How to Buy a Bra That Actually Fits

Yesterday, I told you about my first bra shopping trip when I screwed everything up and bought the wrong sized bras.

Here’s the story of how I did things right on my second attempt.

I was at Dillard’s at 11:00 am on a Wednesday.  The store wasn’t very crowded, and it occurred to me I should just bite the bullet and see if the lingerie department was busy and if I could get a fitting.

I headed over to lingerie and asked the first employee I spotted if a fitter was available.  “I can do that,” she said. She was roughly my mom’s age, and her nametag boasted 12 years of service in intimate apparel.  I thought that was a good start.

So we headed back to the dressing room and she got my measurements, and declared my number and cup size–both different from the bra I was wearing that I’d gotten just two weeks before.  I asked her how I could possibly need a bigger cup size, when I wasn’t filling out the smaller cup I was wearing!  “First of all, your band size is too big right now.  But also, you’re not wearing a style that suits your body.  Women don’t realize that getting the size right is just the beginning, and my job is to help you find the bra that suits the shape of your body.”  (Bra-maker Bali points out that not every 34C is the same, and to try on different styles until you find the one that works for you.)

So after a few quick questions—Lace or no? Nude or black?—she set out to pluck some bras off the sales floor.

She returned with a pile of 15 bras, all nude, mostly Calvin Klein.  She fastened each one on the loosest hook (“because they’re only going to stretch with time”) and instructed me on the proper way to wiggle in.  I tried each one on and she checked the fit of every one.

We made small talk while we worked through the pile.  “I have a daughter about your age,” she said.  (I knew it!)

After we exhausted that pile she returned to the floor and came back with 6 more.

In the end we had found a half-dozen that actually fit well, and from there I selected my two favorites.  I was wavering on how many to buy.  There weren’t any sales or specials going on, and the price was steep.  “You say you’re still breastfeeding?” she said.  I nodded. “This one was far and away your favorite. Buy the one, keep the tag in a safe place, and come back later to buy more.” I know her pay depends on her sales volume, so I was impressed that she told me this even though it would net her a smaller commisison.

I scanned the carnage in the dressing room.  There were 20 bras in a jumbled pile,  their hangers falling off the chair onto the floor.  I made a lame apology for the mess.

“Oh, that’s nothing!”  she said, laughing.  “Some women try on three or four times that many.  It’s not easy to find the right bra, you know.”

Yes, I know.

Here are some tips so that you can have a successful bra shopping experience on your first try:

  • Once you are confident in your size and ability you can hit the $12.99 bargain bins on your own. Until then, get someone to fit you properly.
  • Most stores will have fit specialists available, but it’s a good idea to call ahead or make an appointment. Good fitters have lots of experience—the longer she’s been doing this, the better.
  • Don’t go during peak times if you can.
  • Tell the fit specialist your general preferences about cut, fabric, and style and let her pick out a bunch of bras for you to try.
  • Measurements should be taken with your bra on.
  • To put a bra on properly, bend over and put the wires on your ribcage, your shoulders through the straps, and fasten the back.  Then stand up, lift and redistribute.
  • The shoulder straps are adjusted properly if you can slide one finger between the strap and your shoulder.
  • Have the fit specialist evaluate the bras as you try them on to check fit and make sure it’s the right style for your body.
  • Bring something to read, because this could take a while!

What do you do to make sure you get a bra that fits well?

photo credit:  Robert Wallace


Leave A Comment
  1. Laura says:

    Great tips!
    I really need to go and be fitted as well. I lost some weight last year and since then, have been floundering with bras.


  2. Audrey says:

    I’m glad you had a good experience on your second try. After reading this, it makes me think I need to get refitted because I didn’t do all of those steps. Sounds like the fitter was really competent and nice, too. That always helps a ton!

  3. This is something that I have to do, now that my youngest is almost completely weaned. What a project! My husband and sister have both been telling me that now is the time (my current apparatus is so inadequate) but I have been worrying about getting a proper fit until I am done nursing completely. I am afraid that I will spend a lot of money right now and end up a different size! Thank you for this very helpful(and timely) post!

  4. Mandi says:

    I guess I should get someone to fit me…but it’s just so uncomfortable. I know it’s another woman, but I just don’t like being that undressed in front of a stranger!

  5. iHateMyBra says:

    Good for you and your persistence! I hope they’re still fitting fine.

    With the band size: buy with a snug fit on the loosest (hooks and) eyes, unless you’re expecting: then buy on the tightest to allow for your expanding ribcage.

    (Post-pregnancy and post-breastfeeding is a roller coaster ride.)

  6. FishMama says:

    I’ve had this in my reader for two weeks because I wanted to read it but didn’t have time before. Kept saving it! This has been a blog post in my mind for years. I, too, have had the same. exact. experience. And Dillards rocks it on the bra fitting. We don’t have Dillards in CA, so I’m not sure what I’ll do. But, the Baby weaned 18 months ago and the bras are feeling funky. Thanks for a great example!

    • Anne says:

      I had a good experience at Dillard’s, but I’ve also had very good experiences at Macy’s. It all depended on the fitter (and my willingness to use her services). Good luck!

  7. Leslie says:

    This is my first time on your site, and I nodded with agreement when I saw this post! While visiting home between two countries with much worse lingerie sections, I stocked up! I had good luck at Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie section. I needed a bigger size than I’d previously owned, and I really appreciated the customer service. I accidentally bought a bra with too big a band, wore it once or twice, and then realized it was not right. They let me return it for the right size! Pretty incredible. I think Aerie is a good choice for A, B, or C cups.

    • Anne says:

      Leslie, thanks for the kind words, and the tip about Aerie! I’ve never tried anything on there but the fabrics they use are adorable! And as I recall, the prices weren’t bad, either 🙂

  8. MamabearJD says:

    I just clicked over from your skinny jeans post – and wanted to share a bit because I spent an excruciating amount of time bra shopping last year! Nordstrom has a good selection of larger cup sizes. I need a small band and a large cup, so I wound up going to a store called Intimacy. It was worth the long drive. They carry a lot of European brands that are super expensive – BUT it was worth it to me to find the right fit, and now that I know what works, I shop online for sales at and

    Hope that helps someone. It would have helped me last year when I felt like I was fumbling in the dark!

  9. Allena Rissa says:

    I didn’t know there were appropriate bra types for every body! I just thought to find your size and that’s it. This post is very informative, and I’m guessing you could help out more people like me. Thanks for sharing your experience! This encourages me to go out and have myself fitted again 🙂

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