Underwires are not all same. Their shape, length and width differ a lot from one brand and model to another. Have you ever had underwires poke you in the wrong places, even though the cups fit perfectly ? Read on.
Firstly, I recommend underwires. They keep the breast tissue from escaping under the band. And underwires need not be uncomfortable. The first reason for uncomfortable underwires is wrong bra size. Even if you have been measured by a fitter, measure yourself like this.
After you've found your correct size, you need to find out whether you need broader or narrower underwires. Some ladies´ breasts sit in the front, pretty close together; others are more apart and start way back under the armpits. To see what a difference the width of underwires can make, take a look at these photos; the girl is wearing broad underwires in photos on the left, and narrow in the right side photos. She clearly need narrow underwires. The broad underwires go way beyond her breasts, and don´t support it. Also, the bra band pulls the underwires even further, and they stretch, and pull the cup fabric with them, flattening the breasts. A person with wider breasts can easily tell when the underwires are to narrow for them: the breasts look (and feel) as if the underwire is cutting off a part of them.
Don't confuse the width of underwires with their length. Long underwires are problematic for petites and ladies with highly set breasts: the tips poke upwards into the armpit. For the rest, they keep the breast tissue in place, and prevent migration of breast tissue. Long underwires are on bras that have a lot of fabric under the armpit. Long underwires can be narrow as well as broad.
Also, some underwires are elastic, some not. Very springy underwires mean that when you put on the bra, the band pulls the underwires, making them wider. So, the underwires are wider when worn, that makes the band wider, and the cup flatter. *Example pics*
What do you need to buy ?
If you need narrow, go for Freya bras. If you need very wide, try Panache or Fantasie. t's a good idea to try on at least one of each, and see which fits you better. If buying online, in most countries you can simply send back the one that didn't fit. Remember that not all Panaches have equally wide underwires, and not all Freyas are narrow !
Can I just bend the underwires ?
That works only for small adjustments. Bending the underwire to make it wider makes the cup flatter, and the band wider, so you´re distorting the whole shape and fit. However if it´s not the width that´s bothering you but the shape of the underwire: feel free to experiment.
* Underwires and bra bands usually leave marks on the body, just as panties and socks do. That's normal, and doesn't mean you need a looser bra; unless it's hurting.
I am in the last dregs of breastfeeding. My ribcage measures 27.5 inches, so I think I take band 30 bras. The problem are my breasts, they don't look breasts because they are so flat and sort of deflated, but they are wide. I measure around 31 inches at my widest point. A typical 32A bra's underwired cups are too narrow and squish or cut my boobs and it almost hurts my ribs, however, I don't fill the volume and it gaps at the front. I need wide but shallow cups and it seems to be the holy grail of finds if not impossible.
I recently bought some 32A Calvin Kleins which seem to have big roomy cups, but they could still be wider. The band is too loose (as they didn't have 30s in this model). I shortened the band but now it's tight and the cups are pulled back into my body and sort of flattened and cut into my boobs giving more of a quad boob effect. I think i'll get the 32Bs and hope that after another alteration there's more room in the cups to not flatten my breast tissue.