Bra Science — 11 Signs You May be Wearing a Boob Hat

Do you feel unsupported by your bra? That it squashes your boobs down instead of lifting them up? Or maybe you feel that your bra is just a useless garment altogether, costing quite a bit of money considering it just doesn't really do anything? You may be wearing... a boob hat.

Many people who wear bras know some of the signs of poor fit – most recognise that spillage out of a bra isn’t right, and the same goes for gapping. Some know that the gore should lie flat against the sternum, and that the band shouldn’t ride up (or ride down). Few know anything more detailed than that.

So from this lack of detailed knowledge a phenomenon appears: the boob hat. The boob hat is something I describe as a bra that kinda looks like it fits to an inexperienced eye, but in reality it doesn’t. It simply sits/floats around the boobs, not containing or supporting them fully (if at all), potentially squishing them down, hence the name.

So how can you avoid falling into this trap? Here are eleven common symptoms of the dreaded boob hat, from least obvious to most obvious:

1. Vertical cleavage folds.

A bra/boob hat with obvious vertical cleavage folds
A strapless bra/boob hat with obvious spillage and vertical cleavage folds
This picture was sent to me by a friend to use in this post - this bra isn't really a boob hat as it is obviously small but it still has vertical cleavage folds! 

Who it happens to: Not many people can recognise this symptom because it’s so widespread and not obviously wrong. It happens most often in people with less self-supporting breasts, softer tissue, loose skin and larger breasts. It also is most visible in bras with low gores, but can happen to anyone in any bra.

What happens: Your breasts form a fold in the cleavage area that either looks like train tracks or a single line, like || or |. Note that cleavage can appear in a well-fitting bra, but should not involve your boob folding over onto itself! This often happens in conjunction with a floating gore (discussed later) but can happen even if the gore is lying flat.

Why: When a bra doesn’t have enough overall cup volume or depth in the center, your breasts get squashed down by the bra.  The bra also is not supportive enough – either the band is too loose or the cup is too small, or you haven’t properly scooped and swooped. Thus your boobs stay in pretty much the same position as when they do naturally but are also squashed against your chest wall, producing a characteristic vertical fold.

How to fix it: Give your boobs a good old scoop and swoop (I will link this blog post about ten thousand times), go up cup sizes if there is obvious immediate spillage or the gore no longer lies flat against the sternum, and go down in band size until the band is stable and supportive, comfortably snug but not tight.

           2. The wires ride down.

Fingers showing how far the bra is below my inframammary fold

Who it happens to: Another subtle one. This symptom happens most often in people with some amount of breast tissue below their inframammary folds, and those with projected breasts.

What happens: The wires sit below the inframammary fold - the part where the breast tissue meets the chest wall. See this diagram for more information.

Why: There are lots of different causes for this but I’m gonna focus on two. The first is, say it with me folks, a lack of proper scooping and swooping. S&Sing involves placing the wires right up in your IMF so the bra can support all of your boob. The other is a lack of room in the cup above the wire – be it from a too small cup or a cup that hasn’t got enough immediate depth/bottom of the cup depth. Your boob wants to have enough room so it pushes the bra down and the bra can’t support them. Wires riding down can also cause skin-on-skin contact between the underboob and the chest wall (exacerbated if your bra is actively pushing your boobs down), which can cause discomfort and potentially rashes.

How to fix it: Scoop and swoop, or buy a bra with overall more room in the bottom of the cup.

3. Your boobs stick out most above the top of the cup.

Bra/Boob hat with what almost looks like spillage but the bra is open on top enough for it to not be obviously quadboob
This is the closest I could get to the actual effect thought it's not perfectly showing the effect I'm describing, but I think it's descriptive enough
Who it happens to: This can happen to anyone, but most often happens to those with larger breasts.

What happens: Bit hard to describe this one! Your bra doesn't fully support your breasts, but instead sits under it, and your boob sliiightly spills over, but it's not obviously quadboob.

Why: The cup is not large enough to contain all of your boob, but cut in such a way that the spillage isn't obvious (usually they're very open on top). This often happens in conjunction with the wires riding down.

How to fix it: Increasing the cup size and having a good old scoop and swoop can fix this.

4. Your bra needs adjusting after leaning forwards or vigorous movement, or your find yourself descooping your breasts into your bra when you put it on.

Image showing me pushing my boobs back into the bra cup
What descooping/reverse scooping looks like
Who it happens to: This one most often happens to people with larger busts and softer tissue but can and does happen to anyone.

What happens: After moving around, your boobs slowly start to escape your bra - often the nipples start slipping out, signalling that something is wrong. Or, when you immediately put it on, there is obvious spillage, but a little shoving tissue around seems to get rid of it (for the time being).

Why: Your bra isn't supporting your breasts but instead is squishing them down so they make a bid for freedom. It's also very likely your band size is too loose, creating lots of instability. Those with larger busts may "reverse scoop" their breasts into their bras to make too small cups look like they fit better, which just makes the boob escape all the more inevitable.

How to fix it: Give your boobs a good old Scoop and Swoop (are you beginning to see a pattern here?), increase the cup size so your boobs are fully supported and not spilling out after S&Sing, and make sure your band is snug enough that your bra is stable in all positions.

5. Your bra rides up over your breasts/the wires don't sit against your ribcage when your arms are raised (or when your arms are down).

A boob hat/bra with my arms raised, the bottom of the bra lifts off the ribcage

Who it happens to: Most often happens to smaller busted people, but can also happen to larger busted people (often in conjunction with the wires riding down). 

Why: Your bra is sitting away from your body, almost always because the band size is too large. Bras should be secure in all positions so if your bra is slipping around something's up. It can also happen if the bra is riding down (see number 2) and the bra is only just making contact with your ribcage below the breasts. A too small cup can also reduce security, exacerbating the problem in all sizes. 

How to fix it: Decrease the band size (and potentially increase the cup size) until the bra is secure and snug.

6. Your bra digs in at the bottom, just underneath the breasts.

Strapless bra/boob hat that's tilting outwards and causing the wires to dig in at the bottom
Again, my friend sent me this to use in this post. This effect may not always be visible when wearing the bra, but often there are deep marks after the bra is removed (but neither are required to cause pain!)

Who it happens to: This most often happens to those with large busts and firm tissue

What happens: Your bra digs in just under the breasts

Why: Bras digging in at the bottom can be caused by multiple things that aren't boob hats (eg a too snug band, wires riding down for non-boob-hat reasons, the bra not following the contours of your body well), but I'm gonna focus on the boob hat reason now. The cup size is too small, so your boobs push it outwards at the apex. The bra tilts and digs in the bottom due to the tension on the band. This can be pretty painful and may even cause minor injuries like bruises! 

How to fix it: You guessed it, increase the cup size (making sure to thoroughly scoop and swoop) until the cups are large enough to support your boobs as they are. Note that you may need to decrease the band size after this as your boobs are no longer pushing the bra away from you.

7. The straps slide off your shoulders frequently.

"it is impossible to take a photo of something happening frequently but I think you can visualise it"

Who it happens to: This can  happen to anyone.

What happens: The straps can't seem to adjust small enough to stay on your shoulders, or they never seem to sit quite right. 

Why: Some people have issues with straps being too widely placed even if the rest of the bra fits well, but there are boob hat reasons for it as well. If the band is too large, it can rise up (more on that later), so the straps are comparatively longer - they become so long they just slide off. A too small cup can cause the cups to sit away form your body, so the straps are unstable and slide off easily. 

How to fix it: Going down in band size should stop the band riding up, and increasing the cup size should allow the tops of the cups to sit closer to the body.

8. The straps dig into your shoulders.

A shoulder strap digging in
More eagle-eyed readers will realise this is the same photo as from my descooping one because I forgot to take a picture of it and now it's night time so I can't take another.
Who it happens to: This can happen to anyone but most frequently happens to those with large and/or heavy breasts

What happens: The straps are overtightened in an attempt to give your boobs more support

Why: The straps aren't designed to take a lot of weight, but a too large band can leave you wanting more out of your bra, so you tighten the straps up. Because they're so narrow they'll dig into your shoulders, which some say can cause neck pain, shoulder pain and even headaches.

How to fix it: Going down in band size (and potentially up in cup size) until your bra gives you all the support you need, making sure to scoop and swoop thoroughly so your bra can work its magic!

9. The wires sit on breast tissue at the sides.

Bra/boob hat with wires sitting on breast tissue at the sides

Strapless bra/boob hat with wires sitting on breast tissue at the sides
Again, same friend. Ignore the spillage out of the top - see how the wires are sitting on her boob?

Who it happens to: It can really happen to anyone.

Why: The cups are too small or too narrow, so they can't fully encapsulate the boobs to support them properly.

How to fix it: Get a larger or wider cup. You may have to decrease the band size to compensate as the band is no longer being taken up by your breasts.

10. The gore floats.

Who it happens to: This can happen to anyone, though is more likely to happen to those with larger breasts

What happens: The gore (center piece where the wires come together) floats (ie doesn't sit flat against the ribcage but either sits on breast tissue or is just suspended away from your body). A bra is much more stable and supportive when the gore tacks (lies flat against the sternum).

Why: There are a few reasons as to why a gore can float, but the boob-hat related causes are a cup which is too small, a band which is too loose or a bra which isn't positioned correctly. The too small cup means your breasts push the bra away, but instead the gore should be able to get right in between them. A too loose band doesn't hold the bra snugly against the body, so the gore isn't able to tack. A lack of scooping and swooping can mean that the boobs are not placed within the cups but the cups kinda draped around them, also causing a gore float.

How to fix it: Funnily enough, this isn't fixed by going down in band size and/or up in cup size. Nah, just joking. It's totally fixed by that. It's just hard to write the same thing 10 times in 10 different ways.

11. The band rides up.

Didn't hook this correctly - how unprofessional of me! But I promise you this bra would look the same no matter which hooks it's on.
Who it happens to: Can happen to anyone, though happens most often to people with less-self-supporting breasts. People with more padding around their ribcages may get a pseudo-riding-up effect due to the bra following the contours of their bodies but that is not what this paragraph is about!

What happens: The band is unstable, thus it sits higher at the back than at the front.

Why: People wearing a too large band don't get much support from it, so they instead rely on the shoulder straps to provide support, tightening them. As the band is so loose, it just rises up as the straps are tightened. 

How to fix it: Decreasing the band size can stop the band from riding up. The band should sit parallel to the ribs/perpendicular to the spine.

I'm wearing a boob hat. What now?

Well you've come to the right place! You can see what a well-fitting bra looks like in comparison in my Cleo Blake Review. Check out the resources tab for more information on bra fitting - /r/ABraThatFits and Bratabase are both great communities who can help you. There's also Brafitting by Maheda whose channel shows videos (in Polish but with subtitles) of before and after sizes - featuring boob hats turning into properly fitted bras. If you like my posts, be sure to follow me to know when I've posted a new one!


  1. Lots of excellent visuals!

  2. Just came across this post and OH MY GOD! I have to send everyone to read this!

  3. Great troubleshooting - and it's nothing short of criminal how the standard bra fitting advice we see everywhere ALWAYS results in too large a band, and (mostly) too small cups!! I don't know how that can be allowed! (After all, it clearly affects national health statistics so should definitely be forbidden ;))

  4. Just what I was looking for. Thank you so much, now I know what bar I am suppose to wear. I was struggling with this for years and didn’t know what was the reason.


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