We answer your questions about bra fitting, from what's involved when you get measured, to how to tell if your bra fits.
Julia Mercer, M&S Bra Fit Expert and Technical Manager, offers her top tips:
What does bra fitting involve?
Getting professionally measured is usually a quick and simple process. You'll be asked to take off any layers so you're just in your current bra or a vest, and the measurer will go around you with a tape measure, and assess how your current bra looks. She'll then bring you some new bras to try on, adjusting their straps as she goes, until, like Cinderella, you find the right fit!
Why is it important to get professionally measured?
A bra fitting is about getting the best shape of bra for your body shape. Often women think they'll wear a different size in different shapes, but this is wrong. A bra fitter can help you get fitted correctly, which sometimes means a different size cup to what you are wearing.
What difference does finding the right bra make to your appearance?
A good fitting bra will help your posture, give you confidence in your outerwear, and even make you look slimmer and discover your waist again. If you have a special occasion bring your outfit to your bra fit appointment and we can fit your bra with your outfit.
How often should we be measured?
We recommend you come in for a bra fitting every six-12 months, as we change our size if we put weight on or lose weight, and with age. It’s a free service so always worth taking the time to be fitted.
What are the most common misconceptions about bra sizes?
A whopping 82 per cent of ladies we have fitted are in the wrong size. The most common problem that ladies get wrong is the underband (which is normally too large). The second most common mistake is wearing a cup too small.
There are five key checks to the perfect bra fit:
Underband – should be parallel to the floor and secure enough that only two fingers can fit under the elastic
Centre front – should sit completely flat against the sternum
Side wire – this should be flat against the ribcage and never digging into breast tissue
Cup capacity – breasts should sit fully into the cup without any spillage
Straps – these should be adjusted to just fit two fingers on top of each other, which will give the right pressure for your shoulder.
The best way to check if your bra is fitting correctly is lift up your arms twist your body and the bra will fit perfectly in place.
How can you tell at a glance if you’re wearing the wrong size?
One of the most common problems we see is when your bra is too big at the underband. You often see bras travelling up the back when the band is too big, and this offers no support to your breasts. The most important area of any bra fit is getting the band right first, with only enough space to get two fingers underneath.
If the bra is too small it will be obvious in the cup, where spillage can be seen at the cleavage area, under the arms and across the back. Because the breast is mainly made up of fat (75 per cent) and 25 per cent glandular tissue, the cup area is the first area to see this. Cups should fully encase the breast, sit fully back at the centre front, and no wires digging into breast tissue.
The other key to getting your perfect fit is selecting the correct bra shape to your body shape. There are only four key shapes: plunge, balcony, full cup and strapless. Most girls can wear a full cup or strapless, but if you have a smaller frame and closer cleavage a plunge will always fit you better. If you have wider shoulders and a gap between your breasts a balcony will always fit you better.
What’s the nation’s most common size?
Ladies' sizes have increased over the last 10 years from 34B to 36D – DD
What will happen during a professional fitting? What should we wear or bring to prepare?
We only need to measure your underband. The rest of the fit is by visually assessing your body shape and where your breast tissue in on your body. We prefer you to wear a bra as it lifts your breast tissue into the correct place and our bra fitters can give you your size from that assessment. Do not worry if the bra you are wearing does not fit you, are fitters can see beyond that for you.
What would you say to a woman who was feeling self-conscious about coming in?
There are have two ways to book a fitting with M&S, either on our bra fit booking tool online. Or when you are in store, ask at the lingerie bra fitting room. If we can, we will fit you straight away. Research has shown that 23 per cent of women would never use fitting service, purely because they may be shy or don’t like other people seeing them without clothes on, which is why we developed the online bra fit calculator on our website for women who do not wish to be fitted in store. Give it a try here.
Do you need a different size when it comes to sports bras?
No, and this is very important that you wear the same size as in an everyday bra. The bra fit will feel different. Sports bras are worked on compression, to help protect your breast tissue for when you take part in activity. The bra should be comfortable but reduce the breast movement . Choose the impact level that suits the sport activity. We sell three levels of support, medium, for yoga or Pilates , high for racquet sports, and maximum impact for performance running or horse riding.
What about mastectomy bras, how does the fitting process differ?
The fitting takes longer for post-surgery bras, as the scar tissue needs to be considered and comfort takes on extra importance. Every woman is different and each operation varies. Take your time and get advice to your personal needs. All of our bra fitters are trained for this very important area.
Any other tips?
Know your body type – finding which bra shape suits you is just as important as getting the size correct.
Be open minded – try new sizes if recommended by your bra fit expert. Getting used to a new size can feel quite strange to begin with, especially if you have been wearing the wrong size over a long period of time.
Have an idea in your head as to what kind of bra you’re after – whether that’s a day-to-day bra, strapless, sports bra or a style for special occasions.
For more fashion tips, pick up the latest copy of Yours