Ages + Stages | Health and Development | Parenting Tools | Ages 11–14

Shaping Up

How to help your daughter find her first bra

Excited or nervous, thrilled or mortified, AA or C — no matter the girl, it’s a big deal to go bra shopping for the first time.

“Girls get pretty embarrassed about the whole thing, so keeping it low-key and not making a big deal about it is probably the biggest thing,” says Valerie Bixler of Seattle breast-care shop Mary Catherine's. The first thing you should do is give your daughter (and yourself!) a supportive pat on the back.

Then it’s time to talk sizes. “Whether it is her first bra, or it has been a while and [her body] may have changed, or she just has not been fitted at a boutique, it is a good thing and an important step,” says Lindsey Runyon, owner of Bellefleur Lingerie Boutique in Fremont.

“The easiest advice is to go anywhere that performs fitting instead of trying to guess on sizes,” advises Megan McNeil of Zovo Lingerie, located in University Village. “The band should not be too loose, and there should not be extra room in the cup.”

Made to measure

If your daughter isn’t into the idea of getting fitted by strangers, you can start the process at home. Her arms should be down, and you should make sure the tape measure is quite snug. All you have to do is take three measurements: “First, measure underneath the arms above the breast; then the circumference around the fullness of the breast; and then right underneath the breast,” Bixler says.

Before you head to the store, you’ll need to do a little math: The measurement underneath the breast is her band size: 32, 34, etc. (For odd numbers, try out sizes both an inch down and an inch up.) To calculate cup size, subtract the band measurement from the cup measurement taken around the fullest part of the breast. Less than 1 inch means AA, 1 inch is A, 2 inches B, and so on.

Keep in mind that the calculated size is only a guide and not always definitive. “Bras are not all created equal — so you can take five bras in the same size, and they will all fit differently,” Bixler says.

Some stores have done away with the measuring tape altogether. “We do a holistic fitting without a measuring tape because we have found them to be inaccurate,” Runyon explains. Experienced fitters know how to gauge size by eye. “We can look at you and assess, and 90 percent of the time, we are accurate,” she says.

Another reason why it’s important to take sizing information in stride: “The size your daughter turns out to be may be surprising, [but] it is critical not to make surprised or negative comments,” Runyon says. “Whatever her body, breast or shape is, know that it is totally normal and OK.”

Handing over the reins

If it’s handled well, finding the right bra can be an empowering experience. Let your daughter have a say in what kind of bra she wants, and respect her wishes. “A tip would be not to be controlling or try to dictate style or color,” Runyon suggests.

Trends play a big role in what’s available to buy. “Molded, smooth cups are popular right now,” Bixler says, and styles and colors go in and out of fashion as fast as your kids seem to be growing up. The only inarguable point is that the bra needs to fit well.

Keeping a little physical distance can make a difference, too. “Give your daughter the privacy she needs ... it can be awkward [to be] in a tough transition period in your life,” Runyon says. If your daughter wants you in the dressing room with her, then by all means, stay — but don’t insist on it. She may not even want you to overhear the fitting conversation.

Wearing it well

Found the perfect fit? Well played, everyone! Now you can follow up the shopping trip with a quick lesson on preserving her new look. “Teach about good, delicate washing habits, so her bras last a long time,” Runyon advises. Wash bras in a mesh bag and, if they have molded cups, hang them out to dry instead of throwing them in the dryer. “A good bra is supposed to last for 180 days of wear, so it depends how often you wear it and how well you take care of it,” she says.

Last tip of the day: Remember that your daughter’s body will continue to grow and change — whether you’re ready for it or not. “Get refit any time there is a weight gain or loss or hormonal change,” says Runyon, who recommends a fitting at least once a year.

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