Bra Fitting ~ Who Is The Real Expert?

by John Festa

In a very short span of time, I received three unrelated comments on my blog from women convinced bra fitters consistently put them in the wrong size bra. It was such an odd occurance. My first reaction was to think said women were resistant to their true size.

This got me thinking. Who knows more: the people fitting the bust, or the people with the bust? So I decided to ask the experts. I will tell you now the results were not at all what I expected. I have been happily educated.

Being in the wholesale bra business in NYC, I have access to some of the most experienced and knowledgeable retail operations and bra fitters in the country. Hugely successful businesses. I am also happy to call them friends.

Their insight led me to my own. Buying a bra is a completely subjective, personal, intimate (pun intended) experience. Even the fitter’s approach will vary from store to store – to the point of some contradictory beliefs. No wonder women are mystified.

Let’s start with what is completely agreed-upon and unanimous:

♦ Your Bra Band Must be Snug
♦ Go to a Specialty Store

Of these two points, there is complete consensus. Your bra band is where the support comes from. Without a snug fit, a firm base, so to speak, there can be no lift. If your band is riding up in the back, it’s too big. Your band should draw a horizontal circumference around your torso. Determine bra size by band first, then cup.
Bra-Size-Tape-MeasureDevelop a relationship with a specialty shop. The art of fitting is based on experience. Like any other professional in your life (i.e. doctor, haircutter) you are best served when an intimacy is established. Department stores, while there will be scores of bras, rarely have experienced fitters, save for a few of the high-end establishments. In some cases, the sales people were in Small Housewares the week before.

While there is industry standard on these two points, that’s where the agreement ends. Some points of personal preference are:

♦ Tape measure or no tape measure. Advocates for each were clever in their perspective: Those in favor say ‘No tape measure? What are you, psychic?’ Those against say ‘Never a tape measure unless you’re going to wear a tape measure’.

♦ Buy bra on loosest/middle/tightest hook. Some believe buy snug on the loosest hook so, as bra stretches, you will have adjustment. Others say buy on the middle so as body fluctuates, so can adjust either way.


When asked what’s the most common mistake made, a near-consensus: Not trusting the fitter. This can be based on resistance to changing size, or being in ‘bra denial’, as one store owner calls it. Another owner cites two categories that are hardest to fit: 1. Those who believe they’re hard to fit, and 2. Lingerie bloggers. Those who believe they’re hard to fit can be converted.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master something. The 4 fitters I spoke to, collectively represent about 142 years in the business. That fulfills the 10,000 hour rule nearly 30 times over.

The takeaway from this exploration is very different than I expected. Bra fitting can be challenging because of the many different variables at play, be they physical, emotional, or scientific. Best answer is to trust the professionals. Or not. But, if the latter is the case, realize the source of your discontent.


5 Discussion to this post

  1. Julie says:

    I have owned a specialty bra boutique now for 11 of the 30 years we have been in business. All of the above apply to a degree. An experienced bra fitter is the best way to go, and I say again experienced because we know the differences in those brands and can help direct our client to what they’re looking for. There are the rules of bra fitting but they don’t ALWAYS apply. There are differences in styles, manufacturers, body types and most importantly what feels most comfortable on the client. The final being the most important. I often remind my staff that what feels most comfortable to the client is the best bra for them. People for various reasons may not be able to wear their bra fastened as tight as would be effective for the best support, however if it gives them the support they require psychologically as well as physically then we have done our job well. Sometimes we have a client that will ask for things in a bra that are opposite of what is actually possible, Here we will explain that all the things they are asking for do not all come in one bra, and try to troubleshoot what is the closest to what they want. The choice I up to you how you deal with it. I say it’s our job show them their options, and their job to choose. That is a large part of good customer service, and always with a pleasant attitude and a smile!

    • Ellen Lewis says:

      Thanks Julie for this insightful take on why individual personal service is still the best way to satisfy a customer. What is the name of your store and where is it located?

  2. valerie says:

    La Boutique de Lingerie & Bridal, has been in the bra fitting business for 7 years, I constantly re-fit ladies that have gone to other bra fitters, or to the mall and have been incorrectly sized. IF the Bra DOES NOT FIT CORRECTLY, I will not sell it, unlike other store that sell something just to sell it.

    Bra Fitting is an art, just like any job you have to practice your craft to get it right. I take in pride in fitting women correctly, just like Intimacy and The Fitting Touch does.

  3. Yleana says:

    I think a professional bra fitter serves as a guideline. However, in my experience, sizing differs from one brand to another. There is no better way than to try on each size and then decide which you are most comfortable with.

    Most important: to make sure that you are wearing the appropriate bra size, otherwise life can become very uncomfortable !

  4. Tracy Anderson says:

    Love the write up. So true.

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