Everything you thought you knew about bras is wrong. Ladies, this post is for you. (Not that any men read here, but you never know! Hi, Uncle Bill?)
It's been said that something like 75% - 90% of all women who wear bras are wearing the wrong size bra. That's a crazy high percentage, and since my very first job was at an outlet store specializing in under garments and my job was to measure women to fit in to their optimal bra, I thought that surely I was in the 10% of women who got things right. WRONG. I was taught to measure the circumference of the under bust and then the fullest part of the breasts, then determine the cup size based on the difference between the two numbers. For instance, I thought I was a 36A: I was 36 inches around my under bust and my full bust measured 37 inches. With a difference of just one inch, that meant I had an A cup (two inches of difference would be a B cup, three a C, etc). Incidentally, a quick Google search will show that this (not very accurate!) way is still the most common way that women calculate their bra size.
In September of 2015, I stumbled upon the Reddit sub /abrathatfits. A few months prior, I had finished weening Lucy, and my body was going through some changes. My chest was deflating. Mind you, I have always had very little breast tissue, but after nursing three babies, I was smaller than I had ever been. I was wearing my pre-pregnancy 36A bras but the fit was beginning to feel off. The cup gaped and the band felt too tight. I thought that meant I'd needed to move down a cup size to AA and up a band size to 38. Makes sense, right? Cup seemed too big, move to a smaller cup. Bra seemed too tight, move to a larger band. Just so y'all know, 38AA is a nearly impossible bra size to find because typically women who are that broad have some kind of breast tissue.
To illustrate just how small I had become on top, let me share an embarrassing story:
One night, as Chris and I were hunkered down in bed for the evening and I was starting to drift off, he began rubbing his hand up and down my chest. I assumed this was a clue that he wasn't quite ready for sleep and that he'd like to connect, if you catch what I'm saying. Bless his heart. I gently said, "Oh, honey, I had a rough day. Not tonight, okay?" He was put off. "Which is why I wanted to give you a back rub!" he said. "Oh. My. WORD!" I squealed! HE THOUGHT HE WAS RUBBING MY BACK! Hilarious and awful! So much cringe!
Anyway, this point shows why I thought I should be in an A or AA cup, you see. There was nothing there! It was laughable to think I could ever fill out a B-cup since the A was gaping.
I desperately needed to get new bras, though, so I used this calculator on the sidebar of /abrathatfits. I needed to measure my snug under bust, my super tight under bust, and my full breast from three different positions: standing up, leaning forward, and laying down:
My measurements were:
- snug under: 35''
- super tight under: 30''
- standing, around nipples: 36''
- leaning: 38''
- laying: 36''
The calculator put me at a I'm- shaking- my-head- no- because- this- calculator- must- be- way- off 34D. 34D! I relayed this information to Chris, and he was like, "No. Just no. No way!"
Why were we in disbelief? Well, because you can't trust things on the internet! But more over because we had an idea of what a D cup must look like and my body was not it.
At almost exactly this same time, my friend Nicole went to Nordstrom for a fitting and it was revolutionary for her. So I went that very day and did the same.
The result? Again: 34D. What in the world???!
But then I tried on what would become my go-to bra: the Natori Feathers bra in a 34D. All the heart eye emojis in the world! [P.S. I get mine at Nordstrom Rack for $28 or buy them online at Anthropologie when they're having a megasale. Amazon has a few marked down to $30 from $79]. I could not believe my eyes. It fit! It fit better than my 36A! I never in 100 years would have thought to go down in the band and up in the cup based on the fit issues I was having before.
My clothes started fitting better because my bra was sitting the way it was supposed to and my posture got better because my straps weren't adjusted too tight.
I've since become a Bravangelist, urging women to measure themselves based on the calculator and then go somewhere like Nordstrom for a fitting to try styles best for their breast shape (do not go to Victoria's Secret because they don't carry extended sizes and will only tell you that you fit a size within the range they carry). Most women are wearing a band size that is too large and a cup size that is too small. I learned that very few women actually wear an A cup.
Additionally, a lot of women don't have their bra positioned correctly on their body. The band should be straight across the back and parallel to the floor, boobs should be "scooped and swooped" into the cups fully (including armpit bulge), the gore should sit flush to the sternum, and the straps should not dig in at all. Almost all catalog lingerie models are wearing bras that are too small for them.
We need to let go of our notion of what a cup size should look like. 34D sounded huge to me, and I was the opposite of huge. Did you know that cup size is not static? It's completely relative to the band size. It's easier to show than explain:
These are totally NSFW, but here's what a D and G cup look like in actuality versus in our heads (I was very close to the second photo on the top row). There's a great website called The Bra Band Project that is a small database of what bra sizes look like on women who have been measured properly. Here's 32D. See?
I thought that if I were going to start blogging about clothes again and documenting some of the things I wear, I should make sure my foundations are right. "D" has always been my nickname and I find that it's sort of funny that it's my bra size now, too.
I can't wait to hear what you thought your bra size was compared to what it ended up being according to the calculator or fitting! Feel free to share in the comments or on my Facebook page.
- A Bra That Fits on Reddit // Community dedicated to helping folks find a properly fitting bra
- Bra Size Calculator // Grab a soft measuring tape and determine your band and cup size as well as your "sister sizes"
- Scoop and Swoop // Regardless of breast size, this is the way one should put on a bra to ensure the proper fit
- The Bra Band Project // This site aims to raise awareness about what properly-fitting bra sizes look like, as well as demonstrate the variety of shapes and body types throughout (and within) each size.
- Third Love // one of my favorite bras is from here and they have half cup sizes available and a nifty app that can help you calculate your size [disclaimer: referral link]
- Band to cup infographic // Another way to see how sister sizes work. Also illustrates how cup size is relative to band size.
- More graphics: breast shape chart (I'm VF3/4), examples of different projections and root widths (I'm #4), different styles of bras, types of cleavage, and underwire positioning.