Thursday, February 18, 2010

Should You Wear Narrow Or Broad Underwires ?


    Underwires are not all same. Their shape, length and width differ a lot from one brand and model to another. Have you ever had underwires poke you in the wrong places, even though the cups fit perfectly? 

  Firstly, I recommend underwired bras for these reasons. They keep the breast tissue from escaping under the band. And underwires need not be uncomfortable. The first reason for uncomfortable underwires is wrong bra size. Even if you have been measured by a fitter, measure yourself like this.

Why the width of the underwires matters

  After you've found your correct size, you need to find out whether you need broader or narrower underwires. Some breasts have a very narrow base or root, some have a much wider one. To see what a difference the width of underwires can make, take a look at these photos; the girl is wearing broad underwires in photos on the left, and narrow in the right side photos. She clearly need narrow underwires. The broad underwires go way beyond her breasts, and don´t support it. Also, the bra band pulls the underwires even further, and they stretch, and pull the cup fabric with them, flattening the breasts.

How to find out whether you need narrower or broader underwires

   First, look at the imprint the underwires leave on your breasts*. Ideally they should perfectly outline the breast. If the go on top of the breast or they go way beyond the breast, you will know they are the wrong width. I also want to quote Drüber und Drunter's method of finding out where your breast tissue ends:
  "In order to decide if your wires are just right or too wide/narrow, it is important to know where your breast tissue ends. Best thing is to lift your breast and push it a little to the side. Mark the line with an eyeliner or a similar pencil. Then, just like in a breast examination, feel for breast tissue beyond this line to make sure there are no glandular tissue outside the visible breast area. The wire should enclose all breast tissue!" read the rest of her post
  A person with wider breasts can easily tell when the underwires are to narrow for them: the breasts look (and feel) as if the underwire is cutting off a part of them. A girl with narrower breasts might feel that some underwires end on her back, leaving parts of the cup empty.
    If you still have no idea which underwires you need, I advise you to try on a bra each from Panache and Freya -- Panache has the widest underwires and Freyas are narrow.

Don't confuse the width of underwires with their length. Long underwires are problematic for petites and ladies with highly set breasts: the tips poke upwards into the armpit. For the rest, long underwires keep the breast tissue in place, and prevent migration of breast tissue. Long underwires are on bras that have a lot of fabric under the armpit. Both long and short underwires can be narrow as well as broad.

Don't confuse the width of underwires with your breasts being close together or far apart. More on that here.

Also, some underwires are elastic, some not. Very springy underwires mean that when you put on the bra, the band pulls the underwires, making them wider. So, the underwires are wider when worn, that makes the band wider, and the cup flatter. *Example pics*

Where to buy narrower or broader underwires ?

    Underwire width differs from brand to brand, and sometimes from model to model. I highly recommend checking out bra reviews on Bratabase and bra-fitting blogs before you order bras. Some brands like Panache almost always have wide undewires; Freya and Lepel have the narrowest ones. Ewa Michalak and Fantasie are medium. More on other brands here. 
   Measure the length and width of the underwires of bras that fit you well (distance between the tips) -- compare this to the numbers that you find on Bratabase.

Can you just bend the underwires ?

   That works only for small adjustments. Bending the underwire wider 1. makes the cup flatter, and 2. the band wider, so you´re distorting the whole shape and fit. However if it´s not the width that´s bothering you but the shape of the underwire: feel free to experiment.

* Underwires and bra bands usually leave marks on the body, just as panties and socks do. That's normal, and doesn't mean you need a looser bra; unless it's hurting.

Photo by basakina  

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  1. This is incredibly helpful information! Amazing blog. All this time on my endless quest for comfy bras, I did not realize that broad/narrow is the biggest factor for me.

    I need a wire that is broad, but short. Although I'm tall, I have sensitive skin & just cannot stand when the wire is long & scrapes & pokes the tender skin of the armpit. (Fantasie is terrible for this) =o(

    I have found that Freya's Ione & Mischa are a perfect shorter length - & are actually a very broad fit. (I wear a 38FF in Freya; 38F in Fantasie.) But the shape is far too pointy for some clothing. The only Panache I have tried was the Classic & the wires were very narrow & long. What brands would you recommend I try, that have a broad, short (or medium) wire, & give a rounded shape? I am in Alaska, so cannot try on many styles in person; I must order & return them all.

  2. @Cally the Collie: You could try the Demicups by Masquerade (Harlequin in the US) or Cleo, both are subbrands of Panache. Alternatively padded halfcups by Freya - Summer, Monet or Keisha.

    Wires of Curvy Kate bras are also short with medium to broad fit.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions. Do Masquerade & Panache run smaller in the cup, like Freya, or larger like Fantasie? What about Curvy Kate? I'm trying to figure out whether to try an F or an FF in these brands.

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  5. Hey, Freyas are not smaller in the cup, they just have narrower underwires. masquerades tend to run small in the cups, in Panache there are some models with cups larger or smaller than standard. Check out this table of non-standard cups:

  6. Hi, i know this post was from 4 years ago, but I just want to say thank you so much. Your site has changes my life (and my boobs) for the better!

  7. So I don't know if anyone is still checking comments here, but... I am looking for a bra that has a very wide underwire, as well as some depth and... Also, I have quite narrow shoulders. My boobs are wider than my body, and often I get the east-west thing unless I use a racerback clip. But then my boobs are set low, so the racerback clip makes the straps too tight and they dig in... So, can I get some advice? I always have to decide between cups with enough depth (which always gape on top and the underwire hits against breast tissue on the left larger side) and wide enough underwire (which usually means flatter cups and less depth, forcing me to...well, sort of fold up the left breast to get it into the cup). Can I get some advice? Chantelle tends to make underwire that is wide and deep enough for me, with fully adjustable straps. This is the only brand I've found that usually meets all the criteria and doesn't cause me tremendous pain, but they're a bit too expensive to be my go to.

    In American and French sizes, I'm between a 34I and 36H. Some H cups -- like the very shallow ones made by Natori -- are never big enough and sort of just press me down flat. In larger cup brands like Wacoal, I look like I fit into a G, but their G cups always have underwire that dig in to my left side breast tissue, and I have to size up. One brand I've found that makes cups *almost* deep and wide enough is Evollove, but their sizing is a bit inconsistent and I'd ideally need a GG, which they don't make.

    I don't fit into the 36FF that is supposedly the equivalent of an American H cup, ever. I tried the Panache Andorra in this cup size, and the fabric didn't even come up to my nipples in that bra. Pretty sure I'll need at least a GG and maybe an H in Panache?

    Advice would be really helpful, as I'm tired of being in pain all the time. I end up ordering blind as well, because I don't have a ton of options for trying on.

  8. Elomi bra might work for you ? Nordstrom has free shipping even for returns.