Fitting the Perfect Sports Bra for Real Women

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Shopping for a bra is not a woman’s favorite activity. Women have different shapes, cups, and underbust sizes. They also have different features, which are preferred in their bras, such as limited bounce, strap width, firmness, can nipples be seen through it, support, etc. There are just as many solutions this undergarment can offer as there are issues, for most women. Sometimes a woman’s breast support can cause new issues, such as chafing or rolling itself up in that little black dress on a blind date. Stores and brand names can also have different measurement requirements. Therefore, a satin full cup underwire bra from Macy’s will not fit the same as a lacy lingerie bra from Victoria’s Secret. A sports bra is not any different, except in many cases there are fewer options.

Before finding the right fit, it is essential to find the proper style. The bra that will have the most beneficial features for those tough workouts, which for this author, is a walk to the end of the driveway. Most websites recommend compression-type support with a racer or scoop-back for A and B cups, depending on the impact level. While compression and/or encapsulation combination gear is ideal for C and D cups, as well as encapsulation undergarments, or prison for breasts, sentenced to D or DD. The easy line ends here. If the women’s cup size is larger than DD, the World Wide Web should provide a shovel to those (like this author), who have to dig to find larger sports worthy foundational undergarments. Usually, brand by brand but no longer. Here, the digging has already been done, in the wrong bra.

There are suspensory ligaments in the chest that hold the breast in place while also determining shape and size. Once those are stretched out, there is no recoil action available. Activewear is designed to prevent bounce, reducing stress and stretching of the breast tissue. It is also recommended by R.E.I. expert, T.D. Wood, that one should have a selection of bras for a variety of activities. However, for those who can purchase female undergarments for $20 or less are more capable of doing that. No worries, the activewear available for women larger than DD have even fewer options for support (i.e. the goal is to hold those puppies down).

Women who are a DD cup or lower have the options as mentioned above for low, medium, and high impact activities. If a woman’s workouts are limited to yoga and power-walking, buying multiple bra styles is not necessary. Those who vary workouts throughout the week from hip-hop dancing, hiking, and weight lifting, a variety of styles could be useful.

First and foremost, it is important to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise routine. Different conditions may come with limitations or recommendations for impact, regardless of age or size. Once an exercise regimen has been established, determining activewear preferences is next. There are many things to consider–if the fabric is wicking, there may be less chafing; if the band is wider or narrower, it may keep it from rolling up; wider straps may help prevent chafing and soreness in the shoulders, as well as the painful dents that a thinner band could cause. The proper fit may also alleviate many of these problems.

A woman should take these measurements wearing the best fitting bra currently available. The band size is generally the measurement around the rib cage, under the breasts. The tape measure should be snug but not painful. However, there are some activewear companies that require additional math. Avoiding these companies is understandable, no one wants to add to what is already there, regardless of size. If this number is under 33 inches, add five inches, otherwise, add three inches. In both cases, a woman should round-up to an even number. This number is the band size necessary for a sports bra. The companies that required the added three to five inches include Champion, Glamorise, Nike, Oakley, Moving Comfort, Enell, and Hanes products.

The cup size is determined by measuring around a woman at the fullest part of her breasts, then subtract the band size from this number and round the difference up to a whole number. This number will help to determine appropriate cup size.

Cup Sizes (North American):

1 = A
2 = B
3 = C
4 = D
5 = DD
6 = DDD
7 = G
8 = H
9 = I
10 = J
11 = K
12 = L
13 = M
13 = N

Armed with this information, it is still important to try on the sports bra before purchasing. Ordering through Amazon without a test drive could be frustrating and it is not recommended. Choosing Amazon is best after knowing the activewear chosen was worthy of its purchase. A woman should put on the undergarment and go through a few routine exercises. Things to look for would include rubbing, it should fit more snug than an everyday bra, but it should not be too restrictive; the straps do not dig into the shoulders either. The woman purchasing the sports bra should reach upward in a stretch, and if the garment rises with the arms, a smaller band size is needed. Determine if the fabric around the breasts is smooth, otherwise, the cup size is too large. If the bra passes these tests, the woman should jump up and down or run in place to ensure minimal bounce. If the bra is not the right size, no need to worry. Once consciousness is regained, the clerk will already have smaller sports bras ready in the dressing room.

Plus-Size Sports Bras:

  • Nike – XS to 38E
  • Under Armour – XS to 40DD
  • Glamorise – 32A to 58H
  • Moving Comfort – XS to 40E
  • Oakley – XS to XL
  • Ribs 27″-53″ Bust 32″-60″
  • Champion 32A to 46DDD
  • New Balance XS to 40DD
  • Shock Absorber 32B to 40HH
  • Playtex 36B to 46DDD

It should be noted that the larger and more effective a sports bra may be, the more it will cost. It cannot be stressed enough that the bra must be tested by the one who will be wearing it unless it is a replacement bra. Activewear will last about six months to a year. To help the sports bra last, avoid the dryer. Wash by hand on the workout-free day(s), unless a person has two bras, and can relax while it hangs to dry. Do not use fabric softener, as it will degrade the bra faster and prevent wicking if the bra has that feature. Moreover, the hooks should be fastened if the bra is put into the washing machine.

It is time to purchase a new sports bra when it spends more time on the kids’ heads than it spends doing its job during workouts. When the fit of the bra changes, it is no longer effective and should be replaced. Also, if the fabric is coming apart or pulling, or the tag cannot be read anymore, due to proper wear, the bra has become useless.

Women come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and contours. Fortunately, there is a growing selection of sports bras that are designed for these women. Even if jumping up and down may cause a concussion, there is activewear that is fashionable for the gym, living room, and even that walk to the end of the driveway.

Opinion by Jeanette Smith
Edited by Leigh Haugh

R.E.I Co-Op: Sports Bras: How to Choose
Hanes: Tips for Choosing Sports Bras
The Butterfly Collection DD – K-Cup Bras: Sports Bras
Image Courtesy of Birmingham News Room’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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