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Cindy McNatt, The Orange County Register, Published May 23 2012

You're wearing the wrong bra: Finding the right fit and color

Oh sure, you’ve been wearing a bra since forever, but when was the last time you had yourself fitted for a bra, or chose one that worked with your clothing, not for what it looks like without?

That’s what I’m talking about – forever. Most bra experts say that up to 80 percent of us are wearing the wrong bra – the wrong size – the wrong color for what we are wearing. Just because you wore a 34C two years ago, doesn’t mean that bra fits now.

Things change.

Give yourself enough shopping time to find bras that fit properly and you’ll look better in your clothes and won’t mind wearing one for longer stretches.

Size is everything: Since the band (not the straps) does the heavy lifting in the bra’s construction, this is the most important part. Measure your chest under your breast first to get the band size - the 30, 32, 34, 36 part of the sizing. Add three inches to find the final number and round up if you land on an odd number, says Herroom.com. A good-fitting band should take the weight off your shoulders, won’t create bulges and gives you a more fitted look in your clothes.

Make sure the band width is adequate with two-closures at least. While a thin band with a single closure is a prettier bra, chances are it will look lumpy with your clothes on.

The band closure should fit on its loosest setting. That way you can tighten the bra as it stretches with wear.

The cup size is trickier and requires that you try on bras with the proper band size. A 32A won’t have the same A cup as a 34A. If the band size is correct for your body, you’ll be closer to finding a good-fitting cup.

If you choose padding and underwire, the cup sizes will vary. Don’t be shy about going up a cup if you are spilling out the top. That might look cute in low-cut tops, but it’s terrible for workwear and other serious occasions.

If your breasts are bulging under your armpits, keep trying various cup alternatives to find one that fits your entire breast.

Don’t forget to bend over and fill the cups and adjust the straps for proper support.

Quantity: Weight Watchers reports that most women only have two to four bras. Owning five to seven bras and changing them daily prevents overuse and over-worn bras that don’t support as they should.

Color: Black and nude are the basics to wear under most clothing. Have a few of these on hand for everyday wear.

Padding: Some padding is desirable for T-shirt bras and work environments. Where you go with padding to make your breasts fuller or to give you lift is your choice. Just don’t confuse an ill-fitting bra that makes you spill out over the top with lift. There is a difference.

Underwire: Underwire is a personal choice, and since you wear your bra for hours and hours, make sure your underwire fits comfortably, lays flat against your body and doesn’t gouge.

Straps: If your straps are digging into your shoulders, you’re wearing the wrong size. While straps provide support, they should do only 20 percent of the work. Most of the heavy lifting comes from a proper band size for your body. Be sure to adjust your straps for proper fit.

Care and handling: There is lots of latex, spandex, lace, memory foam and other synthetics in bra construction that can become brittle and ill-shaped with harsh washing and machine drying.

Hand wash your bras with a drop of shampoo in the shower or bathtub, or use the gentle cycle in the machine. Blot with a towel and hang to dry for the longest lasting care.