Teenage bras – When is the right time to start wearing a bra?

Mums and Dads come with their young daughters to Bra Sense for a first bra fit. The daughters are usually embarrassed and uncomfortable about their first bra fit. So, we’ve put together some helpful hints and tips about first bras.

What to Consider

Some girls want to wear a bra, others may find the subject embarrassing and want to avoid it for as long as possible. Peer group pressure can often play a part, too. Every girl is going to differ as growth and development is unique to each person.

The first thing to consider when looking at whether it’s the right time for your daughter to start wearing a bra is your daughter’s own feelings towards it. Often, mums who want to do the best for their daughters start introducing the subject of wearing a bra earlier than is necessary or desirable. For dads, the subject can be even more difficult.

The Cropped Top

As an introduction into bra-wearing, it is advisable to go for a cropped-top-style bra at the very beginning. Under clothing they look like vests or cropped tops and are not obvious. These are available throughout the high street and provide a good first solution. They will also help your daughter to become accustomed to wearing something on this part of her body. Cropped-top-style bras provide modesty and enough support in the early stages of development, without emphasising the bust.

The starter bra

As your daughter’s bust size increases and you both feel it is necessary for your her to move on, you will find there is a good variety of starter bras or teenage bras available.

Teenage bras differ from adult bras. Although they may have the same band size and cup size, the design will be slightly smaller. Generally: reflecting that the bra will be being matched not only to the bra size but also to the height and build of teenagers – which will be different to an adult.

Most large brands and retailers offer starter bras. The Naturana range offers well-priced bras that extend into designs for the physically bigger-built teenager.

How to measure for a bra

There are two measurements that are traditionally used:

  1. The band or under-bust measurement (Picture A), for example 30 inches, will convert to a bra size 32.
  2. The around-bust measurement (around the fullest part of the bust – Picture B) will be greater than the band measurement. How much greater will convert to the cup size.

For example, if the under-bust measurement is 30, giving a bra size of 32 – and the around-bust measurement is 32 – then this will convert to an A cup size: in other words, a bra size of 32A.

Were the around-bust measurement to be 34, the bra size would become 32C. The under-bust or band measurement is around the back and under the arms and meeting at the front, directly below the bust.

The around-bust or cup measurement is the same, but higher up on the back and around the fullest part of the bust.

Getting the right fit

It is important when your daughter is fitted for her first bra to make sure that the band is level all the way round. This is what actually lifts and supports the bust – not the shoulder straps. Sit the bra at the front of the body, directly beneath the bust and follow the line of the bra round to the back. The bra will, in fact, sit in the two narrowest parts of the body so will not move once it is in place.

It is worth the effort to ensure that the band is level all round in a line directly beneath where the bust starts to protrude from the body. If the band size is too large, the bra will ride up at the back, causing the bra to fall forwards at the front. This causes women to mistakenly lift the bra and bust by shortening the shoulder straps. The effect is to cause the woman’s posture to change by dropping the shoulders in line with the bra – which is unsightly and uncomfortable, as well as unhealthy.

The band size is usually approximately two inches greater than the underband measurement, for an average bra with average stretch in the band.

Ideally, the bra should be clasped on the middle set of hooks. This allows for stretch of the bra as well as your daugther’s growth. To check it is right, it should be possible to run your forefinger underneath the band all the way around, suggesting a close supporting fit that is not too tight or too loose, confirming that the band size is correct.

The cup needs to cover the breast form, enclosing all the bust.

Which style of bra?

 Wire-free or soft cup

For starter bras, it is recommended to choose wire-free (sometimes known as soft cup), rather than underwired bras, which use a U-shaped wire, sewn into the bra cup.

When the bust is starting to develop, the body is growing, the rib cage is developing and a wire-free bra avoids the issues of underwires digging in or chafing.

This Missy First Bra by Royce, available from Bra Sense, is ideal.


For larger teenagers who find teenage bras too small, a sports bra is a recommended option. These are again wire-free, discreet and reasonably priced. They look very similar to cropped tops.

Also worth considering are tops or vests that have a shelf-bra built in.


As teenagers develop, they will inevitably want to wear underwired bras. Underwired bras offer shape, support and the majority of fashion bras out there are underwired.

When selecting an underwired bra, it is important to check the fit of the underwire. The underwire should fit around the breast form.

The shape of the underwire differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. This is why one 32C isn’t the same as another 32C in underwired bras. Check the underwire is fitting properly around the breast form at the sides and front. This is the golden rule when wearing underwired bras and where confusion over sizing stems from.

It is strongly recommended that girls avoid underwired bras at the outset. It is important to wait until the bust has started to develop and the outline of where the bust is really forming can be seen. The emphasis is on waiting for the breast form to show itself fully, which will indicate where the underwire should sit.

Why are so many women wearing the wrong bra size?

Bra fitters frequently find that many women don’t actually know how a bra should fit them – and this is something that stems from their teenage years. Teenage girls ascertain their size, and tend to increase it by a cup size as they get older. The most common fitting error is to select too large a band size and too small a cup size, for example, a 34B rather than a 32C.

There is no such thing as “your bra size” as it will change from brand to brand. Shape is always the key!

For more information about our fitting service, please email sara@brasense.co.uk

Bra Sense offer a personal Bra Fit service at locations across the UK. Please email for further information.

Article by Sara O’Regan Director of Bra Sense Ltd – www.brasense.co.uk



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