To many of you, this might seem like a ridiculous question: Why do I tell women how to measure their bra size? But believe it or not, many people are in favor of giving up on measuring tapes entirely.
You see, the best way to get the perfect bra is to go to a highly experienced fitter. This fitter can generally "eyeball" something close to your size, based on the bra you are currently wearing. It can often be a sign of inexperience if a fitter reaches for a tape measure, because it probably means they will be fitting women according to a formula, and not have a true knowledge of how a bra should fit. It doesn't matter if you measure a 32F or 30G or whatever, if the bra is giving you 4 boobs, it doesn't fit. Not to mention that sizing is going to vary a little bit in different brands and styles, and a good fitter know their inventory and can save you headaches by only bringing you styles and sizes they know will work for you.
So, it's much better if fitters simply know how to tell what a bra that fits looks like. Then we don't even need to deal with messy measurement algorithms and if you are a different size from what your measurements suggest, there's no problem with trying to shove women into a predetermined formula.
And then there's the fact that measuring is difficult and often quite inaccurate. It is especially hard to measure a woman's cup size with a tape measure, because cup size can vary so much based on the shape of your breasts. Plus, measuring over a badly fitting bra can lead to a very inaccurate measurement, often because the woman's boobs will be smashed down by the bra.
It's also really hard to fit yourself totally correctly at home. The importance of putting the bra on correctly is vastly underestimated and a too-small cup size can seem fine until you really pull your breasts in from the size. And even a really bad bra can seem great compared to an even worse bra that you might have previously been wearing.
Also, bra measurement methods are somewhat controversial- some people, like me, are opposed to adding inches to your underbust measurement, and say you should take roughly that as your size. Many places tell you to add between 4 and 6 inches to your underbust measurement. A few places, like Victoria's Secret, even tell you to measure above your breasts to get your band size! You might as well measure your foot...
Many online stores, like Bravissimo, refuse to even put a bra size chart on their website, instead describing how a bra should fit and suggesting you visit your nearest fitter.
It's clear that telling people how to measure is pretty problematic. So why do I do it?
Because I want you to be informed customers.
Even if you have what appears to be a great bra fitter in your area, if you know your measurements and the basics of how a bra should fit, then you can tell if the bras you are being given come close to fitting or not. Then you can tell if the fitter is doing their job.
A lot of times, a great bra fitting can be a wonderful prevention for a breast reduction. I, and other advocates of bra fitting, work very hard to get the message across that a good bra fitting can make surgery unnecessary. A reduction might be an ok choice for some women, after other options have been exhausted. But I firmly believe in preventing unnecessary surgery.
But when women take that message to heart, and go to a fitter who does a bad job? They then assume that bra fitting won't work for them. They're just too big. They're weird, mutants, diseased. They need a cure for this horrible disfiguring disease they must have. Their boobs are so big they give them such pain and even an "experienced bra fitter" can't help them! They must need to chop those things off. All too often I hear from women who say "I got fitted, but I still have back pain/straps cutting in/4 boobs/ whatever. They think that they have already tried bra fittings and that bras must just suck... or that there is simply no hope for them.
For example, a friend of mine is getting a breast reduction in a month. I told her to try getting a better fitting and suggested where she could go. She told me, "[Mutual friend] already took me to get fitted. They told me I'm already in the biggest size made." Doubtfully, I asked what size they put her in. The reply? 34G. They told her 34G was the biggest size. I tried to explain that the fitters did not do a good job and that I could tell she needed a different size. Sadly, she did not listen to me and is still going through with the surgery. (I think she really just wants her boobs to be smaller for other reasons, and has to have "back pain" to get her insurance to pay for it.)
Also, the vast, vast majority of women in the United States simply do not have access to good bra fitters. It's easy for Bravissimo and places like that to say that you should just go get fitted. If you are one of my many British and Polish readers, you may not appreciate just how impossible it is to find a bra fitter. Most women in the United States are probably hours, if not days, drive from a fitter who isn't utterly worthless (ie Victoria's Secret or some such.) And if they can't even tell if that fitter, if that shop, is good or not... it's no wonder most people are shoving themselves into increasingly large band sizes+D.
But even if you are completely unable to make it in to see a fitter, and you order your bras solely online based on measurement and fitting advice, you can still get a great fit. Even if you don't do perfectly, it's likely that the new bras will be a vast improvement.
And most importantly, having online demand for more diverse sizing will send a powerful message to manufacturers, store owners, etc that yes, customers do want theses sizes, and they do want proper fittings. Bra fitting is increasing in popularity, and women are starting to make it known they won't settle for less than a perfect fit. And the industry is responding. Soon, more and more private bra boutiques will open up, making fittings accessible to more and more people. Perhaps larger department stores will rethink their fitting policies and size inventory. Even Victoria's Secret is rumored to be introducing larger than DD cup sizes. When well done bra fittings are available to everyone in the US, then yes, I will suggest that you toss aside that measuring tape and go get fitted. In the mean time, I'm doing the best I can to spread proper bra fitting.