So, You’re A Trans Woman Looking For A Bra

Bra Week_Rory Midhani_640
WELCOME TO BRA WEEK! This week and next, the Autostraddle writers and some special guests will be giving you the scoop on over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders and otherwise-inclined chest-covering situations — fashion, history, feelings and so much more.


For trans women, buying bras is often a new experience, even if we’re adults. If you transition later in life, you probably won’t have much experience picking out bras and the sizing might be confusing. Since most of us didn’t have the typical girl childhood, we’re kind of jumping in feet first and blind. When you add in other factors that are unique to trans women, picking out the right bra can be an arduous task.

For example, many of us have larger-than-average band sizes and many of us have smaller-than-average cup sizes. Many of us are looking for padding or space to use inserts and many of us are just starting hormones and know we will be changing cup sizes gradually over time. Unfortunately, many of us also have limited financial resources. If you’re new to hormones, I recommend getting more affordable bras for now and then reassessing your bra needs later in your transition.

Obviously, not all (or maybe not any) of these will be problems for all trans women. We come in all different shapes and sizes and body types! But I’ve got some tips that I hope will be helpful.


You probably won't have this much fun via Village Voice

You probably won’t have this much fun via Village Voice

I recently went in for my first ever bra-fitting. I’d suggest going to a store that you’re familiar with or at least that you know will be trans-friendly and/or bringing a friend who can soothe your nerves. But if you can do it and you feel comfortable, I think it’s definitely worth your time. I wish I’d done it years ago. As a trans woman who didn’t start transitioning until after college, there were a lot of factors that went in to a number of regrettable bra purchases I’ve made over the years: smaller-than-average cup size, larger-than-average band size and lacking a decade or so of bra-buying experience.

Honestly, getting fitted was a little scary, and I know it’s not something all trans women will feel safe doing — if you think it’d be dangerous and don’t feel like there are any nearby stores where you won’t be misgendered or mistreated, then definitely put your mental health and safety ahead of getting a bra fitting.

I told the bra-fitter that I’m a trans woman who would be experiencing some breast growth in the coming months/years. She was super polite and helpful about everything. I found out that I was wearing the wrong bra size (one band size too small) and the woman working there also gave me some extremely helpful tips. She suggested that one thing that would be helpful would be to look for bras that have side panelling, because it guides the breast tissue forward. And believe me, if you don’t have a ton in the first place, making sure it’s all in the right place is definitely a good thing. Also, she told me that if I’m looking for a bra in my size (44C) and they don’t have it, a 42D will almost always fit the same.

When it comes to actually buying bras, Lane Bryant has a ton of plus size bras for trans ladies who have larger band sizes. One bra I’d suggest is the Cushion Comfort Balconette Bra. Another good choice is the Gilligan & O’Malley Women’s Favorite Lightly Lined Demi Bra, available at Target, which is not only cute, but also has enough padding to make a difference, but not feel like you’re stuffing your bra. A more price friendly option is the Smart & Sexy Plunge Push-Up Bra, which sells at Walmart and on Amazon in two packs for under $20. This is another bra that has some padding, but also feels natural. You might want to also check out the Smart & Sexy Extremely Sexy Extreme Pushup Bra (also available from Walmart or Amazon). So to sum up, these are a couple of different bras that each have some padding, but don’t look fake, are comfortable and won’t break the bank.


I also talked to some of my trans friends, with a variety of body types and bra preferences, to see what kind of bras are their favorites and why.

NuBra ($42-$49.99)

NuBra ($42-$49.99)

Aly has several options, depending on whether you’re looking for push-up bras or not. “I really love Gilligan & O’Malley and Forever 21 for push up bras. Frederick’s of Hollywood for non-push up bras. I use them with (for now) the NuBra as breast forms. I used to wear an A cup and B cup NuBra, one atop the other, and then the bra. You can hide the edge with makeup and presto- cleavage if you want it.”

Askari has advice for trans women who want to make their flat chests more full. “I bought two black super push up bras from Lily of France (brand carried at Kohls) during a buy one get one half off sale (still expensive at $50). They carried roughly my size of 36 A and when both bras are worn together, they give my mostly flat/non-hormone enhanced chest a huuuge push to look like a full A cup. Soft, simple, and seductive.”

Lexi often has a hard time finding good bras at department stores, but still has a favorite. “So I’m a 44B, which is not an easy size to find in most department stores when shopping for a good bra. On top of that I have a good amount of boobage that needs to be picked up. The Black Demi by Cacique has grown to be comfortable and one of my go-tos for casual to formal events.”

Or if you want to go a more simple route, you could follow Teagan Widmer’s advice when she wrote about the problems she and many other trans women had with Chrysalis, a brand of lingerie designed for trans women and just, “go to your nearest Target. Buy a two pack of push-up bras ($24 for 2), and Target’s bra inserts ($12).”

Finding the right bra not only can help you feel more comfortable and make your outfits look better, but it can also help aleviate some of the dysphoria that you might be experiencing. Although it can seem intimidating at first, finding the perfect bra for you is ultimately a great feeling.


Header by Rory Midhani

Profile photo of Mey Rude

Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 152 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    The best bra fitters I have ever found, in multiple US cities, have been at Nordstroms. I am FTM, covered with tattoos, and had some health issues that dropped my weight from 160 to 96, and back again. I never saw the same gal twice, either. They seem to teach quiet professionalism as a rule.

    Never once, did any of those gals flinch. When I was losing weight, they just went with it. The tat’s didn’t throw them. When I gained weight, and got chubby, they kindly celebrated with me, that I was getting healthy. When I went back when I started transitioning, they took my directive “for a minimizing sports bra that’ll flatten me as much as is comfortable” in stride, with me in my men’s clothing.

    The only caveat, is you’ll pay for it. They are pricey as hell. However, I’ve never been fitted anywhere else that came close to the same level of care and professionalism. For me, it was worth paying $60-$110 per bra. The bra’s were of higher quality, and I was taught how to take care of them, and they lasted a helluva lot longer than any bra I got off the shelf at Target or Walmart.

  2. Thumb up 2

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    This is pretty awesome. I had a lot of trouble with bra shopping back when I was trying to simulate boobs (these days, after a while of them growing, I have ditched the garment almost completely due to sensory problems). Very cool that there is a guide out there now.

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      I am not a trans woman, but I love this store. I am GG cup and this store is amazing. You can get super small bands from 26/28 to well into the 40s. Small cups, large cups, everything. I would recommend this store anyone wanting a good quality bra that actually fits.

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      Girl you and everyone I know lol but small breast are great for exploring other look and style I’m always being complement on my looks and style I realize why the fashion model are always flat chest you can get away with so many look with that kind of body so get on it :-)

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      You might try bras without wire. “Barely There” makes a nice one you can get at Kohl’s usually. Basically they are all spandex and so adjust to your shape. Often these are sized S/M/L vs inches/cup. You’ll need a large.

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    I think this may be my favorite article from Bra Week. Not being trans, I have problems getting fitted. Like it’s something I would TOTALLY NOT DO. I may be wearing the wrong size too. Thanks for the encouragement Mey!!

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    As a butch trans chick with a 44B size, I’m so grateful I stumbled across Cacique about 2 years ago, almost all of my bras are from them and they work wonderfully! I’d say that they’re decent mid-range bra price wise, you’ll have to make a little investment to buy them, but I’ve had mine for a long time and they’re still holding up great! And they make my boobs look amazing! ;)

  5. Thumb up 7

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    WHOOP, THERE IT IS!
    I know a lot of us in the Tumblr trans girl set were getting pretty leery when we saw a whole lot of cis women and then even trans men getting coverage during bra week and not us, but I had faith we weren’t going to get the cold shoulder. I *know* I’m wearing an undersized band right now, And I should really get them replaced ASAP — there’s a chance that really cute one I love with the gingham check and the little bows might still be in stock!

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    I’ve been meaning to sign up for a while and I needed to make this comment.

    Get fitted professionally if you can find a place that is trans friendly. I found a wonderful place that doesn’t even carry bras in my cup size, but the woman who owns the place is really pleasant and like a bra magician. When I went in I thought I was a 36 or 38 A, but I found out that I was actually a 32 C and that my ribs are shaped it is next to impossible to find a bra that fits without poking into me. Fortunately this goddess was able to recommend that I either get a little spendy and find a Natori Bra at Nordstrom, or find a bra at H&M if I couldn’t get the more expensive option. She said that many trans women are shaped like me in the chest area, but reassured me that my partner also had that sort of shape.

    Also most places will size you for free, but some places you might need an appointment. You should also not have to settle for a bra that doesn’t feel right. If a store doesn’t have a bra that fits you, that isn’t because there is something wrong with you, it is because most bras easily available are not really made for bodies that actually exist. Don’t buy a bra if it doesn’t fit, and bring a friend if you can.

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    The line “Also, she told me that if I’m looking for a bra in my size (44C) and they don’t have it, a 42D will almost always fit the same.” is very true and useful!! But not try to be crafty and do it in reverse. DOES NOT WORK! I learned the hard way…

    You CAN go up a cup size and down a strap size, but going down a cup size and up a strap size is a huge fail. I ended up with the smaller cup smooshing my tits and the too wide band not giving any support -__-

    Also, shoulder pads from sewing shops make quick/cheap/washable inserts. The shape is not perfect but it’s rounded enough that combined with a full-coverage (not the “demi-cups”) padded bra will give an extra oomph. They are also very breathable!

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    Thank you for this! I should probably go bra shopping again very soon as I’ve effectively been wearing the same one for I’ve a year and don’t have anything else that’s of decent quality and doesn’t hurt, and isn’t falling apart.

    Thanks so much especially for the tip about side panels! It makes perfect sense now why I’ve always had issues with my current pushup–all the padding is towards the bottom of the cups, so my breasts just kinda float behind and on top of the pads, and are actually squished *down* in some places. I have relatively wide A-cup breasts (pretty common among trans women I think) so I’m sure that’s part of the problem that better side paneling would fix by guiding that tissue forward. I also suspect I’m wearing the wrong band size (did a self-fitting long ago using the simple subtraction formula) so maybe a professional fitting would be a good idea.

    The only thing I can think to add most other trans girls have probably already figured out–even if you’re not into showing lots of cleavage or padded/pushup bras as a concept, all the extra padding helps protect your breasts from getting bumped/brushed during particularly sensitive, painful growth spurts. :)

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    This is excellent for me needs. I went to Dinah Shore over the weekend and was lucky I was with my friends at Target. I was worried that I would be stuck wearing shirt in the pool. I am really pre-op but knowing I had friends with me who have my back that I wasn’t too nervous when I was walking to the attendant at the dressing room. I think that having a friend is a great suggestion. I got a cute top to wear in the pool thanks to my friends.

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