Middle-aged women are forgotten about by retailers. I offer help with clothing choices, skincare, and healthy eating for the mature woman.
Where to Find the Best Bras for Older Women
Ladies, I know we all have our favorite bra—you know, the one you're probably wearing right now. The elastic may have stretched, and it doesn't seem to fit as well as it once did, but it is still the first one you grab when you open your top drawer. But, now it's time for a change.
Let's look at a few bras on the market that are targeted at mature women. That doesn't mean they aren't attractive. Don't think they're all going to look like something you used to see on your grandmother's clothesline. Styles, fabrics, and adornments have all improved, and we are now being offered bras that are not only comfortable but pretty as well.
I'll show you a couple of my favorites and tell you how to get the perfect-fitting bra no matter what size you are at the moment.
Bras are not one-size-fits-all. They're not even one-style-suits-all. So, in order to select the perfect fit, we need to look at our own body shape and size and consider the occasion when we want to wear it. Is this going to be worn under an evening gown at a party, or do you want something for everyday wear? Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, and what works for your best friend or sister might not be best for you or your situation.
Different Shaped Boobs
If you've ever changed clothes in front of other women, then you know that boobs come in all shapes and sizes. According to recent research by the company ThirdLove, there are seven different shapes of breasts. Below is a table that lists the different shapes and the styles of bras that are most suited to that shape.
Best Bra Styles Based on Breast Shapes
|Shape of Breasts||Description||Suitable Bra Styles|
These are equally full at the top and bottom.
Most styles suit this shape, but a balconette shows them off best.
Wider at the top narrowing towards the bottom.
A plunging bra design is best for those with slender shaped breasts. If you want more volume, opt for a plunging push-up style. This will create cleavage.
Sloping with a wide space on the chest, pointing more to the sides.
A smooth T-shirt or push-up bra will minimize the spacing between the breasts.
One breast is larger than the other.
Buy a bra with removable pads or use a gel filled insert.
Narrower at the top with the weight at the bottom.This is often the case in full-sized women.
Opt for a bra with full coverage to take the weight off your back and shoulders.
Similar to the East West sloping but pointing more to the front.
A modified version of a balconette bra is ideal. One which has fabric a little higher will disguise a wider chest.
Similar to the bell shape but not as heavy.
Best shape for a plunging bra as the breasts are lifted to fill out the narrow portion at the top.
If you can't go to a lingerie department to get measured by a professional, you can do this at home.
You should use a tape measure but if you don't have that, a piece of string and a ruler will suffice. To get the best measurement you'll want to be wearing a bra that isn't padded.
Let's start with the band size. This will be your underbust measurement. Using your tape measure or string, run this around your back where the band is and finish in the front. If the number is a 35 and a half, just round up to 36”. Don't get confused this is not the size of band you need. Take a look at the chart below.
Underband Size in Inches
|Underbust measurement||Band size|
How to Find Your Bra Cup Size
To find the cup size, we now need to measure around the fullest part of the bust. As before, round the number up if you are a half size.
The tape measure will be at the bottom of your shoulder blades. You may find it easier to stand in front of a mirror to do this accurately.
Keep the tape measure level and flat.
We will now subtract the number of the band size from the bust measurement. For example: If your bust measurement was 38 and your band measurement was 35, the difference is three, which using the chart below, you would require a C cup. Use the table below to determine what cup size you are.
Determining Your Cup Size
|Bust size minus band size||Cup size|
Finding the Perfect-Fitting Bra
For the perfect fit, we need to check the band, the cups, and the straps.
The band is responsible for supporting 80% of the weight of your breasts.
- When you put your bra on, please take a good look at how it fits. If you stand with your side to a full-length mirror, the band should be level. It should not ride up on your back. If it is, you need a smaller band size.
- There should be no puckering along the sides.
- The center should lie flat between your breasts, not leaning out or in. If it is tilting forward, this indicates you need a bigger cup size.
- The bottom should not impede your breathing or be low down on your rib cage. It should be right under the breasts.
- To have a comfortable band, it shouldn't be too tight, and you should be able to pass two fingers underneath it.
- When trying the bra on, check for any red marks that could lead to irritation and soreness after wearing it all day. This is another reason to take your time and get the correct fit.
Once you know the correct band size, let's look at the cup size. Are you a B, C, D, E, etc.? There are also double digits, such as DD or, in the USA, DDD. These are incremental measurements for those who are in between sizes. It is similar to going up a half size in shoes.
- Once you have fastened the bra, lean forward, allowing the breast tissue to fill the cup.
- Check on the side at the seam to ensure all the breast is in the cup and not pinched under the seam. Do this on both sides.
- Now, look at yourself in the mirror. Does your cup runneth over? By this, I mean are your boobs spilling out and giving you the 'double boob' look? If so, you need a larger cup size.
- If the fabric on the cup is puckering with gaps and not smooth, then you need a smaller cup size.
- If you prefer an underwire, then it should not dig in under your arm. If it does, go up a cup size.
- Most women have one side that is larger than the other. If this is the case, buy the larger size. If it is a significant difference, consider using a silicone/gel insert inside your bra to even out your breasts. If you haven't tried inserts before, they're pretty comfortable and solve the problem.
- For the perfect fit, the straps should be wide enough to support your girls without causing indentations on your shoulders. The straps support 20% of the weight, so they need to be up to the job.
- You should be able to pass two fingers beneath the straps to achieve the correct fit. Adjust the straps accordingly, but don't allow the band to rise across your back.
- If the straps are digging in or leaving a red mark, you should go down a band size. For example, if you're wearing a size 38, go down to a 36. Remember, the band is the primary support, not the straps.
- The straps can be adjusted to hoist your girls into position, but don't overdo it. You don't want them pulled or strained; they should be supported and coddled.
Selecting the Best Bra Closure
- If you have always bought a rear-closing bra, maybe it's time for a change. I am a fan of front clasps, but they also make ones with a zipper or hooks and eyes.
- These are an excellent choice if you have reduced mobility in your arms or shoulders. Sometimes, you have to be a contortionist to get in and out of bras, but that isn't the case with a front-closing design.
- Most compression-style bras have no closure, so you have to pull the bra over your head.
- These are fine for small-chested women but aren't suited, in my opinion, for full-size women, especially if comfort is required.
- It's quite a workout getting it off, too. And getting a snug one off a sweaty body is... well, let's just say Houdini would have struggled.
- For rear-closure bras, you should buy one that fastens comfortably on the loosest closure setting so that as the elastic stretches over time, you can get more life out of it by moving to the next row of eyelets.
- Whether you fasten yours in the front and then spin it around or hook it behind your back, this type of closure was the norm for a long time.
- Check for the number of hooks and eyes. Two is okay, but three is better, especially if you have a fuller figure.
- If you have a nickel allergy, be sure there is an extra piece of fabric between the metal hooks and eyes and your skin. Most good-quality brands have this as standard.
Ask for Assistance in the Lingerie Department
The next time you are in the lingerie department, ask if they have a bra fitter. These ladies know their stuff and will tell you what your correct size is. I used to buy the same size I bought when I was in my 20s, but when I hit 40, I went in to be measured.
The difference in the comfort level was unreal. I had always been purchasing a 34B since I was in high school. Two kids and 20 years later, I was still buying the same style and size. Only when I was fitted for a bra did I realize I needed a bigger cup and a smaller band. Somehow, over the years, my size changed to a 32E.
Picking a Bra for the Right Occasion
At the end of the article, I'll tell you about a couple of bras that I personally like for every day use, but depending on your upcoming occasion, you still have options to consider.
- If, for example, you have a backless dress and need a backless bra, there are several to choose from, including those that are secured around the waist or at the neck.
- There are also self-adhesive bras that offer coverage and add a little bit of lift. I would only consider using these if you aren't doing too much dancing. They generally work well under tube tops.
- Along the same lines, you can buy body tape, which will provide you with needed support. This is a better option than your partner's duct tape (gaffer tape) as it is gentle to the skin.
As we age, our breasts change (as you're aware). It isn't only through breastfeeding. Weight gain and loss also have a big impact, and if you have been on a diet, you know one of the first places where you see a reduction is in the breasts.
My Favorite Styles
It used to be that after a certain age, you were expected to have a 'mom bra.' These were unattractive, thick-sided styles that looked more like they had been designed for military use and less like something you'd find in the lingerie department.
But, I think we can all agree that when we hit 40 or even 50 that doesn't mean we stop being feminine or stop wanting to look pretty. Thank goodness, manufacturers have finally realized that there is a huge market of women crying out for comfort and feminine styling. The manufacturers also know that we demand and pay for lasting quality.
1. Playtex Women's 18-Hour Ultimate Lift and Support Wire-Free Bra
One bra does not suit all occasions, however the Playtex Women's 18-Hour Ultimate Lift and Support Wire-Free bra is one of my favorites for everyday wear. I am a nightmare to go bra shopping with, but I know what I like and what I don't. This one fits the bill.
- For starters, I love the smooth cups. This makes it suitable for wearing under T-shirts and tight-fitting clothes.
- I have always worn an underwire, and this is as close as I can get without one.
- The center piece sits perfectly on the sternum and stays put.
- The first time I bought it, I was unsure about the straps. I normally prefer thinner, feminine straps. But, let me tell you, I don't think I have ever had a strap slip down on this one because they sit close to the neck.
- The band width is something I always check. Ones that are too wide rub in my armpit area, and if they're too thin, flab (loose skin) spills out. On this one, the width is perfect for me.
2. Wacoal Women's Plus Size Awareness Underwire Bra
The Wacoal Plus Size Awareness Underwire bra encompassed pretty much everything I love in a bra. Not only does it make me feel pretty, but it also makes me feel special.
- It definitely isn't the cheapest bra one can buy, but, when you reach a certain age, sometimes you've got to say, I deserve this.
- I love an underwire as long as it is comfortable, and this one is.
- For me, wearing a quality-made bra isn't so much about how it makes me look to other people. There are a lot of bras that can give a smooth, outwardly profile, but this one feels good on my skin and makes me feel good in my heart.
- I believe in the company's ideals, and in its support for cancer awareness.
- Wearing this is just one of the ways I feel I am making a difference to benefit causes which affect women.
There you have it, ladies. Now you can confidently buy online or in a department store knowing which bras best suit your shape and the occasion.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I'm in my late 60s, and find that my once DD breasts have shrunk down to a B, which is okay by me! The problem is that it's all weighted at the bottom, so the upper half of the cup is wrinkled as it's more or less empty! I could probably take tucks in the upper part, but is there a better solution?
Answer: Before you opt for surgery, I would strongly suggest you try inserts, they're quite comfortable. You would place them in your bra under your arm. It will gently push the upper part towards the center.
You can also select a bra that has a more coverage. In the chart above, it says that for 'bell shaped breasts' a full coverage works best.
There are many full coverage bras that are both pretty and comfortable.
Question: I am 66-years-old. I have large breasts and need back support, uplift and high cut cups so that I stay in my bra. What kind of bra do you suggest?
Answer: Near the bottom of this article, there is a link to a Playtex bra on Amazon. It is under the heading, 'my favorite styles' and is number one.
Although that is a great bra, and may suit you, I think you would be better off with the Playtex Women's 18 Hour Original Comfort Strap Bra #4693.
The reason I think you would prefer the original style, is the straps are wider, and the cups come up higher. This should eliminate spilling out, and the wider strap at the back will help with support.
Question: My bras leave red, super uncomfortable marks underneath my breasts. By evening I want and need to remove my underwire bra. I've worn good brands for years. Can you offer any help?
Answer: A few different reasons could be causing the red marks. It could be that your bras are too tight and are digging into your skin.
Another possibility is that your bras could be too loose and as you move throughout the day it could be rubbing and causing irritation.
Another thing to check is whether you have changed laundry detergents. Because the bra is next to the skin the entire day, and because it gets pretty warm under the breasts, it could be causing an allergic reaction to your detergent.
It could also be the underwire itself. If you have a nickel allergy, it might be that through washing, the protective coating on that wire has worn away in places and is causing a reaction. If you have a sensitivity to nickel, and many women do, that may be the culprit.
Question: My 70-year-old sister is in a nursing home with dementia and has gained a lot of weight. I imagine she is 275-300 lbs. She won’t wear a bra, but the facility wants her too. When I measured her a few months ago, she was 54 inches around her bust. I’m at a loss how to purchase a bra for her. I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: I can tell that this has been causing you stress. You want to do what's best for your sister and abide by the wishes of the nursing home.
The good news is there are bras out there in her size. You'll need to take another measurement to determine what size band she'll need.
You have 54" inches around the fullest part of her bust. Now measure underneath the breasts, continuing under the armpit and around the back until you make a full circle. You'll want to be on the rib cage. Keep the tape measure flat.
When you have that number, subtract it from the first. Here's the chart.
3" = C
6"= DDD, or F
7" = G
You would continue with this until it meets the difference. Some manufacturers go up to a J cup. Remember, when it is a double or triple digit, it is just an incremental measurement, like the half sizes of shoes.
Another thing to consider is you can buy extenders up to about 6 inches. For example, if you find the perfect cup size, you can purchase an extender which has hooks and eyes at both ends.
Amazon allows you to return the bra (free returns) if it's not correct.
Glamorize makes bras in plus size that get good reviews and are reasonably priced. Search for this bra on Amazon: Glamorize Women's Plus Size Magic Lift Full-Figure Support Bra #1000. I think it would be ideal for your sister. The straps and back are wide, and there is good coverage on the front.
Let me know how you get on.
Question: So where can I buy these bras? I put tear drop bra in a search and didn't get the results I wanted.
Answer: The words, 'tear drop' are in reference to the shape of breasts. In the table above, I've listed the different shapes of 'boobs' and the styles of bras that best suit them.
For tear drop shaped bras, a plunging bra is your best option. It will lift the lower part of the breast creating a fuller look.
You can buy a plunging bra on Amazon via the link in this article. Maidenform do plunging bras that offer quality and value for money.
Question: I’m looking for a bra for my 78 year old mother. Her breasts sag down and come out of her bras. She is extremely embarrassed. We’ve tried several styles and even went to a bra boutique. No luck. The Playtex bras you mention start with band size 36. My mom is a size 32. Do you have any advice?
Answer: Yes, there is a Playtex style that comes in size 32. It is the Playtex Cross Your Heart bra. https://www.amazon.com/Playtex-Womens-Cross-Lightl...
Because this has a slightly wider band, it should stop any movement.
Also, Glamorise do bras in smaller band sizes but still with a good amount of coverage and support.
It's also worth noting, that Amazon allow returns so she can try them on at home, and return those that don't fit correctly.
Question: I am a thin, going on 50, mother of 6, with teardrop-shaped breasts. I need the lift but also have very dense breasts. This causes some bras to be extremely uncomfortable, almost painful. Would you have any suggestions regarding comfortable bras for a lady with very dense breasts?
Answer: Your best bet will be to try several different styles. I imagine what is happening is that as the breasts are being lifted, the dense breast tissue is being positioned in an awkwardly, perhaps pinching or leaning in on itself. Although in the chart I list a plunging bra is recommended for the teardrop shape, a balconette may be worth trying. Don't discount the idea of wearing an insert. That will add volume but without pinching. Although you said you're slim, teardrops are similar to bell-shaped although this is normally for larger ladies. A full-coverage bra may help you find comfort. With normally wider sides and straps you'll get more support.
Question: I am 60 years old. I’m planning to wear an off the shoulder gown for my daughter's wedding. What kind of strapless support can I use that won’t slip down?
Answer: There are many choices however the fact you're asking tells me you know the potential of a fashion failure.
Let's look at a few ideas for you to consider. You don't say whether your breasts are large or small. If they are small then you can wear a compression style. Some of these will still have an underwire.
There are also some styles that have molded cups. These can be quite comfortable. It's worth trying a few different ones on. You want it to sit just under the breasts and not impede the rib cage.
Another option that will give you extra piece of mind is a long line bra or a bustier. There are also bodyshapers that come with a strapless version.
Question: I live in rural France and have to order bras. Recently I bought some Wacoal bras online using the size chart, but when they arrived, they were uncomfortably tight around my rib cage. The bra size was 100D (French size) which by the chart were supposed to be 83-87cms which corresponded with my measurements. The bra only measured 70.5cms. Is something wrong here?
Answer: It sounds like you were just sent the wrong size. Send it back and tell them your size. Also if there are reviews on that bra, see if that style runs smaller. To me though, it appears to be just a packing error.
Question: Has Wacoal changed manufactures?
Answer: You should contact Wacoal for that information. Depending on where you are in the world, you can type Wacoal followed by your country. At the bottom of their page, they have a FAQ and a 'contact us' link.
© 2016 Mary Wickison
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on June 15, 2019:
I know exactly what you mean. The same thing happens with cosmetics as well. You find the perfect one, and poof the next time you look, they no longer make it. It can be so frustrating.
Buying multiples is a good idea because as we wash the bras, they begin to stretch.
Another thing to keep in mind, is our body is also changing shape. As we age we may stoop more, sometimes we are gaining or losing weight, and gravity takes it toll on us.
If a bra has been discontinued, you may be able to still find it in a factory store or on online sites like eBay.
Thanks for reading and your comment.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on June 15, 2019:
To say how long we spend in them, an uncomfortable bra can be torturous.
For both yours and your husband's sake, I hope you get one that fits well. I'm pleased you found the information useful.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on June 15, 2019:
Definitely a task that this larger upper woman does not enjoy. It is usually a trial and error process and when I find one that works I purchase it in multiples lol. Amazing how when you find a style it disappears to be replaced by a new and improved model that in no way measures up to the older style. To other women with this unique problem "happy hunting".
Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 15, 2019:
I have never had a bra that I could say I was happy with. I just settle and live with what I end up with after hours of shopping and watching my husband fold his arms and do the foot shuffle as he waits for me to make a decision.
I can see by your guide that I have been shopping for a bra all wrong. Thank you so much for your valuable tutorial. I took notes and hope that my next bra will be one that I will rave about.
Nancy Dawson on April 15, 2019:
Thank you for your response to my email about the Wacoal bras that were too small around the rib cage. I got three of the same size from two different vendors and all were too small by 16cms and the size on the label was correct. Your comment was that it sounded like a packaging error. I am glad to know that it wasn't my naivety and I am justified in returning them. It's also likely that these bras are from a defective batch.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 09, 2019:
I'm sure there is. Sometimes it takes trying on a few to find the perfect one. This can be so frustrating, can't it?
In my article I mention that the band should be taking 80% of the weight. If the straps are slipping off a few things could be causing it. The band could be riding up in the back allowing the strap to slide off.
I'm assuming you've already tried adjusting the straps to tighten them. The problem happens after we've washed it a few times, we don't realize they could have loosened and may need to be readjusted.
Also it could be the style, opt for one that has wider straps that sit closer to the neck. Bras such as balconette are pretty but often the straps are right out near the edge where the shoulder connects to the arm. It's an accident waiting to happen.
Another problem could be slouching, I am guilty of this. When we lean for our shoulders fall down and inward giving the bra strap and easy route.
When this happens again, reach around and feel if the back is riding up. It could be you just need to wear it on the tighter setting. Or you will need to go down a band size.
I hope this helps.
Bethalee Klopfleisch on April 09, 2019:
I have narrow shoulders and larger breasts. The straps always slip down. Is there a good bra for this?
Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 02, 2018:
One chin vs. two armpits and legs? I don't think so.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 02, 2018:
Bill is a star!
Although shopping for bras can be complicated,
I think men make up for it when they have to shave daily.
I wouldn't want to do that.
Thanks for your kind words, I'm glad you liked it.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 02, 2018:
If you can't find one locally, buy online. I know Amazon offers free returns. Then there is no hassle of waiting for a changing room, or those dreadful fluorescent lights and full length mirrors.
Glad you found it useful.
Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:
I think it's funny that even on this, Bill felt it was his duty to comment. What a loyal friend. This is a great article and really well written. If men only knew the pains we go through (shopping for undershirts isn't nearly as complicated, is it?).
Nell Rose from England on October 01, 2018:
You wouldn't even imagine how topical this is for me! lol! I bought a new one the other day, but couldn't get my size. I was a double D, but had to make do with a D. My stupid town is useless! I will have to go the next town to get a decent one. Great advice.
Hollie Bundy on June 07, 2018:
I'm plump to be nice and sit at a computer most of the day, by the end of the day my bra straps bunch up on the sides and front, cutting into my skin but the back is always fine. I'm guess it's due to the plumpiness pressing on it.
Is there possibly another reason?
Also I have a pinched nerve in my neck and it's worse on one side, so I'm aching or worse by the end of the day. Is there a better strap to use in this situation? I'm currently using a wide strap but the weight pulling down in front has the elastic part sitting on my shoulder instead of the padded part.
Oh and the cup part fits like you described above.
I have the worst time finding a bra that works.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 04, 2016:
Thank you for this information, Mary. My body has definitely changed over the last several years. I've yet to find a bra that is comfortable. To me, if I'm aware I'm wearing one, it isn't fitting properly.
Now I know what to look for. I'll take your advice and seek the help of a bra fitter the next time I go bra shopping.
Very well presented article!
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 18, 2016:
With the different shapes and sizes we can now see why it can be difficult to find the perfect bra. Imagine trying to design them!
It helps to be measured, although ordering through Amazon allows for returns if it doesn't fit well.
As always, thanks for reading.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 17, 2016:
Sally, that is disappointing to hear. One of the places I used to go, there were two lines, one just to try on and the other were women waiting to be measured. The line to be measured was always the longest as the the lady who was the fitter would make sure you left with the perfect bra. I think she had been there 30 years or so.
Maybe you can try a different place who are more supportive of your needs. No one deserves to be wearing an uncomfortable bra.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 17, 2016:
Never knew there so many different shapes. Learned something new about the straps also. Whenever it is possible I asked to be measured again when I'm making a purchase. Thanks for the tips.
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on October 17, 2016:
I did that last year and to be perfectly honest they had little in stock and were not very helpful, except to say that they would pass on my suggestions to the manufacturers.
Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 17, 2016:
If you have a lingerie or department store who has a bra fitter, I would suggest you go there. Trust me there is a bra out there with your name on it which will suit you.
It could be a different style than you normally buy but there will be one. Also, I didn't mention this in my post but there are sizes called 'sister sizes' which are similar to your current size but are a little bigger or smaller in the cup as the band size alters. It could be a slight adjustment in choice of bra, cup size or band size is all you need to find that perfect fit.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2016:
Nothing I say here will be helpful or enlightened, so I'll just shut my mouth. Have a great Monday!
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on October 16, 2016:
Very useful info. I know I can always get the cup size correct but it is almost impossible to find a bra which fits perfectly around my frame without cutting into my back. I hate the little add-on bits of fastening you can buy. I just wonder why the manufacturers don't start listening to their customers and make the fastener more adjustable than they are already.