Monday, April 22, 2013

How Wire Width and Cup Shape Affect Your Bra Fit

ALL THESE BRAS ARE A 32F WITH DIFFERENT CUP DIMENSIONS
Lots of women begin their bra fit journey by finding out there are bra sizes outside the 34+ A-D standard. Learning that you're more comfortable in a 30FF than a 34DD is an enormous step forward in better bra fit (our bra size calculator is a good starting point for figuring out your size range). What a lot of women don't realize is that there is another equally important part to bra fit besides Bra Size and that's Bra Style.

I know many women can't find their bra size and this is usually because they haven't tried on their correct size in the right style of bra. One of the biggest differences in bra style is the shape of the cup. If you're a 32F, for example, the bras available in this size will all have approximately the same cup volume, however, the volume can be dispersed in different ways. Below is a picture of the same volume of silly-putty molded into a wide and a narrow breast shape (Bratabase has an amazing resource for understanding breast shape). You'll notice that the wide base volume is shallower than the narrow based volume which is why we need different cup shapes.



The width of your breasts (often referred to as the breast root) makes a difference to how your breast volume forms your breast shape. A 32F women with a narrow root will have breasts that project forward more as the volume is stacked up over a smaller base. She may also notice that her breasts are round at the top as well. This woman needs a bra that has a narrow base (a narrow cup width) and a full, forward cup. If your cup feels very empty at the sides of your cup but you're spilling at the top then you want to look for styles with narrower wires and forward fuller cups.

A 32F woman with a wide root will find her breasts are spread over a wider area and so don't project as far forward. She needs a bra that can accommodate the width of her breasts and the cup doesn't need to project as far forward because her volume is spread out more. If your bra is poking your breast tissue at the side and you're not quite filling the cup then look for bras with wider wires and shallower cups.

Related Vlog Post: Cup Shapes and Bra Fit


The third direction that's important to consider when figuring out your breast shape is how far up your body your breast tissue extends (without a bra on). Some women have breast tissue high up on their body near their collarbone and this forms part of their breast volume so they need a long cup that can accommodate this tissue. Women with high tissue often find that they don't have much forward projection and so they need styles that are long in the cup but shallow in depth.  Many women are very flat through their upper chest across the breast bone (their breast tissue doesn't become obvious until farther down their chest - usually, level with their armpit).  If you're flat through your breast bone you'll find you can wear a variety of styles.

If you've been trying on the same style of bra, or even the same brand of bra, and are still struggling to find your size I recommend trying a different style or brand bearing in mind this information about how your breast root can affect the shape of your breast and so you'll need a cup shape that's right for you.  xx

32 comments:

  1. This is one of the most useful descriptions that I've seen for breast shape. Thank you!

    I think I have a narrow root - when I'm wearing the right bra, it slims my front-on silhouette significantly. Balconnette styles rarely work for me.

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    1. I'm glad you find it helpful Kat. A narrow root tends to need a forward fuller cup (in the full bust range I would say a style like Meg or Zia from Cleo are ideal). I hope this helps you figure out which shapes to look for on you xx

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  2. Totally love the visual that you did with silly-putty!
    I think it also shows how the same volume breasts look much larger if they have narrow root and are not "long".

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    1. Really hi-tech visuals here! You're absolutely right that the root of your breast can make your bust appear bigger or smaller than someone else who wears the same size. xx

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  3. Can we discuss how the density of the underwire (and therefore the flexibility) affects how a bra fits? I've discovered that if an underwire is too flexible, it distorts and pulls the cup wider. Many Elomi bras do this, and I've yet to get a good explanation of why they allow this to happen.

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    1. That's a fantastic point (and a blog post all its own!) The flexibility of the wire is a choice that manufacturers make based on the style and target market. Wire flexibility is part of what makes a bra more comfortable while at the same time giving shape and stability. Very few bras have completely rigid wires (because it has to give a little when you breathe and move) but as you point out, some styles and brands have more flexible wires that other brands and styles. xx

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    2. I guess my issue with them is in order to have the band snug enough the cup is too distorted. I don't have this problem with the Panache bras I own or the Elomi Caitlyn. Many of the other Elomi bras are super flexible and end up a good 2 inches wider than they should be.

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    3. It would be great to have some sort of a list which bras have very flexible wires and which are more sturdy. Bratabase is great, but I feel that cup width measurement isn't much of a help without knowing how flexible wires are.

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    4. That is definitely a more tricky list to put together because the flexibility of a wire is subjective. It would have to be comparative I suppose "the wires on Caitlyn are similar to..." etc.

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  4. Honestly, these posts are such a public service! Thank you C.

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    1. Thanks K.Line - I'm so glad they're useful. Our whole aim is to make bras less confusing and fun for people xx

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  5. Awesome. I get so tangled up trying to explain things like this, and you make it so, so clear and approachable and useful and wonderful. Thank you thank you!

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    1. Mr Butterfly giggled that I was explaining boobs with silly putty - but it worked!! xx

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  6. I can't wait to see the more in-depth video on this. I would never have thought to use playdough to explain boob shape! :-)

    I think I'm of the high tissue with a serious need for "corralling" on the sides variety, but those full cup styles never really work for my petite frame. I tried on that same Claudette bra (in purple though), and the top corner of the cups actually ended on the top of my shoulder. And all the other styles I've tried have straps that are set too far apart for my narrow shoulders...

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    1. This is such an important issue Country Girl, height in relation to breast shape and size. You're absolutely right that if you have high tissue and need a longer cup but your torso is short then the proportions can be all wrong. I wish I had the perfect bra for you but petite friendly, side supportive teardrop shape cups are still so hard to find. As soon as we find one I'll post about it! xx

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    2. Ahhhh! This is exactly my problem! Shallow, wide, and short!

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  7. I'm not certain what my breast "shape" catagory would be as I seem to fit several. I also have the added challange of having a shunt tube that travles down the front of my chest. It's very painful when the wire in my bra cups bumps up on either side of it. This being said, I am certain I have bottom heavy, wide set, breasts. I also don't have a ton of forward projection which is a bummer for me, and while I measure 7 inches bigger in my "full bust" measurment than in my "band" measurment, I have lost a total of 80 lbs so while my breasts aren't super saggy (they can't hold a pencil unless I'm slouching big time) they aren't at rigid attention either. I'm trying to save up to buy my correct size, but the "style" need is a bit puzzling. All I've ever worn were molded push-ups or sports bras. None of which have been the right size.

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    1. I recommend watching the video in this article because it's about cup shape and I think that will be very important for you. It sounds as though you have shallow breasts (a long and wide breast base but not a lot of forward projection). You need cup shapes that are going to work with your shape. You may also be able to wear bras with a lower gore (center part) which would keep any pressure away from your shunt tube. A wider neckline (like a plunge bra) can keep the cups and gore away from the center of your chest which could be good for you. I hope this helps xx

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    2. Could tissue migration account for some lack of projection? Also, would it be possible to give me some examples of a good bra for the above breast shape and problem (with the shunt) in a 30FF? I have under arm boob as well as the other issues. I really appreciate the advice because I'm totally lost

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    3. Tissue migration will definitely lessen your projection. I like Claudette for less coverage around the sternum area. Lucy from Cleo has a lower gore and open chest area. We don't have any soft cup plunge bras in your size, however, Loretta Plunge and Andorra Plunge from Panache would be good to try. This is the link for the 30FF bras in our collection, you'll find Claudette Dessous bras and Lucy in there http://www.butterflycollection.ca/search.php?search_query=30FF&x=0&y=0

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  8. So... How can we tell which bras have a narrow width and which have a wide width? It's a little difficult to determine from a website picture. I'm a petite person and need a 30FF with a narrow width- I have a few bras in that size that have wires which come too far around my sides (I don't have a lot of breast tissue under my arms) yet still give me a little quadboob. I stumbled upon the Tango when I purchased a discontinued color cheap, and it fits great! Now I know why- your article is very informative, but I'd like to know how to identify other bras that will fit me well.

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    1. This is a great question. I wrote a post recently about finding bra reviewer bloggers who have a similar build and/or breast shape to you so that you can read reviews of bras that are likely to work (or not work) for you. http://blog.butterflycollection.ca/2013/04/directory-of-full-bust-bloggers.html

      In our online store we include comparison fits wherever possible, for example, the Tango fits similarly to Jasmine but the cups aren't as tall and the shape is narrower but the wire width is similar. xx

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  9. One can have *visually* wide-rooted boobs (or average) but in fact need cups with *very* narrow underwires. It all depends on the scale of the person :) I am petite (only 5 feet/152 cm tall) so although I look like I have a broad base (wide roots) I really don't when you compare my roots with the bras famous for being suitable for women with wide roots. It feels like my boobs are swimming inside the cups because there's just too much fabric and too much wire-width for my petite-scaled breasts. My problem with bras is NOT the volume of the cups, but the distribution and I think that people need to know that your *visual* root doesn't have to decide what kinda underwires you need :)

    For example... I have the Flirtelle Divine in 28F (I hate that bra because the band is so uncomfortable, would not recommend it at all even if you have the matching shape for it, poor construction) and although it looks like the cups are too small for me (not enough fabric covering the front portion of my boobs), they are not. Too much cup space is being left unused because my body simply can't conform to it, (and it shouldn't) and so the result is that it appears to be so that the cups are too small. So... The message I'm trying to send out is just to take the Butterfly Collection as a rough guide :) I think it's a great guide but for some it will be confusing if her tips won't work out for you. Remember that visual root width doesn't have to decide if you need wide wires or narrow ones :) (or something in between) Just make sure to try out different bras and if you find that a certain bra has a good wire width for you, note what brand and model it is and measure the cup width :) Bratabase has great instructions on how to measure your bras.

    I'm a bra fit blogger and I'm petite, so just head on over and have a read if you're interested because I talk a lot about the struggles of being petite when it comes to bras especially :)

    Bflycollection, feel free to add me in your list of bra reviewer bloggers because I haven't seen a lot of petite bra bloggers and I think that I could be of great help for some :)

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    1. You're absolutely right that what appears wide on a tall, broad woman will be proportionally very different from a petite woman. In fact bras in general are not made with petite women in mind and this is something I not only talk about a lot in my blog but all of the products in our store state whether they are petite friendly. Yes this is a guide, no one piece of bra information should ever be taken in isolation.

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    2. Awesome, I think you just helped me figure my problem! :)

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  10. Thank you so much for this blog (and your site and the knowledge you share) it is like hitting a hidden goldmine. I honestly hope more young women (and their moms) read your blog before commencing their bra journey (which often ends in an ill-fitting B cup). I have a question about wires in bras. I was turned on to Panache by a friend and on a whim tried on a Cleo and fell in love - it is the bra that fits me best (although I still have a crush on Panache ;-). My only problem/complaint with my Cleo bras is that while everything fits (cup volume, band, no back-boob or side boob) after wearing them for a period of time (I have the Meg, Melissa and two Panache Andorras that fit pretty well) it gets sore under the outer wire (beneath the armpit) near the top. I am in 36F and a bit worried I am in the wrong size.

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    1. Thank you for this wonderful comment - we really hope that the information here can help people on a better bra journey. In regards to your fit question I don't think you're in the wrong size, it sounds like the wires might simply be too long for you. Cleo and Superbra bras (both Panache brands of course) use mostly long wires. This is part of what gives them excellent support, however, it also means that if you have a short torso or high set breasts then the wires are going to poke up into your armpit. While you can bend the wires under your armpit away from your body (it's best to do this when not wearing the bra) you may find that you need a brand and style with shorter wires. http://blog.butterflycollection.ca/2013/10/bras-good-for-short-torsos.html

      The most successful short wire Panache bra to date is Idina http://www.butterflycollection.ca/idina-latte-bra-by-panache-6966/

      I hope this helps you narrow down even more which brands and styles are right for your best fit xx

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  11. Thanks so much for this post! Just one question, as someone with breast tissue high up on my body I would love to try out the Dessous bra like you recommended in your video but would it also be suitable for someone with a wide root?

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    1. Hi CH - The Dessous style has a medium width wire so works well with some high, wide roots. The Idina is definitely worth trying as the wires are wider and shorter. The Dessous works incredibly well for lots of our clients with wide roots, it just depends on how wide your root is. Sorry I can't give you a 100% guarantee but I certainly think it's worth a try! xx

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