Friday, November 12, 2010

Why do so many bra measurement guides tell you the wrong way to measure?

If you look up how to measure your bra size on the internet, most of the guides you will find tell you to measure under your breasts, and then add 4-5 inches to that measurement to get your band size. Adding 4-5 inches won't give you the support you need if you are a large-busted lady! And actually, if you are smaller-chested, it's not so great either, since proper bra sizes are much more comfortable and give a much better shape, which is crucial for all breast sizes!

But why is it that so many places tell you the wrong way of measuring? Even so-called “experts?” How can manufacturers tell you the wrong way to find your size in their own products??!

I honestly don't have a perfect answer for you. But here's what I have found out in my research:

When the recognizable bra was invented, in about the 1930's, and through the 60's, stretchy materials weren't widely used, and bra bands were much tighter and without any give. So, in order to get a comfortable fit, you had to add inches. But now, bra bands are made of stretchy materials, which are nice for comfort. However, you need the band to be quite snug for proper support, so now you should take your (snug!) underbust measurement and round up or down to the nearest even number, whichever feels more comfortable for you.
Honestly, I think the newer system of simply having your underbust measurement be your band size makes a lot more sense and is a lot less confusing. But I still don't really understand why manufacturers haven't caught on.

Here's my speculation: I think that it would be a lot to change and companies would end up losing money at first. 32-48 A-DD doesn't actually reflect the sizes that most women should be wearing, so companies would have to change the sizes that they carry to reflect the real sizes of women. A more realistic size range for average women would be, say, 28-36 D-G. And a lot of women are confused by their true size, saying “I can't be a D, my breasts are small!” and “30G? I've never heard of such a size!” and they refuse to change, preferring to continue believing that they are a “normal” size 36B, even when their poor boobs are telling them otherwise. So a lot of marketing and a complete change of size ranges would be in order, basically. And companies like Victoria's Secret are just plain too lazy.

But hey, if we all figure out our real sizes and stop shopping there, sooner or later they'll have to change, eh?


  1. You are right, it takes long time, but as we can see in Poland it's possible. Many as you call it ''normal stores'' here offer now bigger cups and you can also find tighter bands than 32'. Also many new little shops were opened since 2005 year, when all that talking about right fitting bras started on the internet.

  2. 1968 brarevolution when bra was burned
    2011 brarevolution again but this time only bed ones will finish on flames!

  3. Back in 2006 I started up as a corsetiere under the name "Belladonna Eyes." I found a lot of my customers were wearing completely the wrong bra size, and since I didn't meet them in person I really needed to make sure their measurements were accurate. For this reason I wrote "Bra sizing - choosing a bra and debunking some myths" originally published on ebay but which later formed the bra fitting pages on (the corsetry website no longer exists, but I am giving some thought to a place to host the bra fitting page)
    I had been trying to communicate to my clients how the traditional measuring system usually results in the back being two sizes too large, and as a rule of thumb I suggested simply rounding the underbust measurement to the nearest even number. Around about the same time, some women in Poland started their own bra fitting campaign which I know very little about, but I have noticed over the last five years more and more blogs, forums and diy guides popping up, urging women to discover their "modern" bra size as opposed to their "traditional" one. It seems that what started out as a rule of thumb has taken on a life of its own. It was only this year, however, when What Katie Did defended their sizing by claiming that some designers had started making bras using a new sizing system, that this idea of old versus new really crystallised.

    It is very difficult to get any answers to these questions because the "traditional sizing" camp refuse to acknowledge the problem. If you ask any major retailer who uses the traditional measuring system, the standard response is that you are an anomaly. I have asked retailers for clarification on this, and I have come to expect no reply at all. My theory is that there has been no formal shift in the sizing, but that the introduction of stretch fibres over the years combined with the same shift in sizing that you see in all clothing has resulted in bras being approximately 4 inches larger than when the sizing was first drawn up. I honestly think it's just co-incidence that this is the same number of inches that used to be added, because I cannot find any first-hand reference to designers actually coming up with any "new sizing."

    Bra manufacturers are happy for women to continue adding several inches to their measurement because to admit that we desperately need a much wider range of sizes would mean huge losses for them. This is the reason that they are always so vague about the accuracy of the measuring, and why you probably won't get a straight answer to any of your questions if you tell them your measurements and your true size. The fact is, you can fit a 28" customer into a 32" bra, but you can't fit a 38" customer into a 34" bra. The standard size range for high street bras is 32-38, but the use of measuring tapes helps them to sell these bras to women who actually need sizes 28-38.

  4. I think that the traditional method also "sizes out" women who are very small chested, like myself. What if your full-bust measurement is less than 4-5 inches bigger than your underbust measurement? Then that means you'd have a negative cup size or something. For instance, my underbust is 28 inches, and my full bust measurement is 31". Now, if I added 4 inches to the 28 to get the band size of 32, then the difference between my full bust and underbust is -1. So by that, I'd be a 32AAA. However, my real size is a 28C. A 32AAA or 32AA would actually be too small in the cups. I don't need as much support as a larger-breasted woman, but a too loose band is also uncomfortable for me, because the cups won't sit on my breasts properly, and the bra will shift around, causing wires to poke me.


  5. Zoe - that's a good point. Whilst this method seems to underestimate cup size for most women, if you have a relatively small difference between measurements it can be particularly bad. There's a 6" difference between my underbust and full bust, and the traditional method gives me 30A, which would be three or four cup sizes too small even if the band fit.

  6. Implementing this kind of change would be hard int he states. many because the country is so large. Victoria Secrets is like 230 stores in the US and Canada. lane Brant is another store that could could lager cup sizes smaller band size but don't.

  7. I find this whole thing extremely frustrating - 30 bands are too loose, but I'm lucky to even find THOSE anywhere in New Zealand - only one place locally has the ability to order in 28s (Freya) and 30s (Freya and Fantasie), one place in Auckland who also sells online has some styles in 28s (mostly Freya). However, they're half as much again more expensive than getting them from Bravissimo - about $100NZ plus. And I STILL can't try before I buy or order!!! I've been wearing 30s because that's the best I could get, and even they are becoming just about non-existent locally.

    I see people around town who I don't think are any bigger than I am around the chest (band) - I don't think my actual size is freakish - I think there are a lot of people wearing 32s who are my size or similar thinking they're OK because they've never seen or been able to try or heard of anything better (smaller). Either that or they have a smaller bust so can get away with less support - I don't have that option.
    It's so nice to see this blog and realise that it actually IS the manufacturers that are wrong, not me! And I'm not the only one who needs sizes they don't provide for much at all!

  8. I tried one online bra calculator that told me I'm a 36D when I'm in fact a 32H! Crazy. Here in Australia, it's near impossible to find any stores that sell bras to women who have larger busts (I've only come across two stores in the city of Sydney that cater for us!)

  9. I'm so incredibly frustrated with bra shopping and I have to agree with you. After a weekend bra shopping trip, I got frustrated and finally decided to send an email to a company whose bras fit me best, but not perfectly:
    "32D, 32DD, not sure which one would fit me best because I haven't been able to try one on. I've settled on a 34D which fits me almost perfectly -- for now. It's on the tightest band hook now, a few months from now I'm sure it'll be sliding around and I'll be feeling like I'm going to fall out. So, my question is this: (BRA BRAND) bras are the greatest thing I have discovered in Braland thus far, but why WHYWHY can't I find any with a band of smaller than 34 and a cup of more than a C?????? I'm not the only one - there are millions of well-endowed, petite women out there who refuse to add the +4 inches to their band size (NOBODY WANTS A BRA THAT'S FLOPPING AROUND HER CHEST, AND MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE TO LIFT THE ARMS WITHOUT FLOPPING OUT BECAUSE THE BAND SIZE IS 3-4 INCHES TOO BIG..... THINK ABOUT THIS...!) and have to settle on something larger, the next best fit...Which luckily for me is pretty good, and even though I've heard countless times that you're supposed to put it on the loosest hook when you get a new bra so you can tighten it as it stretches to avoid falling out, I don't have any choice but to put it on the tightest hook from the start. This is a little more than mildly frustrating, and makes the lifespan of my bras significantly reduced.
    okay, next. WHO developed the fitting guide on your website? A group of men who've never seen a woman before? I already know my most accurate bra size from simply trying 100s of bra sizes on, but just to experiment, I went to the "find your perfect fit" tab. I followed the instructions. I put in my measurements, double-checking to make sure I was putting the right measurements on the right lines. Line 1: 37. Line 2: 32. Calculate. This is where I get confused. It tells me my bra size is a 36A. Hysterical. Would it help if the next time I went to the mall I tried on a 36A and sent a picture to display how it fits? If a 34 band size is too big for me, explain to me how a 36 is going to fit any better? Anyway, I'll stop there on that matter because I'm not stupid enough to actually go out and buy a 36A bra in any brand. But this is misleading to other women. No wonder such a high percentage of women aren't wearing bras in the right size. I don't think it's right that the +4 formula is used on your bra fitting guide without a disclaimer, and I don't think it's fair that your bras don't come in 32D, 32DD, 32E etc. Sure, you might say there's no market for it, but I bet if (INSERT BRA BRAND) and countless other bra companies stopped telling women to add 4 inches to their measured underbust, a market would suddenly develop.

    Please help improve the bra shopping expeditions for petite, large-busted women everywhere, and make mine just a little bit better.


  10. I know this is an older blog post, but I really agree with all of it. In the US, I have found that in a 'department store bra' such as Macy's or Victoria's SEcret I generally need a 36 C to actually get a somewhat acceptable fit. In higher end bras (such as Calvin Klein), I need a 32DD. My actual measurements are 33 under bust and 39 around (as a tall and thin girl (6 feet tall, 155 pounds) I have a fairly large ribcage, which makes it very difficult to find any bra that fits. Anyway--I round up to a 34DD (I think this is my actual size), but if I am looking at cheaper bras a 34 band won't even snap shut. I wonder if some manufacturers actually make bras based on the 'add 4 inches rule' while others don't? It's really frustrating. Why can't women's clothing always be based on actual measurements like men's clothing are (for example, a 28" waist, 24" waist, etc). I waste so much time trying to figure out which size I am in which brand.

  11. There are two different methods - some brands size using the traditional method, which makes me a 36DD, which fits perfectly. Some brands like Freya and Bravissimo decided to change to a new method, meaning my size is different - I find this very irritating. It is especially irritating that they have started a campaign against the traditional sizes, saying they are wrong, when in fact they are just using different size charts.

  12. Just have to say--stumbling on this blog has been lifechanging. Last winter, I went to my 2 local VS stores in one weekend (I was trying to get good deals at their semi-annual sale). Got measured on Saturday--32D, possibly DD. I was astounded because I'd been wearing 34A or 34B. Surprisingly, what I was presented with fit rather well, better than what I'd walked in with but I just didn't feel quite right. I bought a few anyway. Next day at the VS on the other side of town I went to try some more bras in my "new" size on, and the girl eyeball-measured me when I went into the fitting room and said I should try a 34C instead. Knowing little about proper fit, I bought several 34Cs and returned the 32Ds. I tried on so many bras that weekend my chest was chafed.

    I was also trying to lose weight at this time. I only wore 1 or 2 of the new bras and w/in a few days, they were far too large. I chalked it up to the weight loss and returned the others, going back to wearing my old, small cup/large band bras.

    Last weekend, I needed a new strapless for a dress I'm wearing to a wedding this week. I wound up back where I've been too many times: in the VS dressing room, wanting to pull out my hair. I asked for another fitting and again was told 32D. Again, nothing I tried on felt quite right. I wound up leaving with a 32C as the strapless I wanted didn't come in a 32D, and 34C was far too loose. But that visit began my quest on the internet, which lead me to your site. I measured myself and was astounded to discover I'm either a 30DD or 28E, most likely (28.5" under, 36" over). After combing through your awesome posts about how a bra should fit and how to put one on, I have ordered a couple bras in both sizes from Amazon to try on. Nowhere local stocks them.

    tl;dr Your site has changed my life and I can't wait to share it with all my lady friends (if I can convince them everything they know about bras is wrong).

  13. I just found this site today and thought the new bra sizing was very interesting. I measured as a 30E rather than the 34C that I'm wearing. However, I haven't tried on the "correct" size bras yet and I was skeptical because I think even a 32 will feel really tight. I then went and measured the band size on my bra and found that though the size said 34C, the actual band size measured to 26 inches. (And I've been wearing it for a bit, so it's probably a bit stretched from where it started.) I thought this was really interesting. And it might also be why we're told to add some number of inches to our measurements -- the band "size" might be consistently some number of inches bigger than it's actual measured size.

  14. So...I measured how you suggested and yeah it just doesn't work for my body type. It says I should be wearing a 50 band size. Wellll.. I have been wearing a 44 DDD or G, and Some 44 band sizes are far too large. So.....I have no clue what to do. According to Glamourize's website I'd wear a 44 J!!!!! Measuring under the arm pits and above the bust. I am just so lost. the 44's fit the best in band, but I do have rolling.

  15. Chelsey Johnson- You measure under your breasts for your band measurement, not over them.


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