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.
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!