How many of you are wearing the wrong size bra? Áine Ó’Connell urges us to ditch the red-strap marks, and grab the measuring tape...

“What size bra are you?” I ask a friend, casually, planning a spectacular lingerie-themed birthday gift. “Um…I don’t know. 32B? 34B?” After a rummage in a drawer, she discovers that she is, in fact, a 34C. There you have it folks; one of my main bra problems, something I have longed to hashtag over the last few years. #BraProblems. There are many. Ill-fitting bras, uncomfortable bras, wired (or non-wired bras)…the list goes on. How can one cope? It’s a massive problem among young women that they wear the incorrect bra size; I know, because I’ve seen many a pal grab’n’go in the local Penneys. “Sure…this is close enough to the right size, isn’t it?” or worse still “it doesn’t really matter, though – my boobs look better all squashed in this one” In my youth, I was a 36C, and I was 100% certain of this from the ages of fourteen to nineteen. I ignored the weight gain, subsequent weight loss, going on the pill, growth spurts and numerous other things that affect a teenager in these years. I solidly, stupidly believed that this was my size for five years. It was only when I went for a bra fitting – on the spur of the moment, in a quiet Debenhams – that I discovered how, massively wrong I was. At the time of writing, I’m well overdue a bra-fitting; I try to go at least yearly to ensure I’m wearing the right size. As far as I can tell, I’m in the minority in this.

 If there’s one thing that helps me love myself, it is well-fitted underwear. However, I’m not writing this article to condone spending all your wages on underwear; but the thing about the right bra (or indeed, the wrong one) is that it affects more than just your pocket. Ill-fitting bras have been linked to higher stress levels, stomach and back pain, headaches and having weird red strap lines all up your back. (Photo link: It doesn’t have to be this way. According to a survey done recently, 70-80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, be that for financial, physical or simply lazy reasons. We don’t go out in size eight clothing when we’re a size fourteen – why stuff your poor boobs into a 36C you’re not-so-clearly bursting out of? Eh, not that I speak from experience at all…

Why don’t we, as a nation, embrace the wonderful ladies of the fitting room? Perhaps it’s yet another symptom of the “Catholic hangover”; we ignore our body’s more “sexy” parts, buying the cheapest bra and hoping for the best. The issues of body confidence and embracing are a whole other ball game; one I won’t play here. On a practical level, we ignore bra-fitting because it’s an awkward thing to consider; a fitting room, a middle-aged lady and a measuring tape. I’m encouraging biting the bullet though --  it’s a free service that many department stores offer; like Marks and Spencer and Debenhams. While buying a new bra is encouraged in these places, it’s not necessary. Many a time have I wandered into M&S, had my bra size checked, and wandered out again, on my lunch break from college. Come payday, I like to treat myself, but it’s rarely in somewhere as expensive as a department store. It makes a world of difference to how you look and feel – dresses that formerly made me look like a lump have been pulled together nicely by one of my hero-bras. So rather than embracing “free the tatas” day and going without – go get fitted and buy yourself a decent bra. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.