Bra or brassiere is an undergarment of women. It is one of the oldest intimate wear items for women. Bra is the most complex item of intimate apparel. Bra is a form-fitting undergarment designed to support or covers the wearer’s breasts. Wearing a bra involves lifting the breasts upward. The force of gravity attracts every woman’s body towards the center of the earth, thus lowering the breasts. Wearing bras can improve posture and prevent a lot of spine problems and back pain. The modern brassiere or bra was born at the dawn of the 20th century just after the decline in the popularity of corsets in the late 19th century.
There is a growing demand for well-fitting bras to enhance women’s body shapes and improve their self-confidence. However, bra fit is very challenging from both an industrial and an academic perspective. The assessment of bra fit requires a deep understanding of material stretch, three-dimensional (3D) body and breast curvature, mechanical support, and comfort pressure. It can take 10 to 20 fit sessions to get a new bra style approved. The factors affecting the quality of bra fit include body size and shape, the bra style and shape, the pattern dimension and curves, the material modulus in different directions, the manufacturing workmanship, and the pressure applied on the skin.
Basic Requirements of Bra Fitting:
Bra size is difficult to measure because the natural breasts may tend to drop low and spread wide. Historically, bra tailors asked the model to take off her bra and lift her breasts to where she wants the bra to fit. Then at that level, the measurement was taken by tape measure.
A good fit bra on a live model should provide an overall bust silhouette as required for the specifically designed style and support function. Figure 2 shows some examples of the following bra silhouettes:
- A balcony bra, which gives uplift and fullness
- A plunge bra, which creates deep cleavage
- A deep-V bra, which has a very low center front for more exposure
- A minimize bra, which compresses the breasts and minimizes breast projection
- A triangular bra, which provides aesthetic “young” appeal more than fit and support
- A Doreen bra, which encases the entirety of both breasts into rigid boundaries
Different bra types have different effects on the final bust silhouette. For instance, a sleep bra is supposed to retain the natural breast shape, but a push-up bra must create deeper cleavage. Achieving both breast shaping and comfort tends to be contradictory. It is challenging to balance the requirements of bra aesthetics and function.
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Like an elastic sculpture, a perfect fit bra demands the appropriate elastic integration of all the components, including bra cups, gore (bridge), cradle, wing (band), shoulder straps, and closure (hooks and eyes), as shown in Figure 3.
A smooth surface appearance is the basic requirement of a well-fitting bra. Any gap, wrinkle, or digging-in can be readily detected by a professional fitting technologist because such a rough surface appearance obviously influences the aesthetics of a bra. It is important to check the bra’s appearance on a table, by hand, on both a mannequin and on a live model. Undesired stroke lines (creases or wrinkles) may be caused by poor workmanship, wrong alignment of the grain-line within the fabric, or a mismatch of material elasticity. Even if the bra looks good on a table, it may exhibit a problem when being worn by a mannequin or a live model. In the process of altering a pattern after fitting on a live model, all of these are important points for consideration.
Comfort is a fundamentally important attribute of a well-fitting bra. Unlike a mannequin, a live model can sense pressure, itchiness, roughness, and sharp points. She can identify the problem points and provide valuable comments. However, not all her comments may be acceptable. Different people have different sensations of comfort. Some comments are too subjective. The fitting technologist needs to observe and determine which comments are valid and relevant, for example, by pulling the underband to check the fit under different methods of stretch, and by measuring the bra on the model’s body. Comfort is affected by many factors, including the material used (surface roughness, stiffness, softness, and recovery); the bra style (coverage provided by the bra, use of straps and seams); bra pattern; the bra’s intended end use; the body figure; and the expectation of target users.
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Bra Fitting Techniques:
A well-fitting bra is expected to provide smooth wing panels without wrinkles, a rounded cup shape with the required curve, and supported breasts with no sagging. Below Figure 4 shows which is wrong and which is right way to wear a bra.
The dynamic fit of a bra is important and also needs to be assessed. In daily life, wearers are likely to raise their arms, walk, run, or even jump. Therefore, the fitting technologist should check the bra position while the model is changing postures.
The checkpoints include:
- Cup (shape, neckline, cup bottom, underarm, strap platform, apex)
- Cleavage effect
- Tension of strap, top band, and underband
- Breast displacement during activities
- Bra position change after the model raises her arms
- Positions of the gore, back, straps, and wire
Figure 5 shows some typical fit symptoms such as bulging, wrinkling, gapping, riding up, “double breasts,” digging, wrong shape, lifting away, and hiking. The problems may be caused by the incorrect use of a fabric’s modulus, elastic bands, wires, and so on. The fabric grainline, pattern, and workmanship can also cause poor fit. The effects are all interrelated. Systematic diagnosis by a professional fit team is required.
Importance of a Proper Bra Fitting:
Clothes fit better with the proper bra. A properly fitting bra could help women to stand up straighter, make them look thinner, and put a smile on their face. If breasts are not properly positioned on the body the silhouette of garments will not match the intention of the designer. The best fitting bra completely encapsulates the breast tissue, bringing it out from under the arm and off the rib cage so the breasts are lifted to a front facing position. It does all of this while lying flat against the body with no wrinkles or ripples – in the bra or on the body.
Besides, improper or wrong fitted bra has led to many muscular aches and postural problems for many women.
Steps for a proper bra fitting:
You can do this on your own but can be easier if you have a partner to help you.
- Either wear a non-padded bra or no bra at all.
- Do not raise your arms. This will expand your rib cage and give you a larger band size. You can leave your hands at your sides or place them on your hips.
- Using the tape measure, measure your torso right underneath your breasts and shoulder blades. Write down your measurement. This is your band size.
- Now measure over the fullest part of your breasts and write down this measurement.
- Now subtract your first measurement from your second measurement. This is your cup size.
- Difference of 1 = A cup
- Difference of 2 = B cup
- Difference of 3 = C cup
- Difference of 4 = D cup
And so on an so forth.
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- Advances in Women’s Intimate Apparel Technology Edited by Winnie Yu
- Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr
- Innovation and Technology of Women’s Intimate Apparel Edited by W. Yu, J. Fan, S.C. Harlock and S.P. Ng
Author of This Article:
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Womens College,
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.