Bra Fitting Intimate Wisdom Women's Lingerie

Do Your Underwires Poke Your Underarms? Here’s a Possible Solution


The industry answer to women complaining about underwires poking into their underarm is usually to say their cup size is too small.  The theory here is that the underwire is not wide enough to totally wrap around your breast and the cup is not deep enough. Thus the wire is resting on breast tissue too far forward on your torso – the result being the underwire tip is getting in the way and hitting your underarm.  A larger cup size comes with a wider underwire and deeper cup that will rest further back under your arm and not rest on your breast tissue.  Thus you will no longer be poked.  In many situations, I would agree with this recommendation.  However, I own bras where this symptom has occurred, and I have been able to solve the problem without having to size up. Want to know how?

First, you need to put your geometry cap on.  Think of your torso as a cylinder.  As a cylinder, your torso has no flat horizontal surfaces – only curved surfaces.  If you held a ruler horizontally to your torso, the center of the ruler would touch you, but the ends would not.  They would be extending away from your torso.

A bra’s underwire is cut from a flat sheet of metal.  It’s basically a smiley face shape, but flat.  So, the ends of an underwire can have the same effect as the ends of a ruler.  However, if you bend your underwire a little in the center of its smile, the underwire takes on a shape better suited to your cylindrical torso. (See image above.)

Personally, I give all my underwires this subtle bend. It’s not very much, but I’ve found that the fit is better and my underwires are more comfortable.  And, when I try on a bra in my size and notice the underwire ends under my arm are protruding or resting on breast tissue instead of where they need to be, I’ll give them a little bend in the middle.  This always seems to solve the problem. Again, it’s not much of a bend, but it can make a big difference.

Let me also share with you that there is sort of a moral to this story: don’t be afraid to manipulate your underwires.  Underwires can get bent out of shape in a number of ways – during washing, mishandling in your lingerie drawer etc.  So, don’t be afraid to work with them until they fit you.  You have to put a lot of stress on an underwire before it will break.  And, it’s been my experience that if I don’t like the bend, underwires are easy to manipulate back to the beginning position.

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  • Reply
    November 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Great tip! I have a few bras that hang in my closet unworn, tags attached because I decided the underwire poked me in the ribs. I just tried this trick and the bra now feels wearable. This belongs in your very thorough bra fitting guide.

  • Reply
    May 14, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Thanks for the awesome tip! I manipulated my bra while wearing it while reading this (what better way to know where to put the bend?). I can’t wait to “fix” my other bras, especially since all of them are only a few months old.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

    OMG! Used this tip on my first underwire bra (never needed one before), thank you so very much. It was driving me crazy and it was turning into the last man standing or rather the last woman.
    Thanks again!!

  • Reply
    March 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

    This is the best advice I have ever gotten re bras. I have been suffering for eons. Tomima, you are the best!!!!!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I absolutely am sure I have the right size bra, but had this same problem and it was making me agry because I just paid $32.00 for a bra that tortured me! I noticed the wire was slightly short for the pocket it fits in. So the outer side of the pocket had about 1/2 inch of space. I manipulated the wire so it was pushed to the end and it felt much better immediately. I’m sure it’s possible it will ride down again, so I’m thinking I could put a stitch or two at the other end so it stays in the right place within the pocket. It’s poor design and I’m going to avoid this brand in the future. I’m also going to try this bending trick and see if it helps keep it in the right place – thanks for writing this column Tomima!
    Signed – bruised and battered by a bra!

  • Reply
    September 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    So glad I saw this tip! Over the years I have managed to find my correct bra size and a couple of “favorite” bra brands/styles to wear. However I have this one new bra, which I love the look of and the lift it gives me, that I have a huge problem with the underwire. The width is fine, nothing’s poking on my underarms… but it’s killing me in between my breasts!!! The end of the wire is pushing into my sternum too much, leaving this nasty mark in between my breasts. I’ve been trying to bend the last inch of the underwires outward so it pokes into my sternum less… to no avail so far. Still trying to think of what to do… any tips in bending the underwire when it’s poking me on the sternum instead of the armpits?

  • Reply
    June 12, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I can’t believe I never thought of this, THANK you!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Tomima you are a genius!! I just bought 4 bras Black Friday shopping and I was soooo depressed cuz they were torturing me!! Bent the wire and PRESTO I am a happy lady with perky girls!!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I buy the correct size bras for my body. I find that certain name brands such as Panache, make the side panels and under wires much longer. I love their bras but can’t wear them because that pokes into my armpit. I am a 34 KK (UK).

  • Reply
    June 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

    I just bought two new bras and had the “poke problem”. Like one of the other commenters, I did the bend while wearing the bra. What a difference! Thanks for sharing your tip.

  • Reply
    Judy Hallisay
    July 26, 2017 at 10:23 am

    The underwires not being properly shaped to the contours of the body is not the problem – I’ve been manipulating underwires for years. The ends of those torture devices are sharp. It’s a flat piece of metal which pierces the fabric and wreaks havoc on the skin just outside of the channel of fabric it has just escaped from. Manufacturers need to find another material to make underwires (not plastic – same problem).

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