How to make sure your underwired bra is always comfortable

19 Oct 2018 8:58 AM
Annica Svensson

The underwired bra is a classic that never seems to go out of fashion. When you are going to buy a new bra, it may be the first decision you make – consciously or unconsciously – whether or not to have an underwire.
The underwire itself is made of thin plastic or a metal arc sewn into a channel that runs along the side and under the cup. The underwire starts by the armpit and ends at the front between the breasts. Underwires have been used in bras since the beginning of the 20thcentury and were further developed into several versions during the 30s, though they didn’t really become commercially popular until the 50s.

The model in the photo is wearing the underwired bra Floral Sun designed by Lars Wallin for Visionary by Miss Mary

The underwire serves three purposes

There are several practical advantages of an underwired bra. Above all, it has three functions: it lifts, supports and shapes in a completely different way to a non-wired bra. The underwire itself is the pillar of the bra’s support. The underwire takes the weight of the bust and distributes it evenly along the underwire, which then distributes it to the other parts of the bra. The higher up the side and between the breasts the underwire goes, the greater the areaover which the underwire can distribute the support. That is why a bra with a wide back and side and one that goes up higher between the cups provides better support than, for example, a low-cut bra.

“The underwire distributes the weight of the bust to the other parts of the bra.”

The underwire lifts the bust and provides support, at the same time as it redistributes the weight of the bust to the back, side and centre of the bra. The higher the underwire and the wider the side and back, the better the support.

As the underwire surrounds the breast, it also ensures that the bra fits very closely against the chest and separates the bust. By separate, we mean that the middle of the bra is tight against the breastbone between the breasts and does not ‘float on top’ so that the bust forms a ‘loaf’ or ‘uni-breast’. Thanks to the separation, each breast gets individual support from the bra and there is a clear shape of two separate breasts. The underwire also helps to lift the bust and ensure that there is less pressure on the shoulders.

But how should the underwire really fit?

The underwire should surround the whole under part of the breast and never press against the breast tissue at the side or in the middle. You should be able to lift your arms up without the underwire gliding up. If it does, the circumference of your bra is too big.

There are also different heights of underwires. Some go up high between the breasts while others stop far down and are used on so-called plunge bras with a low cut.

“The underwire has three purposes: to lift, shape and support”

Help! My underwired bra is uncomfortable!

A well-fitting underwired bra should never be uncomfortable to wear. If it is, you are wearing the wrong size or the wrong model for your body type. The most common cause of discomfort from an underwired bra is wearing the wrong size. If it presses into the breast, for example on the side, you are wearing a cup that is too small. If the underwire leaves red marks on the skin, you are probably wearing a bra with a circumference that is too tight.

“The cup should enclose the whole breast and the underwire should not cut into the breast tissue”

If the end of the underwire pokes uncomfortably between the breasts, try a different model on which the underwires stop further down or on which they meet at a different angle. There are many different cuts on the market today. Depending on the shape of the chest and the breasts and whether they are close together or far apart, one and the same bra will fit differently on every body. Try what works for you. All breasts are different and unique.

“If you have wide breasts, try a minimiser”

If, for example, you have a wide breast base (regardless of cup size), it can be a good idea to try a minimiser. Despite what many people think, a minimiser bra is not just for women with a large bust who want to ‘flatten’ their breasts. A minimiser is characterised by a wider arc shape and shallower cup than a traditional bra.

“All breasts are unique. The same bra will fit differently on every body.”

We are all different and every pair of breasts is unique. You shouldn’t stare blindly at the size. How wide or narrow the breasts are and whether they are close together or far apart has as big an effect on how the bra will fit.

If, however, you have a narrow breast base or your breasts are close together, you may need to choose a bra on which the cup fits your bust well but the circumference is really too tight. To compensate for the tight circumference use a bra extender with a hook and eye fastening instead of going up a size in circumference. With bra extenders, only the band at the back will become longer without affecting the fit of the bra at the front or the way the cups fit.

Are there times when you shouldn’t wear an underwire?

Every body is unique (not to mention taste!) and sometimes you simply don’t like underwires and then you should listen to yourself and wear a non-wired bra. You know your own body better than anyone else. Even if an underwired bra offers the best support and lift, you shouldn’t wear one if you really don’t like it. Undergarments should be fun and you should dress for yourself and feel physically and emotionally comfortable whatever you are wearing. There are women who take off their bra as soon as they get home inside the door after a day at work, school or in town, and who love to chill in the sofa with their breasts completely free under a T-shirt. There are also women who wear an underwired bra when they are out but change into a comfortable lounge bra when they get home. And finally, there are many women like, for example, me who wear an underwired bra all day, just because they think it’s as comfortable as any lounge bra, as they have found the right model and size.

“Dress for yourself. Undergarments should feel fun.”

There are a few occasions when you are advised not to wear an underwired bra, such as if you have just had a breast operation, for example a breast reduction, mastectomy or breast enlargement. In the months after this type of operation you will usually wear a post-operative bra adapted for the purpose of the operation. For breast enlargements, for example, you may wear a bra that compresses the bust.

If you plan to or have recently had a breast operation, we recommend that you consult your doctor and ask how long you need to wait until you can wear an underwired (or a normal) bra again. If you have had a pacemaker operation you are also recommended to use a non-wired bra.

One thing is constant…

Just as with other clothes, trends have come and gone for undergarments. Who can forget, for example, cone-shaped bras or the cross bras from the 70s. Nowadays, there is a wider range than ever of designs, materials and colours. But one thing has been constant, and that is the underwired bra, and there is nothing to suggest that it will fall in popularly in the next few years. What types of bra do you prefer? Underwired or non-wired or maybe both? Enter your comments in the comment box below and tell us why.

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