Bra buying tips for women with smaller chests

Feb 24, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Bra buying can be tricky business. With so many styles and designs to choose from, making sure you have the right fit isn't always easy. If you have a smaller bust, the process can get even more complicated.

Woman measuring bust

If you're currently in a bra-buying bind, let us help. We put together some expert tips to help anyone with a small bust find the perfect bra.

Expert bra-buying insight

To learn more, we turned to Jené Luciani, fashion stylist and bestselling author of The Bra Book (BenBella Books, 2009). "Larger busted women always think their smaller busted counterparts have it so easy, but in actuality, smaller busted women have just as tough a time," she tells us. "While many larger women can't find bras in their size, a smaller busted woman who's a 30A has just as hard a time."

Bra-buying basics

Sometimes, women who are small-busted may not even register on the typical 'size charts' of certain brands or stores, Luciani says. The best thing to do in this case is to go into the store and try on bras that are closest to your size, she explains. "You can always 'fill out' your bra with the help of silicone 'chicken cutlet' inserts or have your seamstress alter it for the perfect fit."

Not all smaller women are relegated to bras with heavy padding, however. "Smaller busted women can actually look for certain bra styles that automatically enhance what they've got," Luciani says. "For example, a balconette style bra or a plunging front-close, push-up can help create cleavage you never knew you had."

Where to start

Smaller busted women often think they don't need as much support which is not true, says Luciani. "If you have any breast tissue at all, you need support." When you're shopping for a bra, look for lines specifically made for smaller busts. Luciana suggests the Itty Bitty Bra Company, the Little Bra Company or LulaLu Lingerie.

The wrong bra fit

There are a few signs that the bra you have isn't the right fit for you. Luciani shares some of the most noticeable.

  • The band "rides up" in the back or squeezes your flesh in a way that causes pain or leaves marks. (It should be somewhat "level" all the way around your body.)
  • The band should also be comfortable but snug — you should be able to fit one to two fingers underneath it. It should also fit nicely on the middle hook, allowing you to extend to an outside hook if you gain a little weight, and vice versa.
  • The shoulder straps fall down or dig in. (They may simply need to be adjusted.)
  • Your nipples pop out of the cups or your breast tissue billows out of them. (You may need either larger cups or a fuller-coverage bra.) 
  • The underwire should be flush against your rib cage underneath your breasts, not cutting into the underside of your breasts. If it is not touching your rib cage, it does not mean you need a larger band. Most likely, you need larger cups.
  • The "center front" of the bra (or the fabric between your two breasts) should also lie flat against your body. If it doesn't, you are likely wearing the wrong size band.
  • The cups should not be baggy, gaping or wrinkly. (If so, they are likely too big.)

The right bra fit

If you've found the right fit, other than being comfortable and ideally, not even really noticing you're wearing a bra, these are the signs you've made a good purchase.

From the front:

  • The underwire lies flat against your ribcage.
  • The bridge (the piece of fabric between your breasts) also lies flat.
  • Your breast tissue is perfectly settled into the cups (and cups have no bulging or gaping).

From the back:

  • The straps lay perfectly in place without digging in anywhere.
  • The back band is straight across and is not riding up your back or squeezing flesh.

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