Anatomy of a Bra

By Martina Goodship

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My business partner, Linda Paquette, and I spent eight weeks in Hamilton, Ontario with Beverly Johnson, learning the art and science of professional bramaking and fitting. For the past two-and-a-half years we have been practising, perfecting and always learning about that mysterious, taken-for-granted garment, “The Bra.” Knowing that 75-80 per cent of all women wear the wrong size bra, we are not surprised when one of the most oft heard comments, usually delivered in hushed, slightly horrified tones is, “I’ve always been a size 36B and the darn thing doesn’t fit anymore. Now they, (the bra fitters) are trying to tell me I’m a double D!!”

Two very important points here:

No. 1 - Most bra manufacturers have changed their sizing. What used to be a B or C cup is now a D or an E cup. There are Fs, Gs, even I cups!

No. 2 - For more mature gals, what was true at 30, 40 and even 50 is not true now and as with everything, our bodies change and evolve.

From our experience, breasts are no exception, often changing every few months during perimenopause and menopause before settling down in later years.

So, what can you do?

Arm yourself with some knowledge and go shopping! First, what do the numbers mean? Let’s take size 36C as our example. The number “36” indicates the band size, the measurement around the back and ribcage under the breasts - the “under bust” measurement. The band is where the breast support comes from, NOT the straps. The “C” is cup size, the “volume” of breast tissue. Finding the right cup size is critical. A bra with too small a cup will leave you with breast tissue escaping out the bottom, spilling over the top creating the lovely “double boob” effect or squishing out to underarms, masquerading as “fat!” Don’t regard a D or an E cup as negative. It is only a letter and the aim is to be comfortable and fully encapsulated.

A word about underwires: The best supporting bra will contain underwires and, for larger sizes, non-stretchy bottom cups. A properly fitted underwire bra should leave you supported but not aware of the wires: no “poking into you” sensations, no pressure points.

The “bridge,” the bit that connects the cups at the front should go right back to the chest wall. The back closure ideally should close on the first set of hooks. This gives you room to tighten the bra as the elastic inevitably loosens over time. These are the main elements of a good fit.

There are a number of fabulous lingerie/bra shops up and down the Island. These stores are staffed with knowledgeable, professional saleswomen who are pleased to help you achieve a proper fit. Go in with an open mind and, when trying on their suggestions, close your eyes and FEEL how the bra fits. Move your arms around, bend over, wiggle around, put your blouse or shirt on and see the difference a proper fit makes.

A lingerie shop visit should not be intimidating. And for a garment you put on every morning and wear all day, it’s well worth it!

For more information, contact Linda Paquette or me, Martina Goodship, at  or

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Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

I have had poor luck working with a fitter. They seem to think women of a certain age no longer need and/or want a bra. One fitter almost fainted when I told her my age and that my bbreasts are pendulous. I wear a B Cup but no longer fill out the upper cup. Until recently I could get a good fit in a "shallow fit" mastectomy bra--although i have not had surgery. As with many other items, the companies have turned to Chinese manufacturers and both fit and quality suffered What do I do?

Posted by Mariposa | November 9, 2013 Report Violation

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