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Your bra may be invisible to the outside world, but there's nothing more noticeable and distracting than wearing an ill-fitting bra. With the right fit and design, intimate wear can empower you like a secret weapon. Don't put yourself at the mercy of ill-fitting undergarments. Grab a tape measure and a pen, calculate your perfect size, and give yourself the comfort you deserve.

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Step 1: Take your measurements

The first step to finding your correct size is to measure the band, the part of the bra that wraps around your torso. Wearing a lightly-lined, non-padded bra, wrap measuring tape snugly across the back of the band. Continue underneath the arms and to the center front of the bra, called the gore. Remember to keep the tape parallel to the ground, and round down to the nearest inch. If you don't have a measuring tape, use yarn or a strip of fabric, and then measure the length against a long ruler or tape measure.

Measure your bra band first Voyagerix / Getty Images
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Step 2: Measure your bust

Once you've recorded your band size, wrap the measuring tape across your back at the band once again. Bring it around to your front, but this time holding the tape across the fullest part of your bust. Take a few deep breaths to make sure the measurement isn't too tight. Round down to the nearest number, unless it falls on the half-inch, in which case you round up.

Measure fullest part of bust Wavebreakmedia Ltd / Getty Images
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Step 3: Calculate your cup size using your measurements

Now that you have your measurements, all it takes is a little bit of math to determine your cup size. Using inches, subtract the band measurement from the bust size. The difference determines your cup size; for example, a difference of 2 inches indicates a B cup, and a difference of 3 inches means your breasts are a C cup. Consult a bra sizing chart to determine your band size, since it will not be the same number as your measurement. A sizing chart will also help you find your sister size, which is an alternate bra size that gives you an equivalent cup volume and band width. Each body is different, and sister sizes account for slight variations in torso and breast shapes.

Sister sizes may fit better artiemedvedev / Getty Images
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Signs you're wearing the wrong bra size

Some of the most common signs that your bra doesn't fit are also the most obvious. Gaps between the breast and cup, or straps and bands that slide around are clues that your bra is too big. A bra that is too small will dig into your skin, and your breasts may spill out of the cup. If you're wearing an underwire design, it may ride up and create "underboob," where the bottom of your breasts peek out from underneath your brassiere.

Ill-fitting bras slip around Bo Zaunders / Getty Images

What the right bra looks like

You know you're wearing a correctly-sized bra when you forget you're wearing one at all. The straps should stay put on your shoulders without slipping or digging into the skin, and underwire should fit snugly beneath the breast without pressing into your underarm. There also shouldn't be any bulging around the band, including strapless styles. When properly sized, a strapless brassiere will not slip or lose support. Longline strapless styles offer more support than a regular bra, with some styles extending to the waist or hips. These designs must also accommodate your torso dimensions, so don't be surprised if your fit is different than usual.

The right bra looks fantastic Kiuikson / Getty Images

Popular styles to build your collection

T-shirt bras are the most popular style of bra for their smoothing and flattering effects. Most T-shirt bras have molded, seamless cups, but stretch knit fabrics are just as comfortable while providing support. Push-up and balconette bras show off more cleavage than full coverage styles, creating impressive décolletage. Wear this design with low-cut, scoop, or boatneck tops. For a more laid back, comfortable style, choose a bralette. Bralettes have no wire, padding, or molded cups, making them ideal for lightweight support and ultimate comfort.

Bralettes are a comfortable style wundervisuals / Getty Images

Full coverage and plus-sized bras

Full coverage bras have larger cups designed to cover nearly all of your breasts. This type of bra is ideal for large busts and helpful in providing more support and preventing breast spillage. A properly-fitted full coverage bra cradles each breast without gaps or wrinkles. Plus-sized bras, on the other hand, are designed to comfortably support larger bra sizes with cups, both big and small. They come in a variety of styles, from underwire to soft cups, making it easy to find a sexy or fashionable design.

Plus-sized breasts need support Igor Alecsander / Getty Images

Explore different styles for different purposes

Sometimes, your breasts require a little more TLC beyond what your standard bra can provide. Invest in a quality sports bra for workouts. With low to high-impact designs and compression styles, you're sure to find the right combination of support and breathability. Sleeping bras, another option for large busts, are designed to keep breasts from falling uncomfortably to the sides at night. Nursing bras are convenient for breastfeeding mothers and easy to clean with removable pads. Unique designs are also available for post-mastectomy and surgical recovery.

Nursing bras are a lifesaver SolStock / Getty Images

Caring for your bras and intimates

A quality bra won't last forever, but it will maintain its shape and continue boosting your breasts for a while if you care for it properly. Hand washing is the best method for cleaning lingerie. Wash your bras every 4 to 5 wears to keep them fresh, and be sure to use a mild intimates detergent. Cleansers meant for wool blends will break down the elastics in the fabric. To clean your bras, separate them by color, and soak in a sink or basin filled with soapy water for up to one hour. Rinse and pat the bras with a clean towel, hanging them up to finish air-drying.

Hand wash your bras man_kukuku / Getty Images

Know when to let go of old bras

Your bra might be destined for the garbage if the band or straps are loose-fitting. You might also see tiny "hairs" poking through the fabric, which means the elastic is breaking down. The cups may not fit properly, or the shape is warped and noticeable through your clothing. Replace your bras every 6 to 9 months, depending on your bust size and how often you wear them. Everyday bras will wear out sooner, as will full-figured bras, so it may be a good idea to increase the number of undergarments in your rotation.

Replace bras every year. Mananya Kaewthawee / Getty Images

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