Fitting 101: Why Wire Shape Matters

Before I started wearing bras that truly fit, I had no idea what the concept of wire shapes really meant and why they were so important. I guess I just kind of figured that I could wear any kind of bra, no matter what it looked like. Well, besides the fact that I was wearing the wrong size, I was being kind of naive. Because the reality is that even in your correct size, not every bra will work for you. Now, this isn’t your fault, it’s just that the bra wasn’t made for you! There are a couple different reasons why even in the right size a bra won’t work for you. Basically it comes down to construction (style and cut of bra), and wire shape.

Today, I’ll be talking about why wire shape really matters, and how you can figure out if a bra will work for you before you even try it on.

Simply speaking, there are wide wires and narrow wires. But how will you know what you should be looking for for your body? Now, I’m not an artist – and I’m very very sorry – but here are some drawings I put together to kind of visualize what I am talking about here.

Narrow Boobs

narrow boobs

Yeah, I don’t think this would have helped me get into art school if I ever tried. The parallel lines represent the sides of the body.

What having narrow breasts means or can be recognized as:

  • You do not have a lot (or any) breast tissue on the sides of your body
  • Your breasts are deeper than they are wide – we’ll go into more of this later
  • If you’ve had bras in the past with wires that come further onto your sides, the sides of the cups gape….because you have narrow boobs 🙂
  • Your breasts are centered on the front of your chest
  • This is most typical with smaller breasts, though it does not exclude full bust women.
  • For narrow breasts, you’ll need a narrow “U” shape wire, with deep as opposed to shallow/wide cups

Wide Boobs 

wide boobs

Same deal. See how the boobs extend past the sides of the body???

What having wide boobs means or can be recognized as:

  • If you have wide boobs, your breast tissue extends past the front of your body, onto your sides (the underarm area).
  • This occurs naturally, and can occur as a result of migrated tissue from wearing the wrong size.
  • This is more common with larger breasts, though not a rule
  • Wide set boobs often needed shallower and wider cups than their narrow set sisters (but this does not mean that you can’t be wide and need a lot of depth in your cups…….again….fitting is so tricky and there are so many aspects to it!).
  • For wide boobs, you’ll do best with a wide “U” shape wire

So….why is this important? Well, as we talked about in the first post of this series, having wires that completely encase your breast tissue is really important for getting a great fit from your bras. Some common problems….

If you have wide boobs and are wearing a bra with narrow wires:

  • You may experience poking because the wires are still landing on breast tissue – they aren’t wide enough, after all
  • The wires may shift around on your body throughout the day because they aren’t the right shape for you, causing chafing and discomfort
  • You may have side breast tissue that cannot be pulled into the cups, enabling migration of tissue
  • Your cups may be too deep, leaving some gaping in the cups. This can also lead you to believe that you are in the wrong size, even though you’re not.

If you have narrow boobs and are wearing a bra with wide wires:

  • The cups may be too shallow, causing you to pop out of the bra, even though it is the right size for you (just the wrong style)
  • The wires extend too far onto your sides, causing discomfort and gaping in the sides of the cups
  • The strap placement may be too wide for your body, causing rubbing against your arm where the strap and cups meet
  • You’re not getting as great a lift as you would with narrower wires
  • The cups will spread your breast tissue out, making you look wider than you really are 🙂

Now, in some instances, you can overcome some of these issues by sizing up or sizing down…..Say you really love a bra and you want to make it work. Sometimes, you can play around with sister sizing or even just changing your cup size and you can make it work. Sometimes, the reality is that the bra really just won’t work for you.

There are some generalizations that exist in the bra blogosphere about what kind of wires certain brands have. Curvy Kate has relatively wide wires, while Ewa Michalak has narrow wires. While a lot of this is true, there is still quite a bit of variation that happens within brands. So, my next step is to show you how to spot wire shape of a bra before you even try it on. I’ll mainly do this with more rudimentary drawings. Sorry 😛

Examples of Narrow Wires (wires with a distinct, narrow, “U” shape): 

EM Toffik narrow

Ewa Michalak – Toffik

panache sienna narrow

Panache Sienna

Examples of Wide Wires (wires with a flatter, wider, “U” shape):

elomi valentina wide

Elomi Valentina (SS’13)

Freya Gem

Freya Gem

Panache Andorra

Panache Andorra

For example, I myself have tried all of these brands (I’ve yet to try the Gem….soon my love…) and can speak to the following. 

  • I have wide set breasts with a lot of migrated tissue
  • My EM bras, no matter what size, have too narrow wires and I always have side boob that cannot be pulled into the cups
  • The Panache Sienna is a demon on me. It hurts because the wires are too narrow, and the cups are constructed in such a way that changing cup size does nothing for me.
  • Elomi bra wires fit me like a glove. Whenever I put an Elomi bra on, the wires feel like I’m coming home
  • The Gem looks like heaven and I want it.
  • The Andorra is a lovely thing because it has a good wire shape for me, and is super supportive and sexy.

For those of us that are full busted, or wear a hard to find size, online shopping is our go-to for purchasing new bras. If you’re able to recognize wire shape simply by looking at a photo online, you can save yourself a lot of heartache before even buying a bra. Remember, narrow wires will have a distinct “U” shape, and wider wires will have a flatter, wider “U” shape. Also, keep in mind that a lot of bras with wider wires are often marketed as having “side support” or “side slings” to pull more side tissue forward and center it on your chest.

Next in the series: Bra styles and shapes

10 thoughts on “Fitting 101: Why Wire Shape Matters

  1. Great post! Also, I’d like to add that the height of the wires play a significant role in how the wire fits.

    Panache usually has wide and high wires, which easily means that the poke at the armpit on women with shorter torsos. Elomi also has wide wires, but they aren’t cut very high at the armpit which means that they work well on many shorter ladies.

    On the other hand, the higher wire (at the armpit) contains all sideboob better. I also had trouble with EM wires being too narrow for me, but in bigger cups they are perfect. This of course resulted in loosing some of the cleavage and getting a bit of gaping, but I’ve felt that’s the best solution for me. But just like you, Elomis are the ones I feel the most comfortable in! I believe that has something to do with them being designed for plus size bodies.

    • Those are definitely important points to include! I think that I will include the notes about wire height in my final post of the series “Troubleshooting/Q&A”. There’s just so much information!!!

  2. Love it! I feel like this is sort Bra Fitting 301: Advanced. It’s taken me FOREVER not only to figure out the shape and placement of my boobs, but also to have tried enough brands and styles to figure out which ones work for me. It’s a big time/money investment! Your illustrations do help clear things up 🙂

    • I would agree that it’s a bit advanced, but at the same time wire shape is just as important for fit as band and cup size are. As you mentioned, it takes a lot of time and money when you’re just kind of shooting in the dark, so to speak. So, I aim to help the process 🙂

      I’m still figuring out my breast shape. I think I am full all around but because of weight loss, I’m very pendulous :-/

  3. Great post. I made the same experience. All Freya bras are not fitting on me, there wires are too short and too narrow. Otherwise Panache’s and Cleo’s bras with there wide wires and platy cups are fitting ideal.

  4. I think another consideration in wire width is probably the shape of your rib cage. I have a more rounded rib cage vs a more oval, so my breasts look very wide on my figure when they’re probably about medium width (this is probably also why I don’t look nearly as full-busted as I am when clothed). I also have high-set breasts so I just can’t wear Panache at all generally. The Andorra is a nice bra and looks fantastic on me, but it murders me with the sky-high wires. Fantasie and Freya are awesome on me.

    I have a Cleo Bonnie that I can’t wear at all because it is completely the wrong shape. The cups are too far apart, and the band is so stretchy it’s a little too big (and especially so now that I’ve lost some weight and the first place it goes for me is my bra band!). I lift my arms and the wire lifts off my chest on the outside; it’s clearly made for somebody with a more oval ribcage even though the width of the cups themselves is lovely.

  5. I consider Andorra to be a narrow wire, and Sienna to be somewhat wide! In the same size (34H), the Sienna is wider and shallower than the Andorra. Andorra is a perfect fit for me, Sienna is too small because of the shallowness, but if I went up another size, or lost some weight, it would be too wide. It may be different in larger sizes, but in 34H and in 34GG (I have both) Andorra is imo narrow. The only bra I have that is more narrow is the Cleo Sasha.

    I think also there is some conflation in this post WRT “narrow breasts” vs “close set breasts”. The terms are being used interchangeably when they aren’t the same. YOU can have narrow breasts that are far apart, or wide breasts that are close-set. I have breasts that are narrow and deep, but they are quite large and close set, so they cover my torso from armpit to armpit. Whereas small breasts are actually more likely to be shallow and set far apart.

    • I truly wish that Stacy had a blog or something. Her fit issues sound like they mirror my own. I’m barrel chested, with high set boobs, and short to boot! And I’m struggling to find bras that I like…

  6. I think ribcage width plays a large part, especially in proportion to your body size.

    I have symptoms (funny to put it that way, but seems applicable) of both wide and narrow breasts…and ultimately I think it’s because of my exceedingly wide ribcage.

    For me wire height and cut around the armpit/pectoral area is a huge issue.

  7. Pingback: What’s the deal with bra sizes anyway? | A Sophisticated Pair

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