hook. By doing it up on the loosest hook, it gives an additional three months of wear as you can tighten it to the next hook as the bra stretches.
2. The band: the bra should sit firmly but comfortably under the bust and should sit horizontally on the body, never riding up your back.
3. Shoulder straps: these should be not so tight that they leave marks but not too loose, allowing them to slip.
4. The underwire (if yours has it): should lie flat against the side of your rib cage, behind where the breast finishes.
5. The cups: these should be completely filled with your breast and have a smooth outline without bulging up the top or at the sides.
Have a question for Dolly Doctor? Drop us an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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