Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is your professional bra fitter giving you the right bra size?

One of my smaller busted girlfriends told me she hasn’t been for a professional fitting in years because in her words “fittings don’t make a difference, bras just hurt”. I rummaged through her exhausted looking bras and they all read 34A. Just by looking at her I knew she wasn’t a 34 band so I showed her how to take her measurements and she quickly discovered that she is actually a 30C.

My friend went through the usual process of disbelief and laughter at the idea of being 2 cup sizes bigger then she looked at me and said “do they make bras in that size?” She didn’t know it but she hit the nail on the head as to why she’s always hated bra shopping – not enough stores carry her size so they put her in a size they carry regardless of the fact that it will be ill-fitting and painful.

Without boring you with the science, the cup on a 34A is the same volume as the cup on a 30C because cups are relative to the band size. How these two bras differ is that a 34 inch band gave no support to my friend so her straps were taking all the weight of her bust and the band was riding up her back. She was generally uncomfortable and in pain.
The bust volume is the same on all three women but their band sizes are different - cup size is proportional to band size.
Lots of stores only buy the most ‘common’ bra sizes (32-38 A-D) because it’s most cost effective. This may make retail sense but it doesn’t make you more comfortable in your bra! This is why I encourage every woman to measure herself before she goes for a professional bra fitting. It’s even more important for big busted women to know their band size because a loose band can wreck your posture, health and silhouette. If you're unsure of your size range it's worth checking our Bra Size Calculator.

Almost 40% of the women who call me because they are unhappy in their bras, are wearing a DD cup. This is because a DD cup is the biggest they can find on the high street. To get a DD cup big enough they are wearing band sizes that are WAY too big so they end up dreadfully uncomfortable and very undefined. You can see from this chart that the volume on a 38DD bra is the same as the volume on a 34G bra but the support and shape are totally different.
Wearing a bigger band to accommodate your bust volume leaves you very uncomfortable (remember a Canadian DD=E).
When you measure yourself at home take particular note of your under bust measurement. If your bra fitter starts to put you into bras that are more than 2 inches bigger than this measurement your alarm bells should start ringing. A lot of stores use a fitting method that adds Four or Five inches to your band size. This method is out of date (and in my opinion dangerous!) and only serves to get women into readily available bras rather than correctly fitting bras. Check out the wonderful Thin and Curvy blog to see what a difference it makes being in the right band size.

There is a lot of bra information out there that is confusing and designed to keep you baffled about your boobs (so you don't know when you're getting bad service!). Knowing your size is incredibly empowering and can put an end to poor quality fitting services and painful bras. So grab yourself a tape measure and take back control of your boobs!!!


  1. I remember looking online for simulators that told me my bra size. For 2 years I thought I was a 32DD/E, I found out I was actually a 28FF/G. I had even be told by fitters that I was a 34C! Glad there are blogs like this to help women who had and have the same problem as me :)

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, it really highlights how much discrepancy there is in bra sizing. The most common mistake is putting women in band sizes that are way too big (simply because they are readily available) and once you're in the wrong band size you're doomed! So glad you found your right size :)

  3. I was told by "expert" fitters that I was a 30A. My real size is about 26E (UK) but I didn't know it yet, instead I would spend hours in department stores trying on 30A bras and constantly feeling disheartened because they never fit. I'm so glad I discovered how to measure properly! I now wear 28DDs with extra hooks sewn on the back, it's not a perfect fix, but it'll do for now. I really feel for larger busted ladies who suffer from back pain as a result of the stupid +4 system :(

    1. I am so glad that you discovered your true band size, it really is the foundation of your correct bra fit. I'm sorry that the industry hasn't caught up enough to create 26 bands in abundance. Have you checked out the Bra Band Project (a call for more 26 bands)

      BTW I love your username - it's one of my FAVOURITE Sherlock episodes! xx

  4. Hoping you can answer this right away! I'm on your site right now & want to order a bra now. I measured my rib cage, 30". I measured the fullest part of my bust, 36.5". According to your bra calculator, I'm a 30G (30H US equiv). However, according to your "write it down & look up the difference chart", I have 6.5" difference, so I'd be a 30FF (30G US equiv). Why is this not the same? How do I know which one to go with??

    1. Hello - Right now don't worry about the measurement techniques and ask yourself the following questions. Does your 30G size feel good? If so there's no need to change.
      If the cups cover your whole bust but your band feels loose then I'd choose a 28GG.
      If your band feels good but your cups feel too small try a 30GG. If your band feels good but your cups feel too big try a 30FF.

      Your bra size depends on other factors like your height and breast shape so the calculator and measuring techniques are there as a guide to be used alongside good fit indicators (like a snug band and smooth cups)

      I hope that helps - for more immediate help email

    2. Thx. Right now, I'm wearing a 32FF. I got the bra from a local store who fitted me just by trying different bras on me, not by actually measuring. It was also before I gained 15 lbs & then lost 15 lbs again (all while wearing that 32FF bra).

      I think, in my 32FF bra, the band is a bit big (rides up just a bit in the back) & the cups may be too big (I don't tend to completely fill the cups in that triangle of material where the strap connects to the cup in the front).

      I measured, as I said above & I'm now 30" around the rib cage & 36.5" around the fullest part of my bust. So, does that equal a 30FF/30G? OR, do I go by the size your calculator spat out, 30G/30H?

      I ask, because if you look up a G/H cup, the difference between bust & rib cage is supposed to be 8". My difference is 6.5 (rounded up to 7", I guess).

    3. Lots of women have some gaping in the cup near the armpit if they have shallow breasts at the top. If you feel like you are filling your cup well everywhere else then I'd try a 30G as this has the same cup volume as your 32FF but a tighter band. If you think it's more than just a little gaping and is actually affecting the support your cup is giving you then come down to a 30FF as this will be smaller in the cup than your 32FF. xx

    4. K, this is HONESTLY my last reply! I just wanted to say thx so much for your help with this!! You are awesome! :)

    5. HAHA! This is honestly my last reply too (unless you need us again!) Bra help is why we're here xx

  5. Hello. First of all I would like to say thank you for this site and for these blogs. I have found these quite helpful, more so than anywhere else I have looked. I do have a couple questions, and I have to apologize in advance as I am quite naive when it comes to self measurement and bra shopping, which is probably why I continually wear the wrong fitting bras. I am hoping you can help and that will change very quickly.

    I have nursed all 5 of my children, including my last which were a set of twins. A couple weeks after the twins were born I decided to get professionally measured at Victoria Secrets so I could get proper fitting nursing bras. My measurements at that time were band size: 29 and bust size: 41. They said my bra size was a 34DD. I bought 2 regular nursing bras and 2 bras to sleep in going off that measurement. The bras fit somewhat. The band rides up high on my back and the straps are always falling down, but the more I tighten the straps, the more the band rides up. I am thinking that the band is too loose? The cups do not come up all the way on the sides near the arm pits. There is about a 2" showing of side boob underneath the arm pit before the bra actually starts, and at the top of the bra in the front, it presses down to create what I call "twin boob" or spillage. In this case I'm guessing that the cups are too small?

    I just weaned the twins off nursing a couple months ago and am in need of some new bras. This time I would love to get some bras that actually fit me correctly. I've taken my measurements once again and this is what I've come up size: 28 (I lost some weight) and bust size: 39 1/4. I have used several different calculators for bra sizing, and many of them give me different calculations. Most give me somewhere around the 32G to 32H range. Yours gave me a totally different number unlike any of the other numbers. I am guessing that is because unlike other sizing techniques, you do not use the plus 4 method of the others.

    Because I respect the common sense and wisdom that your blogs give, I am inclined to believe that there is wisdom behind your method of sizing, even if it is not the popular or widely used sizing method as of yet. With that being said, I guess my question is as follows: What is my actuall true bra size, and how does your method prove superior to the popular method?

    1. Hello Irish Rose - thank you for your very kind words. I'm so glad you've found our resources useful. It's a sad fact that the majority of North American stores still use a fitting method that only works for a small proportion of women. The +4 method is great for some women but for most women they need a band size as close to (or smaller than) their underbust measurement.

      I recommend that you start by trying either a 30GG or a 28H. These two sizes have the same cup volume but different length bands. By trying on a band that is closer to your body measurement you'll be able to asses your cup volume more accurately. It may be too much of a body shock to switch straight to a 28 band so you may want to start by trying a 30 band then migrate down to a 28 as you get used to the fit (usually about 6 months later)

      My favourite bra in our store for assessing fit is Lucy by Cleo Your breast shape, breast density and your height all play a part in your bra fit but a great starting place is getting your band fit right. You can email about any questions you have about fit xx

    2. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my question, thank you so much! I am sorry, but I do have one more question prior to looking up the bra to purchase in the link you've included. I originally saw on the bra calculator that the calculations are given out in both UK and North American sizes. I live in North America, and was wondering if the sizing you gave me was the North American or the UK size? And if it was the UK size, could you also be kind enough to give me the North American size as well please? The reason I ask is that on your store it would not matter to have the UK size, but if I were to also buy from a North American store as well, or even a mall, I do not know if they would have UK sizes as I've only seen the North American sizes on the bras.

      Again I have to apologize for my questions/requests, as I have said previously, I am quite naive and inexperienced at buying proper fitting bras, so this is all very new to me. Also once again, I wanted to thank you for your previous response, it was most helpful, and I am trully grateful for any help you can offer. I look forward to hearing from you again when you have then chance. Thank you.

    3. No problem. The sizes I gave you are UK sizes and the reality is that there isn't a North American size equivalent (you can translate them as an American 30I and 28J but you are VERY unlikely to find these sizes - please note that if you do see a 28J on one of the following brands it will be way too big for you in the cup because a US and US J cup are very different). You will need to look for brands like Panache, Cleo, Freya and Curvy Kate which are all UK brands and the ones making small bands with larger cups. This is the reason we started our store because these sizes are SO hard to find in regular stores. Because mostly UK brands make full bust bras we use UK sizing as I have never seen a 28I or 28DDD for example which are American size 'equivalents'. I hope that makes sense, it's tricky to explain but you're looking for UK brands in the US to get this fit.