Your daughter is slouching over, wearing baggy shirts, and trying to hide her growing breasts, but she's only eight. Or, your 14-year-old, rail-thin daughter is begging you for a bra because she's the last one of her friends who doesn't have (or need) one. Whichever situation is yours, you are about to buy a first bra. It's an important occasion that's either welcomed with glorious shouts of joy, or mumbled sighs of embarrassment, or a quiet in between. In any case, the most important thing is to buy the right bra for the right girl. So what's the best way to approach this? Considering as many as 85% of women in the U.S. are wearing the wrong bra size for their breasts, maybe it's a good time to get a refresher course on how to measure for a bra.

  1. Take a tape measure and measure around the ribcage, just below the breasts. Make sure the tape is tight, but not too tight.
  2. Take that measurement and add 5 inches to get the chest size.
  3. Measure around the fullest part of the breast.
  4. Subtract the chest measurement from the breast measurement to get a cup size. If it measures less than an inch, the cup is an AA. If it's 1 inch, A. If it's 2 inches, B. If it's 3 inches, C. If it's 4 inches, D.

It's always necessary to have a try-on session with a first bra. To make this as great an outing as possible, go to the professionals. Although I'm a big fan of the Victoria's Secret fitters, it isn't a great idea to go there for a first bra. I know. Shocker. But department stores are good for this. JCPenney, Nordstrom, or Macy's are good first-fitting areas. They'll probably re-measure your daughter, but if she's uncomfortable, just tell them you've already measured her and you would just like to try on a few options. If your daughter doesn't really need a bra, but would like one because everyone else in the entire world wears a bra except her, there are some options you'll be able to find to assuage her. But encourage her to stay within her own size.

Extra Bra-Buying Tips

  • Look for bras that are comfortable. A lacy thing may be pretty, but if it scratches or pulls, explain it won't work.
  • Look for one with necessary support. If your daughter plays sports, or is very active, find a sports bra that will support her comfortably.
  • Skip the white bra. Go for a beige color if you don't want to hassle with bras showing through white shirts.
  • Go for an under wire style if your daughter is a C cup or larger. Also, look for thicker straps for larger chests. This is better for back support.

Keep the dialogue open. You want your daughter to feel comfortable coming to you when bras are getting tight or otherwise outgrown. If you make it a casual, fun thing, pretty soon, shopping at Nordstrom for bras will be a highlight of their week. (Just keep your eye on those sales.)

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