When it comes to figuring out why your bra doesn’t fit or feel as good on your body as you want it to…the list of possible problems appears endless. One common complaint is a crawling or shifting band, and when this happens, women are almost always given the advice “Your band is too big, and your cups are too small!”.
Well, there’s at least one reason a band may shift, and sizing down will not fix the problem.
This post explores an area I rarely see mentioned related to band fit – flared rib cages or rib anomalies. For illustrative purposes I’m using myself and other bra bloggers as examples of ribcages in many different shapes and sizes – and how sometimes shape can cause fit issues.
Obviously, not all band issues are caused by ribcage flares or anomalies; however, for those of us who have them ribcage flares can have considerable impact on how our bras fit and how we perceive our body and breasts.
First, anecdotally speaking, I think rib flares are quite common. Some of the most revered and beautiful women in the world have sported various flared rib shapes.
If you can’t see the Pinterest gallery below, click here.
Follow WideCurves’s board Flared Ribcage Beauties on Pinterest.
Throughout my life I’ve viewed my ribcage flare as something temporary, a strange roll of fat to be dieted away or toned, or chosen to ignore it’s existence.
My ribs flare almost the entire circumference of my ribcage – including my back. This has caused a great deal of confusion about which band size I should wear and why, when my band can’t possibly get any tighter without cutting off air supply, the band still rides up throughout the day.
You’ll notice in the images below, that my flare disrupts the smooth profile of my waist and ribcage. Not only do I have a “bump”, I also have what appears as an indentation above the flare. Given the location of the bump and indentation, I obviously have bra band fit issues.
After a year of trying on various bras, I finally came to these not-so-simple conclusions:
- I have a rib flare around most of my ribcage, where approximately 1/3 of my band should sit. No, it isn’t fat (though it is well padded at times).
- The effect of my flare is exacerbated by being high set and very short waisted. I simply do not have much area for my band to sit on. Bands and wires are sandwiched between my flare and my armpits… and this can be painful.
- Depending on band height and construction, bras fit mostly above or partially on top of my flare.
- I fluctuate between a 36 and 38 band dependent upon band height and position on my ribcage.
- I must choose the band size that will accommodate the largest part of my ribcage (so I can breathe), which exacerbates fit issues I may encounter with cups, gore, and straps.
- Bra bands always seek the smallest space.
- My bands will always roll up or shift up throughout the day because my flare pushes the band upwards. I can alter my bands to equalize band tension to reduce this effect; however, rolling and shifting will still happen to some degree.
- Sizing down in band will not prevent my band from shifting, it will only restrict my breathing and cause pain.
My under bust measures ~ 35 1/3″. Bra design determines how much of a band sits on my rib flare, which measures ~36″. This has caused a great deal of band length confusion – do I need 36 or 38 band? The answer is “It depends.”
I alternate between band lengths based not only on length and stretch of individual brands, styles, and fabrics but also based on band height and if the band sits higher or lower on my ribcage.
A good example of this difference is comparing Freya and Prima Donna in my size range. Freya generally makes shallower (shorter) bands – I generally wear a 36 band, since Freya bands fit above my flare. Prima Donna generally makes deeper (taller), bands that fit lower on my ribcage – I need 38 or sometimes 40 bands.
I find sports bras particularly challenging because of my rib flare. Most sports bra bands extend down the ribcage – and in my case fully cover my rib flare. I find I must size up in most sports bra bands (thus size down in cup) – my current sports bra is a 42G in U.S. sizing!
Front flares seem to be the most common flare I see mentioned. Women with front flares generally complain of wires sitting uncomfortably on their ribs, or wires banging painfully into their flare. This can be remedied several ways – by bending wires or choosing a different bra. Some women even pad their wires with fabric. You can always choose to wear wireless styles. Some band fabrics may work better than others – again, this varies by person. Bands with a bit of stretch seem to work better than others.
Side flares are mentioned less frequently. I assume many think they are dealing with disproportionate fat on their ribcage or back/front fat. For months, I thought the indentation above my flare was caused by muscle atrophy, so I consciously worked those muscles. Imagine my surprise when the indentation increased instead of decreased! Extreme side flares can cause issues I discussed above; however, most of the bloggers I asked don’t feel their side ribcage flares cause fit issues.
To further illustrate the variety of shapes ribcage flares can take, some other bloggers were kind enough to comment on their ribcages and how they feel flares impact their bra fit.
This is image is from Chrystal at By Baby’s Rules and it is an example of a ribcage flare caused by overlapping ribs on the right side of the ribcage.
According to Chrystal,
For me, the rib that overlaps the other causes some painful grinding if a band is firm with little stretch. If it has stretch I’m good. It looks normal because the floating rib ends point in the normal spot, but it’s actually the wrong rib that ends there. That’s why there is a large gap to the last rib low on my side, the one that should fill that area is pushed up over the rib above it.
June, from Braless in Brasil has front ribcage flares and has noticed despite her long torso, she still struggles with certain bra styles banging into her ribcage because of her flared ribs.
June says this about how her flare affects fit…
It makes underwires that dip below the bra band hurt like hell.
Another example of a front flared ribcage, but both sides, is Cleo from Muscular Hourglass.
For the most part, I don’t think of my rib cage flare as a major problem for bra fit (compared to my “normal problems” of a larger bust with a smaller band). That said, if my ribs were similar in size where my band sits, I would be able to wear a larger band size, which would make it easier for me to get the right size bra in more brands (I wear a 30GG). It does make some bras difficult to wear– longline bras tend to flip up in front over the flared area; cups that are shallow in the base get pressed downward by my deep breasts, and the pressure from the bra and wire pressing on the flared ribs is really painful– this has made some bras (like Parfait by Affinitas Charlotte) that initially felt comfortable end up being completely unwearable, as it only takes an hour or so to become too painful to continue wear. I also have problems with posture vests like the bracie, as the flared ribs are somewhat pointy and bony– the band, which sits below the bra in the front– flips up and hurts. I now avoid bras with cups that are excessively shallow (mostly, I identify them by seeing if a fold develops in the base of the cup within a few minutes of wear), and I avoid long-lines that have stiff fabric or elastic, or boning near my flared areas.
An example of a side flared ribcage is Windie from Undiegamer.
Windie doesn’t feel she encounters fit issues because of her ribcage flare; however, she has this to say about how people see the visual effect of her flared ribcage…
People typically interpret it as fat tissue being squished by the bra (i.e, a too tight band) but it’s usually just my rib cage making an appearance.
Anna, from Bras and Body Image has side flares as well as front flares.
Anna has this to say about how she feels her flares affect her fit…
It’s a bit hard to show given that I’m quite squishy and have a roll of fat between my waist and underbust, as well as having a somewhat rounded stomach, but it’s still visible if I push my fat down a bit. Having a rounded stomach makes wearing bras with wires below the band uncomfortable, which I think may also be the case for flared ribs at the front.
Many thanks to my fellow bloggers By Baby’s Rules, Braless in Brasil, Muscular Hourglass, Undiegamer, and Bras and Body Image for their time and images!
I’m fortunate that my front flare doesn’t get in the way of my regular bra bands (which do ride up, but I suspect that’s because I have almost no squish and simply cannot get it tight enough…or do I have back flare too?), but longlines are impossible. I like seeing these different fit issues considered, because there are so many factors that go into a fit, and I think flared ribs are quite common.
I agree, I think they are quite common.
Oh! This is what it’s called! I feel like I have this narrower space where the bra band sits and why the measurement of that baffled me so much! It’s not pronounced enough to affect longline fit, but it’s definitely there, it looks the same in mirror as in these pictures.
I have stared at that smaller area for years…wondering. I was very excited when I realized I wasn’t the only one!
This explains my fit issues. Thanks for posting this! It’s so important to blog about all the different body shapes. You’ve helped a lot, thank you.
And here I was told that a flared ribcage meant overly “V-shaped”, almost like a man would get.
I’ve always heard that shape called a v-shape rib cage.
Men can have v, square or any variation ribcage….and flares. My husband has a front flared ribcage, very v-shaped, also…
OMG, I’m so glad I found this blog. I have had so much bother getting a bra to fit and was starting to say I was deformed because no matter what size I was measured to and where the bra sat when first putting it on, the band would ride up under my boobs or curl up under them. The side seam in some really really hurts and the first thing I’d do when I got home would be to get the bra off because it was so uncomfortable. Wired bras are now a no no as well because the wire hurt my ribs or would slide up (when I went up a band size) and the wires would then dig in under my arms. I used to be quite skinny and the problem wasn’t quite so bad then but I’m a lot heavier now and need a much larger cup size so the problem was worse.
Having read this and had a proper look and feel, I now realise that I’ve got quite a prominent rib flare at the front and a slight flare at the sides – it explains all the problems I have in getting a bra.
It’s a real pain,isn’t it Alison? I hope you’ve had luck finding bras that work for you.
Nope, still haven’t found a bra that suits. I now only put a bra on if I’m going out and get it off PDQ when I get in. I have more bras in more sizes than I know what to do with and not one of them is comfortable . They ride up at the front, sides and back and on a couple of them, I feel like I might pass out with lack of oxygen hahahaha
Looks like we should organize a club )))
And great post!
I have front flared ribcage. Drives me crazy sometimes, because it’s visible under clingy clothes. Not really affecting bra fit though (if I keep my bands narrow enough).
Oh my! So it’s not fat after all! I’m 44 and have only now decided to investigate this issue as bras are so uncomfortable, and the bump under my armpit is very pronounced. And then I found your article – woo hoo! I have very narrow shoulders and back, I generally wear an 18DD (not sure what that is in inches…). I usually remove any underarm wires as they are too long for my short torso. Straps fall off my shoulders and leave dents, and bands always ride up! This article gives me hope that I can try and find a better fit. Thank you!
Karina, I hope I helped!
Oh, my goodness! How did I not realize this was my problem? All those years, all those bras! Thanks for identifying this
Happy to help, Melissa!
I have one side, the left that protrudes and as I have gotten older it seems to get worse….I’m glad I found this as I am having some feeling full issues and my bras are like cinches! Thank you!
I am 68 and have always struggled with underwires, so I just don’t wear them. They always cover my rib cage and hurt badly, but I thought this was something that others just endured. I’m also short in the torso, so this probably contributes to the problem. I don’t know if my rib cage is flared or just high. Is it normal for your bra to cover your rib cage? Thanks!
It depends on the style, I’ve found. Some bras are designed with a tall band which is more likely to cover more ribcage.
[…] intense for me (I get some digging in around the sternum and outer ribs, which may be the result of rib flare), but I didn’t find it so uncomfortable that I was aching to take the bra off after only a […]
Love this post. My old bras (Vanity Fair Illumination) stayed in place. the new version with the silky stretch material rolls up on back and sides and they underwire hurts… i tend to wear my bras lower on the back as well. i have tried many brands and nothing is working… i feel like throwing them all away. i am sure it was men that said we needed to wear them anyway.
I hate when a brand changes a tried and true style….
Thanks for this! Having spent years in agony with underwire bras, have now resorted to sports bras which are a much more comfortable. The number of bra fitters who have said to me ‘Are you an opera singer or long-distance swimmer?’
I have a rib flare at the sternum right at the bottom of my breast root. This means it’s hard for underwires to sit comfortably in my IMF, which can cause support issues. I’ve yet to find a solution!
So whats the solution
So glad I found this article. I thought I was abnormal with my flared rib cage. I’ve worn underwire bras for many years, and have wasted lots of money buying the wrong size bras. Everyone who has measured me, comes up with a different size. Now I’m looking for no wires and have a couple of Coobies. Not much support, but comfortable other than the band rolling up along my rib cage.
OMG THIS! SO MUCH THIS!!
My ribs flare so so much and always caused a problem with how bras fit me when I was smaller chested, but now that I have a much larger chest? Too much projection for cups which are theoretically the correct size (but which are shallow and wide). The extra weight of my bust pushes down really uncomfortably onto my rib flares. I think its mostly at the front and my left rib has a more prominent ridge than my right one. But there is also some side flaring. I’m fond of wearing corsets so I’ve got to know my body measurements pretty well and it always surprises people that my underbust measurement is the same as my low rib measurement, purely because of this rib flare. So it causes fit issues with corsets too.
This is an old photo of back when I was smaller (wore a 32C bra back then, now I wear a 32FF, band size didn’t change as back then I needed to +4 to be comfortable, now I have to +2 to be comfortable). Its NSFW, but everything is covered somewhat: http://pics.vampirefreaks.com/_/_x/_x_/_x_Cassandra_x_/29056981.jpg
You can really see my ribcage clearly in that pose. Then I was in smaller cup sizes which tend to have narrower depth bands. Now they insist on being much wider and the cups tend to be much longer vertically than I need. I basically need the same length as shown above now, but with extra projection. Even the underwire width on that bra was spot on and super comfy. Nowadays I struggle to find a bra where the underwire is not under my armpit digging in painfully.
I still can only wear plunge styles as full cup have too much fabric and generally have far too high a gore in the centre. My bust tissue is very close set. Even though it doesn’t appear so in the photo I shared, but that’s partly the pose and partly because the majority of bras have always pulled my chest apart more and give me less cleavage than if I go without. This is because the pattern puts the fullness at the side of the cup instead of the centre. It was less of an issue then. Now its a huge problem. As is where they place the apex – its usually at least an inch to the side of where my nipple (and fullest part of my breast) sits. So the bras pull my breasts apart. Something which is painful – its like the very centre of my chest is being ripped apart in the wrong bra.
Sports bras are incredibly hard for me to find. I’ve not been able to do any proper exercise for years now because I can’t find a bra to fit comfortably whilst standing still, let alone one which reduces bounce enough to exercise in. 🙁
Too many fit issues! Today I always bend the wires in my bras to better fit around my ribcage but that doesn’t stop them from being pushed down by the weight of my breasts so that they dig in uncomfortably. Neither a looser nor tighter band helps.
What is a good bra for front rib flares?