Undercover Story – Your Best Bust Support

Maybe – as they say – clothes make the man.  But I firmly (no pun) believe that under-clothes make the woman.   Supporting “the girls” properly  trims away visual years and pounds,  improves posture and takes strain off your neck and spine.  It makes your clothes fit better and look more expensive. But it isn’t always as easy as you might think.

Because bra fit is more exacting that garment fit, even a slight weight gain, loss or shift can make a big impact.  It is often said that 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size.

The most common mistake: a too-large band (the number) and a too-small cup (the letter).

  • When the band is too large it creeps up in back and droops in front, providing little or no support.
  • When the cup is too small, you get the “double-bubble” effect – one shape within the bra  and a second bubble of soft tissue above the cup.

Measurements can help define your correct  size.

  • Start with a snug measurement of your rib cage, below the bust.  Add 5, then round down to the nearest even number to determine your most likely band size.
  • Next measure your full bust and subtract the band size.  Each inch of difference equals a cup size (1” difference = A cup,  etc).
  • But measurements don’t tell the whole story.  Like shoes, each bra fits differently, so trying on is a must.

Look for styles with the cup design you need.

  • For firmer tissue a demi-cup can work fine.
  • For softer tissue (from maturity, weight loss, recent pregnancy) a full-coverage cup provides more flattering shape.

For maximum support, choose underwired styles.  In the correct size, you won’t  feel the wire.  And no, it won’t set off alarms in airport security screenings.

Consider the visual effect you want to create.

  • To appear smaller-busted, choose a minimizer style with a seamless, rounded cup designed to redistribute breast tissue slightly side-to-side and minimize forward projection.
  • To look fuller, choose a maximizer style with a seamed cup and good side coverage to push  tissue toward the center and increase projection.
  • To ramp up cleavage, find a push-up style with padding in the lower half of the cup.  (Or you can add removable booster pads to the good bras you already own.)

With an assortment of possibilities in the dressing room, try on each one and evaluate for comfort and lift.  A properly-fitted bra should feel so natural you forget you have it on.  It should close comfortably on the second hook, and it should lift your bust so the fullest point hits halfway between your belly button and that little hollow at the base of your neck.  The higher your bust, the longer your torso appears and the slimmer you look.

For the final test, slip a body-skimming lightweight T-shirt on over the bra.  Its outline will immediately spotlight fit problems you might overlook when focusing on the bra alone.

I have a couple of personal favorites to recommend – a bit pricey, but oh, so worth it.  Both are available to order online, but I strongly recommend an in-person fitting instead:

  • The Vanishing Back Full Coverage Front Closure bra from Soma Intimates (soma.com) uses no-seam edges and front strap adjustment to keep the back beautifully smooth under even the most lightweight blouses.  Most Soma sales associates do a great job of helping you find the proper fit too.  I think of this store as Victoria’s Secret for grown-ups.
  • Ruby Ribbon (a new direct selling company) offers a tank that does so much more than you’d ever think a tank could do – lifting, supporting and separating, with the plus of smoothing your midsection too.  And the underarm rides high enough to smooth and control any soft tissue (my publisher calls it “fluff”) in front or back. Comes in Regular and Full Support versions.  I find mine incredibly comfortable, and would’t wear anything else under my  matte jersey dresses or tops.  To find a representative near you, email  support@rubyribbon.com or phone (650) 525-4141.
    If you have other favorites, by all means share them below …


About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Pam Hopkins on May 30, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I just finished sewing Pamela’s Pattern #118 Smoothing Shapewear. I made the underbust cami and the hollywood undies and love, love, love them both. I am 74 years old, and though I am not gaining weight everything is softer with more “fluff” probably in part because I have lost 2+ inches in height. The items I sewed make me look a lot better and they are comfortable to wear. I know how uncomfortable “girdles” were in the past.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on May 30, 2017 at 11:47 am

      I haven’t had a chance to sew Pamela’s shapers yet myself, but have loved other ones of her patterns that I’ve used. Thanks for pointing this our for our sew-it-myself readers.

  2. TC Ferrito on May 30, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    The best investment of time and $ you can make is to go to a lingerie store for a bra fitting. I went and got measured and tried on about 15 bras- and found a brand I absolutely love. Wacoal fits me every time. They move their straps in so they don’t slip off your shoulders. And you don’t feel the underwires at all. Their Basic Beauty is a favorite.
    I tried sewing my own. But it takes a lot of fitting to get it right. And in a house full of men- with no door on my sewing room- fitting a bra wasn’t happening.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on May 30, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Agree – Wacoal is a great brand. Thanks for mentioning them.

  3. Mary Field on June 1, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    I finally gave up on buy bras and make my own. The best fitting and most comfortable bra ever. I then took it to a new level and took and advanced coarse in bra fitting, over 60 long hard hours. What learned was there are so many issues with fitting. For anyone who sews I urge you to learn to make you own,as they aren’t that difficult, and you will have the skill for life. Also it’s less than $20 to make. I’m getting ready to begin teaching bra making and for those who don’t sew custom bras.
    I have five young granddaughters that will have the cutest and best bras ever.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on June 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Congratulations Mary – sounds as if you have found your calling.

  4. Susan Johnson on June 14, 2017 at 11:45 am

    A bra back that curves downward provides more support than one which is straighter. The lower back is a bit narrower and this prevents the back from riding up and the front from slipping down.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on June 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Interesting – I’ve never heard that before. Thanks.

  5. jerriehacker on June 23, 2017 at 4:03 am

    Perfect timing, I was just thinking I needed to get a good bra and a fitting. I am both mature and have lost weight. The bra I am wearing now is awful and feels like an instrument of torture. I looked up Soma and can’t believe it but a store is just 4.5 miles from my house! Thank you!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on June 23, 2017 at 8:26 am

      So glad we could provide a little lift in your life – hope you are as happy with yout Soma experience as I have been.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.