Why is my bra size so confusing?
February 27, 2007 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Boobfilter: Bras are confusing. Why does my tape measurement say one thing, but my well-fitting bras say another?

This might actually be two questions in one. I'm a small-chested girl. Going by the tape measure, I would *barely* be a 36A. But when I try wearing A or AA cup bras they don't fit right. There's usually too much space between the cup and me. However, when I wear a B cup with the same size band, everything fits fine.

So upon further research, I realize that you're supposed to measure for your bra size while wearing a well-fitting bra. (previously, I had always measured sans-bra) That sounds circular to me. If I had a well fitting bra, wouldn't I already know my bra size then? Also, wouldn't that measurement vary depending on if your bra's cup has a lot of padding or none at all? Why would they suggest you measure yourself with a bra on?
posted by nakedsushi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not convinced that measuring yourself ever works, actually. Bras are all a little different, and boobs are all a little different. The only way to find a well-fitting bra, I think, is to try bras on until you find some that work on you.
posted by craichead at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2007

Save yourself the annoyance and get professionally fitted at a specialty lingerie shop. (Not a mall chain store -- the real deal.) Seriously, it will change your life!

Even once you have a number to go on, sizes still vary slightly by brand. And maybe you (like me) don't know what a correctly-fitted bra should feel like. Get thee to the bra ladies!
posted by loiseau at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2007

Yes, get professionally fitted -- it helps. Having said that, things can vary a bit between brands and styles. I'm usually a 34A, but I occasionally take a 34B depending on the brand and style, and even have a 36A and a 32B that both fit.
posted by scody at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get professionally fitted. I dated a girl in college with tiny breasts who wore sport bras until I got tickets for the both of us to a college prom. We found a store in Eugene, OR that sold La Perla (still, in my opinion, the hottest bras on any woman) and they gave her a custom sizing. It was short, it was very discreet, and she loved what I bought her.
posted by parmanparman at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2007

Grrrahhh. Bra sizing makes no sense! I have a bunch of well-fitting bras, bought a while ago from Victoria's Secret, in size 36B. Recently I was in there again and only sizes like 38C would fit me.

I've measured my underbust. It's 33 inches.

Craichead has it: trial and error is the only solution. (Though bra fitters in a specific shop will know how that specific brand's bras fit, and may be a helpful resource.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:39 PM on February 27, 2007

You don't say if it's two different styles/brands of bra or same style/brand, so I'm guessing it's the first--in which case it is just bra manufacturers being stupid and "inventing" sizes. (Like how a size 6 is larger then it used to be.) I'm personally convinced that in another decade we'll ALL be wearing 36C no matter what size we actually are. Also, a lot to do with how much padding is in the bra and how stiff it is--a smaller cup might come with stiffer padding that pokes out instead of fitting snugly.

You don't need a personal fitting, but I'm sure it helps. What I do personally is eat a hearty breakfast and then go to the mall and try on every damn bra. Eventually I'll come to one that fits me perfectly (the one on the back of the last shelf that has a ripped tag and they've only got one left) and then I write down what size/brand/style and go buy a good supply from Amazon.
posted by anaelith at 5:54 PM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Lots of info about proper bra fitting here and the follow-up here. Also read the comments, as some things she says in the initial post get corrected there. (Those links go to blog called "Bitch PhD", so they say "bitch" at the top in big letters, which might be NSFW for some.)

Also, MeFi's own ukdanae may be along to help with this; she knows whereof she speaks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:04 PM on February 27, 2007

Also, a recent question about where to find good small-size bras.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:11 PM on February 27, 2007

Pallas and others, don't forget that your body also changes, the causes of which are infinite. Many women's boobs swell during PMS, etc.

Sure, different brands will vary size-wise, but two years ago, when I switched birth control, my boobs went from small B-cup to large D-cup in a two-month period.

Like a fool, it took me several weeks to figure out why my bras were suddenly so small. I didn't even realize my boobs had changed until my husband pointed it out.
posted by Brittanie at 8:04 PM on February 27, 2007

Yes bra sizing is a pain in the butt. And now the trend is to go smaller around, bigger cups. Is there a Nordstrom in your area? They are so helpful and nice.
posted by radioamy at 8:52 PM on February 27, 2007

You gotta get the band size (around) right - and yes, smaller around is better bc that is where all your support is coming from - not from the straps, counterintuitive as that may be. And if you have a small waist then realize the lower down you measure the band size, the smaller it will be. For a long time I was wearing way to big a band size because I was measuring too high up.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:08 AM on February 28, 2007

Nthing getting fitted (and then buying at least one of the bras that the fitter fits on you, since that size might not work as perfectly with other bras/brands). I, too, always found that my tape-measurements made no sense at all.
posted by nevers at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2007

I don't see what's so great about a fitting/measuring. I've found a bra that works for me and that's all I buy. I hope they continue to be made forever because the thought of having to find another one is.. sad and frustrating. I'm a 36D. And it infuriates me that it seems like every bra out there in my size is underwire. I hate underwire. and every other bra that isn't underwire is ugly. So I'm content to stick with what I've got since it works.
posted by VegaValmont at 8:52 AM on February 28, 2007

Seconding or thirding Nordstrom. They carry a wider variety of sizes than Victoria's Secret (I HATE them). Victoria's Secret carries only mid-ranges sizes. They don't have a very good (or sometimes any) smaller and larger sizes, and they use "creative" sizing to get you into a size that they carry. I wear a 34G (which is really not as big as it sounds), and when I went with a friend who was getting sized, they offered to give me a fitting.

I said OK, and what do you know, they said I was a 38DD (the largest they carry). Yes, technically it fit on my body and covered my boobs, but it did NOT fit properly. The band rode up, my boobs sagged in it. They are complete BS.
posted by peep at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2007

Don't trust the fitter more than yourself. The one time I was fitted, I regretted the bra I bought.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:33 PM on February 28, 2007

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