Bras: the ins & outs

How bras can help you look after your breasts

The main purpose of wearing a bra is to give support to the breasts. Breasts are mainly made up of fatty tissue and don't contain any muscle. They're supported naturally by the ligaments and muscles behind, but wearing a bra gives them extra support and a defined shape. As you get older a bra can also help stop the breasts from drooping too.

It's a personal choice whether or not to wear a bra when your breasts are developing. It can be a good idea to wear one for support when playing sports or exercising. Most people don't wear a bra at night, but sleeping in a bra won't do any harm or stop your breasts from developing. Basically - it's up to you.

Buying a bra

There are lots of shops that sell bras, so there are many different places to choose from when buying a bra. If you're choosing one for the first time, it may be worth going to a department store to see what styles and sizes are out there.

Many department stores also have trained bra fitters who can help you find a bra that fits you properly. They usually measure you over your clothes to get a general idea of your back and cup size - which may sound embarrassing but it can be a great help! Of course, bras vary heaps between brands, so the only way to be sure they fit is to try them on.

How to find a well fitting bra

Just like when you buy shoes, you need to try on a bra before you buy it, so you know it fits properly. Because bra sizes vary a lot depending on the style, make and fabric, you may need to try on quite a few before you find one that's just right. Be patient! It's worth it to find the right one.

A bra fits well if:

  • it's not too tight or too loose
  • your breasts fill the cup of the bra without bulging over the top or out the sides
  • the strap at the back doesn't cut in
  • the shoulder straps don't carry the full weight of your breasts, it stays in place when you lift your arms above your head, and fits closely to your body without cutting in
  • the strap round the back and the front underband lie close to your body and are at the same level at the front and back
  • with an under wired bra, the underwire lies flat against your body and supports the underneath and sides of your breast without digging in or gaping.

If a bra doesn't feel right, the best thing is to try another one. Try on different makes and slightly different sizes - just because a 10C bra fits in one style, this doesn't mean that size will fit in another make.

A good way to test out if the bra works for you is to jump up and down a few times, twist and stretch when you're trying it on. Does the bra stay in place? Does it stay on? Do your breasts fall out? Do the straps fall off your shoulders?

Wearing a bra may seem strange at first, but if it fits properly you won't notice it after a while. Whenever you choose to wear a bra, and whatever style, just be sure to choose something comfortable - a tight or scratchy bra will drive you crazy by the end of the day.

 When to get a new bra

While you're going through puberty (and sometimes even after that) your breasts are constantly changing. That means your bra size will change too. If you notice your bra isn't fitting as well as it used to, it may be because your breasts have grown, you've gained or lost weight or your bra is just worn out. No matter the reason, it usually means it's time to buy a new one.