A Guide to Finding the Best-Fitting Bras for Mature Women

Updated on December 17, 2018
Blond Logic profile image

Middle-aged women are forgotten about by retailers. I offer help with clothing choices, skincare, and healthy eating for the mature woman.

Bras for mature women
Bras for mature women | Source

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 to the mature woman. 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.

Bra Shopping

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 have 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 Third Love, 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
Round
These are equally full at the top and bottom.
Most styles suit this shape, but a balconette shows them off best.
Slender
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.
East West
Sloping with 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.
Asymmetric
One breast is larger than the other.
Buy a bra with removable pads or use a gel filled insert.
Bell Shape
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.
Side Set
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 the wider chest.
Tear Drop
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.

Finding the Perfect-Fitting Bra

For the perfect fit we need to check, the band, the cups, and the straps.

Band Size:

  • The band size is the number 32, 34, 36, and is the measurement around your rib cage. The band is responsible for supporting 80% of the weight of your breasts.
  • When you put your bra on, 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 (no tilting forward or pressing in). If it is leaning forward, then 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.
  • Any red marks when trying the bra on will lead to irritation and soreness after wearing it for an entire day.

Cup Size:

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 US, 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 make sure 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 for the larger size.
  • If it is a significant difference, then consider using a silicone/gel insert that you place inside your bra to even out your breasts. If you haven't tried them before, they are quite comfortable and solve the problem of lopsided boobs.

Straps:

  • 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 in the back.
  • If the straps are digging in or leaving a red mark, then you should go down a band size. For example, if you are wearing a size 38, go down to a 36. Remember the band is the main support, not the straps.
  • Don't forget that the straps can be adjusted to hoist your girls into position, but don't do it in an unnatural way. We don't want pulling or straining; we want them to be supported and coddled.

Selecting The Best Bra Closure

Front-Closing Design

  • 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 front zip or hooks and eyes.
  • These are an excellent choice if you have reduced mobility in your arms or shoulders. Sometimes, you almost have to be a contortionist to get in and out of bras, but that isn't the case with a front-closing design.

Pull-Over 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... let's just say Houdini would have struggled.

Rear-Closing Design

  • 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 simply 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 closure 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 duck 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 make 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.

Questions & Answers

  • 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?

    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

    4" =D

    5"=DD

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

© 2016 Mary Wickison

Comments

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    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      One chin vs. two armpits and legs? I don't think so.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Nell,

      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.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      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 profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 months ago from England

      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.

    • profile image

      Hollie Bundy 

      6 months ago

      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.

      Thanks!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      2 years ago from Central Florida

      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!

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Dora,

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      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.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      2 years ago from Norfolk

      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.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Sally,

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nothing I say here will be helpful or enlightened, so I'll just shut my mouth. Have a great Monday!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      2 years ago from Norfolk

      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.

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