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Swimsuit Top Fit

Did you know that your breast shape can affect the type of bras that will fit you?  It's a lot like dressing for your body shape. Some silhouettes don't fit on certain body shapes, and in this case, some breast shapes fit into certain bras.  By knowing this little secret will help save you a lot of time when you go bra shopping and you'll be able to find that perfect fitting bra without wanting to pull your hair out.

Your breast shape is determined by a lot of factors: genetics, race, nursing, gaining and losing weight, hormones, age, and gravity.  Because of all of these factors there's a lot of breast shapes because every woman is shaped so differently.  

Now, the exciting part, you're going to figure out what breast shape you have!  Don't worry, it's not rocket science and it's really easy.

First, you're going to take off your shirt, your bra, and stand in front of the mirror and take a good look at your beautiful self.  You'll want to take note of the shape of your breasts from the side.  After you take a mental note, draw it on a piece of paper, or you could take a picture of yourself (make sure you delete this picture if you don't want your kids, friends, or neighbors seeing this).  Then go to the illustration above and identify your breast shape.

You might find you have a combination of two different breast shapes and that's ok!

I'm going to identify each breast shape, issues associated when it comes to fitting bras, and my favorite bras I recommend for each shape.


  1. The Standard Breast Shape

This shape is the easiest to fit because the fatty tissue is equally distributed in the breast.  There are really no known issues with this shape.  You could wear a molded, seamed, balconette, minimizer, demi, or full coverage bra.  Most bras will fit this shape without any problem. 


  1. Swooping Breast Shape

This shape of breast is fuller at the bottom and the nipple points upward.  This shape is very common in women who have nursed and loss volume up at the top of the breast, lost weight, or you were just born this way.  

The most common problems associated with this breast shape is a lot of bras will gap at the top of the cup due to this loss in breast tissue mass.  For this breast shape, I recommend bras that have a demi cup (not full coverage).

One thing to be cautious about demi cut bras is that you don't want the dreaded double boob. It's where the cup digs into the top portion of the breast, therefore you can see your breast bubbling out of your bra underneath your shirt, and you can see a distinct bra line across your breast underneath your shirt. 

  1. Sagging Breast

Sagging breasts can be defined as the breasts that point downward.  This can be caused by several factors including: gravity, genetics, age, not wearing a supportive bra, menopause, and the amount of fat tissue in them.

I find most women who have this particular breast shape are older, who have had children, nursed, lost weight, and have been through menopause.      

By not wearing a correct fitting bra, the tissues that hold the breast up, will start to stretch, break, and lose their elasticity.  The only way to remedy this is to start wearing a correct bra.  It won't fix the sagging but will prevent future stretching to occur. That's why it's important to wear bras that fit and support. 

For sagging breasts, I recommend soft cup bras that have underwires so you can get the girls fully supported and covered.

There are some differences in soft cup bras.  There's bras that have seams sewn in the cups and there's seamless cups.  Both are fine, but there's some major differences.  

Soft cup bras that have seams in the cups will shape and minimize the breasts a lot better than the seamless soft cup bras.  Some women will not like the seamed cups because you tend to see them underneath thin shirts so that's why some women prefer the seamless cup bras.  

When you have sagging breasts it's a lot easier to fit and to fill out a soft cup bra.  

Molded cup bras are shaped a certain way, and if your breast aren't shaped that way, they're not going to fit correctly.   

  1. Large Breasts

Large breasts have higher volume of fatty tissue in them.   Women who have a cup size of G+ will have this shape.  Make sure you pay close attention to the gore or middle part of the bra, and make sure the bra is separating your breasts, that the underwire is completely covering your side boobs, and that the band is snug and lying low in the back.

  1. Small Breasts

Some call it a curse and some call it a blessing.  Having small breasts means you don't have much volume of fat tissue in the breasts.  Most women who have small breast sizes can range in size from AAA-C.  I find most women who have small breasts are more petite, but you'd be surprised by how many larger women have smaller breasts too.  

The problem when it comes to fitting a small breasted gal is you find bras will gap at the top and feel big all around.  I try to go for bras that are made for petite women.  

There are two types of bras I recommend for small breasts; push up and padded bras.  There's a difference between these two bras. 

A push up style bra is only padded at the bottom of the bra and will create more cleavage by pushing the breasts up and together.  A padded bra is just that, it's more evenly padded throughout the cup to give you a fuller cup.


  1. Constricted or Tubular and Snoopy Breasts

I'm combining these two breast shapes because they're fit is very similar, even though they're slightly different in shape.  

Both of these breast shapes look kind of like torpedoes or pointy pyramids and are fuller on bottom then they are at the top.  

The most common problems associated with this breast shape is a lot of bras will gap at the top of the cup due loss in breast tissue mass.  When it comes to fitting is a lot like the swooping breast shape.   The main problem you'll have with finding a bra that fits is having the top of the cup gap.  I recommend a demi or not as full coverage bra to remedy this problem.


  1. Pigeon Breasts

When most of the breast tissue is stretched, and elasticity is gone, therefore leaving you with breasts that feel flattened.  t feels like a bag of skin.  Most women with this breast shape are older and have gone through menopause.

Some common fitting problems you'll run into is being misled that because you don't have that much breast volume, that you're a small cup size. You'd be surprised by how much volume the breast has.  Just make sure you're not coming out at the top of your bra, and the underwire is completely covering you on the side of your breasts.

For this breast shape, I recommend a underwire soft cup bra due to the lack in shape with these breasts.  You could go with a seam or seamless cup.


Breast Separation

Breast separation between women’s breasts really does vary widely. This is the horizontal distance between your two breasts at the center of your chest. Depending on how much or how little distance you have between your two breasts can determine whether or not you will achieve touching cleavage (that vertical fold line created when breasts touch), how a bra will fit you, and if and underwire bra will be comfortable.

You have one of the following 5 types of breast separation, and all 5 types are a common occurrence.


Touching Breasts

Touching breast separation (also known as “kissing breasts”) is where your two breasts are touching or almost touching when you are standing sans a bra. If your breast are such, you have probably figured out that a bra’s center panel (also called the center gore and center bridge) will have fit issues and probably not rest against your sternum. And the underwires of a traditional underwire bra will probably tilt outward and away from your body at your sternum because again, there is no space available for them to rest against your sternum. There is also a rare condition called “Symmastia” where the breast tissue between the two breasts is connected See the Additional Considerations section. This breast separation is not common and presents bra fit issues as well. 


Bra Suggestions:

Be very aware of the center design of your bra – the optimal center panel for you will be low cut or almost nothing.

Underwire bras where the underwires barely come up and into your center chest/sternum area – if at all – will fit you best.

IF you are larger than a DD cup size, bras with seams in the cups will give you your best shaping and support.

Look for plunge bras if you want to show off your kissing cleavage. These bra styles tend to have very low center panels – if any.

Bras without wires (called "soft cup" bras) will be a comfortable choice, but the center panel will probably not rest on your sternum. Soft cup bras larger than a D cup also have a tendency to compromise your shape and support.

A halter style bra can be a good choice because the design tends to push breasts together towards the center anyway.

Avoid bras with a significant center panel between the cups. This panel will not rest against your sternum.


Separated Breasts

Separated breasts are the most common form of breast separation. This is where the two breasts, at rest, are not touching one another – generally the breast distance will be 1 to 2 finger’s widths apart.


Bra Suggestions:

Every style of bra will work with this basic breast separation. In the lingerie industry, this is considered the typical breast separation and thus most bras are designed to fit this separation type.

B cup sizes and larger with this type of breast separation can achieve a vertical cleavage line.


Splayed Breasts

Splayed breast separation is where the breasts are separated, but the separation splays outwards creating a triangle shape between the breasts. So, your bra’s center panel (also called center bridge or center gore) needs to be chosen carefully. If the bridge is not shaped like a triangle, the bottom of the bridge will not be wide enough, and this could cause your underwires between your breasts to tip outward and away from your sternum. Women who are splayed and have large breasts can find their breasts extending past their sides and getting in the way of arm movement.


Bra Suggestions:

Bras with a wide-based triangle shape center panel will fit you best.

Balconette and demi bras have shorter wires and therefore can be a comfortable bra style solution, but look for ones with seamed cups.

Bras where the center is made with cording, or has center underwires that barely come up between the breasts, like a plunge bra, can work for you.

Splayed breasts DD cup size and larger should consider bras with tall side seams (3” or taller) and cups with side support panels or side slings along the outer sides of the cups to help get your breasts more front and center.

If you are experiencing rubbing or chafing by your bra on the outside edge of your breasts near the underarm, it’s probably because all your breast tissue is not getting inside your bra cups. This can be corrected by leaning forward and moving your breast tissue fully into the cups with your hands. If this tissue doesn’t all fit in your cups, this is a sign that you need a larger cup size.


Wide-set Breasts

Wide-set breasts are separated breasts but are further apart - generally 3 or more finger’s widths apart at the sternum. Because of this distance, the ability to create touching cleavage is almost impossible. Underwires can be uncomfortable if you are widely separated, and can cause discomfort in the underarm area if the underwires are not encircling all your breast tissue. Leaning forward and pushing the under arm breast tissue inside the cups can help. Manipulating the underwire circumference shape and angle can make an underwire bra feel more comfortable.


Bra Suggestions:

Look at a bra’s center panel and select those bras where this center panel is wider than others.

Push-up bras that push up from the bottom and in from the sides will be the ones to give you better cleavage.

Bras without underwires (called ‘soft cup’ bras) will be comfortable if you have constant issues with your underwires poking.

Bras with a triangle-shaped cup will fit, as will plunge bras.

Bras with side panels built in the cups will give women who are D cup size and larger more forward projection, plus relocate the under-arm breast tissue more towards the center thus giving easier arm movement.

Front closure bras, because of their center clasp, tend to have wider-set cups. So, they can be a good choice up to DD cup sizing.


Wide-set/Splayed Breasts

Wide-set/splayed breasts are a combination where your breasts are both wide-set and splayed – there are 3 or more finger-widths between your breasts, and the breasts splay outwards creating a wide triangle-shape between the breasts. The center panel of you bra is again, key. It needs to be triangle in shape, or barely have a center panel at all. If your breasts are large, you can find them in conflict with the movement of your arms. Underwires could be uncomfortable under your arms as well. It is very unlikely that wide-set/splayed breasts of any size will be able to create a vertical cleavage line.


Nipple placement

Bra Suggestions:

Bras with a wide triangle-shaped center panel will work best.

Bras with side support panels in their cup design will help push your breasts out from under your arms and in from the sides to give you a better forward shape.

Front closure bras are a good choice because the center clasp tends to cause wider set cups. This bra style is a good choice up to DD cup sizes.

Bras with seams in the cups (and a wider center panel) will give you a more rounded and youthful breast shape.

Soft cup bras (bras without underwires) will be a more forgiving fit, but you will not get great shape and definition.

Center panels made of cording and plunge bras will probably fit you better. But, look for the widest center panel you can find.

Push-up bras that both push you up from the bottom and in from the sides will be your best choice for creating any possible kissing cleavage.


Small Chest: Finding a suit that flatters your bust can be a challenge. The best bet for a gal with a smaller chest is to go for a top with embellishments or ruffles to give the illusion of a larger chest. Alternatively, a suit with padding can help to give you a little somethin’ somethin’ extra.


HUGE Chest: For the girls with big girls, string bikinis are not your friend, nor are bathing suit tops that come in size S, M and L. Cup sizes and underwire will offer you the support you need so your boobs won’t be all over the place when you take a dip. Also look for thicker bathing suit straps and double-stitched bands for the most flattering results.


Broad Shoulders: There are a few things you can do to balance out your body when you’ve got a set of broad shoulders. First, opt for a solid colored suit with printed panels along the side. This will help create the look of an hourglass figure, thus evening out a boxy upper body. You can also rock an asymmetrical neckline, which will draw the eye up and away, instead of straight across.


Back Fat: The last thing you want is a suit with thin straps that will dig into your skin and make those dreaded flesh folds even more pronounced. So, reach for designs with thicker straps and high backs to smooth any lumps and bumps.

To find the most flattering style, you'd do best to examine your bust and try the cuts likely to work best with what you've got. Ever since we found out that with breasts, it's about shape, not just size, it's been apparent that the key lies with your ladies.


For Ladies With a Large Chest

Generally, the best fit is... The extra support that comes with an underwire style makes it the wisest pick and turns drooping into a nonissue. "They should be sized by your cup size, which is how most women buy a bra. The actual underwire keeps you in place and the foam pad gives you shape," explained Amy Romanowsky, head of technical swim design at J.Crew.

Certain straps will be more supportive than others.

look for straps that cross in the back. They keep the pressure off your neck and allow for a little less coverage in front," Romanowsky advised women who might not like the full-coverage look that underwire styles can give. "Halters are great because it lifts you, but the common complaint is that the ties at the neck start to hurt after a while."


"What other styles can I wear with my large bust?"

"You can definitely make other styles work!" Bikyni founder Jude Al-Khalil told us. "Our bandeau has removable pads and neck ties, so you can add support as you want. Look for styles with side boning that keeps things in place." Rather than a tube style, shop for one with a thick tie in the back so you can tie as tightly as you feel comfortable in. Plenty of styles, including the below J.Crew option, have built-in underwire so you'll be supported, even sans straps.


For Ladies With a Small Chest

Generally, the best fit is... You're fortunate enough to have your choice of tops, though Romanowsky and Al-Khalil both say the French bikini top is a particular favorite since it makes for a clean, simple line and opens up the neckline. Says Red Carter, designer of the eponymous swim label, "I prefer a padded triangle top for small busts. The less fabric, the better for enhancing the curves."

Stellar tricks for faking size but not cleavage

Severely padded tops or push-ups can read as too synthetic. To add size to your bustline without pinup cleavage, look for tops that have something extra going on. Think ruffles, tiered fabric, cleavage, or 3-D florals that all add volume in a playful, trendy way.

"What about an underwire style for me?"

"Even though we think of it as a more supportive style for bigger busts, it can work for small-breasted women as well. Look for one with soft cups that will conform to your body—they'll actually give you a little boost," Al-Khalil said.

What Breasts Look Best in a String Bikini?

"Women who have firm small to midsize breasts will look best in a triangle top given the nature of it being less supportive," Al-Khalil said.


And About Everything Cleavage...

The best bet for a sexy look is the flattering molded-cup halter. "The cup shape is complementary to all, and the adjustable neck straps let you add the lift that you want," Al-Khalil said. Unlike string bikinis where the triangles are able to shift around, this retro-inspired shape has its cups in place...exactly where the designer intended them. "There's a small gap between them that creates a super-flattering look," adds Al-Khalil.


Another little touch to keep in mind is the construction of the cups themselves. Often you'll find seamed darts, but Al-Khalil suggests a ruched style instead for a prettier look. "Darts take away the integrity of the look."


J.Crew's Romanowsky echoed the note about looking for "great side coverage." It's the area that might be the unsung hero of cleavage and is worth searching for in a suit. An underwire that ends abruptly at the side of your torso, rather than curving up toward the armpit, will keep breasts up but not together, a key placement for sexy curves.


Women’s breasts come in diverse forms and proportions. Beyond cup size, various physical features including placement, shape, width, and length affect your bust’s appearance. Identifying your unique bust type will help you choose the most appropriate plus-size swimwear styles for the best fits and looks.

Make Sure It Fits

"Fit tip number one is adjustability. Always look for adjustable straps, no matter what shape the suit is. Adjustability around the bra and extension of the straps is what helps provide versatility to get a proper fit," Carter said.

When trying on different options, make sure you're somewhere with a mirror that allows you to see how things look from behind. "Make sure the back is straight across your body, and that it doesn't pull up toward your neck," Romanowsky instructed.

Other Breast Conundrums

"What about boobs that sit far apart?" Go with a halter that has extended coverage on the side. The extra fabric will help to push your breasts toward the center of your chest, as does the classic neckline. "The ties help pull your ladies in and up!" Carter likes underwire since it "supports and brings things together."

"I'm just planning on lying with a book all day. What style of top will be most flattering while horizontal?"

"Any top with pads. They're constructed to give you shape and definitely still do the job when lying down," Romanowsky said. Carter was practical about tan lines too, suggesting an underwire with removable straps. "It'll keep all of your assets front and center, not in your armpits when lying down."

"What's that you said about different shaped breasts?"

Like we said, breasts come in different sizes, not just shapes. "It definitely affects the shape that's best for swimwear. For instance, a triangle top doesn't do teardrop shapes justice," Carter told us. "Don't be afraid to head to a specialty store and ask the staff for suggestions." Large swim retailers will have the selection and expertise to help, and many lingerie and bra shops also stock swimsuits when we get into spring and summer.


Women’s breasts come in diverse forms and proportions. Beyond cup size, various physical features including placement, shape, width, and length affect your bust’s appearance. Identifying your unique bust type will help you choose the most appropriate plus-size swimwear styles for the best fits and looks.

Factors contributing to your chest style may involve:

Genetics: Because genes influence hormones levels, they affect breast characteristics including tissue, density, size, skin, and appearance.

Age: Fibrous structures supporting young breast tissue may weaken over time. Eventually, breast tissue needs added support against gravity. Declining tissue strength makes them sag and droop.

Weight: Depending on tissue density, all breast sizes can enlarge and decrease along with overall body proportions as weight changes.

Breastfeeding: Bosoms that swell during pregnancy and nursing may deflate after weaning. Possible culprits are fluctuating hormones and skin stretched over engorged mammaries that doesn’t contract fully to prior firmness.

East/West Divide
Breasts that point outward and gravitate away from your chest’s center establish an east/west gap. This Becca Etc. tankini with stretch foam cups will smooth over your shape while tying the angled halter straps around your neck will draw in your bust.

Side Set
Fuller busts than the above east/west style that spread outward from your spinal column produce a wide side-set separation. Choose plunging necklines like this Cole of California low-cut cross-strap tankini to hoist up and push in your bust.

Despite a typical breast base at the chest wall, this type is more cone-shaped than round. The conical category may not fill out cup side portions, so they appear too big. This occurs most often in smaller A-C cup sizes. A bandeau bra swimsuit like this one from La Blanca will compress pointed breast tissue for a more natural curve. Push-up styles that lift underneath and press breasts inward from the outer sides will provide fuller looks and cleavage. Avoid unstructured swim tops without shaping.

Bell Shape
Thinner upper breasts round out to fuller curved bottoms in bell shapes. They also have more length than width. This Anne Cole twist-front tankini with cups offers supportive lift while cradling. Skip balconette styles that might allow too much excess to spill out and over your top.

This style resembles the previous bells while being the smaller version. Slimmer above than below, slender busts also have less width than length. Relatively small cups are typical. Slip push-up pads into this halter with plunging neckline from Night and Day to boost your size with lift.

Reduced Projection
Although a standard cup size accommodates your breast base’s circumference, you don’t have enough volume to fill it fully. That reduced projection can cause swim tops to pucker or wrinkle. Choose the correct cup for your under-bust crease. Instead of rigid materials, select flexible fabric like this stretchy halter bandeaukini from Anne Cole to mold smoothly around your curves. Or try bra inserts to spread your breast tissue into empty spaces.

Nearly all women’s breasts vary somewhat in form or shape. But when one is noticeably bigger and the other much smaller, you have asymmetric breasts. Health-related causes include injuries or illnesses during breast development and menopausal hormonal changes that cause uneven expansion. A mismatched set will benefit from a patterned tankini with tiered ruffles, like this one from Kenneth Cole Reaction, to disguise the difference. Or insert a silhouette enhancer to boost just the underdeveloped side for a matching appearance.

Most Versatile Forms
Round: Equally full breast tissue from top to bottom and side to side are round. Luckily for you, designers create the most styles for this coveted form. Since nature or breast implants blessed you with this ideal shape, most swimsuits will fit you perfectly. Cups, structuring, support, and padding aren’t necessary. So you can go for a variety of thin, unlined swimwear styles that offer light coverage.

Teardrops: These rounded mounds are slightly fuller underneath than higher up your chest. Another classic category, teardrops give you ample freedom to select from many popular styles. Full-coverage maillots and supportive swimsuits with wide, comfortable straps will flatter these bottom-heavy breasts.


Teeny tiny ta-tas

Read it and weep, large-chested compadres. Peffer says that teeny boobs are the easiest to manage in a bikini. "Skip the padding," she says, "Own your frame and opt for a deep-v bandeau."


A handful of honkers

h, the desirable hand-sized breasts. Play up your assets by wearing a demi-cup for va-voom, suggests Peffer. In case you're unfamiliar with the demi, it's like a half-bra that makes your girls look like they're resting effortlessly on a shelf.


Boobs with ample nipple

Blessed with a pair of ostentatious areolas? You're not alone. "The main thing to think about here is fabric," Peffer says. "Get creative with terry cloths and other thicker materials to camouflage unwanted texture."


Busty bosoms

may envy you and your large boobs, but you know they're not easy to manage during bathing suit season. "An underwire top will help contain those bad boys and look very old Hollywood glam," she explains. Go with a retro style so you won't look like you're wearing a bra to the beach.


Wide-set twins

l like your breasts are so far apart that they're growing out of your armpits, you can bring them front and center with the right bikini top. "Look for tops with adjustable straps at the shoulder and back," Peffer says. "They should slide along the string so you can push the girls closer together as you tie."


The compact rack

Are your boobs a little too front and center? Peffer suggests you cover up any dimensions that you feel self-conscious about with a trendy ruffle top. "It's such a pretty and feminine style, and not many people can pull it off," she says.


Post-surgery casabas

've recently taken the dive into a boob job, show off those expensive assets! "Triangle tops are the safest and most common here, but I say try a Baywatch-style onesie and live the dream for all of us!"


Asymmetrical melons

re are an astronomical number of women with asymmetrical breasts, but no one is talking about it," says Peffer. She suggests you find a ruched style, which usually include a super thin foam insert hidden in the bra top. "You can keep the insert in the side that is smaller and remove the other to balance out the look."


Slightly saggy smosabs

happen to all of us sooner or later. "It's all about the halter top," Peffer says. "Lift and tie them into place. Voila!"


New mama mamms

You are a new mom, you know that it's hard to adjust to your new size — and leakage risks. Peffer says that your safest bet is something in a dark color and with a draped neckline. You can also avoid a tankini if you go with bottoms that are high-waisted.


Pointy yabos

you always look — er — at attention? "Wait, is that a bad thing?" asked Peffer. If you happen to think it is, she says to go for a triangle top with a little padding.


Family-friendly boob

Try out an avant-garde cut if you're hoping to avoid a little extra smush from the side- or under-boob. "Go for a full-coverage asymmetrical top," says Peffer. "They're fashion-forward and demure."


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