Tutorial: How to measure yourself for a bra… correctly!

I’m periodically asked to repost this for reference sake, so consider this your random educational moment of the day! Feel free to pass it on to anyone you know anyone with breasts (and I’m betting you know at least one person).

Where?
I learned this method on a now-defunct site called “Plus size bras”, which used to be a beautifully fantastic resource for those of us who were tiny in body and large in bust. Or just anyone who wears over a D-cup and has a hell of a time finding a bra that feels comfortable.
Not only did this site have FAQs, tips and tutorials on how to properly fit yourself (the way they do at lingerie boutiques in the parts of Europe, where apparently they know how to treat your breasts right), but it also had a giant brand conversion table so once you found your ‘standard US size’ you could compare it against common manufacturers of underwear throughout Europe and the Americas and get your size within their brand… genius! As most of us know, wearing a D34 at La Senza doesn’t mean you’ll wear a D34 in Playtex or Victoria’s Secret. This also contributes to the fact that more than 80% of us are wearing the wrong size.

All the information in here was gleaned from that site way back in the late 90’s and eary 00’s, and credit for the bulk of this tutorial goes to them. Through the years I’ve taught this, or done it, with dozens upon dozens of people so my own tips and experience is coming in as well.

Why?
Even if you’ve been “fitted” at a lingerie store, chances are you weren’t fitted properly. Due to our fears about sexual harassment and our taboo about being fondled by people whom you only know by their name tag, most employees at these boutiques are taught to tell their customers to try various bras until it “looks right”, or to write down two basic measurements that were done over your clothes (half naked if you’re really special). The problem with this is that you’re probably not wearing a correctly fitting bra while getting this measurement, which only serves to perpetrate this cycle of bad boob mojo. On top of that, potentially quite a bit of breast is missed during your fitting due to it peeking out the sides and top, or being smushed inside a confining cup.
Those of us whose cup runneth over generally get through life by cramming ourselves into the last D-cup in the bargain bin at Wal*Mart so we save a few bucks, but this isn’t the smartest thing to do. Just because you can wear a bra doesn’t mean it fits, and wearing the wrong size bra can cause severe back and neck problems, permanent dig marks from the straps carrying too much weight, even breathing difficulty. A well-fitting bra can make all the difference in the world. Save yourself time, embarrassment and pain by taking your breasts into your own hands and learning how to get your correct bra size.

A poor fitting bra can be diagnosed with any or all of these symptoms:

– Painful, red or sore shoulders.
– Dents or grooves in your shoulders.
– Numbness in your arms and fingers after wearing your bra for several hours.
– Reduced circulation after wearing your bra for several hours.
– Constantly adjusting your straps
– Chestband riding up in the back.
– Uncomfortable or sweaty cleavage
– Breasts falling out when bending over.
– The center of the cups ‘floats’ above your breastbone
– Cups that shift over your breasts
– Puckering or wrinkling in the cups
– Bulging tissue out the top or your bra, or under your armpits.
– Lumpy breasts under your shirt.
– Difficulty breathing
– Frequent yeast infections or chafing under your breasts, or where your chestband sits.
– Underwire poking out the sides or the center.
– Buying a bra that you ‘can wear’ but wasn’t properly fitted because it was on sale.
– Refusing to buy a larger cup bra because you think it means you’re “plus size”.
– When you pull your shoulders back, your breasts bulge out the top of your cups.
– There’s gapping between your breast tissue and your cup; it doesn’t completely fill it out.
– A bustline that is fullest at a point lower other than exact middle between your waist and collarbone.

What?
To calculate a correct bra size, you first need to understand what each part of a bra is for, and how to identify a poor fit.

The frame of your bra, or chestband, is fitted first. The frame is what supports the weight of your breasts; it’s the most important part of the bra to fit, and the most noticeable when not worn in the right size. A well fitting frame can be fastened snugly on the middle clasp, without digging into your flesh, and the underwire (or cup seams, if it’s soft-cup) flush against your sternum and ribcage all the way around your breast tissue. It will not “float”, and you will not be able to fasten it in the front and then slide it around your back. Your chestband should remain snug throughout a day of wear.
A frame that’s too tight will dig in, bend, or warp the underwires an cause them to rip through the fabric. If it’s too loose your frame will just sort of ‘float’ around your chest, causing your bra straps to take on the weight.

Shoulder straps are directly affected by the chestband because they are designed to adjust the height of your bosom, not carry the weight of it. An ill fitting chestband will cause you to start adjusting your straps, causing the band to ride in the back and the straps to dig into your shoulders causing redness, irritation, bruising… and even numbness or arterial restriction over time. After a while you’ll start shelling out the cash for those fancy gel-padded-strap bras, but they’re still digging in! You do not need gel padded straps; in fact they wouldn’t even be a thing if the average manufacturer gave a rat’s ass about ensuring a woman’s comfort when wearing her bra. If you “need” them, your straps are carrying the weight of your breasts, which they should not be doing, and you are not wearing a correct chestband size.

The cups are the part that hold your breast tissue and control the shape and exposure of your breast through seaming, padding and projection. All bra manufacturers use different patterns, even different styles under the same brand, so your cup size will differ between different brands depending on how they fashion their cups. This is especially true for cup sizes over a D, where it seems manufacturers cannot agree on a standard sizing process. Chestband sizing remains pretty constant… it’s the cups that are the problem.
What cup size you need to hold your bountiful bosoms is determined by their girth, depth and volume. Bra cups are proportioned to the chestband so will accordingly decrease in diameter at the chest wall with each band size down: this is why you can’t go down a band size in the same cup and still expect your bra to still fit. A decrease in diameter affects the volume of the cup. It isn’t as confusing as it sounds! Someone who is a 40D simply has more flesh around and in their breasts than someone who is a 30D, and that flesh has to go into a cup size that provides more girth for the breast to comfortably fit. So, to go down one band size, you must go two cup sizes larger to maintain the same cup volume.
E.g., a 34F bra’s cups have less volume than a 36F bra because the cups are smaller in diameter. However, bras US standard size 34H and 36F have equivalent cup volume.

How?
You will need:
* A soft or cloth measuring tape.
* A mirror, or a friend who you don’t mind seeing your nipples.
* Your best-fitting, non-padded, non-minimizing and non-sports bra.
* A notepad and pencil.
* Third grade math skills.

Using these tools, you’ll be taking four measurements:
* Overbust, bra on.
* Overbust, bra off.
* Bustline, bra on.
* Underbust, bra off.

“Underbust” is where the chestband of the bra will sit. About 1/2 to 3/4 inch beneath your breast tissue and around your ribcage. Not around your waist, against the bottom of your breast tissue, or under your ribs. If you’re not sure where to measure, put on a well-fitting bra and see where the band sits. If your bra doesn’t fit correctly it’ll ride in the back, so go by where it sits in the front and take your measurement from there, even and straight all the way around.

“Bustline” is the fullest part of your bust, generally right around your nipples. Make sure the measuring tape is straight around, and don’t pull it tight when measuring. To get the most accurate measurement possible, rest the tape comfortably around your bust, with your arms down, without tightening it.

“Overbust” means about an inch underneath your armpits, when your arms are down. Relax your arms, don’t tighten the muscles, as this can throw off your measurement, particularly if you’ve been working your pectorals and like to flex them a lot.

*Just in case someone is wondering: the bra I’m wearing in these photos is a Freya plunge bra in 30FF, and it’s a touch tight in the chestband now that I’m in my second trimester of pregnancy. It says it’s padded, but it actually isn’t. Right now you can get it on sale for $40 USD [right here]. It usually runs $65, which is still a steal. It is available in cup sizes B through JJ, and in band sizes 28-38 – in all combinations.


1: Take Your ‘Bra On’ and ‘Bra Off’ Measurements
(All my measurements are taken while wearing a thin tank top, which adds a tiny bit of bulk and can potentially throw off the number. Don’t do this when you’re measuring, you need to ditch the clothes. I’m just doing it for the sake of keeping this tutorial rated PG while providing reference images.)


My bra off overbust measurement was 33″.


My bra on overbust measurement was 35″.


My bra on bustline measurement was 38.5″.


My underbust measurement was 30.5″.

Please note that in the above image I am taking this measurement incorrectly: you can see where the tape is riding up to catch breast tissue underneath my breast, which adds several inches to the measurement. Do this in the mirror, or with someone there to check and make sure you’re not making this mistake.

Tips for measuring:
– Make sure the measuring tape is straight, untwisted and even all the way around. This is where the friendly friend or the mirror comes in; you may need someone to spot you.

2: Calculate Your Chestband Size
You will need:
* Your underbust measurement.

Your properly-fitted chestband size is what supports the weight of your breasts. Band sizes are measured in whole, even numbers – not odd numbers, or half numbers. When you’re measuring, any fraction of an inch will be rounded up to the nearest whole number.

For instance, a 37.25 measurement will be rounded to 38, not 37.

To calculate your chestband size, round off your underbust measurement to the next whole number. Add two for an even number, or one for an odd number. Do not add 4 or 5 as many bra manufacturers suggest you do, this will give you a band size that’s way too large for you. The reason they do this is to encourage larger busted women to stuff themselves into cup sizes they are more likely to have in stock.

EXCEPTION: If you’re a tiny person and your underbust measurement is 33″ or less, you’ll probably have better luck with a chestband size that is roughly numerically equal to that number. In the case of a 33″ or less underbust measurement, instead of rounding to the highest number, just round as you normally would in your math classes (.5 or more goes up, .4 or less goes down).
E.g., If your underbust measurement was 29.25″ you’ll probably fare much better with a 28 rather than a 30 chestband size. If it was 29.75″ you’ll do better with a 30 instead of a 32.

My underbust measurement was 30.5″, and since it’s .5 or greater it will round up to 31″. My measurement is 33″ or less so it’s held to the ‘exact measurement’ exception and unfortunately there’s no such thing as a 31 size chestband. Due to experience I know a 32 fits better, but if you happen to have the 30.5″-31″ chest size you may want to try both a 30 and a 32 when bra shopping to see which works best for you.
To summarize: my chestband size is 32.

Tips for chestband calculation:
* Your chestband size should be the same, or less, than your bra off abovebust measurement – it should not be greater. If it is, you’ve done something wrong and need to remeasure and recalculate.
* This assumes you are measuring for a back closure bra, and this chestband will not fit a bandeau/front closure or a longline bra. A longline or all-in-one bra requires you to add either 4 or 5 to your underbust measurement obtain an even, whole number. A front closure is calculated with the above instructions, but go up one more chestband size (you’ll need to be sure to go down to cup sizes as well).
* In the event your bra off abovebust and your underbust measurements are the same: use a chestband size equal to or less than it. E.g., if both measurements are 37″ use a 36 chestband, not a 38.
* Most women’s chests have ‘taper’ of about two inches: your bra off overbust measurement will be more than your underbust measurement, and bra manufacturers expect two inches of taper on the average woman. If your chest has more or less than 2″ of taper, you might have difficulty sizing your chestband and may want to try the alternative method below to getting your chestband size.

– Alternative method: to be used for those with significantly more or less than 2″ taper.
Take several bras of the same manufacturer, style, and cup size. It can be any cup size, not necessarily your correct one, just as long as it’s the same cup size in each bra. Start with the biggest and go down from there. Fasten the bra on the middle clasp in front directly under your bust. Don’t put the cups on. You’re just looking at how the chestband feels.
On the middle setting the band should be comfortably secure, not loose and not too tight, and not able to slide around. Go down the bands until one fits perfectly. Band sizes are generally the same throughout manufacturers, so you can safely use this as your final chestband size.

3: Calculate Your Cup Size
You will need:
* Your bra on bustline measurement
* Your bra on abovebust measurement
* Your bra off abovebust measurement

If the bra you were wearing during the fitting is the wrong size you will have breast tissue bulging from the top of the cups and the sides that wasn’t included in a bra-on bustline measurement. If this is the case, the bra on and bra off abovebust measurements will be different. This is something that a fitter at a lingerie store will not take into account, which can throw off your cup size by quite a bit.
The difference between these two measurements is simply added to your bustline measurement to correct it.

In my example, my bra off abovebust measurement is 33″ and my bra on abovebust measurement is 35″. That’s a whole two inches difference!


My bra on bustline measurement is 38.5″, so I’m going to add those two inches to it to make 40.5 and round up to the nearest whole number, bringing my cup measurement to 41.

4: Calculate Your Bra Size
You will need:
* Your chestband size (not to be confused with underbust measurement).
* Your cup size (not to be confused with bustline measurement).

Now that you have two accurate measurements, you’re going to subtract your chestband size from your cup size to find the difference between them, and that magic number is associated with a letter on the standard US sizing system… which goes by letters of the alphabet.
If my chestband size is 32 and my cup size is 41, then my magic number is 9. The ninth letter of the alphabet is “I”, which means my cup size is currently a 32I in US standard sizing. If I wanted to go up a band size to 34, remember that you have to go down two cup sizes to get the same volume. If a 34 band size fits me better, I’ll be a 34G in US standard size.

5: Links For Bras Above a DD
Bigger Bras – My favourite resource. I buy from them on a regular basis, and have been purchasing from them for years now. I just bought my latest batch of nursing bras from them earlier this week and got a whole batch for under $150. Beat that! Bigger Bras is USA based but carry a variety of European brands, and they ship worldwide for competitive rates. They have a great return policy, and their site allows you to ‘search by size’ – a life saving feature!
Fig Leaves – A little more luxurious and a little more expensive. This didn’t used to be a warehouse style megastore like Bigger Bras is, but they’ve expanded pretty significantly in the last few years to cater to a lot more needs. They carry all sorts of underwear and swimswear. They’re based in the UK and ship worldwide.
Bravissimo – Has a pretty damned amazing catalogue of bras, underwear, swimsuits and even coats tailor made for the larger busted woman. They carry sizes up to a JJ and band sizes starting from a 28. I cannot say enough about this company.
Decent Exposures – In the last few years this company has gone from a minimal line of shapeless, dull looking sports bras to a pretty fantastic sports and activewear store for the organic minded woman. They have a range of sizes and styles available.
Bra Experience – A low tech ‘warehouse’ style online catalogue. The site is a little poor, but they sell a wide variety of sizes and styles.
The Under Cover Experience – A UK-based lingerie store with a wide selection of sizes.

If you know of any online stores that sell bras above a DDD (with a variety of band sizes) and cater to women of all sizes, add a link to it in the comments!

6: Find Your Size in Your Favourite Brands
As I explained above, bra manufacturers do not have standards for cup sizes, so finding out what your ‘US standard; size is, and therefore knowing your two ‘sizes’ (cup and chestband) as well as the difference between them, will allow you to easily find your size in a variety of brands. And that’s probably going to lend itself to your finding something that fits you a lot better than whatever you were stuffing yourself into today.

Here is an amazingly well-researched and thorough buyer’s guide which can help you convert your measurements, or your US standard sizing, to your favorite brand of bra.
Even if you don’t decide to use the above method for measurement, and are professionally fitted by a trained “bratician”, you can still use that information and magic number that you would get from her to find a size that works for you in the variety of brands on this table.

Happy bra shopping!

Difference
(inches)

to

to

to

to

to

to
10½
10½
to
11½
11½
to
12½
12½
to
13½
13½
to
14½
14½
to
15½
15½
to
16½
16½
to
17½
25½
to
26½
26½
to
27½
27½
to
28½
28½
to
29½
Cup Size E F G H I J K L M N O P Q Z ZA ZB ZC

This can go on forever, but you get the idea.

And now that you know that, here’s a table with popular lingerie and bra manufacturers, which can help you find out what your best fitting size within their brand is.

CUP SIZES
Bustline – Frame
Difference (inches)

to

to

to

to

to
10½
10½
to
11½
11½
to
12½
12½
to
13½
13½
to
14½
14½
to
15½
15½
to
16½
16½
to
17½
17½
to
18½
18½
to
19½
19½
to
20½
US “Standard” F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T
Anita (DE) F G
Answers
(Gossard) (UK)
F FF G
Aviana F G H
Bali DDD
Berlei (UK) E F FF G
Bioform (Charnos) (UK) E F FF G
Brantly/Cameo F G GG H HH I II J JJ K KK L LL M MM
Chantelle F G
Charnos (UK) E F FF G GG
Edith Lances PS XPS XXPS
Emma-Jane E F G H J
Exquisite Form DDD
or
F
Fancee Free F G H I J K
Fantasie
of England (UK)
E F FF G GG H HH J JJ
Freya (UK) E F FF G GG
Glamorise F G H I
Goddess 3D F FF

Goddess
“Great Day”
“Specialty”
“Splendid Florals”
“Strapless”

F FF G H I J
Goddess
“Traditional”
E F FF
Gossard (UK) E F FF
Lane Bryant DDD
or
F
FF
or
G
GG H
or
HH
I
or
II
Leading Lady F G H I
Lilyette DDD
NCT Mava E F G H HH J K
Miss Mary
of Sweden
   (EU) 
DD E F G G H
Miss Mary
of Sweden (SE)
   (US) 

DD E F G G H
Olga DDD
Panache Lingerie (UK) E F FF G GG H HH J
Playtex DDD
Playtex (EU) E F FF
Prima Donna (BE) F G H
Rigby & Peller (UK) E F FF G GG
Royce Lingerie E F G H J K L
Shock Absorber (Gossard) (UK) F FF G
Silhouette England(UK) E F FF G GG H HH J
Triumph (DE) E F G H
Vanity Fair DDD
Warner’s (UK) E F FF G GG H J
Warner’s (North America) DDD

Hope this was as helpful to others as it was for me!

(Tables and bra brand data was put together by the lovely ladies at Plus Size Bras, a now-defunct site, so credit for that incredible research and goes to them and not me).

Comments

comments

68 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    So I’m totally confused?? I thought I had done it right, but it turned out totally weird?? I’m so much smaller than all these other people… :-/ But I still would like to know what I really need to get, because I just can’t seem to find a bra that fits comfortably..
    These are my measurements, could you please help me?
    Overbust, bra on: 30 1/4
    Overbust, bra off: 29 1/2
    Bustline, bra on: 32
    Underbust, bra off: 27

    • admin says:

      You’re probably best with a 28 DDD/F 🙂 If that’s not quite right, try a 30DD, but I think you’ll find a 30 strap will be too loose on you.
      I was the same size when I first found out I was wearing the wrong bra… before that I was stuffing myself into 32D’s. Happy hunting!

  • schmatalie says:

    i am FINALLY getting around to doing this. here’s my conundrum: my “best-fitting, non-padded, non-minimizing and non-sports bra” doesn’t fit me AT ALL…i’m spilling out all over the place. and it is sort of padded…more like ‘formed’ i guess. how badly will this skew my results?

    • admin says:

      If it’s not padded at all it’s probably going to be okay, but you may want to double check your results by going to a boutique and trying the poor man’s method as a backup to confirm your results.

  • Anonymous says:

    I know this post is old, but I had to come back to it to re-size myself (apparently Baby decided that 34H was not sufficient somewhere around week 7 of my pregnancy. By the time he/she comes my boobs are going to be bigger than the baby). But anyhow, you asked about sites that carry bras above DDD, and http://www.zulily.com often has Panache bras on sale, and a few other extended-size brands too (helloooo run-on sentence!). However, it’s not constant–they’re one of those sites that does “sales” for a few days, then they don’t carry it until they have that “sale” again. When they do, though, the prices are FANTASTIC.

    Of course I outgrew my current bra the DAY AFTER the last sale ended…

  • tartanshell says:

    This is SO helpful! Thank you so much for sharing it. 🙂

    I have yet another “ZOMG please help me find a bra” question for you. My measurements are as follows:

    Bra-on overbust: 34″
    Bra-off overbust: 33.5″
    Bra-on bustline: 35″
    Bra-off underbust: 31″

    I did the math, and it looks like I should be wearing a 32D, right? When I went bra shopping in stores today, I couldn’t find any in that size (no surprise), so I bought a 34B underwire t-shirt bra, got it home, and…it fits, but it’s not a great fit. The cups gap at the top but feel too full side-to-side (the underwire is sort of digging in at the sides), like they’re simultaneously too small and too big. Now I’m wondering if, if I don’t even really fill out a B cup, did I measure wrong? How could I possibly be a D? So confused. 🙁

    My plan is to order a few different sizes online and see what fits, but I don’t want to order 30A through D and 32A through D in hopes of finding SOMETHING, you know? I’d really appreciate your input! Thanks in advance. ♥

  • starpolish says:

    Small boob conundrum

    So, I cannot, no matter how I try, get my overbust measurement to be smaller than my underbust measurement. I’ve done this with clothing, without clothing, with help, with mirrors. I’ve never found a bra that fit, always wearing camis because I am tiny chested. My underbust is 27 inches, my actual bustline is 32.5, and my overbust is 29 inches. I have no idea what to do. o.O

    • admin says:

      Re: Small boob conundrum

      Your overbust isn’t supposed to be smaller than your underbust. 🙂 Maybe you misunderstood? It said your chestband size should not be greater than your bra off overbust. That’s not hte same thing as your measurement. Chestband is the finished, calculated size.

      What’s your overbust with bra on and bra off? Is it the same? I need that measurement to give you a proper size.

  • Anonymous says:

    thank you for all of your bra fitting advice! after 12 years of bra wearing, i think i finally have the right size! I never gave it much though since i was small/average bust size, bust even wearing this new bra for 4 hours is like night and day. Thank you!

    It was kinda tricky for me because i have very 70’s teardrop shaped breasts. When I measured at home and when i was measured at the store, they came out to 34B dead on. But whenever i wear a 34B, the band would lift between my breasts.

    So following some of your troubleshooting advice, and the advice from some of the websites you provided, I decided to try a 34C in a demi style and WOW. It’s amazing more comfortable to have the band lay flat on my breastbone.

    Moral of the story: If you have bottom-heavy teardrop shapped breasts, try a larger cup size in a demi style! The measuring tape may not accurately give you your cup size.

  • tidbitsy says:

    K, so I was super happy to find this cause I can’t seem to be comfortable with any of my bras for more than a month or so. Whenever I went to a small shop in my town that is supposed to specialize in bra fitting, I always came out with 34B bras, which eventually had to be fastened in the tightest hook and even then they felt a bit loose. So I just measured (in cm cuz I’m a euro person haha) and converted it to inches roughly which gave me these:

    Bra off overbust – 33.2″
    Bra on overbust – 33.4″
    Bra off underbust – 31.1″
    Bra on bustline – 35.4″

    So, this would make me a 32C or D then? Should I still try both to see which one fits me better?

    Can’t wait to go bra shopping now! Thank you so much for all this info!

    • admin says:

      I’d go with a 30 bustline instead of a 32, imho.
      With that in mind, I think you’d find the best fit with a 30DD or 30E (same size, different ways of saying it). 🙂 If that doesn’t work, a 32D may also fit you.

  • It was the most amazing thing 6 years ago to have a bra lady measure me and tell me what I really needed was a 32D (a size that simply doesn’t exist in department stores), and to actual get a bra that size. It explained so much! Since 34 is usually the smallest band size you can find in major department stores, I’d been trying to find the right cup size in 34s for years, and nothing was ever quite right!

    Okay, feel free to not spend your time double-checking me, but I just want to see if I got this right:

    My measurements:

    Bra off overbust – 34.25″
    Bra on overbust – 34.5″
    Bra off underbust – 30.25″
    Bra on bustline – 36″

    So based on that, I should be wearing a 32D, or maybe even a 30F? I’m a little confused by that, since I recently went to wearing a 34C because my 32Ds seemed like they were digging uncomfortably into my ribs. Maybe I was just being oversensitive? I don’t know, but it seems strange that an even smaller band size might be better! Of course, maybe I also did the measurements wrong? Ideas appreciated!

    • admin says:

      Yup, a 30F. 🙂 (or a 30DDD, which are sometimes the same thing)
      I was wearing 32Ds and 34D’s before I realized I was actually a 30F as well.

      You may also fit a 32D, but it really depends on your bust shape and size. Your actual standard size is a 30F and you have very similar measurements to me when not pregnant, and that’s the size I wear.

  • roguewords says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

    It wasn’t until I was five months from having my breast reduction that I finally learned what size I truly was. I had spent years putting myself into a 44/46DDD bra. I should have been wearing a 38 I cup. I could have hugged that lady at Lane Bryant. I wasn’t able to buy a 38 I cup, but I was able to get something that fit a little better.

    I’ve been a 40 D for five years now, with the exception of being preggo, when I went up to a G. But I think I’m going to check that, since apparently it’s a little too big since going back down. (Extra room in the cup mostly.)

    yay boobs. Totally passing this on. 🙂

  • altarflame says:

    As I was reading this post, I was thinking “this is another one of those epic essay posts that become internet legend and helps dozens (or more) of people, yet a few will whine and grumble about how she thinks she’s an ‘authority’ on everything”. Then I saw your tag, and lol’d forever.

    I have crappy shoulder indents from straps holding the weight of my breasts :/ And have frequently done the “biggest size available at Target” type thing. I really should try to think about this the next time I have money to spend on myself. I’ve just been in nursing bras for so long, and dress in such a way that when I’m not they’re strapless, and those two caveats seem to make all this even more complicated and hard to deal with.

    • admin says:

      Haha, and thus you got the point of the tag. 😉

      It wasn’t until I discovered biggerbras.com that I finally got myself some beautiful, comfortable nursing bras in something other than “stained white” with an unflattering and shapeless soft cup.
      Seriously dude, I just ordered [this one] earlier. (32B up to 40G).
      IT’S A NURSING BRA. [This one, too]. (34B to 40G). Gorgeous!

    • kyazonenigma says:

      I was in Washington state shopping yesterday
      and Lane Bryant had some styles on sale
      I got 2 38 G bras for under $50! They had alot
      of bras on sale. Im used to paying $150 each in
      Langley. So I was quite tickled.

  • thanks! I know this is about bigger busts but…
    You know its SO HARD to find plus size bras for people with small breasts.
    I wear a 44A and I want an underwire bra… WHERE CAN I FIND IT?

  • smellykaka says:

    OK, so the already impressive list of things you know a shitload about just got longer.

  • spinneretta says:

    Friend of mine linked me over here, and seriously? THANK YOU. As it happens, I already know my size, but the comparison chart is GENIUS.

    Mother-in-law and sis-in-law took me to Rigby and Peller when we were in the UK earlier this year – it’s quite a boost to the confidence to be told by a bra fitter that I was already wearing the correct bra size!

  • gardenmama says:

    OK, I’ll definitely need to study this when I have more time and measure to see if I’m wearing the correct size. I have issues with manufacturers who think that C+ cups should be padded. I don’t mind light padding so you don’t get nipples poking through your shirt, but I don’t want my bra to make my boobs bigger than they already are!

    Question that I didn’t see addressed: once you have the correct band size and the correct cup size, how should you adjust the straps? I think I have shoulder that slope quite significantly and I find my bra straps constantly falling off. But if I tighten them up to avoid that, I end up with them cutting into my shoulders.

    • admin says:

      Straps are to be used to adjust the height of your bosom, never to carry the weight. So if they’re digging in they’re either a: too tight, or b: your chestband is incorrectly sized.

      If you have large shoulders try to avoid bra styles with wider set straps like balconette or t-shirt, and go for more full coverage or full cup bras. 🙂

  • mammaopal says:

    My Mom took me to a proper lingerie shop (Diane’s on South Granville in Vancouver) when I was a teenager to get properly fitted for a bra.
    It was mortifying to strip down naked and have a person who wasn’t a Doctor yanking at my boobs and stuffing them into a bra. I had such low self esteem about the shape of my breasts to begin with that I was in tears. And then the bras didn’t fit me until after I had my first baby, years later because she said I’d grow into them and I didn’t.

    Traumatized.

    I love bras that have no underwire and are stretchy.

    • admin says:

      Damn. :-/ Pretty much everything about that experience is not okay. Someone who is trained as a fitter needs to be really sensitive, particularly to teenage girls, and NEVER physically touch or fondle someone’s breasts. Measuring okay, yanking on big no-no.

      The times I was properly fitted (while topless) were never like that, and the ladies were very discreet, gentle, and asked permission before doing every step to ensure I was comfortable with it or if I’d like instruction on doing it myself. THAT’S how your experience should have gone. I’m sorry it was so traumatizing. 🙁

    • Ugh, that sucks. I’ve been to Diane’s once or twice and I don’t find them very youth-friendly… in fact, I’m in my 20’s and I still feel a decade or two too young to shop there. I didn’t have a bad experience like yours, and the fitting was accurate and respectful, but I still didn’t love their attitude and found them relatively unhelpful.

  • timmytm says:

    If I get past an A cup because of all my lifting, I’ll keep this in mind. ; )

  • therachel says:

    Hooray for boobies!
    I am bookmarking this for when I decide that wearing a flimsy cotton nursing bra is not the best answer to having DDD or G cups, or whatever it is that I’m dealing with.

    I wish I knew where my measuring tape was!!!

  • Oh this is so awesome. Ever since I finally figured out how to find a bra in the correct size, I wish everyone would go do it. So awesome.

    There are a few stores here in Vancouver that do this right. The one thing they’ve told me that I notice is different to what you wrote here is that they say you should buy it so the chestband fits on the first clasp, not the middle. That way, it will allow for the fact that the material will stretch over time and the band won’t become too big (even on the tightest clasp). In my experience I’ve sort of agreed – but the problem of course is that when I follow that advice I’ve bought a too-tight bra on more than one occasion and then had no recourse. (I’m horrible at shopping.) So I’m tending to do it the way you describe now.

    Also – perhaps this is just personal but I’ve always found I only have to adjust the band by one size, not two, when changing cup sizes. Right now, a 32F and a 34E fit almost identically (depending on the style)… a 30F or a 36E wouldn’t fit. But maybe that’s a brand-specific thing? (I’ve mostly bought the same brand in recent years.)

    • admin says:

      I think that’s brand or style specific, because the cup volume size isn’t the same otherwise. 🙂 It means their brands may run small in the cup.

      • Yeah, and come to think of it, it’s probably much more that I can’t fit a 30 or a 36, so I just go by whichever band size fits in a particular style, and then whichever cup size fits after that. (Sort of like the “poor man’s measure” you describe above.) It’s been a while since I’ve actually done a proper measurement.

  • marbyco says:

    Greeaaat…I am totally mesmerized by that icon and am supposed to be getting ready for work. But I can’t look away…

  • jenrose1 says:

    Last I checked I was a K-sized cup. But I haven’t bought new bras in ages. The last two I got were Jeunique, which are extremely well-fit, but blastedly uncomfortable for me because they’re poly and the band pilled. I’d rather sag a little and wear cotton, y’know? I don’t think you can get them online, the person I buy mine from is known as “the Bra lady” and she’ll ship them to me only because we did a fitting in person.

  • I’ll have to try the alternative band measurement method….I got 29 underbust and 33 overbust…I had always just rejected bra measuring recommendations because they say that my A/B boobs have a negative band/cup difference. (29 round up plus 4 = ’34 band size’….33 bustline – 34 band = -1 :-p and a band that floats about halfway up my boobs)

    • admin says:

      That’s probably why you’ve had trouble fitting bras in the past. 🙂 Most fitters don’t consider that sometimes women have chest taper that’s significantly more than 2″.
      With a 29 underbust and significant taper I’d say you’re probably going to find a 30 band size to work best for you, rather than a 28 that you’d usually recommend in someone with those measurements, but I’m just guessing.

      When you go to fit your chestband remember to use bras all in the same cup/brand/style (since you’re not fitting cups yet, just the band, they don’t matter but need to all be the same to ensure you’re not getting thrown off by differences in bra construction). Start with a 32, then try a 30, then try a 28.
      Once you’ve got that fitted, you can start trying different cups. Start with the largest first and work your way down, as an oversize cup is easier to identify than an undersize… as soon as it stops puckering/gapping/wrinkling, you’ve got your size. 🙂

      That’s not fantastic though as it only gives you your size in that brand and that style. You can try sort of reverse engineering it through that above chart, though!

      • I think I’m going to have a hard time finding a 28 band in a non-online store….maybe in the little girl section….

        • tastyanagram says:

          Just read through and wanted to point out that in Babs’ comment above she recommended a 30 band size rather than a 28, in case that helps in your search! 🙂

          • yes, but she said to try all three :-p. I’ve been looking around and have found two lingerie stores in OKC, one of which has a website that says they carry up to a cup size of JJ and down to a band size of 30…I also know from experience that Dillards carries 30s (but IIRC it was for petite women and even though their shoulder straps were adjustable the longest setting was not long enough for my non-petite torso boob placement)

        • admin says:

          Haha, no you won’t find those sizes at a department store… but you will at a lingerie boutique. 🙂 And most towns have at least one of those.

          • Google maps tells me that there are two lingerie stores in Oklahoma City (if I exclude Victoria’s Secret/Fredrick’s of Hollywood/Adult novelty stores and one that I know is for cancer patients and carries wigs and mastectomy bras and such ). One of the two has a website which says its sizes go down to 30 and up to JJ (and from their online sales the smallest 30 they have is a 30C…lots of 30Fs, zero 30Bs). The other one doesn’t have a website, so I’ll actually be more likely to check it out first once I get back from holiday travels.

            I hope I don’t end up fitting a 28 or 30 better than a 32…32s are hard enough for me to find in regular stores :-p.

            • admin says:

              There’s probably more than just those two… we have a really nice lingerie store here that sells AMAZING bras but it doesn’t come up under a regular search.
              Also, don’t be afraid to ask them to carry your size, or extra band sizes. 🙂 They will probably order in a selection for you (plus, other women will thank you).

  • bluealoe says:

    Is it bad that I looked at this and thought, “I should totally do this with my mom and sister”? Family bonding time, woo!

    I got kind of lost in the cup size section, though. When figuring out your cup size, your bra-on bustline measurement equals your cup size, unless your bra-on abovebust and bra-off abovebust measurements are different, in which case you add the difference to the bustline measurement? Did I get that right, or am I totally on the wrong track?

    • admin says:

      LOL – I did the same thing.

      Cup size: nope, you’re confused!

      Think of it this way. The direct measurement DOES NOT EQUAL your actual ‘size’ measurement. It’s just a measurement. Kind of like the same way your waistline measurement does not equal your dress size. 🙂 a 24″ waistline may be a size 0, not a size 24.

      You have it almost right though. Your bustline will not be corrected if those other measurements are the same, but then you need one more piece of math: subtracting your chestband size (not measurement) from your bustline measurement gets you that magic number. And that number is what you translate into letters of the alphabet, or cup sizes by brand. 🙂

      So, my chestband is 32, and my corrected bustline is 41. 41 isn’t my cup size (nor my band size)… the difference between them is. That’s 9″, and 9 = I. (A=1, B=2, C=3 … G=7, H=8, I=9 and so on).
      Clear as mud?

      • bluealoe says:

        Oh, I understand that the difference between the two is a corresponds to a letter, and that’s your cup size (A, B, etc.) What I don’t understand is how to get that initial measurement-the corrected bustline (the 41 in your example). From the tutorial, it seems like it’s just the bustline measurement, unless there’s a difference in the bra-on and bra-off measurements. In that case, you add that number to your bustline measurement. I think?

        • admin says:

          Yup, you’ve got it right. You only need to correct the bustline if there’s extra tissue being shoved around. And it’s not always accurate to measure without a bra on and just use that, because women’s breasts are differently shaped and the mass of your breast is probably not going to sit in the same spot the way it would be in a bra cup. With that in mind, it’s more accurate to measure in a well fitting bra and then double check by using the abovebust measurements to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

  • tastyanagram says:

    This is so wonderful! I agree, being fitted for a bra properly is essential! I just got fitted and found out that I needed to drop a band size (which, stupidly, made me feel vain), and I couldn’t believe what a difference wearing a well-fitting, well-constructed bra makes. (If anyone is in the Boston area, go to Forty Winks in Harvard Square! The ladies there are amazing.)

    And, I’m not sure if this was mentioned in the tutorial, but if you wear a well-fitting bra, your chest will actually look smaller. I was talking to a friend of a friend on a recent trip about the whole large-breasted bra issue and she had a hard time believing I was a DD. It’s true!

    • tastyanagram says:

      Oh, and the women there are good about actually looking at you in your bra and tugging on the band, et cetera, to see about fit. Of course, I am not modest about my body so I don’t know if they were just going with the flow when I was standing there with my shirt off, or what. 😉

    • admin says:

      That’s totally true. Plus, it’s a much more flattering shape.
      Once you have your proper fit, you can go get yourself a nice padded push-up bra if you want uber cleavage… and not risk discomfort, modesty or pain. 😉

      I have a fantastic cleavage bra that I love love love love. I also have an off-sized “34DDD” (it says that’s the size, but the internal measurements put it more like a 32E/F… probably a factory reject) push-up from a mall store that I can ‘wear’ but not completely ‘fit’. The band size is mostly alright but the cup size is about 1-2 cups too small – but I like the cleavage so much that I wear it for special occasions. Blasphemy! 😛 I should probably ditch it for a proper fitting push up so I can get a nicer look though, I’m getting pretty annoyed with popping out of that one at dinner.

    • ayanamisama says:

      I LOVE FORTY WINKS! My good friend is friends with the girls who work there, so we go there to visit and shop every once in a while. They have such gorgeous things.

  • its_jemma says:

    I can’t stop looking at that icon :\

  • duchess_k says:

    My 2 1/2 year old just saw your icon and said “Who’s THAT?” 😉

    This is thorough. I’m grateful to have never had to give bras much thought…though I’m envious of your rack.

  • bicrim says:

    I have a bra fitting question that no one has been able to answer for me, maybe you can help! I am a fat girl, and have a lot of “side boob”, or fat on the sides of my body at breast level. This means that when I follow your procedure, I get a very skewed result. The last time I did this, it showed that I should wear a E cup size, due to the fat on the sides being counted as breast, when it’s not. This is hilarious, as my breasts are a B-C cup, fairly smallish. So, any ideas on how I can get my right size?

    • tastyanagram says:

      This is a very interesting question and I hope someone answers this!

    • admin says:

      Are you absolutely certain that the measurement you get from this isn’t correct? Have you tried on bras in that size to make sure? That tissue does have to go somewhere, an as it’s explained in the tutorial it usually goes into the girth of the cup (not the projection).

      If you think this is inaccurate, you can try the poor man’s measure by using the ‘alternative’ method under the chestband size. Go to a boutique that sells well fitting and well made bras and start sizing chestbands first (use the above “alternative method” mentioned in the tutorial).
      Once you’ve found your chestband size in that brand, grab the following cup sizes with that band size: E/DDD, DD, D, C, B. Start at the E and work your way down until the cup fits well with no puckering or wrinkling. the reason you start at the biggest and go down is because Oversized cups are way easier to catch than undersized. As soon as the cup stops gapping, puckering or wrinkling… you’ve got your size. 🙂

      Note: super important to stay within the same brand and style when doing this, as cup sizing and construction can vary between manufacturer and style and can totally throw this off.

  • Anonymous says:

    Coming out of anonymity to say, thank you for posting this! There really is such a stigma attached to having a small frame and big boobs.. It’s like it’s too provocative to discuss your boobs if they are over a C cup! Until I was in my early twenties I felt frumpy and gross, like my breasts were abnormal and a source of embarrassment. I wore a 32C for forever until I finally realized I was more like a 28-30 DD-E, depending on the brand. Getting a good-fitting bra has made me feel so much better about myself. Once they felt physically comfortable on my body, I was more comfortable with them, and less apologetic about them, if that makes sense.

    • admin says:

      You’re welcome!

      Before I found that info originally, I was stuffing myself into a 34D and couldn’t figure out why I was always falling out the top while also riding up the back. I can’t be ‘too big’ and ‘too small’ at the same time, right? Turns out you can if you’re bigger than a D cup and didn’t know it. :-X

      At first I was embarrassed that they were so big but just like you said, once I got a well fitting bra it was like night and day. My breasts were just plain more comfortable, and I was more comfortable with them.

  • Haha love the tag on this :P. Have tweeted it, hope that’s cool. Thanks for posting 🙂

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