Monday, March 10, 2014

Your Bra Questions Answered

A couple of weeks ago I put this on Facebook and Twitter "The thing I don't understand about bras is _________" and asked our readers to fill in the blank. Today I'm going to respond to some of the replies and next week I'll follow up with some more answers.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... The difference between US and UK sizes and brand sizing variation.

US and UK sizing refers to whether the bra was made by a company using the US or UK size system, NOT whether it was bought in that country. The big UK brands like Freya, Panache, Elomi, Curvy Kate and Mimi Holliday use the DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ and K cup sizes. US brands like Playtex, Victoria's Secret, La Senza and Additionelle use the US size system D, DD, DDD, G, H, I and J - the US brands tend not to go beyond these letters. 

When you line up the two systems next to each other you can see how your UK size translates into a US size and vice-versa:
There's no real explanation as to why different countries use different systems and it definitely makes things harder when looking for your size. In the full bust market the UK size system is definitely used as the default authority. US brands like Claudette use the UK size system because it translates more easily for full bust bras.  

The reason there is fluctuation in size between brands (and between styles for that matter) is the same as why there is size fluctuation in sizes in clothing and shoes. There is no standard as to which machines are used to create a bra (and many items are still made by hand) so there is no way to produce a single 32F or 40GG size across the globe. Add to this the fact that different cup shapes alter the fit dramatically (a shallow 32F style will work on a woman with shallow 32F breasts but not on a woman with top heavy 32F breasts) and the materials used to create the bra will alter the fit (firmer materials give a smaller fit, stretchy fabrics, a more generous fit). 

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why they can't build ones that actually fit comfortably. 

I hear this question a lot and the answer for most people is "you're in the wrong bra". Whether you're wearing the wrong style or size of bra, an uncomfortable bra means you're in the wrong one for you but it might fit someone else perfectly. There are a group of people for whom comfortable bra fit is near impossible without accessories or alterations. Certain muscular and skin conditions make bra fit hard, and very petite women can find it extremely difficult to find bras. But in general there are thousands of size and style combinations out there so the chances are there's a size and style that's right for you. 

Remember that a lot of bras will never fit you and will never feel comfortable so if that sounds like all the bras in your drawer then you need to start narrowing down whether it's because the wires are too wide/narrow, the cups too tall/short, the band too big/small etc. Try our Bra Audit to get you started.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why some women simply refuse to wear the right size. 

This is a complex one with no single answer. The two main reasons we encounter that keep women from well-fitting bras are they simply are not aware that bras outside of '34-42 A-D' exist or they have a preconceived idea of what bigger cup letters 'say' about a woman and their stereotypes keep them from trying a larger cup size (and usually a smaller band).  

What I know for sure is that you can't rush someone into correct bra fit, they have to be emotionally ready to address this for any changes to stick.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why beige bras typically cost twice as much as coloured ones!  

This is a great question and one I don't get asked often. Colourful bras tend to be fashion items that are created by a brand for a one off season. They are made in a limited quantity and so when a retailer gets to the end of a season and only has a few of that style left the colourful bras tend to be the ones that go on sale first to make room for the next fashion colour. Basic colours like beige and black are available from manufacturers all year round so their value doesn't diminish which is why they rarely go on sale. 

I hope this sheds some light on some of your bra questions. Tune in again next week for another round of answers xx


  1. While I can't speak for everyone, part of the reason some women refuse to wear the right size is simply that full bust bras are expensive and a PITA to find. You can't buy them at Wal-Mart or Target. They typically cost more than $40--and for something you're supposed to throw away every few months, spending more than $20 is hard...and for some people downright impossible to squeeze into their already thin budget. Throw in a lack of availability of stores outside of the typical Wal-Mart and Target locally to try them on, some of us just say screw it and buy bras that we can afford that are a less than perfect fit. I myself am planning to go back into the "bra matrix" for those two reasons, and also for the reason that they don't make bras that fit my shape even in the full bust brands. If I'm going to be uncomfortable anyway, I'll be darned if I'm going to pay a premium for it. Sad, but true.

    1. I can totally understand these frustrations. The lack of local options make it really hard for many women to find their best fit and try different styles. Moving back into the bra matrix might solve the cost and availability issue but bear in mind that a badly fitting bra can take a physical toll on your breasts that is worse than not wearing a bra at all. Perhaps a compromise is to buy within the bra matrix and have the bands tailored or learn how to shorten them yourself. It's the band support that's critical to long term physical health (avoiding trapped nerves, back pain and headaches).

      As a side note; A well fitting bra should last you longer than a few months (9 months to a year is not unreasonable for a well constructed bra).