Friday, 1 March 2013

Bra fitting

Bra Fitting
Let’s talk boobs

Most of us need to wear a bra, at least sometimes. But lots of women I speak to complain about how much they hate bras - they don’t find them comfortable at all. Many seek out the advice of a “professional bra fitter” in the hope of finding a better fit. Sadly this often doesn’t help.
There are a few shops out there who are doing it right - Bravissimo, Rigby and Peller, Leia etc. But there are a lot more who are doing it wrong. Marks and Spencer, BHS, AnnSummers, La Senza and many others are on the bad fitters list. If you have had a fitting from any of them, or followed almost any online size chart, then chances are you are in the wrong bra. If you recognise any of the symptoms below then you probably need a new bra. 


  • Your bra rides up at the back - it should sit horizontally
  • You have to tighten the straps a lot to keep the bra up

  • Your bra straps fall down (off the shoulder)
  • Your shoulder straps dig in and leave nasty red marks or grooves
  • You sometimes bulge over your bra (the 4-boob look)
  • If you lift your arms, your bra moves up (sometimes letting you slip out from underneath)
  • You have “armpit fat” - there is bulging over the sides of your bra cups.
  • The middle of your bra (the “central gore”) does not sit flat against your chest - it should sit flat in between your boobs
  • The wires dig and cut in - anywhere
  • You suffer from back  or neck pain
  • Your bra slips down, leaving empty space at the bottom of the cup
  • You are a size 8 and wearing a 34 band…it’s possible, but it’s unlikely!

These are all signs of an unhappy bra. 

The reason for this is an old fitting method where they take your back measurement and add 4-5 inches to get the back size. This results in an unsupportive and often painful bra, normally much too big in the back and too small in the cup. 


Firstly, you can’t get your exact size from a measuring tape. You can get a pretty good guide (particularly when it comes to the back size) but you need to know what to look for to get it perfect. First off - getting your “starting size”; you can measure wearing a bra, but only if the bra already fits well. So I am going to tell you how to do it braless.

1.     Measure underneath your bust, firmly, in inches. The tape measure should be pretty tight. Do this one standing up

2.     Bend over so your boobs are hanging down at 90 degrees and measure round the widest part - like this picture but make sure you are on the fullest part.

The underbust measurement is the band size*. If you are an odd number you will want to try the size either side to be sure, but as a rule of thumb most people fit better if they round down. So, if you measure 31”, you could try a 30 and a 32 back, but chances are the 30 will be better. 

*there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If you are very very slender and have no “padding” around your ribs then you may find it necessary to try one back size higher. Conversely, if you are “squidgy of torso” then you may need a smaller back size than you actually measure as the bra needs a relatively firm surface to sit on. So if this is you don’t be scared to try 1-2 back sizes smaller than you measure. 

To test if the band fits:
Put the bra on back to front so the cups are at the back. When new this should be on the loosest hook as bras stretch with age. The band should feel snug, and you should be able to fit a couple of fingers under it, but that’s about all. If you can’t breathe try a size up,  but most of the support comes from the band so we are aiming for firm. The reason for  trying it back to front, is that even if the back is correct, if the cup is far too small it can trick you in to thinking the band is too small - the cups try  to steal the fabric!

Now, working out the cup size:
Most UK manufacturers Bra-lphabet goes A,B,C,D,DD,E,F,FF,G,GG,H,HH,J,JJ,K,KK,L…..there is also the AA, which is smaller than an A. For each inch difference between your band size and your overbust measurement, you get a cup (starting at A) - so somebody measuring 30” underneath and 40” over would start at a 30GG. I would normally suggest trying AT LEAST 1 cup size either side of this to be sure. Now, if you have always been fitted the “old way” you will probably be in shock right now, as you’ve probably gone down 2-3 back sizes, and up several 

Once you have the band right, time to test the cups. Here is what to do:
Lean forward, drop your breasts in to the cups and do the bra up at the back. Now, take your right hand, put it round inside the left cup, all the way round under your armpit, and scoop all the soft tissue and flesh in to the cup. You might not know it, but all that soft tissue under your armpit is breast, and it needs to be in the cup. Now, repeat on the other side. The wire should totally encase your soft breast tissue, and you should have no overspill or wrinkling in the cups. The central gore should sit flat in between your boobs. 

I am going to put up another post later showing good and bad bra fits.


  1. Psst, the font has changed for the first two bullet points in "Bad Bra Alert" and is unreadable

    1. Should be fixed now I hope - thank you!

  2. This is so great. I once worked for Victoria's Secret, and was trained to measure the old way. I was always told I was wearing the "wrong" bra, when I insisted on going down in the band and up in the cup in order to avoid back pain and feel comfy. It is really just designed to fit a wide range of sizes into their narrow stock, it has nothing to do with finding the most supportive and flattering bra.

  3. Wow, that's wild! According to this, I should be in a 32J!!

  4. Yeah..pretty much b.s. imo.

    1. Thanks for that well thought out and articulate reply. Really adds to the discussion

  5. Where in THE world do you find bras that go up to F and J and K??? I don't want to doubt this method as I haven't tested it yet, so who am I to say. But, I am skeptical. I am thinking if I can even find someplace that sells bras with small band size with huge cup sizes, they would cost me a mint.

    1. In the UK the bigger cups are becoming much easier to get. An f is a pretty normal size which all of the department stores like Debenhams, John Lewis etc sell and even many of the supermarket ranges. J is a little tougher but still covered by most department stores and k more so but bravissimo, brastop, leia lingerie, mycurvesandme, all have great ranges for d+. If you are not in the UK it is a little tougher as we're a little ahead of the curve on recognising the need for these sizes, and I know for example that many American and Canadian women are now ordering from the UK. In terms of cost, I tend to pay between £15 and £30 for a bra which is reasonable to me.

    2. Try they go all the way up to K and thier prices are more reasonable than in the US

  6. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. I have measured myself, been boggled by the difference, and so just tried on some bras. I have always worn an A or B cup, so never imagined i'd actually be an E cup! It's 'buy new bras' time now...