There is nothing more irritating than the feeling of constantly having to tug at errant bra straps. If you suffer from this, you’re definitely not alone. Migrating bra straps are one of the most common bra related complaints, though many women cannot identify the root of the problem. Luckily, a skilled fitter can! Once we have taken a good, hard look at your upper torso and shoulders, usually a solution is easily found.
Let’s first take a look at the main causes. As we go through the checklist, see if any of these apply to you. We fitters often see not just one, but a combination of factors…which means that without the right bra those straps are NEVER going to stay where they should!
YOUR BRA BAND IS TOO BIG
A bra that is too big, is simply…TOO BIG. The larger the band size, the wider that bra sits on your body. With every band size you go up, straps can move outward by 1/2″ or more. It’s relative, and it’s also common sense. Now I know, women claim to love their loose, sloppy bands for a variety of reasons. But really, there is absolutely zero benefit to wearing a bra that is too big. I have fit women who measure 34 inches around their ribcage, yet insist on wearing 42 back bras. I have seen women who are able to fasten their bra, step into it , pull it over their hips and and upward, because of the absurdly large band size they have chosen! If you are buying DD cup sizes in stores like La Senza and Victoria’s Secret, the salespeople are likely giving you a too-big back size in a misguided effort to make the cup fit. Also, forget all this “take your ribcage measurement and add 4″ nonsense. Your bra band should generally fit to your actual ribcage measurement within one back size up or down, to your comfort. If a client insists on a band size that is larger than it should be, I caution her that there will be consequences, and falling shoulder straps will likely be one of them. If a well-fit band is cause for concern, speak to your fitter about styles and materials that are more gentle.
Many women also tend to try to address the problem themselves by overly tightening their straps. This is a poor fix, and will simply pull the back of your band upward, causing the entire bra to shift forward and down, creating less lift and support. Just remember, the better fit the bra band is, the more likely those straps are going to stay on your shoulders!
NARROW AND SLOPING SHOULDERS
In my fittings I look at the body as a whole. It’s my job to notice things about your body that perhaps, you don’t even see. One of them is shoulder slope and width. Stand in your usual posture, and take a look at yourself head on in the mirror, paying special attention to the distance from the base of your neck to the outer edge of your shoulder. Does it seem narrow, or broad? Do you see more of a straight line or more of a sloped, “A” shape? Often, when I do this with a woman in a fitting, there is a “eureka” moment! If you discover you have narrow shoulders, with or without a slope…AND you’ve been wearing bras that are too big in the band, nine times out of ten, that’s the problem, right there!
CAUSES OF NARROW AND SLOPING SHOULDERS
I see women of all sizes and ages, from petite to fuller figured with narrow and sloping shoulders. It’s very, very common, but there are also a few other factors and conditions that may contribute to straps that constantly fall. Women who have suffered an injury may find that one shoulder droops more than the other, even after surgery and rehabilitation. Elderly women, those suffering from deterioration or injury of the spine, and those with Scoliosis may develop a stoop. When the shoulders hunch forward, that part of the body becomes more narrow and rounded. There is also a medical condition called “Dropped Shoulder Syndrome”, present often in women with longer necks and low set, steeply sloping shoulders. Lastly, I work with many clients who are very athletic. Certain upper body exercises can overdevelop the Upper Trapezius muscles, which run along the top of the shoulder from the base of the neck to the outer shoulder. When this muscle is very well defined, it creates a perfect slope for shoulder straps to slide off of!
This part of the post is dedicated to my fuller figured ladies, especially those who are “apple shaped”, and carry weight toward the midsection, as opposed to the hips. Over the years, my weight has fluctuated to the point where I have worn anywhere from a 34 back to a 42 back, so these words are coming from personal experience. When I am working with women in the 40 and over back range, I do notice a tendency for straps to slide off shoulders. That is because those of us who are apple shaped simply need bigger bands to fit us across comfortably the back. Strap slippage can and will occur in women whose backs are broader than their shoulders. In this case, a well fit band is essential, and certain styles of bra may not be the best options for us.
The Prima Donna/Twist “Cache Cache” T-Shirt bra. You can see that the strap is more centered on the Full Cup style on the left, while on the Demi Cup pictured at right, the straps are placed further out to the side. The Full Cup option is the better choice for apple shaped, narrow shouldered women.
STYLE OF BRA
When I fit a woman, I don’t just fit her breasts…I take her entire body into account. We tend to think that a bra is just “a bra”…but there are actually many, many styles and cuts available. From Plunge, to Demi, to Full Cup (both 3 part and 2 part), Balconette…the list goes on and on. Each of these basic categories of bra style have their own quirks, and some of them just don’t work for certain body types. Women with narrow shoulders need close set straps that angle in toward the body and lift from the center of the cup. Full cup options tend to be the absolute best choice. Demi cups tend to be the absolute worst style choice for the woman with narrow and sloping shoulders. Pretty as they are, Demi cup bra straps are generally placed closer to the edge of the cup, creating a very wide, “squared off” profile that is prone to slippage. Strap width also comes into play here. Skinny straps have a tendency to roll, while a wider strap has a greater surface area and is more likely to lay flat, grip shoulders and slide less.
This is a perfect example of a Demi Cup option with very wide placed straps. Unless you have broad, straight shoulders, this style can be a challenging one to wear comfortably.
SOLUTIONS SOLUTIONS SOLUTIONS!
First and foremost, a well-fit band. Remember, the wider the bra, the wider the straps sit. Choose sizes that are appropriate for your actual size. A bra shouldn’t be overly “tight”…but it should be “snug”, and feel as though it is part of you. Remember, your bra will will stretch over time!
Choose the correct style of bra for your body. Look for fuller cup options, and styles where the strap originates from the center of the cup, rather than the outside edge. Be wary of Demi cup styles. When you are bra shopping, lay the bra flat, and look at the shape of the neckline and straps. A fuller coverage style with straps that drive inward, rather than straight up and down will likely have a better chance of staying put. One of my little tricks is trying two styles on at the same time, one of top of the other, so my client can truly visualize the difference between strap placement. It really helps!
“Melody” and “Daisy” Full Cup bras by Empreinte. These two styles have very close set, center lift straps that do well for women in the fuller bust/back range.
Strap styles can also make all the difference. Wider straps again, tend to be better than thin ones. At times I see women where even the best full cup, center lift styles still may not do the job. In these cases, convertible bras, such as the Marie Jo “Tom” and “Avero” or Chantelle “C Chic Spacer” give women the ability to wear their straps in a crisscross or racerback style. This is a godsend for women with extremely narrow shoulders, and a racerback or T-Back option will almost always be the best choice in these cases.
Chantelle “C Chic Spacer” and Marie-Jo “Avero Multiway” convertible bras. The C Chic will convert only to racerback, but the Avero also gives the option of wearing as a halter.
Alteration and moving straps may be an option, as racerback and convertible bras can be very difficult to come by for those in the fuller back/cup combinations. In the past, I have recommended women look into having their bra straps moved inward at the base of the band at the back of the bra. This particular alteration cannot be done on ANY style of bra with a “Leotard”, or U shaped back. The back of the bra band MUST already be cut in a straight line, also known as a “Camisole back” for it to work. This should only be done by a trusted seamstress who is familiar with working with bras, and as an absolute last resort.
On the left, a “Leotard” or U shaped back. This band style is not suitable for alteration. On the right, a “Camisole” back that is cut straight across. In this case, straps can be altered and moved inward.
Bra strap converters such as a plastic clip or a short elastic strap will allow you to move bra straps into a crisscross position. These are inexpensive, readily available at most bra and drugstores and while often not the most comfortable, they can certainly do the job. Just remember to lengthen your straps when using one of these devices, many women forget this important step! Some women also find that silicone strap cushions are very helpful and comfortable. These cushions wrap around the bra strap, creating a more stable, wider base while the silicone grips the skin and helps to keep straps in place. Just keep in mind that if you are allergic to silicone, these may not be for you!
Silicone shoulder cushions and bra converter clip.
If you are sick and tired of straps falling down, spare yourself the agony! Treat yourself to a well-fit bra in the perfect style for your lovely body. You absolutely deserve it, and your shoulders and back will thank you! If you have any questions about what I’ve mentioned here, feel free to leave a comment.