The Never-Ending Search for a Perfect-Fitting Bra

Sometimes finding the right fit can feel like playing Russian roulette–just ask the 80 percent of women wearing the wrong size.

Illustration by Michele Melcher.


It’ll make you look 20 pounds thinner and 10 years younger!”

That declaration, overheard while browsing the outskirts of a lingerie department at King of Prussia Mall, certainly grabbed my attention. It was the rare pitch that actually made me walk toward the sales person—something I generally avoid. They always seem so pushy, after all, asking about your hair and makeup habits.

I half expected her to be pitching some type of super-strength Spanx or other just-released high-tech shapewear that sucks it all in while stimulating blood flow. Instead, I peaked through the panties display to see her holding up a bra.

I already owned my fair share, and I knew I was probably doing it all wrong. But then, so are most women. The journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy has found that 80 percent of us wear the wrong size bra—most too small. This results in poking underwire and shoulder indentations. Ouch.

It had been at least five years since my last fitting, and I was topless faster than I’d ever imagined (even on a dream date with David Duchovny). It was tough not to contemplate how I’d ended up in such a situation. Here I was in a fitting room that resembles a tasteful boudoir, sitting on a tufted chair cradling my breasts.

Had my whole life been filled with bad bra advice? My Italian aunts bought boxed bras in bulk. On the urging of a friend, I wore multiple sports bras. She swore it would stop sagging. Maybe it just wasn’t natural to take off my bra as soon as I got home from work.

Less than 30 minutes later, I left in a different mood—with two bras that were the correct size. And it shouldn’t have taken a smooth-talking salesperson to get me in for a fitting. We take quizzes to find out what Disney princess we are. We send strands of hair and samples of our saliva in the mail to discover our ancestry. And yet we leave our girls hanging.

The next time you buy a bra, it’s more than OK to expect the following:

  1. A measuring tape on hand, preferably draped around a salesperson’s neck.
  2. It’s weird having a stranger get to second base. Before they reach, it’s nice to have them tell you they’re about to manually lift and separate.
  3. There should be zero comments on size. It’s uncomfortable enough being partially nude in front a stranger without the running commentary.

In Katie Kohler’s opinion, few things beat the feeling of going bra-less after a long day. Visit

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