A question of thoracic shaping

This will be of interest to women who have always had problems finding well fitting bras. Well, not all women since bra fitting is a common problem but women who have a particular thoracic structure. If you have a problem of your bra cups being too far apart (the bust points splaying apart), bra straps digging into the front crease of your chest and arm, and not having enough bra in the front of the cups (and excess room at the sides of cups), this topic is for you. You may also have a related problem of having shirts riding up into your neck and having to pull them down constantly. If you have the kind of problems I’m describing, I’d like to know about it. Not that it’d be any kind of scientific study, I’m just curious to know how many women have this problem. I don’t believe the problem is very rare, rather I think the problem hasn’t been well defined or described before which would explain why I couldn’t find out anything about it.

To start, let’s return to the entry Archaic anthropometry. There I’d made specific mention that I’d be using the thoracic cross section as the topic for a future post -this being it. My illustrations aren’t precise because the left cross section below represents that of a male. Men have their center of gravity in the chest. An accurate cross section of a female would be an oval rather than a square. Still, my argument is that there are men and women who do not have square or oval shaped chests. Rather, their chests are shaped like eggs in that their chests are deeper rather than wider. On the left below is Wampen’s man’s illustration and on the right is my rendition of an egg shaped chest cross section. Also, the egg shape is a bit of an exaggeration but hopefully you’ll get the point.

Now let’s give these cross sections a sex change operation (below):

[I know these sketches look like the silhouette of a cat’s head, bear with me.] Now, since the oval shaped women’s chest is the most common -it must be, women’s bras are made to fit it- on the left below is a sketch of the oval chest in a bra (green ink indicates the body). On the right below is the egg shaped chest with the bra designed for the oval shaped chest. If you notice in the right sketch, the sides of the bra do not touch the sides of the figure as they do in the sketch on the left.

Believe it or not, this is a problem. Maybe you wonder what the big deal is? Fabric is soft and pliable; it’ll bend to fit the egg shaped chest, right? Well, yes it will fit but not nearly as well as one would think. In the sketch below, I’ve folded the bra around the sides of the figure on the right. See what happens?

The silhouette of the bust points do not match from the left sketch to the right sketch. On the right, the bust points have been shifted further apart. To bring this point to bear, in the sketch below I’ve drawn in the shape of the egg body with the oval bra superimposed.

As you can see above, there is breast tissue hanging out the front of the bra. In fact, it’s for this reason that push up bras tend to fit egg shaped chests better than regular bras do. The problem with push up bras though is that there’s usually not enough fabric in the fronts of the cups to support the breasts. That is if you’re larger busted but I think smaller breasted women with egg shaped chests would report similar results.

Another side effect of having to wear bras designed for oval bodies on an egg shaped chest is that your breasts look smaller (when you’re dressed). Since the bust points splay apart, you don’t stick out as far in front so you may look like a B cup when you’re a D. If you’re large busted you may appreciate this natural form of breast reduction but it causes fitting problems. Another thing is that since your bust points are splaying apart wider than they should, your chest will look wider than it would if you had a well made bra so it’s quite likely you may have never noticed that you’re deeper rather than wider. Also, having your bust points splay apart makes it difficult to fit tailored suits. The busts of tailored clothes are usually in the wrong place. Still worse, even though you may only look like a B cup, you still have to cut for your real cup size. It’s not as though you can wear clothes sized for a B cup. Of course the obvious solution to all of this is a radically redesigned bra. I didn’t know all of this when I was fiddling with bra-making. In retrospect I realize that this was the problem I was trying to correct.

From here down I’ve taken a few photos of a bra in the different positions in the event my cruddy sketches were unclear. Below is a photo of a bird’s eye view of a bra in the position the cups would lie on an oval shaped chest. Please note two things. One is the relative position of the bust points and the other is the position of the bra straps coming up over the shoulders.

Below is a photo of the bra in the simulated position on an egg shaped chest. Again, note the splayed bust points and the shift of the strap positions. Very often the position of the straps (if you wear the larger cup sizes) cuts into the crease of where your arms meet the chest wall. It’s like you’re always trying to pull the strap away from that crease; it’s not comfortable at all.

Below is a frontal view of the bra were it on an oval shaped body:

And below this is a repeat but on the body of an egg shaped chest.

In the interests of making my case, I found a breast augmentation website that also describes these different chest shapes. However, they get one thing very wrong (in the photos). They’ve taken pictures of the women lying down. On an egg shaped chest, your breasts will lie further off to either side when you’re lying down due to the slope in addition to gravity. In real life, standing upright, your bust points are not splaying any farther apart than the breasts on an oval shaped chest. Both sets of breasts -regardless of chest shaping- still tend to point forward rather than outward.

I should also be responsible to mention that some people who have an egg shaped chest (AKA pigeon chested) may have a rare medical condition known as Marfan’s syndrome.

Anyway, my question is this: does this post describe problems you’ve experienced or problems that affect people you know? I’m wondering if bras designed for an egg shaped chest would solve a lot of undiagnosed frustrations with bra fitting. I’m wondering how common or rare this is. It’s not something that’s ever been measured in the population so who knows the size of the market? I’d also think that custom clothiers could make some money if they could identify this problem. Since I’ve dealt with this for years, I know all kinds of pattern fixes for it too but don’t know if anybody’d be interested in it.

Oh, and I deliberately did not describe this as “pigeon chested” because I don’t think it’s the same thing. I mean, someone who is pigeon chested would definitely have these problems but I’m wondering how many people have something more subtle. Pigeon chestedness is pretty obvious so I don’t mean anything so extreme as that. I think there’s a normal variation in chest shaping that is not necessarily indicative of a medical problem. People have differently shaped bodies due to the shape of our skeletons; oval vs. egg shape is one of the reasons.

Related: The only bra I’ve found that fits this unique chest shape is the Wacoal #65547. I certainly do my part to keep this style in production.

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  1. Sid says:

    OMG – you just described almost every fitting problem I have with bras. One of the things on my to-do list is to learn how to make bras so I can get one to fit me….

    As a plus sized gal, I always blamed my weight and the lack of good bras in the plus size market. In the last couple of years Lane Bryant has begun to carry padded and push up bras for plus size gals and they fit much better but I still deal with the strap issue and “falling out.”

  2. oliviacw says:

    I started out reading this post thinking “that’s not my problem”, but I think it is. I’m large breasted – 40 DDD right now – and I alway thought my bra issues were due mostly to size. But I have to move most of my breast tissue out to the side to fit into bras, and it always works its way back front and center and I get funny lumps. I’ve hardly ever been able to get the center of the underwires to stay flat against my chest like the fitting guides say – even if I can get that done for a little while, the tissue moving forward pushes them out again.

  3. ashteraz says:

    I actually have the opposite problem – pectus excavatum. My ribcage is concave in front, dipping inward in the middle.

    It makes finding nicely fitting bras really difficult because my breasts are closer together and most bras are designed with a separating piece. My breasts are also shallow for their width, which I think is related. Finding cups that neither squeeze at the sides nor gape in the front is a challenge.

    Pushup bras actually fit me better a lot of the time, too.

  4. Julianne says:

    Wow, I never thought that I had yet another abnormality to explain how hard it is to get a good fitting bra. I am now pulling my shirt down (again) from riding up and hitting my neck! I have a 34F-G cup and there is no space between my breasts. I dont have the trouble with the bra cups being loose at the sides since the breast tissue starts under my arms! Well now that I think about it, it happened once and I thought I needed a smaller size. I took a class on making bras and the instructor was stumped. I cant get the front of the wire to fit against my chest wall at all, so the bras just dont support very well. Minimizers just push it all under my arms which is ugly and uncomfortable. This egg shapped chest thing explains why I cant stand to wear a jewel neck or regular t-shirt. I am amazed every time I read this blog at the depth of knowlege represented and how much I learn!

  5. Katherine Mayne says:

    WOW, what a concept! My first bra was a 28 FF; now I wear a 34 DD. It is hard to find a 34 DD; DDs usually start at size 36. Yes, my bras do stand away from the bottom front; I constantly pull down on them, as they ride up–so I lenghten the straps–then the straps fall down. I feel like the wires for the cups are too far apart in the center, and seem to fit better if i sqeeze the wires together in the front–but, of course, they do not stay that way. I also contantly push down on the sides of the bras, because the stay piece in the sides is always digging into my underarm area.

  6. Beverly says:

    As a bra pattern-maker, I see this problem from time to time. I have nick-named it the “East-West” syndrome, because of the direction the breasts are prone to facing. You are correct, Kathleen; ready-to-wear does not specifically address this issue; and that a push-up bra will reduce the appearance of, or correct this problem to some degree. Allow me to explain why…
    The term “push-up” bra is really a marketing term, and a clever one at that, but it should more accurately be named a ‘tilt-in-pull-in” bra, since the cup is rotated slightly within the band to tilt the breast more toward the centre front. The bridge (the connecting piece between the cups), is often lowered as well as being reduced in overall width. This reveals more of the inside breast mound which has now been “encouraged” to sit closer together. You can see this phenomenon if you push in slightly at the top outside edge of your bra, and at the same time, pulling the bridge toward the other breast. Instant plumping! A higher, plumper breast is more youthful looking, too.
    A push-up bra (by definition) is an underwired bra with rigid cups, and any bra that calls itself a push-up without at least these two aspects, is an imposter hoping to cash in on push-up marketability.
    According to the Sara Lee website (Wonderbra, Playtex, Bali, Hanes and Canadelle), Wonderbra introduced the first push-up bra in 1964. In their words, “Created in 1964, this unique garment…had 54 design elements that lifted and supported the bust to create dramatic cleavage. The secret? “Precision engineering”: three-part cup construction, precision-angled back and underwire cups, removable pads called cookies, “gate back” back design for support, and rigid straps.”
    History of the wonderbra

    However, Frederick’s of Hollywood claims credit for the first push-up, although they named it the “Rising Star” in the early 1950’s.
    History of Frederick’s of Hollywood

    It is interesting to note that neither Fredericks nor Wonderbra applied for a patent on this marvel of engineering. I always think of Kathleen when someone brings me a bra idea and the first words I hear are “I have/want a patent so no one can copy this” Not many elements of bra engineering are truly new.

    If you want to read up on a number of real bra patents, I heartily recommend American Sex Machines: The Hidden History of Sex at the U.S. Patent Office by Hoag Levins, available at Amazon.

  7. vtmartha says:

    I consider my chest to be relatively deep with pectus excavatum – a dip at the sternum. I have the same fitting issues as ashteraz. The center of my bra always stands away from my sternum. I, too, am looking into making my own bras but I’m not sure that I will be able to adjust for the dip.

  8. emily says:

    what an interesting problem. I have the classic bra models measurments – 36B and I still can’t get just any old bra to fit. I have problems where the wires won’t sit on my ribs, the backs ride up, or everything just feels “loose” even if its not really. I’m not really sure if I’m an egg or not but bra fitting I think is an issue no matter what.

  9. La BellaDonna says:

    I think I’m definitely an egg – and an aggravated egg, at that. No, not just an annoyed egg, but an egg-plus; I don’t have the strap-in-crease problem in the front because my shoulders are rotated back and my shoulderblades are compressed; my front arm creases are therefore moved about 2″ back. Of course, I do have a problem with the strap cutting into the back crease! I find that demi-bras are the most comfortable for me, despite being a 36D; a full cup always cuts into the top of my breasts. Not only that, but the cup edge of the Wonderbra style pushup bra generally cuts into the tissue and pushes itself away from my breasts, leaving a bizarre ridge where the pad sits! I’ve only had success with an older style 3-piece pushup bra with seriously angled cups; that was comfortable and attractive. There was an older style of Fredericks bra that was also great – it pushed up from the bottom, and in at the sides, and was cut straight across the top. Of course, it’s been discontinued. (Pause for a moment while I add, What the hell is up with the manufacturers who put stretch straps on D-and-up sized bras? OK, I could see a partial stretch. Maybe. For other people. But the bra that I wear, which was just fine, thanks, went from a normal adjust-to-fit strap to stretch straps front and back! That does nothing to support the load, folks. And spare me the-band-does-90%-of-the-work; when you’re a D cup and over, everybody works.) And I too get throttling by crewnecked and jewelnecked tops, and end with a nasty gap behind my neck.

    I also have the egg problem with underwear; my problem with panties is not that they’re not big enough around in circumference, or leg size, but they’re too short front-to-back, through the crotch depth. It has virtually nothing to do with my weight; I’ve had this problem even when I was a 4. It’s just the depth of my figure is apparently not what manufacturers design for.

    • D Euggles says:

      Yes the panty shaping is absurd. The larger sizes just get wider but not longer. And the the crotch is also wider which seems to be opposite of common sense as the crotch now is a large crumpled fabric.

  10. La BellaDonna says:

    Sorry for the extra post, but it just occurred to me that corsetieres are very familiar with this variety of body shapes; the function of a corset, especially, say, an 18thC corset, is not so much to restrict the waist, although it can, but to redistribute the flesh, so the body shape is less broad side-to-side; the description I read was that it changes the body waist shape from an oval to a round, but the oval, as described in that book, was a side-to-side oval, and the flesh was being redistributed from side-to-side into front-to-back, closer to the egg shape shown above than a true “round.”

  11. Mardel says:

    You just described my bra fitting problems to a T and I am not overly big breasted, but boy do I have bra fitting problems, and other fitting problems based on that. I would agree with LaBellaDonna about underpant fitting as well.

  12. Kathleen Fasanella says:

    I think I’m definitely an egg – and an aggravated egg, at that. No, not just an annoyed egg, but an egg-plus

    Oh don’t mince words, lay it all out for us- are you eggravated?

    sorry -bad pun- I couldn’t resist :)

  13. tori says:

    My breasts are wider than they are deep, the only bras that really fit well are demi-bras, and they have pretty much gone the way of the corset. Also, my bras don’t fit flat against my sternum, but stand out and the bottom of the cup is deeper than I need, so for a sort of fit, the points of me are not in the point place in the bra. I would pay fifty buck for a bra that really fit me right and was comfortable!

  14. Vivienne says:

    You’ve described me to a tee. And I am aggravated! It seems as though bra straps have moved further into the armpit compared to where they were when I started wearing a bra. I tried a racer back but it really increased the sensation that the straps were digging into the arm crease. And push-ups? Good while standing but bend over and you fall out.

    I’ll be following this with interest.

  15. Terry McKenzie says:

    What a great analysis of this problem! After spending most of my adult life as a quite thin 36A, I gained quite a bit of weight over a relatively short period of time, progressing from a lifetime of soft, unstructured bras to a 42D with the need for incremental increases in structure and stiffness of underwiring at several steps along the way. Last time I bought bras, I noticed that bra-makers were “building in” “side support” on larger sized bras – which DOES help with this problem a bit, depending on the cut of the bra as long as the wires are correctly placed AND only if the straps are wide and have gel padding built into them. However, once the cup elastic begins give, even a little, (after a wash or two) the whole edifice (if you will – I do feel like it is a “construction” and egineering venture) begins fall apart, and all that extra “shaping” acts more like a truss with the reinforced points in all the wrong places. “Push UP” would be much better, I’ve thought, but who wants MORE padding in this situation. I keep thinking Howard Hughes had the beginnings of the right idea with the cantelievered bra he engineered for Jane Russell – if only it could be designed without the aerodynamically pointy “cones.”

  16. Sophiecat says:

    I have the opposite problem to most of those listed above: I am a plus size, but my breasts are small and oddly shaped – like cones rather than spheres. Until recently, there were NO bras made in a 44A! I have compensated by buying B cup bras and adding push-up pads, so I can come close to filling the cups. On some bras, there is still a void in the top of the cup, and I have to use larger pads. Since I am large on the bottom, the B cup bras help balance me out, I think.
    I am thrilled to have located this site, recommended by a post on Pattern Review.



  17. Betsy v says:

    Quite frankly I threw out all but 2 street bras 2 years ago. I keep one “emergency” bra in my gym bag (with spare underpants and pantyhose) and a black lace one, the last one I own of the one style I found and liked years and years ago.

    I wear camisoles with built-in shelf bras. My bra-fitting problem stems from a broad back but small breasts. I never did find a 38A in any style I would wear. And I think I must have a slightly concave chest, because the front-hook bras I liked years ago stood out a little from my sternum.

    How do I figure out if I am an “egg” or an oval?

  18. Nadine says:

    Yes, this is me, too. Crew necks riding up into my neck drive me crazy! I inevitably end up ‘customising’ them with a vertical slash. I am VERY interested in any pattern fixes you’ve got, Kathleen.

  19. AmyT says:

    Wow, that all describes me pretty accurately too. I found this post fascinating because I’ve had some similar thoughts in a vague way but never been able to articulate them. I guess I also figured that since I’m a 40DD, the underwires are so wide that they were bound to have to wrap around my chest. It never occurred to me that chest cross sections could vary so much!

    Many, many bras I’ve tried on do the East-West thing on me, and some have straps that dig in terribly at the arm crease. A lot of bras seem like they’d fit a little better if I took a big dart out of the center front edge. Some underwires dig in under my bust, especially those that have a deep U shape; I need more of a shallow U shape. Also my necklines ride up, but I always thought that was a forward shoulder issue?

    Even the best fitting bra I have (Le Mystere Dream Tisha) there is a little bit of East-West going on, and when I look at pictures of myself it looks like my breasts overlap my arms. I’ve thought about making my own bras (and read up on it quite a bit) but haven’t yet taken the plunge. I hope you’ll share your ideas about fixes for this figure shape.

  20. valerie says:

    I too have exactly these problems. For years now I’ve been doing strange things to fix the fitting problems.

    In my late teens I would wear a wonderbra with a lightweight sportsbra over it as my everyday bra. These days I wear a “t-shirt” cupped bra or lane bryant pushup bra – but I alter them before I wear them by nipping in the center piece between the cups until the underwires are just about touching. I also sometimes re-position the straps in back.

    I too will be watching where this goes..

  21. carole pence says:

    i have almost quit sewing because of age
    and illness. I am still facisinated
    with and pattern drafting and fitting. Also the geometry of the human body

    I am into cad pattern drafting in 3d.
    and am experimenting with measuring
    through the body. The top down view of
    the body can tell you a lot more
    of the real shape of your body.

    this is really something I want to keep up with

    Carole Pence
    Fairbanks Alaska

  22. Susan in Tucson says:

    I’m another with the egg shape; I’ve never seen the whole constellation of issues described as part of one phenomenon before. I’ve been wearing 38D minimizer bras but am about to start sewing my own custom-fit bras. I’m a home/hobby sewer working to educate myself and get the clothes I want by reading everything available and practicing like crazy.

    The RTW bras with side “power bar” as I’ve seen it called do come closest to keeping everything out front where it belongs, but I run out of time, energy and money to hunt them down with continual model changes from the manufacturers.

    I’ll be interested to see what you do with this subject, Kathleen. Thanks for asking!

  23. Camille says:

    photos connective tissue disorders

    I don’t know how links come out in your comment section, but the above page has some pretty good photos of people with connective tissue disorders like Marfan’s. Ehlers-Danlos (sounds like Ailers-Donlohs) syndrome is related. They are both genetic disorders of collagen production… actually EDS is a collection of different related disorders and most people don’t know which subtype of EDS they have because there is an overlap between the subtypes.

    Both pectus excavatum (caved in kind of chest) and pectus carinatum (poked out kind of breast bone – usually really noticable like a bony ridge) are found in EDS and Marfan’s. I suppose that the egg shaped chest must be related. Collagen ties everything together and if it’s too loose you can get a misshaped chest and scoliosis (though not everyone with this kind of collagen disorder has a really strange chest.

    We have something like EDS running in my dad’s family. I have some traits, but my chest seems to be normallish… except I put fat on my back and belly easily so my chest is big for how skinny my legs are.

    Bras don’t fit me because I have a big chest compared to my cup size, I am wearing like a 38 B with a 2 inch extender on it now, and I think it’s a little snug, but loosish in the cups.

    Hi Kathleen!

  24. La BellaDonna says:

    Eggsactly, Kathleen! I am not only eggravated, I am utterly eggsasperated, eggseeding all eggspectation!

    Plus, holy cow, Camille, and thank you for posting that photo link. I don’t have Marfans, but I have problems that were going to send me off to a rheumatologist for investigation, and here on your link I find I score really, really high on both Beighton and Brighton. The things I learn because I’m interested in sewn goods!

  25. Kath in TX says:

    This is me too! I wear a 34F, hard to find, and then when I do the underwires are always a bit too wide side-to-side and they scoop just a little too deep so they are pressing into my upper abdomen instead of running just right under my breast fold. I very often find bras I can’t wear at all because they cut so much into my arm crease area. Shirts constantly migrate to the back as well.

    I think my front is narrow compared to my back too, as my shoulders are rounded forward. So I have a big cup size, narrower body size, but maybe less narrow back size than front. I’ve been experimenting with getting a cup size that will fit all my breast, but a smaller band size (in hopes that the underwire will not spread so far) and then wearing a back extender like Camille above..but haven’t hit on the right combination yet. I still think it might help though.

  26. Katie says:

    Anyone who looks at real human anatomy pictures of cadavers will really see that breasts are not sexual. You have too see the ones where the skin is taken off. I really found this interesting. We are conditioned by the ways of our society. I read an article once where women in Africa laughed when they heard that American men acted like babies by liking the breasts a lot, ha ha. God never meant for certain body parts to be ogled and sexualized. But hey the media likes to side with the devil and make women feel inferior in all aspects including breast size. See Nirvana’s In Utero picture of the angel with no skin.

  27. Alison Cummins says:

    I lived in Africa. The small, high breasts of young women are much appreciated as they are, in fact, very sexual. They identify the owner as both youthful and female, they are delightfully sensitive and they do not yet have any function.

  28. Danielle says:

    Wow! This explains a lot. I am definitely an egg. Everything you’ve described is right-on. The worst part about the splaying of the breast points is the “spill-over” effect over the top of the cups. Does this also explain why my bra straps are always slipping to the edge of, or off, my shoulders?

  29. You specifically asked for responses, so here’s my two cents. ;)

    One of the first things I noticed when I started trying to fit patterns for myself is that the pattern companies always gave way too much room at the center front, and never enough room at the side seam. (I called it being more “barrel” chested, as opposed to the “typical oval” shape.)

    I didn’t, however, relate that rib-cage shape to my bra-fitting problems. Like others have said, I basically just switched to wearing nothing but sports bras, as they just felt so much more comfortable.

    Like others, I also tried making my own bras, and found that, although the patterns were easy to construct, they didn’t fit any better than what I could buy. So I started trying to draft my own. I did get to the point where I had a perfetly fitting band, whose curves (e.g. right where the underwires would be installed) would exactly follow mine. Comparing my curves to the underwires available for purchase, I discovered the same thing as AmyT: “Some underwires dig in under my bust, especially those that have a deep U shape; I need more of a shallow U shape.” I need a very shallow U shape. Like Amy, I also note that my shirts tend to climb back, but I still don’t quite understand how this is related to an “egg” shaped ribcage.

    I also have the symptoms of the bust points splaying, and the cup edge/strap digging in by my armpit. I need very little space at the center front; most bras already seem to set the cups too far apart, even before being place over the wrong shape ribcage.

    I am most interested in how to adjust a bra pattern/draft my own to get it to fit properly. LIke I said, I can get a perfectly fitting band, but putting mishapen cups into a perfectly fitting band doesn’t help anything. If I’m following you, I think that the cups would have to have their points “adjusted” more toward the center, meaning the cups would have to have more room (curve, fabric) toward the center and less room (curve, fabric) toward the sides.

    Realizing exactly what the problem is, of course, a great help, and the first step to finding a solution. But if you’ve gotten any further than this, I’m dying to know about it. If I could ever wind up with a bra pattern that didn’t smoosh, bind, splay, pinch, ride up, sag down or in general be uncomfortable, I would be one very happy lady.

  30. Laurie says:

    You have got to be kidding me! My joint disorder (EDS, but don’t know which subtype) may be related to my bra fitting problems? I thought it was odd when my joint disorder was picked up by a neurologist who was checking me for migraines and aneurysms, which run in our family, but now this??

    I’m not egg-shaped and don’t have the problems that many egg-shapers have, but I do have a very small ribcage for the size of my breasts and shoulders. Back when I was skinny, I was a 32DD to 32DDD and couldn’t find anything under $75 or $100 that actually fit. Now I’m a 38DDD and still can’t find anything to fit properly.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own bra, but can’t find a pattern to download. Commercial patterns are not available for sale here, and the cost and problems receiving a shipment are prohibitive.

    So it might be because the shape of my ribcage is not normal? It’s all making sense now.

    Now if I could only figure out how to make a better bra…

    Thank you, yet again, Kathleen, for sharing your fountain of wisdom with the masses. Thank you.

  31. La BellaDonna says:

    This is for the ladies who have tried commercial wires, but found that they needed shallower shapes than those currently available:

    I’m not suggesting making your own wires (although that might be a possibility), but there might be a couple of possible substitutes. These depend on the channel shape (the channel that would normally take the underwire) for keeping shape, but it’s the best I can come up with, so far:

    1. Try a narrow, rigid cording, like blind cording, instead of wire. I’ve made corded corsets; while they’re not as firm as boned corsets, they do offer some support. If you use very narrow cording, and stitch in a couple of rows, it will be stiffer than one row.

    2. Try cutting a flexible piece of plastic to shape, and blunting the edges with heat (plastic garbage bag ties, I’m thinking of you, here.)

    3. Try using very narrow rigiline (1/4 or, better, 1/8 inch), or other flexible nylon boning, also very narrow, cut to size and with the edges heat-blunted.

    For you, Kathleen, I give up my Great Seekrit to searing the ends of nylon boning so they don’t fray and saw through your skin to your spine:

    I use a knife-edge, from a woodburning kit (the kind you’d buy for a Scout for a merit badge). Much easier to control than almost anything else. Get away from me with your “candle flame” in my workroom! (Manufacturers, I’m talking to you.)

  32. Pamela Gimnich says:

    I am very interested in this topic. I have an egg shaped ribcage and hollow chest. I have always had the problem of bras being wide under the arms and gaping in the center. No matter how tight I put up the straps the wires dig in under my breasts. Sizing down on the band and using an extender helps some, but am really interested in your fixes.

  33. Suzanne Royals says:

    I just reread this article linking off the Threads website…Reading it the second time I have to say this is exactly the issue I have been trying to correct for most of my adult life. In order to buy a bra, with any kind of comfort, I have increased the band size, and fiddled with the cup size. I probably should wear a 38DD but have recently found a 40D that is comfortable, has a front close with a racing back. That being said I was looking in the mirror this morning and I noticed how far apart my breasts are in it, making me appear much wider than I actually should be.
    I just dread looking for something else, because it is so exhausting, and typically the results aren’t great.

    I have been trying to figure out tailoring blouse and have deducted that adding width to a garment does not accomodate the depth. So what I have been playing with is a full bust adjustment to the front, and then tailoring the back to take out some excess. I have have some moderate success with this.

    Anyway just my two sense.

  34. Rebekah says:

    Wow – I just stumbled upon this page quite by chance after buying a whole new batch of bras from Victoria’s Secret that I thought would correct the problems I was previously having and which didn’t whatsoever. I definitely have the problems you mention of having to constantly pull shirts down from my neck, having to pull the bra front down and out from digging in, etc. I have definitely found that “push-up” bras help a good deal, but it would be nice if someone would simply design more bras for my chest structure! Thanks for your insight.

  35. Dana says:

    Thank you! Having the info is the first step to solving the problem. This post really helped me form a single concept of my fitting problems rather than having a lot of pieces that don’t seem to make sense. It diagnosed my fitting problems so that I don’t have to describe myself as a list of “symptoms”. Now I have to apply it to my sewing…Thanks for the heads-up that you posted on the pattern design group on yahoo!

  36. nancy says:

    count me in… hard to get a bra . when i do get one thats not too bad, the straps fall down and drive me crazy.the wires always stick out in front. i’m a 36ddd. this egg shape seems to affect how other clothes fit and look sometimes. i just want to wear a sack and forget it.

  37. Joanna says:

    Wow! I about hyperventilated when I saw your drawings. I’m working on a bra pattern for myself again — I’ve tried off and on for 20 years and never figured it out. I would really really like to see your pattern fixes because my own ideas just seem to move the problems around.

    Anyhow, yes: I can’t stand to wear T-shirts or anything with a high, round neck; bra straps dig into the fronts of my shoulders; bras are too wide and flat in the center front, pushing my breasts sideways; underwires are too deep at the bottom and they poke out CF; demi-bras fit best but are insecure when bending over and there’s a whole lot of jiggle going on. I have a stocky build and a deep chest and pelvis, more cylindrical than egg-shaped.

    For those needing shorter underwires, you can just cut them with wire cutters, smooth the cut edges, and coat the tips with epoxy, nail polish, etc. You can also buy demi wires. See Bra-Makers Supply.

  38. Beverly says:

    To Joanna and anyone else wanting to cut underwires:

    There is a better product on the market for tipping the cut ends of underwires – the only one I have found that will stand up to the washing and wearing process. It is called Household Goop, and it is available in hardware stores as well as on Amazon (of all places!)


    By the way, I use a Dremel to smoooth the cut ends. What a great little power tool, sized just right!

  39. Heather says:

    I’m a decent 36C and rather perky at that. However, I’ve almost never found a bra that accentuated my assests. I’ve always commented to people that my breast just don’t like each other and therefore I have no cleavage. But if I take this into account it makes a lot of sense. Good research!

  40. Dianna Bishop says:

    Hey! First, let me say I LOVE your site! :) I am definitely egg shaped and have ALL of the problems that you just described! My chest is always spilling out of the front yet has gaping spaces on the side. My bra never sets comfortably in respect to the band/straps……… :D I LOVE YOU! I always thought this was just a problem I had…….. LOL I am so glad that there are others! I am told by professional bra fitters that I am a 38F…. You cannot find those bras unless you pay more than 200 USD per pop! :/ SO I have 2 of those and 3 44ddd which leaves me with too large of a band and extra space in all the wrong places! Due to all of the problems with my bras and how clothes fit me, I took up sewing! :) I am a noob but I am learning quickly I think…. Wish I had someone to teach me all of the draping and pattern drafting though :/ You can’t find too much of that stuff around here in Georgia…….. :D

  41. Teresa says:

    I am so happy to have found this page! I have pretty severe pectus excavatum, but not Marfan’s.

    I’m at the point now where NOTHING works for me bra-wise. I think my breasts sit lower on my chest because of my height (I’m 5’11”), so most bras don’t have long enough straps. Because of the pectus excavatum, underwire digs into my ribcage (bras hit where my rib cage curves back up to my stomach) and I also seem to shoot out of the sides and the center of bras. If I wear a bra without underwire, the bottom curves up over my breasts and my breasts occasionally sneak out the bottom. I also have chronic pain, so even though bustiers and corsets work better for the curved chest issue, they are tight enough that I end up with a nasty flare of gnawing pain in my torso. So frustrating!

    I think I’m going to try what someone suggested above (wearing camisoles) and see how that works. Has anyone ever tried the stick on bra cups that are meant for strapless dresses? I was thinking that may work too.

  42. trsih says:

    Wow, that got a reaction, Kathleen! You are the best. It is an honor to “play” with you and work with you… as if there is a difference, LOL.

    Not completely off topic: Do any of you know about the Sleep Bra, that is patented? I will provide a link to Kelly’s site.

    Kelly lives right between Kathleen and me. She wanted to solve the issue of breat tissue and gravity while sleeping on one’s side and she wanted to prevent the wrinkles she was beginning to see.

    I know she was beginning to market the bras but I have not had time to keep up with her quest.

    Thanks for the blog

  43. Teresa says:

    I had originally posted at the beginning of November 2006, but I wanted to provide an update in case there’s any other readers out there with pectus excavatum (funnel chest).

    I have been medically approved for surgery to correct my pectus excavatum; tenative date for surgery is Oct 2007 (we have high deductible insurance, so later in the year means we pay less for it). Basically, mine is bad enough that it is causing problems with my heart and lungs, and per my OB/GYN, I cannot get pregnant until it’s corrected.

    If you have this problem, I would suggest having it checked out. My primary care doctor actually treated me like I was crazy and said that there was nothing that could be done, which is NOT the case. Check out the University of Minnesota’s web page on pectus excavatum if your doctor decides to blow you off like mine did (my surgeon is a U of M doctor and I found him through their web site).

    Hopefully once this surgery is done and I’m healed, I’ll also be able to comfortably wear a bra and have it fit properly too. :)

  44. michele says:

    I am so frustrated buying bras that don’t correct my problem. I was just going to cut into my $70 bra to try and pull the cups together and re-sew (I don’t even know how to sew!)

    Although I see lots of complaints, there are no solutions. Kathleen, if you market one, I’ll buy 100.

  45. Alison says:

    I am so happy to have found this thread! I have had trouble finding well fitting bras for as long as I can remember. Finally I made the connection between the shape of my ribcage and the fitting problems I experience. I wear a 34F-FF bra, so finding something nice is already hard enough. I also have a practically non-existent cleavage due to my prominant sternum. This also means that from the front and back I look like a 32 bandsize. However, from the side, I look more like a 36. My breasts are quite flat or ‘fried egg’ in shape considering their size. This also means that when viewed from the side, my breasts look much smaller than they really are . I have a very hollow back, compressed shoulder blades and a prominant behind. Coupled with the fact that I am a little overwight, I really look like I’m sticking my belly and backside out when I put my shoulders back, – not a very attractive look!! I find it all very gutting that I have so much trouble finding a bra in a large cup size, but still ony look like I’m a d cup! I definitely have problems with gaping collars and trouser backs too. I also find that most bras look very pointed from the side. Could this all perhaps be remedied by designing a bra which was for example, a 32G in terms of the actual cupsize and spacing, but have extra length in the band to accomodate the extra depth? Anyway, keep up the good work – it’s great to be able to discuss these things with people who understand what I’m banging on about.

  46. Andrea says:

    I came across this site quite by accident, but I’m pleased I did. Suddenly you’ve explained a lifetime of bra-fitting trouble.

    I’ve never understood why I struggled to find a cup to fit. I’ve hovered between two cup sizes, neither of which is truly satisfactory. The smaller one fits around the side of the breast but pushes the middle up and out because there’s nowhere else for it to go. The other contains the breast pretty well but with large gaps all around the sides.

    I look for straps that are centred over the cups rather than at the sides of them because they dig in. Underwires cut in the most awkward places.

    Also, some designs of the bit between the cups tend to make a funny shape in the middle on me – now I know it’s because they’re folding further than they should.

    And yes, my poor boobies point outwards and I’m always pulling my shirt down – damn thing keeps trying to strangle me.

    You may be on to something.

  47. Teresa says:

    Well, I’m a little under 3 months out from my tenative surgery date. The hospital should be doing the pre-admission paperwork soon and said I have a very good chance of getting approved due to my very high pectus index number (normal is 2.5, I’m 4.8).

    I just wanted to drop a note that I found a strapless that works very well for me. Strapless generally don’t work well for me because it sits at the point where my sternum and ribs start curving upwards and bustiers aren’t a solution due to my chronic pain issues (tight garments on the torso cause huge issues). However, I tried Victoria’s Secret’s Very Sexy 100-ways strapless convertible bra and it worked really well for me. I’ve heard mostly bad things about VS, but their 38C fit me really well and it was comfortable when I wore it under a dress to a cousin’s wedding. The largest size is a 38D.

    You can see it here:


  48. Nishita says:

    I found this post through a message on a forum, and after the first paragraph I realized that every symptom is dead-on description of all my clothing/bra problems. I could never figure out why, even though my breasts seemed spaced somewhat wide, bras always felt like the cups were too far apart and why I had no cleavage even though I have large breasts.

    I’ve been fitted several times at trustworthy stores, and it’s almost unanimous that I’m a 36DDD. I’ve been in specialty stores with those women who are so well-trained with bra fitting that they pretty much only need to look at you to determine your size, and they would never guess right for me. A 38 or 40B would be their guess, but after they measured… yep, 36DDD.

    I hate wearing tops with high necks because they shift up and choke me, but I’ve found that it’s also really hard for me to wear anything else because I have no cleavage. I’m short and have a short torso as well, so anything even mildly low-cut drapes straight down my chest, makes it look flat and exposes the center gore of my bra.

    I’ve always thought that push-ups fit me better, but it’s very hard to find them (or just a regular bra) in my size. Unfortunately, I’m domestically challenged and don’t think I could pull off making my own bras.

  49. ugh says:

    I’m another person with the opposite problem (pectus excavatum). Bras have always been a big problem for me and I have also considered making my own bras (or have one custom made) but don’t know how to fix them so that the middle bit actually fits against my chest. I just don’t know how to fix the middle so that it fits against chest. I wish someone would make bras for both of these groups… I think there are more of us than they think.

  50. Karla says:

    Reading these “symptoms” almost made me feel like someone’s been watching me getting dressed! If I use the traditional or typically recommended bra-measuring techniques, I end up with 40F, but when I actually try them on, the best fit is between 34H and 34I depending on the maker. The right fit makes me look like I’ve lost 10 lbs, because my chest stays out in front of me instead of pushing my arms outward. But even with these, I feel the circumference of the cups is too large, and the centre gore too wide. The underwire digs into my armpits, and my nipples are still doing the east-west thing. I believe I will try to find something in a 32 band (although this will probably require a J cup…I’m working on my doctor for a breast reduction) with an extender. If I manage to find such an animal, I will update with my results.

  51. Shelly says:

    Well I have come up with the proper term for the dip in my chest, the pectus excavatum. I went in for a physical one year and the only thing that the doctor said was that I had a muscular skeletal disorder.

    On top of the pectus excavatum bit of it, my rib cages lower bones come to the egg shape on each side, effectively producing an extra set of “breasts” though they are just my rib bones. It was really easy to see when I was young (breastless) and skinny, now that I am grown up (and breastfull) I find that my breasts tend to lay on my ribs even when sitting in the perfect posture. I have recently gotten into the whole torso bra things (bustiers on some sites, corsets on others) and have found that they work well to keep more padding between my ribs and breasts.

    And with the shape of my ribs an underwire would not even come close to setting against my skin.

  52. Teresa says:

    Just wanted to check in and let everyone know my pectus excavatum repair surgery was successful. It also alleviated many health issues and gave me nearly an extra inch in height.

    Unfortunately, I am still having horrible issues with bras. I recently realized my bra issues are caused by my square-shaped rib cage, which makes my breasts wide in shape and thus not as thick (or tall, maybe?) as someone with a round rib cage shape. This probably explains why I always have too much room in the front center and top (in full coverage styles) of bras.

    At this point, the only bra manufacturer that works for me is Victoria’s Secret. I love their demi cup Angel Secret Embrace bra because it’s the only non-padded/non-push-up bra that mostly fits me. I’ve stopped buying Frederick’s of Hollywood bras because their website charges me sales tax on items that cannot be taxed in the state I live in.

  53. stephaney says:

    I too have the bra fitting issues you mention. I did not have a barrel or egg chest when I was younger, so I wonder if this is a result of aging?

  54. Heather says:

    Wow…You just described every single aspect of bra fitting issues that I have. My size is a 30E. Not only to I have a narrower frame (which would make it appear egg shaped were you standing above me), but I also have very saggy breast tissue. So I get the problem of bras going to the sides of my body but I also measure at the wrong size because I’m so saggy. I have to lean over to get my cup size, otherwise I would be told I need a 30C which I could not fit into even if my life depended upon it. I always wear the wrong size (34D’s and 32DD’s) because mine is hard to find and even when I do find it, the only brands that have styles I like have too big of a band so I could really use a 28 in them, except they only go as small as 30 and for some reason, the brands that make my size seem to think my boobs are made of led and can stand on their own!

    Thank you for such a great article! I really hope something comes of this in the future as far as bras for different body types go.

  55. Jo says:

    Kathleen…an amazing post…”I know all kinds of pattern fixes for it too but don’t know if anybody’d be interested in it”

    Any chance you can post some of these pattern fixes?

    I came across this post whilst researching a solution to an odd fold that appeared in a foundation bodice that I am drafting for an evening gown. I am trying to adjust a princess seamed bodice that fitted perfectly last year but now needs reducing due to weight loss. When pinned to conform to the wearers new shape a wrinkle appeared centrally just below the bust which looked like it could be fixed by creating a double ended horozontal dart there….similar to that shown in one of the sketches above. I considered the curved front seam idea (although that won’t fix the wrinke…I wonder if I need to do some sort of reverse FBA there) and found this interesting fitting essay which gives two different looks and degrees of comfort for a curved and non curved fron seam…

  56. Jen says:

    Thank you for your very interesting blog. I have many things to say as I am the owner of a bra fitting boutique. Most of these issues can be easily dealt with if you visit a very well reputed bra fitting store. Especially the pectus excavatum ladies. Get fit and ask to try on plunge cut bras. These bras have low wires so they do not have to reach all the way into the centre of the sternum. Any bra that is a balconatte, preferably a British make will most always fit very well. We see this daily at our store in Toronto.
    A note on bra fitting, every woman has differnet shaped, size breasts. There are over 100 sizes of bras that are meant to suit all the different body types. Granted when you are a 32K cup you will have a more difficult time with selection. You may not always like the style that suits your particular shape, then it becomes comfort vs. look.
    If you shop for bras, please go to a bra boutique and ask to be properly fitted.
    Ask them how long they have been fitting bras.
    Ask if they do the hooks up on the loosest set of hooks or the middle. It’s best on the loosest so you have a longer life span.
    Is the bra snug to your body, it should be.
    Were you asked to pull yourself up and in?
    The wires should always rest against your breast bone, unless pectus excavatum is your body type, then it depends on the bra.
    The best bras we find are made by the British. The best cut is the balcony (unless you have narrow or sloped shoulders)

  57. Audrey G says:

    Hello, I am replying as I have the petus excavatum, type chest. I have an indent under my
    breast which makes bra fitting imposible. The breast bone doesn’t push on my heart or lungs
    but is deep enough if I laid down as a kid, it held water ! I do have some heart flutters at times
    but no real decrease in air capacity. I have had a masectomy & am in great pain caused by
    the pulling over chest wall. The removal of skin underneath on both sides didn’t help. Also
    I had enlarged lymth nodes & a disection under my arm, making it very hard on my shoulder
    that did protrude before. Its worse now, but Dr. feels it will improve. I hope to have a saline
    implant put in afterwards, unless the radiation makes that not an alternative if my skin won’t stretch afterwards. Living with this condition as a teen was embarassing & you miss alot of functions in life hiding away behind clothes. It does make a difference to you around guys.
    I feel bad when I read about gals now in this age who are feeling this. It’s good they can fix
    it now, that wasn’t an option in my youth. I am 59 but am younger looking. I have longer arms
    not overly, a short wait & long body, and a slim to thin build most of my life. As I had kids later
    on my chest did fill in enough to make the chest look like more cleevage than dip. Now I am back to what I was only worse. The idea of looking for ill fitting masectomy bras, leaves me with
    the idea to just Remove the other breast!

  58. G says:

    You mean *every*body doesn’t have that problem with the front of the shirt trying to choke you after a while? Huh!

    I usually only wear shirts with shelf bras; the shirt’s neckline stays in place, and the shelf bra doesn’t dig into my chest in the various ways actual bras do. If I have to be more formal or businesslike than that, I usually wear a sports bra and have to constantly pull my shirt down.

    There’s a solution in patterns for this? Oh, you tease, what IS it?? I can live without bras, but it would be relief of a lifelong irritation if I could just keep shirts from trying to throttle me.

  59. olvia says:

    To add my situation to the pattern consideration, I’m not really sure if I’m egg shaped or oval, tho from a purely vain standpoint, I may very well be egg-shaped, and I don’t like it. I measure to a 33-C (just barely a C). I finally gave up shopping for bras years ago when I walked into Victoria’s Secret and asked for a 33C bra with no padding and was met with “you need padding” as the response. Generally I get stuck with 34B bras, except the cup is slightly small and the problem I always run into is that they pull up and in towards the middle of my ribcage. If I wear an underwire bra especially, I can’t lift my arms above my head or I’ll have breast tissue squishing out underneath. 32 band is too small; Full c cups are always too big, and it’s apparent that my breasts, from the front, appear low and further apart; I frequently have issues with straps, extended fully, not being long enough on top of the “pulling in” because the girls are actually off to the side. After reading everything here on bra fitting and shapes, this may explain why I have NO luck finding a strapless bra that fits enough to fake it under evening gowns. I’ve just given up on bras altogether and chortle when people see me topless and say “wow… you look…bigger.” This site is priceless; thank you!!!

  60. Janjy says:

    I found your site by typing in 40DDD front closure, and just kept going to the next page, because everything I looked at is the same old stuff. I once spent a day specifically looking for sites for bras in other countries, and I did find that in england, france and australia they have sizes that are harder to get — small band-large cup, large band-small cup, etc. I have over the last 10 years put on a lot of weight due to thyroid problems. Had to have my thyroid removed twice (it grew back), and the third time they burned that sucker with radio-active iodine, which they couldn’t do the first two times because the doctor missed the window of opportunity, but that is another story. For most of my life I was a 32D and I wore a bra called “glossies” by john kloss for lily of france. I had dozens of them in every color imagineable! As I got larger, and that line of bras was discontinued, I started wearing the emma bra by victoria’s secret, it was fine until they changed the metal front closure to plastic and it burst open one day! And, they don’t make their bras any bigger than 40DD. Where do all the women with huge breast implants and small band sizes get bras? Say like Dolly Parton, who looks like she is a 28 Z! I do not like back closure bras, and I do not like “industrial looking” front closure bras. The best bra I even had was a front closure balconette, don’t remember who made it, but I was never able to find it again. I never tried a “push up” bra, because I figured I didn’t need extra padding, but maybe I should, except I cannot find in my size with a front closure… I have wide breasts, but they are not far apart and I frequently find I have the problem of bras making my breasts go east and west (I have returned bras and complained to the manufacturers to no avail), some bras have had wires that have too deep a U shape and the wire pokes my arm pits, straps always fall off my shoulders, so I like t-backs, and on and on. I also have the problem with shirts, which now because I have a scar on my neck it really bothers me. A crew neck always manages to bunch up right at my scar and rub it — really obnoxious. The seat belt in my car also falls right on the wrong spot on my neck unless I put it under my breasts! I FINALLY found a bra I liked, with front closure (metal :-) and a T back, nicely fitting cups (not too far apart), wires that didn’t dig, AND, it came in a 40 DDD — It was a cacique bra from lane bryant. And what happened? They discontinued it! I wrote to them, and got a “canned” answer. Just wanted to add my two-cents! Glad I found this site, and will be back to read more posts.

  61. Steph says:

    I wish I had found out about this site sooner. This is EXACTLY my problem, every word of it.

    Even though I understand you’re referring to something more subtle than pigeon chests, as a diagnosed pigeon chested woman you’ve hit the nail on the head with all the issues I have with bras. I think an egg shape-friendly bra would be such a blessing for pigeon chested women as well. :)

    Since you’re the only person I’ve ever seen make the link between this disorder and/or shape with bra fitting, I’m going to give you the whole story just in case it helps (and because I am desperate for a solution).

    I have very uneven breasts, which is exacerbated by my pectus carinatum, since the protrusion is bigger under the larger breast, making it look even larger than the other. Also, I have a major “east/west” issue because of my protrusion. The protruding sternum/ribs also pushes my bras to one side (almost letting my larger breast fall out) so even correct cup sizes/bands don’t stay in place. Can’t tell ya how fun it is trying to find a secret corner where I can yank it back into place without embarrassing myself! XD Lastly, because my sternum/ribs stick out right where underwire tends to meet between the breasts, I have issues with stabbing/itching/even slicing into my skin there. But you are correct, push up bras are a little better, though not ideal for me. An egg shape custom bra would be a godsend. :D

    My shape/disorder has been so frustrating/time consuming/self-esteem lowering, not to mention expensive! ;) I cannot tell you how nice it feels to hear that someone else has experienced/witnessed these frustrations and is doing something about it! THANK YOU!!

    Once again, Thank You and please keep me abreast of this study/bra and any new posts (lol, puns)! :D

  62. Kelly says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE, I would buy this bra. Please make it immediately (but sell it at a reasonably affordable price!). I have this problem, and sorry ladies, but glad I’m not alone. This is the only post I’ve been able to find that seems to describe this issue.

    Would like to add: La BellaDonna, ditto to everything.

  63. Kelly says:

    Hey again ladies… after thinking about this some more… I have a somewhat decent bra soluction, at a very affordable price. I have been buying these ones because they are pretty comfy. On a 1 to 10, I’d give them a 7. On price, can’t beat it, $9. Anyway, not advertising, but these bras are convertible in every possible way practically. I think because the front has a closure and is therfore flexible, it doesn’t hurt the breast bone inbetween, and kind of below, the breasts as much as other underwires do. It’s a demi-cup push-up, converts into strapless and many types of strap configs, and has front and back closure. Give it a try. I love these $9 bras more than any other ones I’ve worn (and paid boucoup bucks for). Go to http://www.walmart.com and under apparel > women > bras > Secret Treasures – Convertible Strapless Underwire Bra. (Kathleen – maybe you could use this bra as a tester for your design; take the good parts from it and make it better).

  64. Kay says:

    I have Pectum Excavatum, and I am in the ongoing search for a bra that actually would fit me and not cause pain (to either boobs or ribs). The underwire on most bra’s is rather U shaped, and rests lower than my breasts, causing it to rub against my ribs (which creates sore, swollen lumps). Also, due to the P.E., my breasts (following reconstructive surgery) are close together in the center of my chest, which causes the underwire to jab into my breasts. The front center of my bra will typicially be 1 to 2 inches from my sternum. I have spent a great deal of money on bras that simply do not work for me. I had hoped that the Cosabella Marlene bra would work, but the 32in band width was too large for me (their underwire seemed to be more “boat” shaped in that bra than most) so shape seemed promising. Victoria’s Secret bras are painful (too U shaped), Chantal bras don’t work, Le Mystere & Le Mystere #9 bras straps end up in my armpit, “econo” bras don’t come in my size (32DD,depending on brand and style, which by the way is the same cup size as a 36C). I would like to find a bra that is comfortable and attractive. I hate spending $50-$80+ dollars on a bra that looks wierd under clothing and does not fit. Help! If you have similar issues and have had any success please pass along the word. I’m sure that the brands that I mentioned work well for most women, just not for me. Last, but certainly not least, reconstructive surgery was a great choice for me. At age 35 I finally have breasts that extend past my rib cage, rather that sitting in the valley that is my upper chest. It is nice to have clothing fit correctly, and feel comfortable with my appearance.

  65. Whimsicality says:

    What a relief to read about so many others with this condition!

    I have pectus excavitum as well. It was borderline severe and so they operated when I was 3 years old to bring the sternum out. In the process they had to break and reset ribs. As a result, or perhaps part of the initial problem my lower ribcage sticks out significantly farther than the upper part. However, my upper ribcage is still fairly wide it seems… I have only found one type of bra that works ‘Okay’. Forget Victoria’s Secret- I have tried on several different sizes and types of bras and none fit correctly. I have *never* had a problem with underwires digging into my chest. I never have problems with strapless bras staying on or in place either- maybe due to my ribcage being slightly narrower just under the breasts and widening as it goes down? However- my problem is that my breasts do not entirely fill the cups because the cups are set too far to the sides of my chest. I have somewhat broad shoulders for a woman so maybe this is a contributing factor? I think if my chest were shaped normally I would be a 36A. The cups on a 34B appear to fit better, however. I have no idea why, but the cups seem to be closer together and pull my breasts into a more ‘natural’ appearance. I should try a 2 inch extender with the 34B size bra to see if the fit is better.

  66. Olivia says:

    Actually, I find this to be completely fascinating. I work in a bra store specifically for large breasted women, and learning how the same bra can fit on different women has been very interesting. I did not realize there were so many chest shapes, but it does certainly make a difference, and this will be something for me to keep in mind as I perform fittings.

  67. Penny says:

    I don’t know whether I am egg chested, all I know is that if you sliced me in half vertically through the top of my head my front is bigger than my back. I wear anything from a 34H to a 38DDD – though this is hard to explain because Australian sizes are different from US ones. I have a very narrow back in relation to the cup size I need. I am also very short from shoulder to bust point so I have to shorten the straps on any bra I buy and I often have to take tucks in the sides to get a firm enough fit with a big enough cup. There is no space between my breasts at the chest wall and the front wires never, ever sit flat on my chest . If I buy a Fyreform the wires get a bit closer but my breasts are stuck out in coneshapes at what appears to be a 45 degree angle. Being small , just over 5 foot with such large breasts I would rather keep things less exaggerated. The straps also cut into my shoulders a lot which makes certain bras out of the question, usually the attractive ones. It has been my observation that the smaller the bust size a person has the more they want people to see their chest, the bigger, the more people are likely to want to disguise this part of their body. I have discovered as I have progressed through menopause and used HRT they are getting larger by the year . Will they ever stop expanding ?

  68. Mare says:

    @Steph…another pectus carinatum, thank goodness. (I have only known personally a few men to have this problem, but never any women.) I am in my 40s and am really needing a bra with support, but can NOT wear underwire bras at all because they cut into my “pushed out” breast bone. Kathleen, the egg shape makes so much sense since my problem with PC causes my breasts to fall further to the side. I am so glad to have found this site. When I was younger I was very small chested and got by with whatever I could find. (I won’t even go into bathing suits…UGH!) However since I am older and a little heavier, the more frustrating the search has become because I need the support now more than ever. I hope someone can come up with a solution. After reading this, I can conclude that there are very few women who actually have breasts like a Victoria’s Secret model.

  69. Sairs says:


    Some of the problems described above with the egg shape fit issues definitely describe me: bras attempt to pull my breasts apart; strapt cut into the front of my shoulders; constantly pulling my shirt down from my neck. And of course all the other fitment issues listed by the other women with Pectus Excavatum sound all too familiar also: underwires hurt my ribs and poke into my breasts where they rub together at the front; protruding lower ribs (called “coastal flarings”); spill out the front from lack of support; push-up bras fit best but still not quite right.

    I am gobsmacked to find so many women with this problem. As Mare mentioned above, pectuc carinatum and excavatum is far more common in men. My two brothers have pectus carinatum. my father and grandfather have pectus excavatum. my sisters are “normal”. And i was the unlucky one. I’ve never met another woman with either P.E. or P.C. Official figures is that only 1 in 4 sufferers are female. But i guess that still means there must be a lot of women out there with our bra fit issue.


  70. MJ says:

    I have PE and have been wearing Evolution bras by Margarita available on brastraps.com. They are push ’em up, pad ’em up underwire bras and because my flared ribs appear to stick out farther than my dismal ptotic breasts (I’m 5’7″, 115 lbs, active, fit and 47) when I’m naked, a 34B gives my body the illusion of ‘normalcy’ when clothed. The front of the bra does not sit flat against the sternum and I accept that. As well, I buy swimwear from Venus swimwear as they have a line of padded, push up bikinis that give the same illusion and yes, I wear them on the beach. Let’s unite, PE sisters, and make the PE figure the new normal!

  71. Jennifer says:

    @Mare & @Steph Another pectus carinatum woman here. My PC is pretty extreme — my sternum juts out on the right and my left rib cage dips way in…I’m very asymmetrical and have a slight scoliosis as well. I am so frustrated! I spend half my day tugging at, adjusting, and moving my bra into different positions but I can’t find comfort. I have a small build (5’5″, 115 pounds, 34A). I would pay $100, even more, if someone could make me a bra that made me look normal and feel comfortable. Argh! Years ago I found that I could wear Natori bras because the cups were a little further apart but I still had discomfort around my ribcage. I gave up completely on real bras in my early 30’s and wore what my husband likes to call “the uniboob bra” but they gave me no support and pretty much completely flattened me. I thought I’d finally found the perfect bra a few years ago (the Victoria’s Secret Ipex) but in recent months I’ve had problems with them as well. Anyway, I’m going insane! Glad to know that there are others like me out there but I’m sad that we’re all suffering through this. My brother has PE and well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about wearing a bra!

  72. Allen says:

    Let me try to recap. One side of the sternum is concave, is more inward than the other?
    I assume this means the bra moves toward the the other side. If the left breast is on the cocave side you have to re-position thebra to the left for it migrates to the right side.
    If this is true then its complex multiple vector physics with a possible simple solution (matrix algebra optional).
    All joking aside. Breathing puts strain on the lower bra strap. The void on the left side does not push agaist the bra strap as much as the right side – which makes full contact with the bra. Hence the left side can slip while the right side can not. A right side silky insert should even the tension with the left side keepin the bra in the middle.
    Eh, its just a theory. I have not run any tests.

    Please let me know what you tink, even if its just a laugh =)


  73. Portia says:

    I have been struggling with this for awhile. I am a DD cup, but have fond that demi/ balconey bras fit me best. I also find that I can not wear any mass produced clothing with darts because the darts are typically 1 1/2″ – 2″ too high and they are many times off center. I do sew and have modified many patterns to fit me. It had never occurred to me that my body circumference shape was different than the patterns often go on. Thank you for your possible solutions to my fashion issues.

  74. Allen says:

    Hi. Its good all these suggestions help. I hope you find alot here.
    Large busted women find two other problems. First the bust projection may fall lower. Instead of being 1/2 the distance from the shoulder to the elbow, the bust breaks (furthest projection forward) lower.
    Second, because there is more volume, the base of the cup can be lower. In filling more of the front, the first dart has to occure lower.
    This is *all* normal. Chest band has to take 90% of the weight so the bra straps do not. A propperly fitted bra allows for two fingers to be placed under the bra strap. Its snug but not uncomfertable. Many women who are fitted freak out a little to find the are a 38F not a 40DD. There is something about the letters F,G,H,I,J, K that feels “freakish”
    Lastly yes – one side is larger than the other. Its normal. Typically its your dominate side. Right handed? Righ side. Left handed? Left one.

    Portia you are doing the right thing. Not only do you have a waist but showing helps take the focuse off the bust. Use an item around the neck, item around the waist to help draw the eye there.

    Hope this helps.


  75. Adria says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, I have spent many many hours searching online for a solution to my bra problems and this is the first time I’ve found anything. I am 20 years old, 140 lbs, 5’10”, I have (like a few other posters) and indented sternum (about 2 inches indented) and on top of that I am a 34DD (which is practically impossible to find).

    I mostly just wear sports bras because they sit lower down on my body and actually hold all of by bust withing the bra. My problem with traditional bras is that my breasts come to the center and fall out. I think this is because my sternum is indented so the U wire there does not touch it and because of this does not support about 2 inches of my breast. What I generally end up doing is getting an under wire bra with no padding (just stretchy fabric) and bending the wires that sit between my breasts inwards (so they ALMOST touch my sternum). This certainly doesn’t solve the problem, but it seems to at least cover my breasts a bit better.

    One other thing that annoys me to no end: why, when they make something “larger” does everything get larger EXCEPT the depth of the bust. It might get a little wider across, but there is generally no extra gathered fabric to allow for the fullness of a breast to push it out.

  76. Mand says:

    I completely agree with this. I have real problems with bra straps digging into the creases between my arm and bust, underwires digging into the breast tissue in the middle, bra straps digging into my shouldres… it is a problem that drives me crazy everyday and I buy bras constantly forever thinking that I have finally found one that fits only for it to annoy me after several hours of wear. I am not a sewer and would love to be able to modify the bras I buy because I can see just by looking at them how the straps are places to far to the sides and there is not enough material in the centre,

    Please, let me know as soon as you find/create a stockist that will solve this problem! I am a 30DD and not only is my comfort suffering, but I get so worked up after wearing a bra sitting down for hours that I find it impossible to concentrate on doing work whilst wearing one. And if I don’t wear one I feel like my breasts sag. Catch-22!

  77. Amy says:

    Hi everyone!!

    I’m a student studying Contour Fashion (lingerie and corsetry design) and I’m researching into Pectus Excavatum and Carinatum in order to change the inadequate lingerie industry! I and someone I know has PE and understand the problems with bra fitting but need more info if I can make a change! Can anyone please contact me if you’re interested in sharing information? Things like measurements, problems and fitting experiences. There is no industry development for people with PE who don’t want surgery and I really want to change this!

    My email is codesinger@hotmail.co.uk if you’re interested.



  78. Jodi says:

    I am a certified athletic trainer and have worked specifically with the US Ski and Snowboard national teams for most of my career and I was able to learn of a Physical Therapist out of Nebraska whos work centers around exactly your discussion.

    Early in his career, he recognized postural positions/asymmetries of people and asymmetrical movement patterns

    They discuss and outline exactly what different postural positions of the pelvis, thorax and head are created by the body due to primarily, one sided overuse patterns of daily life, such as how we open doors with the same arm and body position, stand on one leg, drive a car, etc.

    They work with a myriad of professionals; podiatrists, optometrists and dentists in the treatment of these movement patterns and postural positioning. Their exercise approach to treating these dysfunctions (since these postural positions usually lead to chronic pain in ankles, knees, shoulder, back, neck and jaw) is outstanding for my profession.

    What I did not fully realize is how it affects the garment industry, that there were professionals out there who also deal with human bodies and have developed a keen eye to recognized that bodies vary and are not symmetrical. EG: why does one (right) bra strap fall off the should ALL THE TIME and not the left? Why is there a left rib hump when lying down and not on the right? In addition to other body positions discussed above, Etc…

    The therapy website is a bit technical and expands greatly from just general (archaic) anthropometric data or diagrams, and I feel it is a great resource for this topic. It explains different postural adaptations for the general population, who you also see on a daily basis. It may explain in better detail what you are seeing, as well.

    Website for more information is http://www.posturalrestoration.com

    Thank you for the discussion and very interesting topic!


  79. Sue says:

    I only knew that I felt and looked much better when the cups of my bra were closer together. I’ve been pulling the two underwires toward the center, overlapping them, and rotating them inward and upward toward my chin, then with extra-strength thread sewing the wires on top of each other once at the bottom and once at the top. It’s cuckoo but it works. I have done this with Wacoal 85525 size 34DDD.

  80. Maya says:

    Hi, I have this problem too (egg-shaped) and I’m so relieved to find out I’m not alone. Has anyone found any solutions to this? Also, I’m interested in any patterns / other information. I’ve done a Google search about my fit issues so many times I’ve lost count and this is the first time I actually find something useful. Thank you for writing this article, now I know better what to look for in bras.

  81. LA says:

    I have this problem as well, symptoms exactly as you describe them. I really thought it was just me. It is so frustrating; I am pigeon-chested, so between the east-west problem and the curvature of my chest, I can easily look like I have no breasts at all, even though I am a 30E.

    To make matters worse, due to a large weight loss some years ago, my breast tissue is very soft, and inevitably the bras that produce the best (though not ideal) shape don’t provide enough cloth to keep me from falling out of the cups when I bend over, reach, or stretch OR they cut into my breasts, resulting a very unattractive shape.

    I’ve had a bit of success by taking the best fitting bras I can find and sewing the wires closer together using a dart, similarly to what Sue has done. However, it can be challenging to do properly, given that I have to hand sew, and if I’m not very careful, the thread will break or the fabric can give way. Sue, thank you for your technique; I want to give it a try.

  82. M Strauts says:

    I am barrel chested and have the same issue of wanting to make the didtance between my cups narrower. My straps are always too far apart and there is too much space between the cups, leaving my ta-tas splayed outward.

    In fitting eyeglasses, there is a measurement called PD or Pupillary Distance, the distance between the center of your pupils. It would seem that for bras, there ought to be a be a measurement of ND (Nipple Distance). Many women no doubt have different ND’s even if they have the same Band size and Cup size.

  83. Elizabeth says:

    OMG I know this is a really old post, but you just described my bra fitting problems to a T. Have you come up with an estimate of how many women this applies to, since originally asking readers to let you know if it does?

  84. Allen says:

    Hi. (sigh) Old post, not an old problem.
    Actual numbers? No. Estimated numbers – well here goes

    Basic bra fitting problems – hundreds of thousands. “Its a bra – no batteries, patterns, moving parts. How difficult can it be?” Worse than painting fingernails. Few women see a professional bra fitter so most go by “what feels right” which is hit-or-miss
    Thoracic issus – Not sure but you are not alone. I would guess hundreds of thousands as there are only a few body types. This body shape is normal, not abnormal nor caused by medical condition.
    Large bust – Not sure but growing (pardon the pun) Bra cup sizes and band size are going up.
    Need – Growing. Wal*Mart, Victoria Secrets, et al still do not address the three basic needs:
    1) Periodic sales. Girl haas to have at least three bra’s and at $80 to $200 per it is expensive.
    2) Color – Need for “Granny white” passed in 1950’s. Ditto for “boiler plate” unless one is going for black bra retro style.
    3) Breath – a – bility and cooling. Under breast air flow sucks. Cleavage sweat is still an issue.

    As for the future – pockets for medical devices. Baby boomers are aging. Insulin pumps, medical supplies are all getting ‘hidden’ in this area. While I find it less than social to hold Cell phone, credit cards in the bra with “the girls”, other things not taken out at the cash register are fine IMO.

    Hope this helps.

  85. Allen says:

    HI. Sorry I do not have any percentages or numbers.
    Cup and band sizes are going up so I would say the problem is increasing.
    No it is not the breast it is combination of ribs, body and a lack of advancement in materials & design.

    Small cup size with foam cups to render a form. Medium cups to hold and separate and then Larger cup size which tend to be more of a “tube top”. Tube because there is no divider in the middel aiding in cooling and air flow.

    Also as baby boomers get older, I know women using the bra to hold insulin pumps and medical stuff. In My opinion it is still bad to reach into a bra at the cash register for a cell phone or credit card but other things are ok.

  86. Sharon says:

    I have just about given up finding a comfortable bra, but came across your site when searching for somewhere that tailor made bras. I am not wealthy but would pay $$$$ just to get a well fitting, comfortable bra. I’m still trying to work out my chest shape so would welcome anyone’s help. I have the following fit issues:
    The wire in underwired bras sits on my ribs rather than under my boobs. If I tighten the straps to move them up, the wire ends dig into my underarm crease the bra rides up at the back and the straps dig into my shoulders. If I reduce the band size, the rest of the bra is far too tight that I get ‘rolls’ of skin or ‘spillage’. I have been advised to decrease the band width AND increase the cup size, but I don’t have enough tissue to fill the cup particularly where my cleavage is supposed to be! I have resorted to non-wire bras but the band ends up curling up under by breasts. They also don’t seem to give me the support I need unless I buy an old ladies type that fits like body armor. Even then, the underarms seem to be cut too high. I tend to just where sports bras, but these give me a horrible shape.
    If anyone is familiar with these issues and has found a comfortable solution…please share! With Thanks

  87. mandi says:

    I noticed deformity on my chest ,the chest is sunken but no pains,on googling to find out about the deformity I came across this site ,women talking to other women,now I realize that bras not fitting well may be the reason of the PE. I don’t think I’m wrong to say I haven’t been wearing the right size of the bras.Where must I get the right measured bras.

  88. Lauri says:

    I turned to sewing due to this (and other) fitting issues. Even making my own bras, I was having the same fitting issues. I volunteered for a fit clinic at an online bra sewing conference and (hooray!) was accepted. I have (in addition to the suspected egg-shaped chest) oval-shaped, low profile, wide root breasts. With an under bust measurement of 37.5″, a full bust of 44″, and an over bust measurement of 38.5″, I sized into the 42DD pattern. However, I got some feedback from a bra pattern drafter/fitter that the cradle was too wide for my frame. Many attempts later, I ended up in a 36 G with a band extension, a projection reduction, a horizontal hemisphere reduction, and raising the underarm to contain the fluff. I tried what I learned there on a pattern I already owned, and ended up in a 36 DD with a band extension and a split lower cup to increase volume. Needless to say, I’m encouraged! I’d be interested to know if the fitting suggestions you have correspond with what has worked for me.

  89. Meg says:

    My mind is blown. I’m currently wearing one of my better bras, and let’s see:
    Center band standing away from my ribcage? Check.
    Bra straps falling off my shoulders unless I crank them so tight that the bra then rises up in the back? Check! (This was the part that always baffled me, because my shoulders are very broad and muscley –which is a whole other fitting problem, of course– so how any strap could find a way to slide off them seemed to be breaking a law of physics.)
    High-necked shirts end up rotating themselves so that the neck is choking me and the front is standing away from my belly like a tent.
    I have fallen out of bras either from the top or the bottom more times than I’d care to remember. Regular little Houdinis here.
    Not sure this is related, but for full-coverage bras with no/minimal padding, I often have weird empty space in the apex (nipply) area of the bra. I have put that down to my having absurdly conical breasts (if I go braless I look exactly like I’m wearing one of those 50s poke-your-eye-out bras) and thus having all my meat be really close to my body and not much of it out in the middle or by the tips? But maybe it’s not just a problem of difference in expected _quantity_ of flesh, but the actual orbital positioning of my apex compared to where the manufacturers expect it to be?
    Anyway, thanks so much for the thought-provoking post!

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