How Wearing The Wrong Size Bra Impacts You

Bras are at the root of many intense love-hate relationships. A perfect-fitting bra is strangely comforting (it is, after all, close to our hearts), giving the lift and support to create that perfect upper hourglass silhouette. But an ill-fitting bra ranks up there with leaky faucets and chipped nails as one of life's major irritations. The fit of the bra you wear has an impact on the overall look and feel of the ensemble you're wearing, along with a direct effect on your confidence (via Parva Plastic Surgery). The right bra can be that final piece that sends your look over the top, while wearing a bra with the wrong fit can leave you looking lumpy, misshapen, and slumped. Not to mention the discomfort and pain that can come from wearing the wrong bra, explains The New York Post. Often, wearing the wrong bra size can require you to constantly readjust the sides, straps, or cups, which can be inconvenient to accomplish when in public settings.

More than just an annoying problem

The problems that can arise from an ill-fitting bra can be more than just a minor annoyance, fashion faux pas, or simple discomfort. You might be surprised to learn that consistently wearing bras that are incorrectly sized for your body can actually lead to some more serious health concerns. Yet, according to Maaree, 70% of women are wearing brassieres that are too small while an additional 10% of women are wearing bras that are too large.

The best way to choose the correct size support bra for your body is to be fitted by a professional. However, not everyone has access or means to see a professional to be properly measured. In fact, British lingerie retailer Pour Moi claims that up to 91% of women aren't getting properly fitted for a bra (via New York Post). While there are charts and guides available through an internet search, there's still a margin for error that can leave you with a less than perfectly fitting bra if you're not careful. And while it can be easier to select a size for a sports bra than traditional bras, they can leave you yearning for something a bit more supportive — or attractive. 

So how can you tell if your bra isn't the right size?

Signs your bra isn't the right size

Insider explains that there are a few key signs that your bra isn't the right size. One major sign is if the straps are always falling down. Bra straps can stretch over time, which can lead to less-than-adequate support for your breasts. If your straps are loose, it may be time to upgrade to a better fitting bra. Likewise, if your straps are digging into your shoulders, this can be a sign that your bra isn't right for your body size. When your bra's band is not tight enough, the support of your breasts is then shifted to the straps, causing them to pull down on the shoulders (via Third Love).

But the straps aren't the only area to illustrate poor fit. Wearing a cup size that is too small can cause the breasts to overflow, either from the top (creating a four-boob look) or from the sides, according to Maaree. Similarly, wearing a bra where the cup size is too large will leave the bra appearing to have too much fabric or having gaps between the breast and the bra cup.

Ill-fitted underwire bras can feel as though the wire is resting on the breast tissue, instead of providing lift and support (via Maaree). Other signs your bra may be the wrong size can be if the bra leaves chafe marks on your skin or if the underwire is digging into the skin.

Some serious health concerns

According to Glamour, a poorly fitting bra can lead to breast and back pain, skin abrasions, postural problems, premature breast sagging, and more. Problems can occur regardless of whether the bra is too small or too big. Sammy Margo, spokeswoman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, explains that "If a bra is too tight, it can create pressure on the nerves, muscles and blood vessels around the shoulders, upper back and rib cage, leading to pain, headaches, and even constant pins and needles in the arms" (via Cosmopolitan).

Bras that are too big aren't any better. Margo adds, "Wearing a bra that doesn't support the breasts efficiently can lead to postural problems, such as rounded or hunched shoulders, as the woman will naturally sit and stand awkwardly to compensate for her unsupportive, ill-fitting bra." So while you're already struggling with the pain, discomfort, and constant need to adjust, you're also subject to slouching your body, giving your overall appearance something that can pull down your confidence.

Your bra shouldn't be a burden

Ra'el Cohen, head of design at online bra retailer ThirdLove, says "We believe the best bra is one you never think about, and in order to achieve that level of comfort, your bra has to fit really well" (via Bustle). Your bra should leave you feeling supported, comfortable, and confident. The straps of your bra should stay in place and the band should be snug with just enough room to easily slide a finger between it and your skin, according to WebMD.

To start with, get fitted for the right size bra — either by a professional at a quality lingerie store or department store, or do it yourself using an online bra-fitting guide. Be sure to pay attention to the warning signs that your bra might be ill-fitted. Avoid sleeping in your bra and remember to regularly check the straps and bands for any evidence that they've begun to stretch out just a little too far. Your breasts, your shoulders, your back, and the mirror will thank you!