If you have trouble finding a ready-to-wear underwired bra that fits, you might be inclined to join the growing number of women who are choosing NOT to wear wires. They have chosen Wireless Freedom. But do you know WHY you find wires uncomfortable or even painful? The answer may surprise you. You may, in fact, be in the one-quarter of the population that has what is known as a low-contour breast. Here are things every low-contour breast owner should know, so you can make intelligent choices when bra shopping. Better yet, consider making your own with a few modifications to make the fit uniquely yours.

Low-contour breast owners are women, who, if they choose a bra with a wire that fits them, there is always empty space in the front of the cup. Conversely, if they get a cup that fits, then the wire is really too small and sits on the breast tissue. This is uncomfortable at best and could be a serious health concern at its worst. The same principles will apply to women who have had a certain method of breast reduction surgery. And by that, I mean that the breast was “lopped off at the top” so to speak, rather than the more time-consuming method of decreasing the diameter of the breast along with the projection. In both cases, the root of the breast is a larger diameter than the “standard” root size for that bra size. The “standard” breast is the dotted line below.

Low-contour breast owners will benefit from making the bra cup conform to their breast shape. To make your own low-contour bra, adjust the lower cup pattern piece by pinning out the excess on the bra and marking where the amount to be removed. Pay more attention to getting the fit of the lower cup. Once you have that shape, transfer the marks back to the pattern. It should look like the drawing below, more or less. You are shortening the apex area of the lower cup.  This is the same alteration (almost) as “rounding the crown”, although making a low contour cup is more pronounced. On the lower cup at the apex notch, you might remove up to 1/2″ (12 mm) and taper the line back to zero at each end.

Once the lower cup is done, you need to make sure the cross cup seam line on the upper cup is the same length as the lower cup. Measure along the cross cup seam at the sewing line (not the cutting line) and adjust the length of the upper cup by in one of two ways. You can remove the crown of the upper cup by flattening it as shown, then measure it against the lower cup. You would do this if the cross cup seam has a fairly deep curve. The second method you might use if the amount you need to remove is not that much or the cup depth is already fairly flat.



But what if you cannot sew your own bra?  Does ready-to-wear (RTW) offer anything for these women? The answer is yes. The low-contour breast is best in a minimizer bra. Before you argue that the low-contour breast is not projected enough to warrant a minimizer bra, think about what a minimizer bra does. The minimizer bra encourages a projected breast to project less, by reducing the projection and moving the excess breast tissue from the front of the cup to the sides and the lower part of the cup. This re-shaping gives a flatter appearance to the breast, which is great if you can’t keep your shirt front from gapping. But this shaping also perfectly mimics the shape of the low-contour breast. The minimizer bra will actually fit better than a “regular” bra.

16 replies
  1. hnnhcmmns
    hnnhcmmns says:

    Hi there, I’m hoping to make my first bra by taking your craftsy course. From researching I’ve learned that I’m low contour (wide root), “full on the bottom” (bras always gape at the top), but also very close together in the front. Gores usually sit on my breast tissue unless they’re very low, and wires in my underarm tend to cut into my breast tissue as well unless they’re very wide and low. I just printed out your wire charts *bless you* and it seems like the most fitting one is a short #44. Do you have any recommendations for which pattern to start with? I’m concerned that the “classic bra” that’s recommended for the craftsy course isn’t the right shape because the wires are too high for the gore and also too high and narrow in the underarm. Thank you for any input 🙂

  2. Angie Samuels
    Angie Samuels says:

    Help! I have a ruby bra pattern that I have made loads of times but have yet to get the perfect fit. I am a 4″ bcd, but I think possibly a 51/2″ bcd for the width of the cup width!. Should I work from the smaller size cup to the larger or the other way around? What about the cradle? I have been making a larger size and bending the underwire to make it fit! Any help would be appreciated.

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      You are probably making the fit worse adjusting like that. The cradle should always correspond to the wire. In the case of a 4.0 BCD, the wires that fit it are listed on the back of the pattern. You didn’t mention the wire size but is it possible you just need to insert a larger (but shorter) wire into the channel of the 4.0 cradle (frame) to make it fit? Does the 4.0 fit the volume of the cup?

      • Angie Samuels
        Angie Samuels says:

        Many thanks for your reply. When I was buying ready to wear bras I have always bent the bra wires to make the garment a little more comfortable to wear. I have never worn an unboned bra because I could never find one to fit! I assumed that I would need to bend the wires to assist the fit until I came across this article. I would say the ” BCD is not quite big enough but with the article I might try a 4.25 or 4.5 and alter the cup accordingly. I have researched the short wires and found a supplier, do I go by the measurement of the wires, as in the U.K. the wire sizing seem a little different? Thanks again!

  3. Ralna Cunningham
    Ralna Cunningham says:

    Hi, glad to learn your term “low contour”. I’m getting ready to decide on a pattern to start. In fact there is a fair bit of discussion on this topic for choosing RTW bras, the terms are “wide root” and “shallow”. I noticed when I learned about “scoop and swooped” into a new bra I had a lot more tissue than I ever realized. It’s just more spread out and my wire hurts for a reason. The new bra’s not the right size either, even though it has no wire. The bra size calculators I tried were in agreement and recommended several cup sizes higher, I thought, that can’t be right, I’d be swimming in those cups. But when I tried to figure out my wire size for sewing, it looked like a long low smile. At least sewing it’s good to know I can use whatever wire works best and make the cups fit hopefully.

    Here are a couple links which lead to photos, diagrams and issues. https://www.reddit.com/r/ABraThatFits/wiki/shallow

    I found it very educational.

  4. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    Thanks for this article, I’m new to bra making, measured my bcd made up a cup and it knew it was way too small bcd 3.75 I usually wear a 34 d or dd, band waive of 30 was right, after going up to a 4.5, 40 wires, a lot of googling and altering I now have a pattern that fits, 3.75 bottom cups grading to a 4.75 on top, with a 3.75/ 4.5 band!

  5. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    Thanks so much for talking about this! The struggle is real with reduced projection! But, this is why we sew!! I’m still working on fitting patterns to my wide root/base reduced projection, but every muslin gets me closer now that I know what the issue is!

    I measure into 34D-DDD (depending on pattern) and JUST found my ideal wire is a 42. That made ALL the difference in comfort!!!

  6. Carolyn Zintel
    Carolyn Zintel says:

    So glad you are talking about this! Yes, I am a low-contour breast owner and RTW bras are so uncomfortable. After exploring this, I found I’m a DDD on the circumference and my real wire size is a short #44, but an A cup on projection! Here’s a tip: I took my RTW bras and removed the wires and replaced them with #44’s that were shortened. Now I am comfortable!

  7. moniquedoiron
    moniquedoiron says:

    can I change the cups of Shelley because it’s too “pointy” for me?
    I am beginner in bra-maker and I try the shelley bra. My problem with wires is low contour.
    I am very happy you understand why the RTW bra is a torture for me. ahhhh!
    Thank you for your good teaching.
    I am a french teacher retired now and I can mesure that you have a VERY GOOD teacher.

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Yes you can! You can round the crown on the Shelley like you do on the Classic. Just put the two parts of the lower cup together as if they were one piece. Round the crown, then make the length of the upper cup match in length.

  8. Anne
    Anne says:

    Thank you… I’ve never seen this subject addressed. I have been struggling with this for a long time. Usually the reverse situation is addressed. Love your products and patterns!

  9. Iva
    Iva says:

    Thank you for the post! In making the Sweet Sixteen bralette I discovered that I am A in the upper cup and G width at the root -is there a minimizer bra on the market made for such a disparity?


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