How to Find Your Perfect Bra Size

LN Dugan was recently at a girlfriend’s house when the subject of bra sizes came up. After Dugan’s announcement that she was a C cup, a friend blurted out “Well then I’ll see you in the DD aisle because you’re in denial!” Although embarrassed, Dugan realized that her friend just might be right. She isn’t alone in her miscalculation of her breast size, either. Experts say that up to 85 percent of American women are wearing the wrong bra size.

Bras are the one thing all women have in common. They provide support for your breasts, which alleviates some of the pressure on your lower back and affects posture. Bras also prevent the skin of the breasts from rubbing against the skin on your ribs, which cause skin problems like chafing and intertrigo. The right bra can provide a foundation for the rest of your clothing to build on and the wrong bra can make even the best made clothing look like something you found in the bargain bin.

When Bad Bras Happen to Good Breasts

If bra size is so significant, why are so many women wearing the wrong one? Well part of it comes from where you buy your bras. Department stores, chain lingerie stores, and big box retailers usually only have about twenty sizes to choose from and not every woman fits into that range. Some women need more choices. Emily Moore first noticed something different about her breasts in middle school. “While all of my girlfriends were fitting into their trainer A-cups, I was wearing a C. This ratio increased as I got older, and while they’re borderline B’s, I’m in the G-H range,” she says. Moore has difficulty finding a stylish, well fitting bra because many retailers just don’t offer her size range.

The rest of the ill-fitting bras in the world are probably a result of incorrect bra sizing. A proper bra fitting isn’t something every woman gets regularly. In fact, many women have never been fitted at all. They started with training bras and then sort of guessed until they found the size bra they’re wearing right now. More often than not, they guessed wrong. Michelle Pendola, Vice President of Zoe and Co Professional Bra Fitters says, “The most common mistake that we make is that we’re wearing a band size that’s too big. Most of us are wearing a band that’s too big and cup size too small.”

So What’s Your Bra Size?

Measuring your bra size is surprisingly easily. You’ll need a generous measuring tape and a friend to help you get the most accurate measurements. You should be wearing you favorite bra or the one that gives you a shape that you feel comfortable in. If you don’t have any bras that do that, go with the best one available.

Measure around your ribs, just below your breasts. Make sure to have your arms down and the measuring tape is very tight for the best fit. This measurement, plus 4, is the band size of your bra (If it’s an odd number, round up to the next even number because band sizes don’t come in odds). Then measure around the largest part of the your breasts, looping the tape under your arms and around your back. The difference between the two measurements determines your actual cup size. Less than inch is a AA cup size and an inch is an A. Three inches is a C cup, five is a DD cup and seven is a EE, etc. A 30C and a 34DD bra are the same breast size; the woman just has a different size rib cage. It’s all about figuring out the right proportion.

Letting the Professionals Do It

When it comes to bra fitting, there’s nothing like a professional’s touch. According to Pendola, different companies can have slightly different sizing so trying on bras is essential to getting the right fit. When you come into one of their locations, they measure you and bring back an armload of bras to have you try on. Zoe and Co Professional Bra Fitters stock over 170 sizes of bras right in the store. Through the fitting process, you experiment with padding, wiring and strap options. And unlike a home fitting, you have a fitting professional who knows her stuff helping you figure out what works best for you.

The Zoe and Co Professional Bra Fitters VP says, “A lot of us think that there’s a big difference in cup sizes but it’s less than a square inch of material [from one size to the next], which is why there are so many sizes to choose from.” Pendola also warns that women should be refitted every time they experience changes in their bodies, including a weight change or giving birth. Many life changes affect breast size and you’d be surprised at how different your breasts are from just a few years ago. Since cup size is just the difference between the rib measurement and the breast measurement, many women are surprised once they get into the right bra size. Many women fit into the DD to EE range.

Article written by P.S. Jones for Moxy Magazine, January 2011.

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About P.S. Jones

P.S. Jones is a freelance writer based in New York, NY. A graduate of Louisiana State University, she has been writing professionally for almost ten years. Jones writes for several web and print publications, including Curve Magazine and She's Self-Employed. Connect with her on Twitter or go to her website for more information.

9 Responses to “How to Find Your Perfect Bra Size”

  1. Great topic, P.S.! Just read Melissa’s “5 Things” and commented at length there.

    Having a good bra is a MUST. I spent years ignoring my larger cup size, presumably in the hope it would go away (!??), and not until my wedding day was a week away did I find out I had grossly miscalculated. Having a well-fitting bra means comfort, and it also means self-esteem. And I’d like to recommend HerRoom.com as a great resource for women who need specific sizing and who also want to read unbiased reader reviews.

    • P.S. Jones says:

      A great bra can make you look 10lbs smaller in some cases. And thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to check out HerRoom.com because I fall into the E range with most bras with the money I’m spending on them, I definitely need to know that what I’m buying is worth it.

  2. Emily M. says:

    Thanks for writing this piece. Such an important how to for professional women to be on top of:

    One tidbit that I got from all of my brassier research is that it’s best to try on at least 8 size/band combinations when you’re shopping. For some unknown, God forsaken reason different brands build their bras differently and may be off.

  3. Dayna says:

    Book-marked, I really like your blog! :)

  4. Lorie says:

    Very interesting article. This is a very “touchy” subject, expecially for those of us who are very short, but very full figured. Is “Zoe & Co” a store in the city where someone could go to get an actual fitting? I also had a question regarding “measure around your ribs, just below the breasts, & add 4″. I tried that once & the bra was way too big, so the measuring really does differ by brand.

    • P.S. Jones says:

      Hi Lorie,

      Zoe & Co has two locations in the NH and RI so if you can stop by, please do. They’re great at what they do. Here’s the link to their site:
      http://www.zoeandcompany.com/

      But if you’re not in their area, any bra specialty store will have a professional fitting service. And one of the biggest mistakes women make with bra fitting is not being tight enough with the measuring tape because they’re afraid it will dig in. Also, there may be some confusion of where you’re measuring. It should be right under where your breasts meet your ribs.

      But you’re right about the sizes varying, which can be frustrating. If you can get a professional fitting, I’d recommend it because you can try on a variety of bras from different manufacturers and lines. When you find the one that fits the way you like, you know you can always go back to that line of bras for successful fittings. Kinda like you might do with jeans.

  5. Kim says:

    For those of us who are less endowed, Calvin Klein, DKNY and H&M make beautiful bras that fit a smaller frame (and cup size) nicely.

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