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How to Bra Shop for Your Daughter: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Buying My First Bra

I'm really excited to publish today's guest post from TLA reader Celeste. You may already know this, but I have a list of topics I'd love to get guest posts about here, and one of them has been buying that first bra for your daughter. It's a question I get fairly often on the blog, but I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to answering. Thank you, Celeste, for sharing your thoughts on this topic!

gray lingerie stockings

I vividly remember my first “bras.” I was 11, in my final year of primary school, and had very recently started to develop breasts, which I was incredibly self-conscious about. My mother solved the problem I awkwardly admitted to her by buying me a multi-pack of white Bonds bralettes in the smallest size available. Which was an 8. I mean, I was small, but not that small, and wearing crop tops three sizes too small everyday filled me with a hatred of all things bra- and breast-related for the next couple of years.

Tip 1: Take your daughter with you. If only so you buy the right size.

In early high school, I noticed that more and more of my peers were wearing increasingly vivid coloured and patterned bras, and, let’s be honest here, I was dead jealous. They looked cool. Of course, the chances of explaining to my mother that really, what I wanted more than another multi-pack of white crop tops (we’d sorted out the sizing situation by this point, thankfully) was a bright red triangle bra with electric blue straps and loveheart print were fairly minimal, so alas, this dream went unfulfilled.

Tip 2: It’s about her.

Ask your daughter what her friends are wearing and/or if she knows where they shop. If she’s in early high school, it’s pretty likely much of PE is spent gossiping about what other girls were wearing in the changing room, and that she has a spot-on idea of what’s ‘cool.’ Buying something she’s going to feel good in should be the priority of a first bra shop, and it’s not too likely that you’ll find it in the children’s underwear section of your local Kmart, so think outside the box. Do you know of any brands that make bralettes, or have small band sizes? That might be a good place to start. Where do you shop? Do they have a youth department? Remember, it’s really, really, really not about you. You might think what she’d like is the ugliest thing in the world, but if its what she wants, run with it. She probably thinks most of the things you wear are hideous, and really, what does it matter if she’s wearing a bra with the faces of One Direction on each cup?

That said, there are some things she won’t know and might benefit from: that skin-tone is better than white under white/sheer shirts, that those weird hook-loop things can be used to make some straps into a racerback, etc. Think of the little things you’ve worked out slowly (and often with a look of “wow, am I stupid”) over the years. That’s the kind of stuff to pass on.

There is nothing worse than an ill-fitting bra, and there’s nothing scarier than getting professionally fitted for the first time. I mean, what just-barely-a-teen girl wants to let a random adult see her shirtless? Some changing rooms have those “handy dandy tips to know if your bra fits” signs, which can be some help, but there really is no substitute for a professional fitter.

Tip 3: Get fitted.

This one has a few caveats. If she’s not comfortable with the whole process (make sure she knows what’s involved), then either offer to go in with her, or try and do without by brushing up on your own knowledge of fitting practices before you leave – testing strap tightness, band fit, whether the gore is flat or not, if the breasts are double-booming, that kind of stuff. That way you can check some things without it being too invasive.

Tip 4: Remember, your daughter is growing.

The number of times I had to use my own pocket/birthday/Christmas money to buy bras is ridiculous. Whilst your daughter is growing into her body, make sure you remember to take her shopping fairly frequently. Maybe stick something in your diary for five or six months down the track every time you guys go shopping? We all know wearing a bra that doesn’t fit sucks, so combatting that by making sure what she’s wearing still fits fairly regularly is a pretty good idea.

Something that goes hand in hand with this is the “problem” of boy/girlfriends. Sure, accepting that your daughter is becoming a sexual being is going to be a rough transitioning period for all of you, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to own bras that make her feel sexy as hell. Something I noticed with my friends' mothers was that the second they got a boyfriend (or girlfriend, in some cases) they went from buying their daughters whatever lacy/mesh/etc thing they wanted, to sticking to neutral colours and cuts. I’m not sure how this trend started, or what the reasoning behind it is, but I can assure you that little more than casting your memory back to when you were 16 and awkward will be needed to remind you that the chances of your daughter instantly becoming a boy magnet the second she owns a nice bra are fairly limited. Oversexualisation is a much less pressing issue than making sure your daughter feels comfortable and good in her body.

Good luck and have fun shopping! This can be a great opportunity to reconnect/strengthen your relationship!

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

20 Comments on this post

  1. kqicey says:

    My moms not very open to the subject I have to wear 3 bras just to get enough support and on top of each other Help me

  2. Noe says:

    I experienced the opposite situation. At first I didn’t want to use a bra because I felt comfortable without it, but one day my mother decided it was time to buy one for me. I went to the store with her and my grandmother. My grandmother paid and gave me it as a present because she thinks it is an important moment in a woman’s life. It was a nonwired bra, light blue and white, comfy and nice . I remember this with love :)

  3. Megan says:

    I do t really know what it’s like to wear a bra that’s comfortable and well fitting because my mum doesn’t really help me very much with things like these so I have to try and figure it out on my own because she’s not very supportive (no joke intended!)

  4. Karen says:

    I think more people who actually have bought bras for their daughters need to be commenting and writing this article. I say, respond to your daughter, but also be the adult. Know what shopping plan or style will work or not; my tween hates trying things on and demands comfort, so she’s in sports bras that I picked and brought home to her, and she likes them. My other daughter needs a bra, but completely resisted the same approach, so she is bra-less and we’ll re-visit next year. If some prints or styles seem inappropriate to you, explain why and don’t buy them. For example, I would not buy my teen a bra (or undies) with photos of anyone on it. If your tween wants a bra and doesn’t need one, I would first ask her to talk about it. I think the number one thing buying a first bra for your child is for it to be an opportunity for her to feel comfortable with her changing body and to build communication between the two of you. Feeling pretty in lingerie, developing a personal lingerie style, worrying about boyrfriends and lingerie… that’s all for later.

    • Cora says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! I definitely don’t see this piece as the only article we ever have to publish on the subject (as with most things, there’s value in having multiple perspectives), so if you’d like to submit a guest post on bra shopping for your daughter, I’d be happy to take a look at it. Our guest posting policies are in the header under “Guest Posts.”

      Happy Holidays!

  5. Arianna says:

    I’m 13 and I needed a bra at age 10!!!!! When I was in 5th grade my mom noticed that I was developing, so she bought me training bras. She still hasn’t bought me anything that’s fits right. I’ve actually had to start wearing two of my “bras” along with a tank top that has a built in “bra”. I’m really scared for next year because I’ll have to change for PE and its kinda embarrassing because all of my friends started wear real bras in 4th grade even though most of them still don’t need one. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Lina says:

    I don’t know about the prints thing, because fun colors and prints (and sometimes lace) can show through your shirt. I don’t think it’s a being sexy is bad thing, but it can be kind of embarrassing or mess up the print of your shirt, or make your shirt look like it has weird stains when you can see the print of the bra through the shirt. Maybe just a gentle reminder that it’s important to be able to wear your bra under your shirts?

  7. EtMoi says:

    hehe in difference to apparently most of you, I think at some point in high school my mom had to pull me aside and gently inform me that it was time to wear a bra. I had somehow convinced myself that they were so small as to be insignificant, thus a bra was unnecessary (To this day I still wish they were a bit larger, but meh). But looking back on it makes me blush, it was a tad scandalous, and everyone who knew me back then remembers that I didn’t wear bras.
    It was difficult for a while to get used to wearing one….the band would be too tight and the cups too loose, so I would just wear sport bras. I think it was years before I learned proper fit and to really love lingerie.

  8. Vicki says:

    I am stunned at how many mothers treat their daughters when it comes to very important things as bras, sizing and bra fittings. I’ve heard many of the same stories above in other places, and teen girls have said(websites) that their mothers didn’t believe their size( 32 band or smaller and large cup sizes ) and told them their size didn’t exist , they are not that special to need a ‘special ‘ bra from either online or a lingerie store that sold their size. etc .
    Some tweens and teens start smaller, others larger, my daughter developed quickly and was large. She didn’t wear teen girl clothes, rather large t shirts from the boys section because the teen girls section tops were to small for her bust size.
    I think going for a professional fitting is good, but mom needs to do her homework with sizing, measuring and bra fit. Also if they get a fitting, make sure they get a good fitter, some fitters will put her in the wrong band/cup either for a sale or incorrect thinking about bra fit.
    The correct bra is just as important as tops, jeans/skirts, shoes and outer wear is- even more.

  9. Lahnna says:

    I bra fit so many young girls and like another commenter stated above, we have to please the daughter and mom. I had to find a lot of round-about methods of politely correcting mothers who had been misinformed on proper bra-fit guidelines. One mother was really upset that I fit her daughter as a 32DD because her daughter’s favorite bra style was not offered in that size. In an attempt to appease mom I was about to hand her the closest size I had in the bra she wanted, but mom had whipped the daughter out of the fitting room and was gone. It was upsetting for me on many levels, and I can only hope that that young woman will end up in a comfortable, properly fitted bra.

  10. WordSpinner says:

    1) When I first got bras in third grade, my mom thought I didn’t need to wear one every day. HA! Wrong. The thing about developing breasts is that they are a lot more tender than full-grown breasts, and tween girls tend to be fairly active. I played jump rope every day, and it hurt to go without.

    2) This isn’t for first bra shopping, but I’d remind my daughter that your breasts don’t necessarily stop growing when you stop gaining height. This tripped me up, and all of middle school and half of high school I wore the same bra size I’d thought I needed in fifth grade–34C. The last bra I bought was a 32G.

  11. Alanna says:

    I work at an Aerie (so I fit loooooots of first time bra-wearers!) and I wish this article was required reading for all of the mothers shopping with their daughters there. It is really, truly amazing how so many women think that buying their daughters pretty underwear will turn them into deviants or something. Also the classic amazement and denial when their 11 or 12 year old ends up being anything other than an A/AA cup (“Impossible! That big?!?!?! You can’t be serious.”). I try to strike the right balance between pleasing daughter and pleasing mom (since she foots the bill :p), but if it was up to me it would be totally up to the kids. I always make a point to urge the girls to pick out what’s comfortable and makes them feel pretty.

  12. AlexaFaie says:

    I ended up going to my first bra fit alone because my Mum was working so couldn’t go with me when I needed to go. The issue that I had was that the fitter wouldn’t fit me without Mum present as I was under 16 and it could get seen as molestation, especially considering I’d never worn a bra before so didn’t have one to wear for the fitting! In the end we managed to phone my Mum to get her to OK it over the phone, but it was still a bit of a pain. I didn’t feel threatened in the slightest and just wanted the lady to give me a damn bra!

    And as for the “you don’t need one” comment, I STILL (at 26) get that from my Mum and at my last fitting (this Monday to be exact) I finally came away with a comfortable 32F.
    Funny thing to note: I’ve always been a 32 band. When my underbust was 27″ a 32 band was most comfortable and now at a 30″ underbust a 32 band is still the most comfortable. The only thing which seems to change with me is the cup volume! Speaking of which, the 32DD looked a little too snug, so we tried the 32E which fit better but one cup was still snug and the other gaped a bit. So there I am thinking its just as good as it can get as its asymmetry and the lady said she’d try me in a 32F just to see if it would help with the tighter fitting cup. It did. It also, somewhat inexplicably, solved the issue of the too big cup. Makes absolutely no sense to me!
    But at last, after a year of searching I now have a comfortably fitting bra which isn’t one of those stretchy ah bra type bras. Well I will have once I’ve removed the picot trim. Its always so itchy and uncomfortable to me. But using my seam ripper on the stitches which form it won’t affect the structural integrity of the bra so I’m having at it! ;)

  13. Lynn B. says:

    This is how a mother/daughter relationship should be. When my sister & I needed a bra at age 10 & 11, respectively, my mother was pretty disinterested and we were really desperate. I did not want my daughter to feel the way I felt so our mother/daughter bra experiences have been wonderful and helpful. Even now at age 26, she & I go bra shopping together. My husband’s daughter did not have a supportive female fixture in her life and even though she welcomed my help with bra shopping (at age 20 she had never had a fitting) it was inevitably a traumatic experience for her going from having only ever wearing a pull-over-the-head sports bras to the real thing.

  14. Maria says:

    This is wonderful! I personally had a horrible experience with my mom and bra shopping, I usually got “you don’t need one”. Then when I finally begged enough I got some sports bras, talk about disappointing. When I got my first padded bra my mom looked at it and said “will that even fit you?”. All of that has made me determined to make my daughter’s first bra shopping experience a good one and might I add an empowering and informed one.

  15. Robert Marcus says:

    I have helped my best friend with her three daughters with a lot of things through the years including info on shopping for lingerie. With the oldest, it was advice on fit and what to look out for with regards to proper fit. The 2nd and 3rd daughters had me take them shopping. Totally different experience from shopping with friends and girlfriends. Their trust and openness allowed me to help them find what they needed and wanted.

    At first it was basic color bras and fun prints for knickers. As they matured, talked with friends and influenced by what they saw; they requested different patterns, colors and fabrics. They still ask for advice and look forward to shopping trips.

    I have gotten used to the heart palpitations some of their request have caused but their respect and trust trumps all. Good luck to the single fathers, uncles and others who find themselves in this situation.

  16. Catherine says:

    Such a good article, and so many important points. I feel like a lot of mothers are scared of buying their daughters attractive and well-fitting underwear for fear that it will oversexualize them, but several years later as an adult, I cannot stress enough that underwear has almost NOTHING to do with how much sex or what kind of sex you are having.

    I hope many moms read this and heed this advice!

  17. Jessica B says:

    Please send this back to 1997 and deliver it to my mother, who not only refused to get me a bra until I was 13 (and probably a B-C cup), but refused to spend more than $15 on the bras that made me feel comfortable. She then went shopping without me, came back with some hideous white things, and expected me to wear them happily. I did not, I wore the same sports bra in different colors for YEARS. I don’t think I had a close-to-properly-fitting bra until I was 17, and even then it was meh.

    I can only hope that the internet makes these things a less common occurrence, but I know it still happens thanks to the That Bra Does Not Fit Her blog. Le sigh.

    • Thursday says:

      It’s both liberating and depressing to hear of others being told by their mothers, “You don’t need a bra”. This was my own mother’s response when at 11 I tried to casually mention my need for something to support my recently bloomed assets…a conversation that was already difficult to have. So I would ask of mothers, please, even if you genuinely believe your daughter hasn’t yet developed, if she’s asked, buy her a bra! Having my needs dismissed so summarily was a pretty stressful experience at a pretty stressful age.

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