What are the best bras for small breasts?
For us small-chested shoppers, bra hunting is too often disappointing. Straps slide off shoulders, cups leave gaps, bras are too tight or not tight enough — something just doesn’t feel right. There isn’t much advice on our problems, either. Meanwhile, the media loves to market to large breasts. Images of buxom chests fly in our face on Twitter, the movie screen, or the latest magazine cover. We’re going to change that. Let’s take a look at how to pick the best bras for small breasts.
Calculate your true bust size
Many small-busted women automatically assume that they must be an A or AA cup. Then, you try on all the different A cup band sizes and buy whatever is the least terrible. Does this sound familiar?
Most women are currently wearing ill-fitting bras, and this is at the heart of many bra problems. You need to find your correct size because that is the most important thing to get right!
If you already know your bra size AND shape accurately, feel free to skip ahead. However, if you have never used a five point method to determine your bra size, don’t skip this step. You might be quite surprised with the results. Do you know that a “flat chest” could actually be a shallow 28DD? If this does not make sense to you, follow the directions below.
We shouldn’t talk about the best bras for small breasts without first making sure you understand what kind of breast size and shape you have. Determining the correct size and shape is really the number one answer to finding comfortable bras with good support, whether your breasts are big or small.
Steps to measure your true bra size:
- Grab a measuring tape, or use a piece of string and separate ruler to mark it.
- Remove clothing so that your breast is bare. Do not wear a bra during the measurement.
- While standing, measure your SNUG UNDERBUST. Your underbust is the line right beneath where your breasts end. The underbust may lie under your breasts if they are hanging over it. Your measuring tape should be exactly horizontal with respect to the ground and pulled comfortably tight.
- Measure your TIGHT UNDERBUST, again with the measuring tape horizontal, but this time, pull the tape as tight as you can. Let out your breath as much as you can during this measurement.
- While still standing, measure your STANDING BUST. Your bust is the line across the breasts at the widest points. The measuring tape should again be horizontal. Do not squash your breasts during this measurement.
- Get on your hands and knees so that your back is parallel to the ground. Your breasts should hanging straight to the ground. Measure your HANGING BUST. In this case, the measuring tape should be vertical with respect to the ground.
- Lie down on your back. Measure your LAYING BUST. The measuring tape should again be exactly vertical. It can help if you have some do the measurement for you or make sure your tape is not at an angle.
- Determine your BAND SIZE by rounding your SNUG UNDERBUST (Step 3) to the nearest even number. If your TIGHT UNDERBUST is within 1 inch of your SNUG UNDERBUST, you may want to round UP. If you are TIGHT UNDERBUST is over 3 inches smaller than your SNUG UNDERBUST, you may want to round DOWN. An example is a SNUG 33″ and a TIGHT 32″. Try a 34 BAND SIZE. Another example is a SNUG 33″ and a TIGHT 29″. Try a 32″ BAND SIZE.
- Compare your STANDING, HANGING, and LAYING BUST measurements. Are they all within 2 inches of each other? If so, just take the HANGING BUST and subtract your SNUG UNDERBUST for the CUP DEPTH. If the BUST measurements are spread by more than 2 inches, AVERAGE the 3 BUST measurements (Steps 5-7) and subtract the SNUG UNDERBUST for CUP DEPTH. As an example, say you measured 35, 36, and 35 inches for the STANDING, HANGING, and LAYING BUST, respectively. Your SNUG UNDERBUST was 32 inches. Then, you would take the HANGING BUST – SNUG UNDERBUST = 36 – 32 = 4 inches as the CUP DEPTH. If the BUST measurements were instead 37, 39, and 35 inches, you would take the average of (37+39+35)/3 = 37 inches, subtract the SNUG UNDERBUST of 32 inches, and arrive at a CUP DEPTH of 5 inches.
Convert to the relevant bra sizes
Use the images below to convert from your measurements to bra size using standard from various countries. Use your BAND SIZE and CUP DEPTH as determined above to get the final bra size.
Believe your result
If you made it all the way here, congratulations! That took a bit of math. But are you confused?
You thought that you had small breasts, but if you performed the measurements and calculations correctly, you may end up with D or DD cup sizes. THIS IS CORRECT. The cup size is simply the difference between underbust and bust. A 28DD is very different in size from a 36DD (see the explanation of sister sizing in our guide to the best adhesive bras if you want to learn more) . What you call “small breasts” can very well be a 28DD.
We are, however, not done yet. You still need to determine the shape of your breasts before you can find a bra that fits them well.
Determine your breast shape category
The band and cup sizes are not enough to tell you which bra fits well. Every brand has a different structure that best supports a different type of breasts shape. Thus, finding a bra that will fit properly requires you to know the shape of your breasts.
There are two categories you need to address. The first is whether you have shallow or projected breasts, and the second is how to describe the fullness of your breasts.
Shallow and projected breasts
Many women with small breasts have what are called “shallow” breasts. This when the base or “root” of the breast is larger and spread across the chest area, giving a flatter breast shape. There is nothing wrong with a shallow shape. It is simply more common among the 28-32 band and A-D cup sizes.
A projected breast, on the other hand, has a narrower root where the breast meets the chest, and instead “projects” away from the body. See the drawing below for a comparison.
One sign of having shallow breasts is if your bras seem to small at the top and too large at the bottom. That is, the top of the bra may cut into your breast. Yet the bottom of the cup is never filled out properly.
While fullness is another shape feature to keep in mind, shallowness usually takes precedence for smaller breasts. Therefore, it is important to know if you have shallow or projected breasts before trying to pick the best bras for small breasts.
Breast fullness is another important way to describe your breast shape. For vertical fullness, if you are full on top, there is more tissue above your nipple, and if you are full on bottom, there is more tissue below the nipple. See the image below. This can be judged when you are leaning over and letting the breast hang freely.
Of course, there are degrees of fullness, such as even, or very full on top. A very full on top combined with a very full on bottom is actually not full but even. This type of breast, though, could be considered possibly shallow. On the other hand, a very projected breast could also be even, with the lack of fullness on top and bottom balancing out.
Then, there are the far cases of very full on top, or very full on bottom. All of these shapes are perfectly healthy and normal. However, they affect bra choices. Some brands will pinch into the top of full on top breasts. other brands will leave a gap for full on bottom breasts. Therefore, you should have an idea of what kind of breast shape you have.
Horizontal fullness works in the same way. Take a look at your own breasts from above. Center full breasts have more tissue in between their nipples. Outer full breasts have more tissue on the outside.
Best bras for small breasts
What is the best bra for small breasts? The answer to this trick question is: a bra that fits! That’s why we first had to go through your sizing and shape.
Now that you have gone through all that work and have a better idea of your true breast size and shape, we can start recommending bra brands and models that may fit you well. As you might have gathered by now, all small breasts are not the same. When we talk about the best bras for small breasts, we really have to talk about best bras for different shapes and sizes. Just calling someone small-chested doesn’t help at all. Moving on, look for the category below that fits your breast type.
Best bras for shallow breasts
It is very common for small busts to in fact be shallow breasts. Shallowness is also generally an overriding factor versus fullness. For this reason, we will start out by recommending bras that are good for shallow breasts.
General points to consider for shallow breasts
Finding a bra when you have shallow breasts is tricky, because most bras have too much projection. This makes it difficult for the bra to enter and fill out the cup. In fact, although it might sound unusual, you need a larger bra for your small breasts!
Try to put aside your past notion that your breasts are flat and therefore small. The breast can be the same size, but if it is a different shape, it will not fit in the same cup. Imagine a round ball of dough. Drop it into a cup. Easy, right? Now imagine taking the same piece of dough and squashing it until it is large but thin like a cookie. Try to drop it into the same cup — it won’t fit. You need a larger cup.
Before we go to specific brands and models, here are some general hints that a bra might work well with shallow breasts:
- The bra only has horizontal seams. There are no vertical seams.
- The upper edge of the bra is parallel to the ground as opposed to angling to a V.
- The upper edge of the bra sits parallel to your body’s plane. That is, the upper edge does not lean into your body to pinch off the upper gap, but is instead vertical.
These points don’t mean that the bra will fit shallow breasts well, but they are good clues for which bras to try first. Luckily, there are a number of brands available from Amazon that we can review for you to help you get started.
Before buying bras online at Amazon
Make sure you pay careful attention to whether a brand uses UK or US sizing. Most of the brands we mention below use UK bra sizing, which is similar, but not exactly the same as US bra sizing. Amazon pages will usually have a sizing chart and indicate whether the brand uses UK sizing. You can also check the “questions” section on the Amazon page or browse the other user reviews.
Check the Amazon exchange and return policy for yourself, but in general, it is possible to return bras or exchange them for a different size (if it is in stock). While the return policies at Amazon often sound draconian, most people have had success returning bras. Be sure to leave on tags and do not soil or damage the bras. Also, try to retain the original packaging. Of course, you shouldn’t abuse the return policy, as Amazon may mark your account. However, returning an ill-fitting bra to get the sizing right is not an issue. In the worst case, you can try to re-sell a bra on craigslist, a nearby university forum, or other local secondhand markets.
Freya Deco Molded Soft Cup Bra Review
The Freya Deco Molded Soft Cup Bra (Amazon link) is a wireless t-shirt bra with plunging neckline and seamless cups. This bra works well with shallow or wide set breasts. Many women in the 28C-30DD range report that this is the first properly fitting bra that is able to provide cleavage. For women with small breasts, this can be very exciting!
Most women find this bra to be quite comfortable because of the soft material, lack of wire, and minimal gore (the central panel that can sometimes be irritating). Because of the wirefree design, the Freya Deco Molded Soft Cup Bra is better suited for smaller busts with easier support requirements. The shape of the cup is quite shallow at the bottom. Full on top breast shapes are better suited for this bra. Full on bottom breast shapes may be less comfortable.
While the Freya Deco Molded works great as a t-shirt bra with its seamless smooth cups, there are small ribbons at the joint between the cups and straps. These can poke out a little bit through a t-shirt. It’s not a big deal, but some people might find it annoying.
Note that Freya is a UK company and uses UK sizing. They will incorrectly state on some of their products that UK and US sizing are equivalent. This is wrong. Use the conversion chart above to figure out your correct size.
Natori Feathers Contour Plunge Bra Review
Unlike the Freya soft cup bra above, the Natori Feathers Contour Plunge Bra (Amazon link) is an underwire bra with smooth cup centers surrounded by semi-sheer lace panels. Although there is a bit of decoration, the lace panels stay flat and do not show through thin t-shirts. Because the lace does go a bit high, you might not want to wear this bra with a tank top.
The cups are shallower than most other bras but supported by an extra large underwire. This makes the Natori bra great for shallow breasts with large roots. The softer fabric provides adequate support up to D and DD sizes, but if you are a G or beyond, the you might want more support than this bra can provide. The Natori Feathers Contour has no padding and instead just a thin layer of material to smooth out the breast profile.
Note that Natori bands can be slightly smaller for the same listed size than other brands. The band will be tight but stretch out after several wears. Other women use extenders in the meantime or buy the next larger band size. However, if you have a smaller frame and have trouble finding smaller sizes in stock, you will appreciate the tighter band sizes. Natori follows UK bra sizing.
Cleo Neve Plunge T-shirt Smoothing Bra Review
The Cleo by Panache Neve Plunge Bra (Amazon link) is another bra that works well with shallow breasts. While some of the previous bras were better for wide set shallow breasts, the Cleo Neve is better for average or perhaps slightly closer set breasts. In terms of breast shapes, this means more outer fullness and less inner fullness may work better with the Cleo Neve bra.
The gore and center dip a lower than usual on this bra. This is part of what makes the Cleo Neve bra better for close set breasts. But this also means the bra may not work as well if you have very soft breast tissue that needs the support from below.
The top of the bra is fairly open, which accommodates shallow breasts and full on top breast shapes very well without giving a squashed effect. Women with more projected breasts might have some gapping at the top and would want to avoid this bra. The band and sizing is true to fit, so don’t size up or down with this bra. The band also does not stretch very much even after being used for a bit. Cleo follows UK bra sizing.
Finding bras for shallow breasts
We’ve reviews the best bras to try first if you have smaller shallow breasts. You don’t have to stick to these brands and models. With so many different bras available online, though, choosing one at random or by looks alone is most likely not going to work. We also went over some of the general guidelines for the type of bras to look at, but you will have to try them out yourselves. These three bras are your best bets for starting, but since everyone has a different shape and size, they won’t work all the time.
Best bras for small breasts that are not shallow
While many women who consider themselves to have small busts or “flat chests” would actually have shallow breasts, some have smaller non-shallow busts. We’ll consider a few bra options to try for smaller breasts that are not shallow.
Full On Bottom: Cleo Lucy Balconette Bra Review
For breasts that are full on bottom, we recommend trying the Cleo Lucy Balconette Bra (Amazon link). This balconette style bra has plenty of support from below and a small and shorter upper cup. This bra works better with slightly wider set breasts and those with more breast volume in the lower half.
The soft cup is unlined so be careful if you are wearing very light and thin fabrics over it. If you are used to wearing padded bras for small bras, you might be pleasantly surprised by the Cleo Lucy. The extra emphasis on lifting your breasts from below can give you a pleasing shape and apparent size, even without the use of padding or molding.
The Cleo Lucy’s balconette style gives somewhat wider shoulder straps. If you have a very narrow frame, you might want to modify the straps in back with a simple DIY option or paperclip. Those with full on top breasts should avoid this bra, as it might be too tight on the top lacy portion. Sizing follows UK conventions.
Full On Top: Curvy Kate Dreamcatcher Balcony Bra Review
Despite the brand name, the Curvy Kate Dreamcatcher Balcony Bra (Amazon link) works well with small but full on top breasts in the 28D-32DD range. You might still consider yourself “small” if you have highly projected breasts with less total volume, which is exactly what this bra is for. The cups on the Curvy Kate Dreamcatcher are definitely deeper and suited for projected breasts. The cups also have a slightly more pointed shape rather than a rounded symmetric depth. This also fits better for small breasts that are projected.
The fabric on this bra is not as soft as some others. Some might be worried about the rougher fabric being itchy or irritating, although most people don’t seem to mind it. While this bra is unlined, the thicker portion stops about halfway up. If you are full on top, the nipple area should be well beneath the lace and you should have problems. However, women with full on bottom breasts should avoid this bra, as the nipple area might ride up into the lace.
Everyone generally agrees that the Curvy Kate Dreamcatcher provides excellent support. Most issues are people with the wrong breast shape type using this bra. Sizing for Curvy Kate follows UK conventions.
Even Fullness: Panache Andorra Full Cup Bra Review
The Panache Andorra Full Cup Bra (Amazon link) works well for even fullness breasts with its somewhat more pointy or perky shape. The unpadded bra lifts and supports evenly full breasts, but shallow breasts may have trouble filling out these projected cups. The cups provide full coverage, although a portion of the upper cup is lace. Still, the lace parts hold in the upper breast to prevent awkward pinching or spilling out.
The Panache Andorra bra can be very comfortable but may require some breaking in. After a few uses and washes, the tight back loosens a little bit and the lace material becomes softer. A few women report that the bra is also itchy, but the itchiness goes away after time. It might be worth taking a new Andorra and just washing it from the start a couple times to break it in pre-emptively and avoid any possible discomfort.
Overall, the Panache Andorra is a solid daily use kind of bra. The moderate lace is also pretty and stays hidden under shirt. Large breasted women often turn to Panache bras, but the Andorra will work well with evenly full “small” breasts in the 28D-32DD range as well.
Other Bra Considerations
Why About Padded Bras for Small Breasts?
When most people are thinking about the best bras for small breasts, they are thinking of padding or pushup bras to make the breasts look larger. Instead, we focused on the correct sizing and shape.
Wearing the correct bra size will not only make your life much more comfortable, but it will also improve your shape. Some of the bras recommended above, like the Freya Deco Molded bra, can create cleavage even without padding. If a bra fits correctly, it will enhance the perceived size and shape naturally, without any artificial fillers. Of course, you can also wear padded bras, but you should still find the right size and shape of bra for the best comfort and best effect.
Healthy Body Image
Many of us with smaller breasts have had a poor body, especially when we were younger. Seeking a bra to enhance how your breasts looks is fun and completely fine. However, try to approach this from a positive, healthy manner, and not in a negative way that is trying to fix problems.
Even if you want to do this, the first thing you should do is find bras that make you feel comfortable. Feel good for yourself first with a bra that finally fits properly. If you have never had a proper bra sizing before, you may be surprised and how different it can feel. A proper bra size will also make your breasts look better, regardless of size. Then, if you want to develop your look further, you can do that from a confident and strong starting point.
A Request: Help Us To Help Others
If you have found this article useful, you may have had a pleasantly surprising eureka moment. When you try on a properly fitting bra for the first time in your life, you will wonder why no one told you about this before. We hope you learned that the best bras for small breasts is not a one-size-fit-all answers, but exactly the opposite.
Please help other women find these answers too. There are two main ways you can help.
- Please consider providing feedback to improve this article, or your own personal experiences with various brands and sizes. You can use the comments below or for submitting longer content, email us through the Contact Us page. Feel free to contact us with questions as well if something was unclear.
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Now that you are armed with the knowledge in this article, we wish you luck on your new bra-hunting venture!