Fitting Bras for a Perfect Fit Every Time

How a Bra Should Fit

Different parts of a bra

You'd think this would be self-explanatory, but we've worn ill-fitting bras for so long many of us need a refresher.

  • The band is responsible for 80% to 90% of the support of the bra. It should fit comfortably around your torso, parallel to the floor. The band should be snug but you should be able to slide two fingers between the band and your skin. The band should never ride up toward your shoulders.
  • Straps are responsible for only 10% to 20% of the bra support, their primary function is to even or level the bra. They should stay in place without digging into your shoulders.
  • Whether you're wearing a full cup or a demi cup, your breasts should fit inside the cup with no spillage over the top, under the cup or around your underarms. If you're spilling out of the cup, you need a larger cup size. If there are wrinkles in the fabric of the cup, you need a smaller cup size.
  • The gore, the portion of the band between the cups, should fit flat against your chest wall between your breasts. If the gore is not flat against your sternum, your cups are too small.
  • Underwires should completely surround your breasts and lay against your chest wall. The underwires should never dig into your breasts, your chest or underarms.
  • In a properly fitted bra your nipples should be halfway between your shoulders and elbows, facing forward. Adjust your straps so your breasts are in this position.
  • The bra should fit on the loosest hook, this allows you to tighten the bra as the elastic relaxes over time.
  • Your bra should stay in place when you lift your arms or bend over.

An Expert's Three-Point Fit Guide

The Expert's Three-Point Fit Guide are the Gore, Underwire, and Band

One of the top bra fit experts in the industry says you can tell if a bra fits properly by checking three things.

The gore, the portion of the band between the cups, should fit flat against your chest wall between your breasts. If the gore is not flat against your chest, the bra is the wrong size - usually with a band size too large and a cup size too small. Try a smaller band and a larger cup size until you get your center gore to fit flat against your chest.

Underwires should completely surround your breasts and lay against your chest wall. If the underwire is a finger's width or more lower than your breast, the band size is probably too small. If the underwire lies against your breast tissue, the cups are probably too small. Adjust band size and cup size until you get the underwire in the proper position.

The band should lie flat against your back in a straight line below your shoulder blades; it should not pull-up toward your shoulders. A band that cuts into your skin or leaves red marks is probably too small. A band that "rides up" on your back is probably too large. Remember if you go down a band size you'll need to go up a cup size and vice versa.

What a Well-Fitted Bra Should Feel Like

Points of a well fitting bra

First and foremost, it should feel and look great. There is a noticeable difference when you slip into a well-fitted bra. You feel secure, supported.

Will finding the right bra mean all discomfort disappears as soon as you put it on? Not exactly. Just like a new pair of shoes, your new bra and you will need a few days to adjust to each other. But nothing should hurt or poke.

You will be aware that you are wearing a well-fitted bra. The band should feel snug but not tight. If you can't feel the band, it's not doing its job.

The bra should remain in place when you raise your arms or lean over. Your breasts should not pop out of the cups when you move.

Is Your Current Bra a Good Fit?

Bra Cup FittingBra Band Fitting

Images courtesy of Panache Lingerie.

Just because a bra band fits around your torso and the cups more or less cover your breasts, it doesn't mean that the bra FITS you.

Look at the difference in the photos. In the right size bra you look slimmer, younger and overall BETTER.

So, does your current bra fit? You should be able to answer YES to these questions:

  1. Do your breasts fit in the cups without bulging, spilling or gaping?
  2. Does the gore lie flat against your chest wall?
  3. Do the underwires lie flat against your chest wall on all sides? No poking allowed.
  4. Is the back of the band straight across your back?
  5. Do the straps stay in place without digging into your shoulders?
  6. Can you slide one or two fingers under your bra band?
  7. Can you slide one or two fingers under your bra straps?

And, you should always be able to answer NO to these questions:

  1. Are there any indentations on your shoulders from your bra straps?
  2. Do your bra straps leave red marks on your shoulders?
  3. Do you have to adjust your bra straps multiple times a day?
  4. Do your breasts look lumpy under your clothes?
  5. Are there any wrinkles in the fabric of the cups?
  6. Do your breasts pop out of the cups when you move?

How Bra Sizing Works

Where to Measure for a Bra

Band size and cup size are not independent measures, they are interrelated.

The band size is expressed as an even number of inches; it represents the measurement of your chest just below your breasts.

The cup size is a letter that represents the difference between your band size and the measurement of your body at the fullest part of your breasts. Each increase in letter represents an increase of 1 inch in the difference between the band size and the measurement of your breasts.

For example, a 38C means a chest measurement of 38 inches and a breast measurement of 41 inches. The difference between the two measurements is 3 inches which is a C cup. A 38D would be a chest measurement of 38 inches and a breast measurement of 42 inches. The 4 inch difference in the two measurements is a D cup. And so on.

The tricky part is because band size and cup size are interrelated there is no standard size for a D cup, or any cup size for that matter. The cup in a 40D is larger than the cup in a 38D. Got that?

To further confuse things, in standard U.S. sizing there are no E or F cups. A breast measurement 5 inches larger than the band size is a DD and a breast measurement 6 inches larger than the band size is a DDD. Some European brands do have E and F cups. And there is some variance in sizing among the brands.

We want to make it simpler for you, so we've created a few tools and charts to help (below).

Getting Measured for a Bra - Primary Recommended Method (Method 1)

Where to Measure for a Bra

Use this method for British brands (Panache, Freya, Fantasie, etc.), European (Chantelle, Prima Donna, Conturelle, etc.), and most of the more expensive bras (over $40) at Big Girls Bras

Step 1: To determine your band measurement, measure your ribcage directly below your breasts. The tape measure should be parallel to the floor and snug but not pulled tight. If the tape measure shows an even number, this is your band size. If the tape measure shows an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.

Step 2: Measure the fullest part of your breasts holding your arms at your sides. Keep the tape measure level around your body and measure the fullest part of your breasts (over your nipples). There is no need to round this number up.

Step 3: Subtract your band measurement from the measurement of the fullest part of your breasts to determine the difference. The cup size is the difference between the measurements. As a general rule, the difference between each cup size is 1". See our Bra Cup Size Comparison Chart.

Alternate Method (Method 2)

Alternate Bra Measuring Steps

Use this method for American Brands (Bali, Playtex, Leading Lady, Vanity Fair, Exquisite Form, etc.) at Big Girls Bras. This method will produce a larger band size and smaller cup size than the first method.

Step 1: To determine your band measurement, measure across your chest directly below your armpits. The tape measure should be parallel to the floor and snug but not pulled tight. If the tape measure shows an even number, this is your band size. If the tape measure shows an odd number, round up to the next even number to get your band size.

Step 2: Measure the fullest part of your breasts holding your arms at your sides. Keep the tape measure level around your body and measure the fullest part of your breasts (over your nipples). Do Not round this number up.

Step 3: Subtract your band measurement from the measurement of the fullest part of your breasts to determine the difference. The cup size is the difference between the measurements. As a general rule, the difference between each cup size is 1".

If you're more comfortable getting a professional fitting choose a store that specializes in lingerie and carries bras in your size. While most department stores once had trained fitters, only a few do now. It takes a trained eye to know the difference between a bra that kind of fits and one that give you the support and comfort you deserve.

Bra Size Calculator

Band Measurement Band Measurement Help
Bust Measurement Bust Measurement Help
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European Band Size Conversions for Bras

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32
34
36
38
40
42
44
46
48
70
75
80
85
90
95
100
105
110
85
90
95
100
105
110
115
120
125

Cup size is the same between U.S. and Europe/France. "A" cups (U.S.) = "A" cup in Europe/France; B=B, C=C, etc with some exceptions for "DD" and "DDD" cups. Many European brands (and some American brands) use the lettering "E" for a DD cup size and "F" for a DDD cup size. The cup size guide above should help you determine which cup size is appropriate for you.

Sister Sizing

Sister Sizing Chart for Bra Sizes

Sister sizing is a technique used by bra fitters when they just can't find the right bra for you with your natural size. Sister sizing is not as ideal as the perfect fitting bra, but you may try it if you are struggling to get a bra that you like in the size that you need. Take your normal size bra (let's use 32F as our example) the sister sizes are 34E and 30G. If you go up a band size, come down a cup size. Likewise if you go down a band size, come up a cup size.

Consider Sister Sizing only when you absolutely can not find the perfect fit from the bra that you want. In the chart, find your size, then look at the sizes directly to the left and right of your size - those are your sister sizes.

Find the Bra that's Best for You

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