The texture and shape of our breasts can change with age as a result of things like pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, ageing, and weight changes. So it makes sense that we may need to adjust our bra choices at different stages of life.
A good-fitting bra can help us feel more comfortable in our own skin, and give us the confidence and security to experiment with different style choices. It’s amazing how easy it is to get used to ill-fitting clothing, only to discover something that really complements and supports our body shape – and to develop a renewed interest in fashion.
If you’re stuck in a bit of a bra rut and struggling to find something that’s both flattering and comfortable, then keep reading to discover some of the best bra options for mature women. We’ll also take a closer look at why breasts change with age and how you can tell whether you’re wearing the right bra for you.
How does ageing affect the breasts?
Our breasts go through a lot in life – but the main change affecting nearly all women is that, as we get older, our bodies produce less estrogen. As a result, skin becomes less elastic and dense tissue is replaced with fatty tissue, so breasts may appear smaller, sit lower down on your chest, and fill your bra differently.
Some women may also notice that breast skin has stretch marks or wrinkles and/or that there’s more space between breasts.
It’s important to remember that most breast changes are a completely normal part of the ageing process. Our breasts, just like the rest of our bodies, tell a story – which is a beautiful thing.
How to tell if your bra isn’t the right fit
If you think your bra isn’t the right fit, then there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for. For example…
- If the bra cups gape open when you bend forward or if the material is generally quite creased, the cups are likely too big.
The exception here may be if you have one breast that’s significantly smaller than the other – as one cup may have to be slightly looser to accommodate your larger breast on the other side. In this case, a gel insert can be used to adjust the size of the cup that’s too big.
- If your breasts don’t sit at the bottom of the cups (leaving space), you may need a smaller cup size.
- If one or both of your breasts are bulging out the cups at the sides or in the middle, the cups are likely too small. They should create a smooth line against your skin.
- If you wear an underwired bra and the wire sits against your breast tissue and doesn’t lie flat to your breast bone, the cup is too small and shallow.
- If your bra band doesn’t go around you in a straight line – instead, it rides up at the back – this could indicate that the band is too small or the straps have been shortened too much.
- If the band cuts into your sides, back, or under your breasts, it’s too small. You should be able to hook a finger underneath the band of a good-fitting bra and pull it two inches away from you. If you can’t, then you may need to go up a band size.
- If your bra rides up when you put your arms in the air, your band size is likely too big. Your breasts shouldn’t slide down below the cups and breast band.
- Straps digging into your shoulders or falling down will likely just need to be adjusted to the correct length. Though, if you have small shoulders then it could also be because the straps are too wide-set – meaning you need a bra with straps that are more in-set.
Straps should sit flush against your shoulders. It’s also important to remember that shoulder straps should only provide about 20% of the support for your breasts. The other 80% should come from the band and cups.
How to choose a bra that’s the right size and style
Consider going for a professional bra fitting
If you think you’re wearing the wrong bra size, then the best option is to head to a shop, like Marks and Spencer, that offers a bra fitting service – you can book this via the M&S website here.
A trained member of staff will measure your chest to determine your bra size, and will also be able to make recommendations about what sort of bra style might offer you the best support.
Measure your bra size at home
If you don’t feel comfortable going for a bra fitting, you can also measure your bra size at home…
How to measure your band size
Using a tape measure, measure around your back and ribs (in inches), just underneath your bust. You don’t need to wear a bra for this.
The tape measure should be in a straight line and sit flat against your skin (make sure to breathe during this process or you could measure for a band size that will be too tight). If the measurement is an even number, then this is your band size – if it’s an odd number, then round up to the nearest inch.
How to measure your cup size
To measure your cup size, it can help to wear your favourite bra to hold your breasts in place. Measure around your bust in a straight line. You’ll need to subtract your band size from this number.
For example, if your band size is 38 and your bust measurement is 42, then 42-38=4, so your cup size is D and your bra size is 38D. The higher the number, the larger the cup, which means 0=AA, 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, 5=DD, 6=E, and so on.
Though bra sizes are helpful indicators, it’s also important to make sure that your bra feels good. Even if you’re wearing the correct size, the style of bra you choose can affect how supported you feel (we’ll cover this next).
It can help to try on bras in a shop or to order a selection of bras online that you can try on and send back if need be, as finding the right bra can sometimes take some trial and error.
Choose the best bra for your breast shape
As well as being different sizes, breasts also take different shapes and this shape can change throughout the course of our lives. So, when choosing what bra styles, it can help to consider which ones might look and feel best for your breast shape at that particular time.
We’ll cover a few different breast shapes and recommended bra styles below…
- Asymmetric breasts – one breast is noticeably bigger than the other. For this breast type, it’s worth considering balcony or full-cup bras with removable inserts so that you have more control over the size of your bra and can customise it. Or you can add a gel-filled insert yourself.
- Athletic breasts are wider and more muscular with less breast tissue. Push-up, plunge, or padded styles can lift breast volume and help breasts fill out cups more evenly. Bralettes can be a good option too.
- Bell shape breasts tend to be narrower at the top and rounder and fuller at the bottom. For this breast type, you might want to try a full-cup bra to provide plenty of support and take the pressure off your back and shoulders.
- East-west breasts typically have a large space between them and nipples that point outwards and downwards in opposite directions. Contoured bras or bras with extra side support can help to bring breast tissue inwards and project the breasts forward.
- Relaxed breasts have relaxed breast tissue and nipples that point downwards. For this breast type, you could try wearing bras with a shorter cup, like balcony bras, with a good-fitting band and strong straps.
- Round breasts have full density at both the top and bottom to form a rounded shape. If you have this breast type, you’ll likely be able to wear most styles. Your preferences will often be based on whether you want more or less coverage.
- Side set breasts are similar to east-west breasts but have nipples pointing forwards. Balcony bras that have vertical seams, side support panels, and a wide gore (the central panel that separates the cups) can work well for this breast type – as can a plunge bra.
- Slender breasts have a thinner overall shape with nipples pointing downwards. For this breast type, underwired bras are a good option to provide maximum support. If you want to lift and shape your breasts, then balcony or push-up bras can help to do the job.
Because slender breasts tend to be smaller, with less volume, you could also try a bralette – though it’s worth bearing in mind that these provide less support because they tend to be wireless.
- Teardrop breasts are similar to bell shape breasts but less heavy and more rounded. You could try a balcony bra for more fullness on top.
For women who’ve had a mastectomy, there are also an increasing amount of bra options. Breast Cancer Now has plenty of helpful advice for women who have had breast cancer surgery; including how to choose a bra if you have a breast prosthesis, and where to buy specialist mastectomy bras should you wish to.
Choose a bra in the right material
Every woman’s body is different, so what feels comfortable for one woman might not be for another. But, generally speaking, it’s best to go for bras that are made from moisture-wicking fabric like cotton or a cotton blend, as these will breathe better.
Some women also find it more comfortable to have a bra that fastens at the front, rather than at the back.
Know when to replace your bras
Style experts recommend changing your bras every six to twelve months – though this won’t be feasible for everyone, as bras can be expensive.
Instead, it can help to pay close attention to your bras and if a bra you once loved and fitted you well is no longer comfortable, then it’s likely time to replace it. And before buying any new bras, it’s always worth getting remeasured, as our bodies are fluid and change all the time.
Which brands sell the best bras for mature women?
Though there are many places you can buy bras from, there are some brands that are better at providing support than others. Many women find that the need for comfort and support becomes more important with age.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a shortlist of brands that sell some of the best bras for mature women…
- Marks and Spencer – have a huge range of bras but their total support collection is popular and includes bras with extra side support.
- Playtex – high-quality bras in responsibly-made fabrics. They have a huge focus on comfort, claiming some bras can be worn comfortably for 18 hours. One of their best sellers, Playtex Women’s Full Coverage Bra, is available on Amazon, where you can read plenty of positive reviews.
- Bare Necessities – a collection of well-known lingerie brands that offer inclusive sizing. They also offer mastectomy lingerie and swimwear.
- Her Room – a US brand created to make online bra shopping easier and more accessible. As well as having a huge range of sizes, you can also see how each bra will look under six different necklines – plus, get tips on which bras will work best for your breast shape and discover your universal breast size.
- Miss Mary – has a diverse offering of bras to suit different needs. You’ll find everything from non-slip straps to side wings.
- John Lewis – sell a large selection of bras from their own brand and other brands (like Royce) that are highly reviewed when it comes to comfort and quality.
Feeling as though you can’t find the right bra can be incredibly frustrating and may affect your other wardrobe choices.
However, by getting remeasured every year, choosing a bra style that caters to the shape of your breasts, and buying from brands that emphasise quality and comfort, you’ll hopefully be able to find something that makes you feel more comfortable and confident.
Every woman deserves to feel good in her own skin and what she wears, and a good-fitting bra has the ability to change how you feel instantly.
For more style tips and advice, head over to the fashion and beauty section of our website.