- Choosing the right bra is an incredibly subjective process, making it difficult to recommend just one.
- We are currently in the process of re-testing dozens of bras in varying sizes and styles in order to find the best for each cup size.
- In the meantime, we still recommend the bras in this guide and have offered expert advice on sizing, care, and more just below.
If you’re someone who chooses to wear a bra, you already know how much an ill-fitting choice can affect your day. The straps may fall down, the wires may dig into your ribcage, and the cup gaping can make your breasts feel unsupported. Unfortunately, most of us are set up for discomfort, because so few of us actually know our correct bra sizes. And since so many of us are now shopping online for our undergarments, we’re stuck in a perpetual loop of buying bras that fit fine but not great.
In order to make the process a bit more streamlined, and to help you wade through the thousands of bra styles out there, we are constantly testing and re-testing dozens of bra styles in sizes AA up to I. We also chatted with lingerie expert Cora Harrington, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Lingerie Addict, to discuss how to find your perfect size, how to care for your bras to make them last, and more.
How to find your perfect fit
Measuring yourself for a bra can be a little difficult, so if you have the ability to get fitting in-person, Harrington suggests you go for it. But if not, you can do it yourself — or grab a friend or partner to help you out. The only thing you need is a soft measuring tape. It’s also important that you wear an unlined or an unpadded bra in order to get the proper measurements.
“Start by measuring around the fullest part of your rib cage,” Harrington says. That is typically directly under the fullest part of your breasts, where the band of your bra rests. Write that number down. Next, measure around the fullest part of your breast, which Harrington notes is typically around your nipples. “If you have softer breast tissue or more pendulous breasts, which happens as you age or after breastfeeding, your tissue may be softer,” Harrington says. “So you may have to lean forward slightly to get an accurate measurement.” Once you have it, write it down.
The first number, which is the one around your ribs, is your band size. Some brands, especially those catering to smaller breast sizes, may use what Harrington calls the plus-four method, which just means that they add four to your rib measurement to get your band size. But if there isn’t a note for that, then the measurement itself is your band size.
Your cup size correlates to the difference between your first measurement and the second. A one-inch difference means your an A-cup, a two-inch difference is a B-cup, and so on. Harrington is quick to note, though, that these measurements are for US sizing only, so make sure to check conversion charts if you’re buying from international brands.
A proper bra should fit comfortably, with the bras neither digging into your shoulders or slipping off of them. Your breasts should fill the cup with no gaping or spilling. And the gore of the bra, which is the center strip of fabric and wire between the two cups, should lay flat against your chest.
Caring for your bra
“Ideally, you should be washing your bra after every two or three wears,” Harrington says. If your bra is particularly sweaty, like after a hard workout or a long day outside in warm temperatures, you should wash it immediately.
Hand-washing is ideal, too, and is actually not as hard as you think. Fill a clean sink or basin with cool to tepid water — just not scalding hot, as that can damage the bra. Add a cap of detergent. You can get specialty lingerie washes, but a non-scented detergent that’s marketed for sensitive skin is also fine. Toss in your bras and use your hands to swirl them around the water and detergent. (You can use a toothbrush on areas that need extra attention.)
Let them soak, and then rinse with cool water. Just make sure not to wring them out — you can damage the elastic if you do. Then, just toss them over your shower rod, or on a drying rack, and let them air dry.
If all of that sounds like way too much time, Harrington does say you can toss your bras in the washing machine, so long as you proceed with caution. “You should put your bras in a lingerie wash bag, so they don’t tangle,” she says. “And make sure the cycle is on gentle or handwash, and that it’s using cold water.” You do still need to air-dry, though, as the heat from your dryer can really ruin the fabric and elastic of your bra.
With all that in mind, find the best bras in 2021 just below, and make sure to check back soon for our update.