As a teen, I yearned to have full B-cups, but I always stayed at A. (A letter I would have been thrilled to receive on test scores, but not so much when it came to my bra size.) After trying, and failing, to make them grow over the years — my mom swore eating papaya would help me go up a size — I accepted the fact that I would forever be part of the itty-bitty committee. Over time, I picked up a few tips and tricks for buying bras for small boobs that helped me appreciate them. I personally avoided heavily padded styles — I felt like a fraud for portraying the look of a bigger bust — and, instead, invested in lace-y bralettes and lightly padded to no-padding T-shirt bras.
Over the years, I accumulated a few bras I tolerated, but none fit me perfectly. There would be extra spacing between the cup and my boob or, after a couple of washes, an underwire would escape from the fabric and jab me in the chest. When I could get away with it, I was more than happy to “free the nip.” It wasn’t until I came across the brand Pepper, back in 2017, that I finally found bras that perfectly shaped and lifted my boobs. (The label’s offerings are specifically designed for those with small chest sizes, from 30-AA to 40-B.) What makes Pepper undergarments special is its J-shape underwire (other brands traditionally use a U-shape), plunging neckline design, and a half cup look.
“Our very first bra design, the All You bra, has wider and flatter underwires that we developed ourselves, so it's able to scoop the breast tissue from the outside of the armpit towards the center without push-up padding,” says Jaclyn Fu, co-founder and CEO of Pepper. “The deep U-shape underwire isn't great for small-chested women with more spread apart breast tissue, so our J-shape has more of that scooping effect. It will also never go towards the sternum and poke you.”
The cups on Pepper bras fit snugly against my boobs and, dare I say, even makes them seem a little bigger than they are. I also love the plunging neckline fit — a detail I realize looks great when you have a smaller chest. (I now seek out this design element when shopping for bras from other brands.) I spoke with Tania Garcia, director of fit at CUUP, on what other crucial information those with smaller busts should know when it comes to bra selection — and she shared several tips. First, don’t focus too much on what your perceived size is.
“For me, when I speak to someone and they're slightly smaller, I like to investigate a bit before I give a number or size. I ask questions like, ‘have you been measured before?’ ‘What styles do you normally wear?’ ‘Do you like padding?’” Garcia shares. “[Those with small busts] should also take into consideration cup volume, strap placement, and wire placement [when selecting a bra].” When it comes to cup volume, you might have heard of sister sizing, aka a family of alternate sizes that share cup volume, but have different band circumferences. When band sizes go up, cup size goes down, so if you’re a 32-B you can also wear a 34-A. This gives you a chance to find a bra that doesn’t give you that dreaded cup gap.
It’s important to get measured regularly, as breast size fluctuates over the years. Plus, every brand has a different sizing system, so your bra size might vary from label to label. The biggest shopping mistake Garcia reveals that those with small boobs make, however, is by boxing themselves into that 34-A category.
“I think everyone thinks they're an A-cup. But there are so many different size ranges nowadays within that: 30-A, 30-B, or even C,” she says. “I think the biggest mistake is that most people just grab one size that they think they are, which is that standard 34, and they just wear it. Half the time, they don’t question it or they don’t really measure themselves and look to see if the bra is properly sitting on their body.” To properly determine what size you are, it’s best to speak with a specialist from a store of your choosing or to simply measure yourself at home.
In addition to determining your cup size, LIVELY’s Creative Director, Sarah Sullivan, stresses the importance of finding the right band size. “Your band should be firm without causing discomfort, and have just about one to three inches of stretch if you were to pull it off of your body. Eighty percent of the support you get from a bra comes from the band,” she says.
Once you have determined the numbers, the fun part begins: shopping for a new bra. With so many brands like Pepper and ThirdLove that cater to specific sizes (and everything in between), you’ll surely find at least one style you’ll love. Ahead, peruse through a few small boob-friendly labels for some new bras, or bralettes, to add into your collection.
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