Fitting a Bra,
The Traditional Way

The traditional instructions for fitting a bra have been around for some while. I will state up front (so to speak) that I am no fan of the traditional method and once I have described it, I will explain why .

Oh and if you intend to actually conduct a bra fitting, you need a tape measure!

Fitting a Bra

Fitting a bra - the three step process:

Once complete you will have two sizes, the band and the cup. The first is a number, the second a letter, for example 34E.

(1) The band: First measure around the body, on your rib cage, under the bust. The tape measure should be level all the way around and horizontal to the ground. Expel all the air from your lungs* and make sure you pull the tape measure is taut.

*If you suck air in, even unknowingly, your chest will expand.

(2) The bust: Then measure around the fullest part of the bust, stand straight, arms at your sides, breathe normally. Do not hold your breath in - same principle as above.

So you now have two measurements. The difference between the two is the cup dimension.

(3) The computation: Now for the complicated bit of fitting a bra. As brassiere measurements only go up in even numbers. Round up each measurement to the nearest whole number, so 31.5 becomes 32 or down if it is less than 0.5.

If your under-bust measurement is an odd number, add 5, if it is an even number add 4. The difference between the bust and under-bust is the cup dimension. Each number is a cup size. A=1, b=2, C=3, D=4, E=5, F=6 etc So 36-33=3, 3 = C, so it is a 36C.



The Various Problems Of The
Traditional Bra Fitting Method:

  • Measurements can vary if you are wearing or not wearing a bra. Plus what type, or size of brassiere you are wearing at the time can make a difference of an inch or inch and a half.
  • Were you wearing a minimizer brassiere? Was it padded? Did it have fillets / cookies? Were the straps overtightened?
  • Even subconsciously drawing your breath in can affect the measurement.
  • I stated above that you add 4 but I have been told to add 3, 4 or 5 inches (the most common is plus 4) to the underbust before deducting the actual bust. Yes we still only measure brassieres in inches, even though Britain went metric forty years ago in the Seventies. 
  • The fact that band sizes, in America and Britain at least, only move up in even numbers. e.g. 30C, 32C, 34C. What happens if you are really a 31C?
  • Rounding up. You will usually be told to 'round up' and sometimes 'round down' a number. The inherent inaccuracy of routinely rounding up or down any measurements on both the bust and underbust can easily add another half an inch to both. As an example; band is 30.6 inches - do you round up to 31 or down to 30? So let's round down 30.6 to 30 because there are no odd numbers. Then the bust is 37.4. Round up to 38?

Are you beginning to realise that the traditional method of fitting a bra is not exactly science? Interestingly, some manufacturers, retailers and websites accept their old fashioned guidelines are weak by stating they cannot guarantee the accuracy of fitting on a size DD and above. Well that's helpful! Not.

Mis-fitting A Bra

There are a lot of women in the lingerie industry, medical professionals and scientists who have come to the conclusion that the traditional breast sizing system is simply inadequate. Simply put we need a better system for fitting a bra.

Three Chinese academics (Messrs Zeng, Yu & Fan) summed it up well, "..(a) woman's breast is however a very complex 3D geometry, the existing measurement system based on just two girth measurements may be inappropriate in the categorization of breast sizes for bras....".

Do not forget that different countries have different sizing systems and different manufacturers produce different dimensions. So what to do? Take a look at the page measure a bra which looks at a 'new' way to measure.

Is fitting a bra all that important? Very much so. A good bra fit is certainly very important, a bad fit can lead to bad posture, a poor shape, back pain, shoulder pain and even headaches.

So by all means try the traditional method it is a useful indicator but then look at the modern way.

Getting Professionally fitted

As a lady called Julie has pointed out to me, shop fittings can be excellent and I agree and should give credit where it is due.....

"When it comes to bras, I want to testify to the importance of having a professional bra-fitting. I have bought bras online, but since your bra size can change or vary from brand to brand, or style to style, it's really better to just go someplace with selection & service and just get it done right. I'm not intending to advertise, but since I live in the XXXXX area, Nordstrom is the place for me. The xxxx store has one of the biggest lingere shops around. I wear an extremely large cup size (HH) and a 34 band. They had bras for me and specially trained staff that are discreet enough to make you comfortable, and they know their bras!" 

There are qualified fitters in all areas and it costs nothing to try them out for yourself, so give it a try.

Plenty of food for thought!



Did you like this page, did you learn something, maybe it reinforced you own views? I want to give as much (hopefully helpful) advice to the busty sisterhood as I can.

Please remember, we are all different. You may like to wear certain clothes and styles which I am suggesting that you should not. That is your absolute right. Do what makes you feel good. This site undeniably goes for the more modest approach because I feel all busty ladies already know how to be more racy if they wish.

It would really help me improve the site profile if you would click the Facebook 'Like' button. Pretty please! Susan

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A badly fitting bra for big boobs

Sometimes it is obvious when a bra does not fit. Do not be rushed. Keep trying different sizes, styles and different brands until you get something that feels right.

Do not forget, a decent bra can change the whole way you look. Give you a better silhouette and help your posture.

A badly fitting bra will not support properly, be uncomfortable and make you look older or like someone who has no idea about style.

A well fitting bra for a big bust

Compare that to this lady. Clearly a big bust but look how high her bust sits. No droop here!


The Result Of My Recent Bra Fitting Experience In Shops

Two shops stated the same correct size but then one ruined it by recommending a style I know is not right for me. The third's suggestion was for a bra that was obviously too loose and I walked out of the fourth because the fitter was both inept and rude - ring a bell anyone?

That is actually an improvement on my experiences in previous years but possibly helped by the fact that I was wearing a brassiere that was not too far off my correct size. Which would clearly help them.

A Newspaper Report On The Same Issue

In 2005, The Daily Mail (a British newspaper) sent two reporters to be measured at 12 London stores. The results were unsurprisingly varied.

Click Daily Mail.




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If you are particularly interested in fashion; clothes for big breasts; or simply have a top heavy friend that you know might appreciate the site; please help me reach others by tweeting or sharing through any social media you use.

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Susan