Bra Fitting Guide for Reconstructed Breasts
Following breast reconstruction, finding a bra that fits and flatters your breasts is not only important for comfort and support—for many women, choosing beautiful new lingerie makes them feel feminine again and provides a sense of completion. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month upon us, we wanted to offer up some suggestions for finding bras that will support your new shape.
Why You’ll Need New Bras
Because the shape and size of reconstructed breasts differ from natural breast tissue, it’s important to clean out your lingerie drawer and replace bras that no longer fit. Your new breasts will not fit into a bra in the same way your original breasts did, and the bra size and styles you were accustomed to prior to surgery may not work for you.
Wearing a bra that doesn’t support you properly can cause neck and back pain. Additionally, the wrong band size can constrict you through the underbust and cause discomfort or skin irritation. Along with the potential for soreness, an ill-fitting bra won’t flatter your silhouette, while the right bra will enhance your assets and give the appearance of a slimmer midsection.
Bra Fitting is an Art, Not a Science
Because choosing the wrong bra size is such a common problem, we suggest going to a high-end department store or boutique to be measured. Even if you choose to buy your bras elsewhere, knowing your true measurements will be invaluable. Keep in mind that each brand of bra will fit differently to some degree; if you are a 36C in one brand, don’t assume this is your correct size universally.
During a bra fitting, your underbust and the apex of your breast will be measured. Your underbust is sized to find your band measurement, and the widest part of your breast is measured to determine your cup size. The cup size is used to describe the projection of the breast from your chest, and band size is used to describe the diameter of your underbust.
Here’s an example of how band and cup size relate. If you are wearing a size 36C bra and the band feels too tight, you might assume that you should switch to a 38C. But, even though both bras have a C cup, the 38C will have a wider cup to accommodate a wider base of the breast. The cup for each has the same projection, but not the same width—so if you simply increase band size alone, the bra’s cups are likely to be too large for your breasts. In this example, we would recommend first trying on a 38B.
You can memorize this rule of thumb: if you need to move up a step in band size, move down one cup size in order to maintain the same fit in the cup.
Finding a Bra That Fits
While there are various ways to measure your bra size online, the most effective way to find the perfect bra is to “try before you buy”—and it helps to try on as many bras as possible! To find a brand and size of bra that fits you well, consult with one of our favorite lingerie shops with locations in Western Pennsylvania, such as Nordstrom in King of Prussia. Shops that specialize in lingerie tend to carry a wider range of sizes than you’ll find online, and most importantly, they offer in-person consultations with professionally-trained bra fitters. A knowledgeable salesperson can recommend a variety of styles to give you the right amount of coverage and support. In the end, you want to find a bra that barely feels like it’s there.
When trying on a bra, it is important to situate your breasts in the cups. To do so, bend forward and arrange your breasts with the nipples in the center of the bra. Implants may have less movement than natural breasts, but your breasts will still need to be positioned into your bra for the right fit. Finally, as you stand up, smooth the top of your breast tissue if there is any minor spillage.
Here are some helpful things to look for when trying on a bra:
- Proper cup fit. If you have chosen the right cup size, your breast tissue should fill out the cup entirely without any gaping between the cup and the breast. Alternatively, there should be no spillage of breast tissue at the top, sides, or bottom of the cup.
- Appropriate band size. When you’ve found the correct band size for you, the bra should sit comfortably around your underbust with the hooks on the loosest setting, so that you can tighten it over time as the fabric stretches. The bra should be snug, but not so tight that it pinches or rides up your back. It should sit horizontally, parallel with the floor—raise your hands over your head and look in the mirror to check for this. There should be no space between the band and your body. When trying on a bra, slip the straps off of your shoulders—if the bra stays in place with minimal slipping and offers support, you’ve found the correct band size.
- A flat center panel. The triangular panel of a bra that sits between the breasts should lay flat against your sternum. If there is space between the center panel and your body, this means the cup of the bra is not deep enough for your breast tissue and you need a larger cup.
- The right strap. Your bra straps should not be doing all of the work when it comes to support, but should work in conjunction with the band and cups to make you feel secure. For larger-breasted women, a wide, comfortable strap (and band) can help balance the weight of your breasts. The straps of your bra should provide about 10-20% of the support, with your bra band bearing the rest of the weight.
Post-reconstruction bra-shopping can also be an opportunity to add some fun to your bra wardrobe. There are a number of online lingerie brands that offer unique styles and inclusive size and color ranges. Rihanna’s affordable lingerie line Savage x Fenty offers a range of sizes, with all of the lingerie modeled by women with realistic body types to show you what the lingerie actually looks like. ThirdLove sizes you with an online fit quiz and offers a range of sizes that includes half-cups. And Nubian Skin offers lingerie in a beautiful spectrum of nude shades for a variety of skin tones.
Relish this shopping experience as an opportunity to start fresh, and find the appealing designs that can help you feel extra-special each time you reach into your new bra wardrobe. We recommend curating a selection of several styles to suit all occasions and moods.
You are Unique
Every woman is different, and it’s important to find professionals who understand your needs throughout your breast reconstruction journey. Finding a bra with the right size, shape, and feel is indispensable when it comes to reclaiming your confidence and learning to love your new breasts. You are unique and you deserve to feel good in the skin you’re in!
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or have undergone mastectomy and are looking into breast reconstruction, Dr. Reedy and Dr. Lindsay are here to help. Feel free to contact us with questions or to request a personal consultation.