HMB4J: my new bra size is killing me!

What happens when a bra fitting experience turns in to a daily nightmare?

Help Me Busts 4 Justice

I was recently fitted in a specialty store from my old size of 36B into a 32D. I was informed that I was wearing a hilariously incorrect size and learned the swoop and scoop (not generally taught to smaller busted women, in my experience). I tried on a bunch of bras ranging from 34C-32DD, and the fitter said the 32D was the best size for me.

Here’s the problem: it’s incredibly uncomfortable. The fitter explained that the smaller band may take a little getting used to but I want to rip this bra off my body every time I put it on. The wires don’t appear to be sitting on top of breast tissue, but they dig in and I can feel them all day. The cups will occasionally move out of place, if for example I reach both hands up above my head, but are impossible to move back without grabbing the cups with my hands and hauling them back down. I have red marks around my torso, chest and shoulders when I take the bra off and my breasts feel tender. I feel like I suddenly have all these problems I’ve heard women with large breasts complain about, but it’s ridiculous because I’m small enough that I don’t even need to wear a bra. 

I know it sounds like the obvious answer is a smaller band and a bigger cup, but the one I bought is so tight and uncomfortable I’m terrified to go any smaller in the band. It’s not a cheap bra either, it’s a Marie Jo. My underbust measures 31″ with the tape measure pulled tight, 32″ comfortably, and over bust is 36.5″. How do I get justice for my bust?


Hey K,

Thanks for your e-mail – and sorry to hear your bust appears to be suffering an injustice at the hands of a zealous bra fitter!

While I do know that many women, especially those with heavier breasts, benefit from wearing tighter bras and the method promoted by your fitter – your fitter seems to have forgotten a massively important part of her job: measurements are only one part of the puzzle, and the only ‘right’ bra is the one that the wearer loves.

It’s true that tighter bras do take some getting used to, but usually that means a couple of days before you forget it’s there totally from one end of the day to the next. From your description, it seems clear that your bra is far too tight. While red marks in themselves aren’t anything to worry about (think about when you take your tights off), pain is – and you don’t have to suffer it because a fitter tells you it’s right!

This could be down to a few things. Firstly, your Marie Jo could run very tight in the band, in which case 32D may indeed work for you in other brands. Secondly, your body type might just not get on with tighter bands. This is often the case with muscular body types, and also women with prominent ribs – in which case you could try sister size 34C for a better match. Ultimately, all three bra sizes – 32D, 34C and your old 36B have the same equivalent volume – it’s about what gives you the support you want and the comfort you need.

Assuming you don’t want to go back to the torture dungeon, here are some things to look out for when trying on bras yourself.

1: Sizing (unfortunately) is not standardized. A 32D in Marie Jo may not fit the same as a 32D in, say, Freya. Always take multiple sizes in to the changing room and don’t be afraid to veer from your ‘starter size’ if the fits not right. Most women have multiple sizes in their lingerie draw.

2: After ‘swooping and scooping’, adjust the straps to fit. They should not slip, but they should never be tight or dig in to your shoulders at all – it sounds as if you may have your Marie Jo straps pulled far too tight (or, if you are tall, the Marie Jo straps may be far too short). This could explain why your cups have been moving up so much (and staying there!).

3: Check the band. It should be horizontal and remain so as you move around. It should be firm but not uncomfortable. You should be able to get two fingers under the clasp and pull away an inch quite comfortably. The centre gore at the front should sit flat against the body – it sitting away could mean your cups are too small and/or your band is too loose.

4: Check the cups. The wire should track along underneath where your breast meets your torso, and it should not sit on the breast tissue anywhere. Cups should sit smoothly at the top of the breast, and not dig in (too small) nor pucker/gape (too big).

When trying alternate sizes, when going up a band size always go down a cup size (and vice versa) to get equivalent volume.

I hope this helps you navigate your way to the right bra. Remember, ultimately finding the right bra comes down to your preference and what personally feels right for you while giving you the support you want.

Good luck, and let me know how you get on!

Love from B4J x

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10 Responses to HMB4J: my new bra size is killing me!

  1. curvy57 says:

    sadly all this lady got was a expensive bra sold to her and if you are wearing a band two sizes too big then you should be trying at least 4 to 5 cups sizes bigger I suggest you measure yourself with an inches tape measure try a Bestform kasey bra in a 32 Possible E, F if that is what you actually measure in the band (BACK) size, the advice you were given above is correct I never tell my ladies that’s the best fit for them they decide how it feels looks and desire’s. for them.
    SADLY too many stores are all about selling rather fitting and bulling women into something they either don’t like, not comfortable in, don’t like the shape or look it gives them either.
    Teaching my ladies what they should be looking for, enabling them to make the choice themselves in the future which they do and they always come back send me more customers in store that what makes a good fitter not someone who sell them the most expensive bra in the store as there is lots of good designs bra’s and good prices too around the £28 to £32.00 mark depending where you buy it.

  2. drueberdrunter says:

    Hmmmm. You could use a bra extender (or make one from an old bra) and try if this makes the bra more comfortable. I don’t think it sounds like the bra is too small in the cup and too big in the band, I don’t know where you got the idea from…

    I have a couple of theories why bras in this size region tend to digg in: the wires are rather hard and end in inconvenient places for example. Plus: the band is much stronger than the breasts which are not heavy enough to push the wires away from the body so there is a lot more pressure applied to the rib cage than in larger cup sizes.

    • I didn’t say it was too small in the cup and big in the band – that was in the section about how to troubleshoot sizing on your own. Good advice about the extender – may help her rescue an expensive bra.

      • superdaisy says:

        When I was moving from 32D to 30FF (now I’m in 28GG), I also had discomfort. The band did seem surprisingly firm and the wires were no longer pressing against nice squishy boob tissue. So I folded up some tissue paper and stuck it under the gore, against my sternum. That helped a lot until I adjusted to the fit and the bra adjusted to me. A bra extender will help a lot (I still use them with my brand-new sports bras), and padding the poky parts with tissue or moleskin might be useful as well.

  3. isabel says:

    I would go with the extender for now to release the tightness and let you wear the bra for now . I NEVER tell a lady that’s what she has to wear you can vary over sizes depending on the make and style of bra is its not comfortable doesn’t feel right you must say . y ou wont hurt the fitters feelings by saying no . be careful of Panache and Bestform as they do tend to be more U shape which makes the wire high at the sides and centre gore not suitable for everyone. A good T shirt bra which is very comfortable is the Triumph Supersoft the side panel is soft stretch and the moulded cups are a bit stretchy so cover well . and its made in the 32 D and 34C reasonably priced at £34. Freya and Fantasie are good fittings too . if your ever in Blackpool come see us .

  4. It sounds to me like the problem could be entirely cup size. It’s hard to know exactly how many cup sizes you need to change starting from the wrong band size, you might think you’re in the right cup size but find a correctly fitting band pulls the wires into places they didn’t go before, and some of your symptoms are obviously caused by too small a cup. Also if the cups are small enough to have to sit on breast tissue, that’s going to stretch the band further than it should do, which may be causing what looks like band size problems. I would suggest trying 32DD and 32E, and experimenting with different brands. The tighter band can take some getting used to but there should never be cup problems.

  5. Alex Tohme says:

    Not sure if original poster is still watching thread but the following might be helpful:

    MJ states they use UK band sizing and EU cup sizing which is slightly strange to have a mix. EU cups go up in 2cm UK cups go up in 1 inch (= 2.54cm). Not all D cups are created equal

    Additionally, when the retailers or manufacturers put the conversions on the label i often find they get it wrong.

    When shopping for non UK brands i prefer to use the original sizing so in this case i would look for a 70E or 70F. MJ is part of Netherlands based Van de Velde group. I would guess an F as anything with EU sizing, i find just happens to be cut really small.

    If the OP is shopping from the following brands, she most likely will need a 70F

    Simone Perele
    Le Mystere
    Chantal Thomas
    Lise Charmel
    Princess tam tam
    Wacoal france
    Lily of france
    La perla

    And a more like a 32DD in the following brands

    Curvy Kate
    Agent Provocateur
    Parfait by Affinitas
    Elle McPherson

    Of course the wideness of the underwires is a factor as well as whether her bust is positioned on the front of her chest, or the breast tissue is wider than torso.

    A wild stab in the dark but i’m sure if she tried a 32DD in Panache she would feel much more comfortable.

  6. jenna says:

    I would like to add that a bra that is the right size, might still be painful and have wires digging in! I have experienced this many times. Sometimes it helps to bend the wires away. Sometimes you just have to look for another brand / model.

    A bra should never be painful and pain is not necessarily an indicator of wrong size or cup shape!!

  7. Vicki says:

    The Op said she was 32 inches comfortably and 36.5 bust measure 36 1/2 inches going into a 37, that would be a 32E. If she tried DD and E cups, they will probably work better for her. IF the 32 is still tight and uncomfortable, try the 34. Bras should be snug and comfortable in the band and the cup. If the bra hurts in the band or the cup, the woman may choose not to wear it and go back to the size she was wearing .

  8. K says:

    Thank you so much to B4J and everyone else for responding to me, I really appreciate it! I apologize for not responding sooner, I didn’t realize I’d received a response and so many other suggestions.
    The bra in question has stretched out in the band and feels much better. On a friend’s suggestion, I ended up pushing the underwire through the tracks so it goes higher up into the armpit area and does not sit as high on my breastbone. As a result the centre gore and wires do not cause me the same grief as before. I have also loosened the straps and feel very silly for having them pulled too tight. I think it was because the bra is a balconette and initially it seemed perilously close to falling off my shoulders or possibly just because I left them the way the fitter did them. I am not convinced that the cup size is perfect as it cuts in at the top, but it does not seem to be sitting on breast tissue elsewhere.
    The fitter may have been over-zealous but in her defense-she was also probably influenced by how much I loved the bra- I’m a sucker for pretty details. I also seem to have pretty shallow breasts, which I’ve been told can be difficult to fit. I know I definitely wasn’t filling out any of the 32DD’s she had me try and I was frequently getting emptiness in the bottom of the cup, which she said meant the shape wasn’t compatible with my shape. I’ll continue to try different bras with all this new information in mind and keep an open mind to different sizes depending on brands…And I’ll do my best not to buy any bras that cause an inordinate amount of pain.
    Thank you very much!

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