How to find stylish bras that are comfortable, too

According to some studies, up to 80 or even 85 percent of American women do not wear the proper size bra. No wonder so many of us find our bras uncomfortable!

To find the proper bra size, measure around your torso immediately under your breasts (where the bra band would sit). Be as accurate as possible, but if the number a fraction, round up to the nearest whole number.

Now comes the tricky part. Some experts say to add 4 if the number is even and 5 if the number is odd. Others recommend only adding 2 or 3, respectively, and still others recommend adding nothing at all. The idea is that the band needs room to expand as you breathe in and out, but should still be snug enough to support most of the weight of the breasts, taking pressure off the shoulders. Your best bet is to get your baseline measurement, add 4 or 5 accordingly, and then try on a few bras at each size, as well as the sizes in between, to find the most comfortable.

For the cup size, measure around the fullest part of your breasts. You should be wearing a bra for this, but it must be as natural as possible -- no padded bras, and no bras that flatten the chest, either. Alternatively, you could gently cup and raise your breasts while having someone else measure. Again, if the measurement is a fraction, round up to the next whole number.

Now, subtract the band measurement from the cup measurement. For every inch difference, you increase a cup size. So, for example, if the result is 1, you need an A cup. If it's 4, you need a D cup.

Popular Bra Styles

Probably the most popular type of bra is the underwire bra, which, as the name suggests, has a semicircular heavy-gauge wire sewn along the bottom edge of each cup to support the breast. Underwire bras can help relieve the pressure on shoulders, but many women find the wire digs in, creating discomfort. Buying the right size can help, but may not be enough. Fortunately, many lingerie companies now recognize this problem and are creating alternatives that offer support without underwire.

On the other end of the spectrum, for those whose chests may need some enhancement, are padded and gel bras. Padded bras usually have thick foam cups to augment the breasts and create cleavage. Gel bras use gel packs to create the same effect, sometimes in conjunction with underwire.

Finally, for those strapless dresses or off-the-shoulder tops, there are strapless bras. These bras often are stiffer and have somewhat fuller cups than regular bras to compensate for the support and security usually provided by straps.

Whatever type of bra you need, your first priority should be comfort. Fortunately, with the array of stylish bras now being produced, you won't have to look too hard to find one that's pretty, too.