What to expect in a bra fitting & when your bra fitting goes wrong


I know plenty of women who have had bra fittings that have gone very wrong. Add in new breasts due to an augmentation, lift, reduction, or reconstruction and you have the recipe for a potential disaster. Any body changes, menopause, weight loss, pregnancy, breastfeeding, have a major impact on your body image and it takes time to adjust to them.  But these changes, surgical or hormonal, mean that you’ll need to go to your fitter for a bra fitting.

But what if you’ve never had a fitting before? What should you expect? This is scary territory when you are working with a changing body and body image. So to start take a look at these two articles on what to expect, the do’s and don’ts of your fitting. The first is by Linda from Linda’s Online and owner of Linda’s boutiques in New York. The second is by Erica from A Sophisticated Pair in North Carolina.

So now you know what to do to make sure you get the best fit. But what can you expect from your fitting? Everywhere you go will conduct their fittings differently.  Some will fit you in your bra, some will fit you over you clothes. Some will use a tape measure, others will fit you by eye, some will do a combination of eye, tape, and your current bra.  The fitter will bring a bra or two for you to try. Some fitters will have you remove your bra and will actually put the bra on you. Others will leave the bra with you and let you put it on yourself. Either way they should check the band, cups, and straps for fit and make adjustments. They may ask you how the bra feels and how you like the fit. They may decide it is completely wrong and have you try something else. The fitter may touch you, the areas around your breasts, and some may even touch your breasts by scooping and lifting them in the bra.

Many ladies that have been going through major body changes will be very anxious about a fitting without a shirt. Feel free to express your needs for the fitting.  Many ladies will not feel comfortable having the fitter put the bra on them, but are OK putting on the bra themselves. Some do not want to be touched at all, especially if they have tenderness from a surgery or hormonal changes. So ask how the fitting is done and let them know what you need from your fitting.  Many fitters will get into a routine for how they fit, they have been doing it for years and really know what they are doing. But if for any reason you have a special need you must speak up! They cannot read your mind, and if they don’t meet your needs that is a sure-fire way to have a bad fitting experience.

Your relationship with the fitter is just that, a relationship.  It is a two-way process, you to the fitter, the fitter to you. Communication is essential to this relationship! Without that communication you will find that your needs will not be met. Put some effort into building a relationship with your fitter, they will be able to help you as your body changes and your bra needs change. Your fitter won’t be your best friend, it’s a professional customer service relationship, but they will be there for you to meet some private and personal needs.

So what happens when a fitting goes wrong? The first thing is to try to stop things before they go down the wrong path. Does your fitter have a hands on method? Say something right away, don’t suffer through. Does your fitter want to help you into the bras, but you are not comfortable? Say something!  Stopping things before they get bad can make your fitting do a complete 180, with you walking out happy. But sometimes you just have to know when the dialog between you and the fitter is not working. The fitter is doing a job, one that they are completely comfortable doing. If things are not working for you they won’t know unless you tell them, and even if you tell them they will continue to provide the service to you with adjustments. A fitter will never just stop unless you stop the service. And you shouldn’t be afraid to stop the fitting service. You have to remember that a bra fitting is a service, one that you can choose to decline or stop when you feel the need.

There are two sides to a good or bad bra fitting.  You and the fitter. Whether the fitting is a good one or a bad one both sides have an influence on the direction of the fitting. But you need to remember that this is YOUR fitting, you are in control. Only you know yourself and your needs. If you are a shy person that may have a difficult time speaking up for your needs don’t be afraid to take a friend with you.  If you are vocal about what you want in a bra and the fitter suggests something else, give it a try. You may like it and the fitter won’t have hurt feelings if you don’t. There is a give and take communicative relationship in a bra fitting.

So what happens when no matter what you do you come home feeling disappointed? Or you leave the store and cry? Or you just come out feeling down and ugly?  These things can happen even if you have a great experience with a fitter! You could be fitted in the perfect bra and still have these feelings. It may not be the bra, the fitting, or the service.  Your body image is your own and nothing that a fitter does will change that.  She can put you in the most amazing bra that is like God’s gift to your boobs, but if your body image is suffering you’ll walk out of the store disappointed. Yes, it is possible to walk out of a bad experience that is the fitter’s fault. In those cases it is important to call or write to leave feedback. But what if it is just you adjusting to body changes?  How do you handle that?

Each person will be different, just like their needs in a bra will be different. Are you struggling to adjust to breasts that have just been lifted with an implant after years of breastfeeding? Are you looking for your first bra after an augmentation? Have you just had reconstruction due to breast cancer? Did you recently lose a lot of weight and your breasts changed drastically? Has menopause changed your breasts in ways you did not expect? How you felt before these changes will directly affect how you feel during and after. It is an investment of time and self-reflection to deal with these changes. A great bra fitting may be a little bit of help, but change your body image for you. In some cases may even be detrimental. Before placing blame on a bra, the fitter, or your body you need to take a few minutes to find out what went wrong and why your bra fitting was so horrible.

No matter where you go for a fitting things can go wrong. You could go to the high end boutique in the neighboring city or you local department store. But when you are getting your first fitting or your first fitting after a major body change you need to be prepared for the emotions that will be going through you. It could be as simple as bra size shock/denial. Or it could be more personal and emotional. A good fitting bra is a necessity, but so is your emotional health. Don’t go into a fitting until you are ready, until you feel more “you” in your changing body, until you’ve accepted that your bras can work better for you. And if things don’t go how you expect, don’t place blame. Don’t let things get to you and your body image. Remember that you had the strength to lose weight, to change your breasts, to look for a more comfortable fit, or to just do something for yourself. Bad fittings happen, but what you take from it is up to you. And you can take some positive things, if you’d let that strength shine through.



  1. Unfortunately I had a terrible experience with one of the ladies at Linda’s in NYC trying to put me in 34 bands, she seemed appalled I wouldn’t add any inches to my ribcage measurement. When she finally brought 30 and 32 bands, she was trying to squish me in Fs with center gores not hitting my sternum and she said it was normal. Very bizarre, given Linda’s Online fit advice.

    • There are definitely bad fitters out there. Unfortunately those fitters are the ones that leave the rest of us questioning using that boutique. I had a great fitting at a boutique called The Fitting Touch, but Never Took Home Ec went there recently and had the exact opposite experience.
      If you did not know as much as you know about bra fitting you would have probably come out of that fitting the same way many ladies come out of a VS or department store fitting. That is why so many bloggers are out there, not just to review bras, but to spread a little bit of fit knowledge to keep what happened to you from happening to others.

  2. sophisticatedpair

    Chrstyal, I adore this post, and I’m going to share it on our page because you go beyond what we offer and really address some major issues with going for a fitting. The other day, I had a woman comment about how her first fitting when she was a teenager involved a woman touching her breasts and putting them in the bra for her which left her a bit weary of the process. As a fitter, I try to get a feel for what my client will be happy with in terms of touching/etc. Usually, the only thing I will touch without asking is the band and the straps, but if I am going to touch the cup of the bra, I ask for permission. I’ve never really put a woman into the bra and instead explained how she can do it herself (after all, she needs to learn this since it has to be done everyday). Sometimes, I’ll snap the bras for women in the back because it’s easier, but that’s only if they ask. I check on the bras, but I try not to do it in an invasive way. My goal is for women to feel comfortable with me and with the fitting. For example, I had a lady tell me today that I was “discreet” in how I handled fitting.

    Furthermore, I also want to note that you’re right about body image demons rearing their heads during bra fittings. I’ve had some women come in who recently gained weight, and they aren’t happy with their current bodies (especially the prospect of staring at half of them in the mirror). As a result, they become more critical of all the bras they try, and I think many are hoping that the bra will make them look like they did pre-weight gain. As someone who has gained and lost weight in the past, it’s a tough habit to break, but you need to dress and love the body you have now. If you don’t, then the process of shopping for anything–be it a bra or a dress–will be more uncomfortable.

    Again, great post!!

    • Thanks Erica! I love the “discreet” fitting idea. To so many women there is as much anxiety in a bra fitting as their is when they visit their OB/GYN. A fitting like you talk about does a lot to ease someone into a bra fitting, you really show how it should be a customer based experience.
      As for the body image demons, I’m learning that myself. I’ve had changes with my own body that took adjusting to. But now through pregnancy I’ve experienced more then I ever expected and it has been harder to deal with than I ever though it would be. I’m trying on bras in my own home, as comfortable as I can be and still having issues with my body and how I look vs how I feel. Take that to a boutique for a fitting and it could easily be a disaster! We want to blame someone and the fitter is the easiest target. It does not solve the body image problem, it just keeps that demon in denial a bit longer.

  3. Thanks for such a lovely and sensitive post. I’m really glad you address that body image demons can flare up regardless of the fitter, the store, or the bras, and it’s a good thing to be aware of, so that we as customers can take a step back to sort of regroup, emotionally, instead of giving in to frustrations or uncertainty. This is great advice!

  4. I honestly don’t think my bad experience had anything to do with body image. Instead, I chalk up my hesitation to speak up as socialization and general social skills. I’m not good at speaking up for myself in general; I don’t say anything when I get catcalled, and usually end up going back to customer service if the clerk makes a mistake rather than noticing and saying something right then. And plus, if someone is spending a lot of time helping me, I’m definitely going to feel obligated to buy something. That’s the socialization bit, I always want to make the other person happy. Rationally, I know a fitter wouldn’t take it personally if I decided that I didn’t want to buy anything. But getting personalized customer service makes me feel obsequious.

    And that’s why the fitting was partially my fault. Probably even more than half my fault. However, I would have appreciated the fitter actually asking what I wanted from the experience. Maybe Southern (and rich) women are more likely to speak up?

    • I don’t get the culture differences here in the South. I’m not local, I’ve actually only been here about 11 months. I definitely do not speak the language nor do I understand the communication differences.
      I’m also not a social person, even though my blog would have you think otherwise. I probably wouldn’t have asked for a fitting at all when I went in. I would have just looked for something in my size. Every fitting I’ve had is because my husband opens his big mouth! I’m the type that won’t even ask a clerk for help finding a bathroom. When you are not a social person and you are facing someone while standing in a bra it is bound to be awkward. I get that we have to stand up for ourselves, but it is not easy! I think that a good fitter can recognize that in who they are fitting, instead of doing the steamroller that happens so often with a more social reserved person. The social side is definitely there even if I didn’t really talk about it in this post. I’d love to read a post about it if you do one.
      The obligation to buy is a big thing for me. I always feel like I need to buy something if someone helps me. It is almost like you feel like your purchase is a way to show your appreciation for a service. It is even worse when they start bringing out catalogs and offering special orders. I love knowing I have the option of ordering, but when they go the extra step to bring out catalogs I start to feel pressured. The obligation to buy in a boutique situation is part of why so many women shop online or refuse to get fitted at all! I know not all boutiques are like that, but when you are a more socially conservative person it really feels that way.

      • What do you see as the main cultural differences between the South and…elsewhere in the US, at least the ones that concern women’s behavior? My visits have pretty much been restricted to my boyfriend’s family and friends, and this was the first time we had really ventured out anywhere besides the grocery store and the space museum.

        I sort of wish my boyfriend had been able to hang out in the dressing room with me, because he’s seen me agonize over bras and could have helped keep me honest. (At the very least, he would have asked me leading questions when she wasn’t around.) The dressing room was pretty small though, and he felt like his presence in the hallway was making other people uncomfortable.

  5. What a great post and the point about body image demons is one that just isn’t stressed enough.

    After having my first professional fitting (well, two actually!) I found that being vocal helps immensely. For instance, after mentioning that I work a sit down job and often have problems with underwires poking me in the ribs the fitter helped to show me a way to put on the bra that could help AND then helped me to look for bras that would pass the sit down test. If I wouldn’t have mentioned it, I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much from my experience.

    I think part of the social anxiety arises because bra fittings aren’t common enough. The more common things are the less anxieties tend to be surrounding them. The mention of an Ob/Gyn visit is apt because that only happens 1-2 times/month. Whereas I doubt most ladies have issues going to the grocery store or bank (well for routine things), since they occur on a more frequent basis and they already know the routine that goes into it.

  6. Alan

    This is a great post! A good fitting requires imput from both sizes, The fitter suppose to have to have the knowledge (assuming she is a good fitter) so let her help you, but its you who decides what fits best so dont be ashamed to let her know, but in the same way let her do her job and help you! I had Male Breast Aug 6 months ago so I wear a bra. The first time I went in for a fitting I was very nervous, while happy with the results so far I was definitly not adjusted to them nor had ever been fitted. My sister made an make an apporintment so they were expecting me and she actually went with me. I was impressed as to the staff’s professionalism and my fitter made me feel at ease. While she told me that she had not fitted a man before she did stated that she had fitted numerous women with implants and that it would be the same.

    At the time mine were 6 weeks post this was going to be my first “real bra” I had to remove my shirt she measured me and came back with a few non wired bras. she asked if she could help me with trying them on and I let her help me it was maybe odd but she probably seen plenty of breasts of all shape and sizes so I just firgured mine were not going to suprise her, except they were on me. Finally I came away with 2 bras to wear which I was so relieved, plus she explained what went into a good fitting and how my bras should fit and feel. Inow go there for all my bra needs, Just being polite and helping gianed them a new customer.

    Again I went there very nervous, (are they going to through me out think I am a prev? ) No came out with a very positve expereince. But again I let her help me but in the end it was my decision which one felt the best on me. I at least feel thats the best way to approach a fitting jut my thoughts


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