Finding the right bra size for you can get really tricky especially because bra sizing is not perfectly standardized. This means bra sizes may have slight differences from one style to the next and from one brand to another. You also need to consider the sizing system used by a particular lingerie brand – whether they use US, UK or EU bra sizes.
Bra Sizes – How Do They Work?
There are two main measurements being considered when fitting bras: (1) the band size and (2) the cup size. The band size of your bra is based on the circumference of your underbust, which is located under your breasts in the ribcage area. In the United Kingdom, band sizes are usually measured in inches, and their numerical labels (e.g., 30, 32, 34, etc.) are typically equivalent to the women’s underbust circumferences rounded off to the nearest even number.
The cup size of your bra is based on your breast or bust size, which is calculated by getting the difference between your underbust circumference and your chest or bust circumference. The chest circumference is measured on top of the highest point of your breasts, and just like your underbust circumference, it is usually recorded in inches per U.K. sizing standards. Once the difference between your bust and underbust is determined, the answer is converted to its corresponding alphabetical letter (e.g., A, B, C, D, etc.) in the U.K. cup size chart.
For example, if your bust measurement is 34 inches and your underbust is 32 inches, then the difference between the two is 2 inches. The alphabetical equivalent of this in a generic U.K. cup size chart is B. Therefore, your recommended bra size is 32B (band size + cup size).
What is a Bra?
A bra, which is a shorter term for a brassiere, is an undergarment that is meant to cover the breasts and provide support to the person wearing it. It is regarded to be among the most complex garments to ever be manufactured. Its main components include:
- Chest Band. The chest band of your brassiere serves to hold or secure your undergarment while you wear it. Ideally, it should fit snugly as it is responsible for carrying the majority of your breasts’ weight. Therefore, it is one of the main considerations in bra sizing. It is comprised of two parts:
- Wings. They are attached at the cups of your bra while its ends are where the band’s closure is usually located.
- Centre Gore. This is the “space” between the two cups of your bra. The size and height of the centre gore can affect the placement and shape of the cups. Consequently, the gore can be a source of comfort or discomfort to the bra’s wearer.
- Cups. These round or pointy-shaped cups are what covers and keep your breasts in place. Just like the chest band, the cups are an important consideration in bra sizing. They also come in different sizes and styles as they are meant to fit the needs and tastes of every woman.
- Apex. This is the highest point of the brassiere’s cups and where the shoulder straps are attached to at the front.
- Hook and Eye. Most bras (except for sports bras, for example) are equipped with a closure mechanism. They are usually designed with a hook and eye closure, and women can tighten or loosen the band of their bras for a comfortable and secure fit.
- Underwire. Not all bras are designed with underwires, but for those that do, they are usually made of metal and are situated in the bottom area of your bra’s cups.
- Shoulder Straps. The bra’s shoulder straps are meant for stability. However, over time, these straps stretch out, which is why they are equipped with adjustable sliders, so they can be tightened.
Types of Bra Styles
Bras come in different shapes and types, which serve various purposes and are meant for specific body types. As a guide, here are several of the most common bra styles currently being sold in the market:
- Bralette. This lacy bra has no underwire, padding, or even moulded cups.
- Full Cup. This bra style guarantees full cover and protection of the breasts. It is also known for the support and shaping it provides.
- Demi. This bra style is designed to cover the lower half portion of your breasts with its half-shaped cups. It is a good fit for most breast shapes but women with larger breasts may get little support from wearing this bra type.
- Balconette. It’s a low-cut demi bra that shows the top half of your breasts. But instead of pushing your breasts towards the centre, the bra is designed to push them upwards.
- Bandeau. This tube-like bra is made from stretchy fabric.
- T-Shirt. This bra style has a subtler structure so that it is not too conspicuous when worn under a tight-fitting shirt. Its cups are very similar to a demi or full-cup bra and it provides a lot of comfort to the wearer.
- Convertible. The straps of this bra style are detachable, allowing the wearing to wear the undergarment in different ways.
- Push Up. Its cut is a lot like the demi cup, but it comes with an additional padding at the bottom of its cups. This is the right bra for those who want to have the appearance of fuller breasts.
- Plunge. The centres of these bras are cut very low, usually forming a u-shape. They are also equipped with extra padding that pushes the breasts upward. They are best worn when wearing dresses or tops with plunging necklines.
- Strapless. This type of bra is designed to function without the need for shoulder straps.
- Minimizer. This bra style functions a lot like a full cup bra, but with the additional ability to reduce the appearance of a large bust by a couple of inches.
- Sports Bra. Sports bras are specially designed for women engaging in physical activities. They provide a lot of support and security, and they help in reducing the pain and the risk of breast damage that comes from doing strenuous exercises.
- Nursing Bra. This bra is specially-designed for lactating mothers. Aside from the extra support and the comfort they provide, they are also equipped with flaps or openings that make it easier for mothers to breastfeed. Their fabric is also very flexible, which means it can adjust accordingly as your breast grows during pregnancy.
Importance of Wearing the Right Bra Size
At present, the clothing industry has made it possible for women to choose their preferred brassieres from a wide selection of styles which suit their needs and tastes alike. Choosing the perfect bra, however, is more than just about fashion. It’s about finding the right fit, and to do so, you need to determine your correct bra size.
Why? It’s because wearing the right bra size is not just a matter of aesthetics; it concerns your health, too. Believe it or not, wearing an ill-fitting bra can actually make you sick. It can cause headaches and neck pains, which may eventually lead to posture problems. And if you’re wearing bras that are too tight, you might even suffer from breathing problems. Even worse, it might negatively affect how well your lymphatic system functions.
How to Measure Your Bra Size
To accurately determine your bra size, you need to take measurements of your band size and your cup size using a measuring tape. You may seek the assistance of a professional or a trusted friend to accomplish this. You may also choose to take your own measurements, but it is best to do this while standing upright in front of a mirror. Keep in mind that you should not wear a bra or loose clothing while taking these measurements.
Step 1: Measure Your Band Size
Also known as your underbust width, you can measure your band size by wrapping the measuring tape directly under your breasts. Make sure you are breathing normally when doing so and that your chest is relaxed. This prevents the likelihood that you end up taking your measurements incorrectly. Write down the value on a piece of paper in inches and in centimetres. Don’t forget to round your underbust girth to the nearest even number.
Step 2: Measure Your Bust Size
Before you can get your cup size, you need to measure your bust size. To do this, you need to wrap the measuring tape around your upper torso and on top of the highest point of your breasts (i.e., your nipples). Make sure that the measuring tape is at the same height in the back as in the front and that it is parallel to the ground. Take note of the measurement in inches and centimetres and write it on a piece of paper.
Step 3: Calculate Your Cup Size
Cup sizes typically vary per country especially for larger bra sizes. In the United Kingdom, for example, the most common method of determining a woman’s cup size is by getting the difference between the bust size and the band size. Make sure that the measurements you are subtracting are in the same units; they must be both in inches or centimetres. Once you have the difference, all you need to do is refer to a size chart to determine the alphabetical equivalent of your cup size. A sample chart for U.K. cup sizes is provided below.
If you plan on using a bra size calculator (like the one provided below), you may not even need to calculate your cup size. All you may have to measure are your underbust width and your bust size, and once you have inputted the appropriate information to the calculator, you will then be provided with the bra sizes which suit you best.
Bra Size Calculator
This easy-to-use bra size calculator helps you to quickly determine your correct bra size in various international sizing systems, including U.K., U.S., and other European sizes. All you need to do is take measurements of your bust and underbust sizes in inches or in centimetres. Input those numerical values in the calculator and then simply click “Calculate” to generate results.
Basic Bra Size Chart
You need to use a measuring tape to get accurate measurements of your bust and your underbust. If you’re planning to buy a bra in U.K. size, then it is best to record your measurements in inches. It is also advisable to note your size in centimetres. Then, all you need to do is to refer to the generic size charts found below. It must be noted, however, that exact measurements of each bra size may vary depending on the brand or manufacturer.
Band Size Chart
|UK Band Size||Inches (in.)||Centimeters (cm.)|
|28||28||58 – 62|
|30||30||63 – 67|
|32||32||68 – 72|
|34||34||73 – 77|
|36||36||78 – 82|
|38||38||83 – 87|
|40||40||88 – 92|
|42||42||93 – 97|
|44||44||98 – 102|
|46||46||103 – 107|
|48||48||108 – 112|
|50||50||113 – 117|
|52||52||118 – 122|
|54||54||123 – 127|
|56||56||128 – 132|
|58||58||133 – 142|
Cup Size Chart
|UK Cup Size||Difference Between Bust Size and Band Size|
|Inches (in.)||Centimeters (cm.)|
International Conversion Chart for Bra Sizes
There will be instances in which you might find yourself purchasing a bra from a foreign brand following a slightly different sizing system. Should you need to convert European and U.S. sizes to U.K. sizes, or find your corresponding size in Japanese or Australian sizing standards, then you need to refer to a reliable international conversion chart for bra sizes as provided below.
Band Size Conversion Chart
|Inches (in.)||Centimeters (cm.)||UK/US/MX||EU||FR/ES/BE||IT||AU/NZ||JP|
|28||58 – 62||28||60||75||0||6||60|
|30||63 – 67||30||65||80||1||8||65|
|32||68 – 72||32||70||85||2||10||70|
|34||73 – 77||34||75||90||3||12||75|
|36||78 – 82||36||80||95||4||14||80|
|38||83 – 87||38||85||100||5||16||85|
|40||88 – 92||40||90||105||6||18||90|
|42||93 – 97||42||95||110||7||20||95|
|44||98 – 102||44||100||115||8||22||100|
|46||103 – 107||46||105||120||9||24||105|
|48||108 – 112||48||110||125||10||26||110|
Cup Size Conversion Chart
|Difference Between Bust Size and Band Size||UK||US/MX||EU||FR/ES/BE||IT||AU/NZ||JP|
|Inches (in.)||Centimeters (cm.)|
Sister Size Chart – How It Works
Shopping brassieres can sometimes get frustrating. You may have found a bra style or design that suits your needs and fits your personal taste, but sometimes a lingerie or clothing store doesn’t have your size in stock. And even if they do have your size, something may be slightly off with the fit. For example, maybe the cup size is just right but the band size is too loose. Perhaps the band size is a perfect fit but it’s the cup size that’s too big or too small. Some women may immediately take this as a sign to move on and search for some other bra that might fit them. However, others are not so quick to give up since they know to ask if their “sister size” might be available.
The “sister sizes” of a bra are alternative sizes which essentially have the same cup volume as the original bra size even if the band size and the cup letter are different. In determining your sister size, you have the option to go one size up or one size down. In doing so, the number of your band size and the letter of your cup size shifts by one size. For example, if your bra size is 34C, you have the option to try either a size 32D or a size 36B.
You may refer to the chart below and use it as a guide to help you identify your appropriate sister sizes. The adjacent sizes to the left (one size down) and right (one size up) of your real bra size are your sister sizes.
BlitzResults.com Study – Only 48% of Women Wear the Right Bra Size
A lot of women, as it turns out, do not wear the right bra size. This is because many of them do not take the time to consult with a professional regarding their bra size or even take their own measurements. Instead, these women rely on the size of their old and used bras when shopping for new ones. This is supported by our study participated by 3,172 women who were asked in an online panel about bra sizes. Result of the survey showed the following:
- Only 48% of women wear the right bra size.
- 16 % of all women wear a bra that is too small; 4 % wear a bra that is significantly too small.
- 26% wear a bra that is too big; 6% wear a bra that is significantly too large.
- 82% of the women said that when buying a new bra, they mainly use their previous bra size as their standard. Only 18 % allow a professional to take their measurements or take the time to measure themselves before making a purchase.
- 74 % of the surveyed women find the existing sizing system for bras confusing, particularly the different methods for determining the band size and cup size.
- Young women often incorrectly assume their bra size. However, as it turns out, women over 40 years of age are actually more likely to pick the wrong size for themselves.
Suitable Bra Style According to Breast Shape
To find a great-fitting bra that provides optimum support and gives you a more flattering form, it is not enough to take your underbust and chest measurements as well as your cup size in consideration. You must also think about the shape and positioning of your breasts. Here are several breast types and the bra styles that suit each one best:
- Archetype or Standard Breasts. They are full and round and the shape that most commercially-produced bras are designed to fit perfectly.
- Recommended bra/s: All bra styles are supposed to fit this breast shape. However, balconette, t-shirt, and strapless bras are the best options if you want a very natural-looking cleavage.
- Asymmetric or Uneven Breasts. One breast is larger than the other.
- Recommended bra/s: The push-up bra provides support and helps equalize the size of both breasts, especially if it comes with removable cookies. T-shirt bras or full coverage bras with removable cookies are also acceptable.
- Conical Breasts. Some women with smaller busts have cone-like breasts instead of round-shaped ones.
- Recommended bra/s: Padded bras and push-up bras are suitable to give the breasts a fuller look. Bandeau bras can also help make your breasts look rounder but at the expense of looking smaller.
- Bell-Shaped Breasts. The top area of the breasts is slimmer while the bottom area is fuller.
- Recommended bra: T-shirt bras are the best option for most women, but a full coverage bra may be better for women with a D cup size or larger.
- Tear Drop Breasts. These rounded breasts are slightly less full in the top area.
- Recommended bra: All bra styles are suitable for women with tear drop breasts.
- East West Breasts. These breasts point outward and in opposite directions.
- Recommended bra: Push-up bras are the best to wear though t-shirt bra styles may be suitable as well.
- Side Set Breasts. Breasts that are slightly separated by a space between them.
- Recommended bra: T-shirt or push-up bras can help direct your breasts toward the middle of your chest area. Bras with front closure are the most recommended.
- Slender Breasts. Smaller breasts which are slimmer at the top but heavier at the bottom. They tend to be lengthier than their width.
- Recommended bra: Push-up and plunge bras help lift the breasts upward. Wireless bras and front closure bras may also be suitable.
Factors Influencing Breast Size and Shape
Ever wonder why you have the set of breasts that you do? Here are four of several factors that influence the size and shape of your breasts:
- Genetics. Your DNA is what mainly determines your breast size and shape. Genes affect your hormone levels, and consequently, they impact your breast development as well. Since your genes come from both parents, you should not solely use your mother as basis for the appearance of your breasts. Your father’s genes as well as various environmental factors (e.g., gravity) have also contributed to your current breast size and shape.
- Weight. Your breasts are made up of glandular tissue – which is important in milk production – and fatty tissue – which is what fills the breasts and gives it its shape. Therefore, gaining or losing weight may increase or reduce the fatty tissues in your breasts and consequently alter their size and shape.
- Age. As you age, the Cooper’s ligaments of your breasts, which are fibrous and supportive structures that hold everything together, start to weaken. Eventually, your breasts will sag and droop as a consequence. Moreover, hormonal changes that come with aging also affect the glandular and fatty tissues of the breasts.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. Breast size dramatically changes during and after pregnancy. Your breasts will get larger while you’re pregnant and will remain so while you are still breastfeeding your child. However, once you have weaned, they start to naturally reduce in size. Aside from weight gain, this increase and decrease in breast size can be attributed to hormonal changes that come with pregnancy.
Signs You Are Wearing the Wrong Bra Size
How do you know if you’re wearing the wrong bra size? There are several red flags to watch out for when fitting bras, and once you encounter one, you need to either size up or size down. Here are some of the signs that you are wearing the wrong bra size:
- Are the cups of your bras wrinkling? If so, you’re probably wearing a cup size that is too large for you. Try getting a bra with the same band size but is one cup size smaller.
- Are the underwires of your bra poking the sides of your breasts and your underarms? If so, you’re either wearing a cup size that is too small or you’re wearing a bra style with a cup that is not wide enough to fully support your breasts. You should try going one cup size higher or wear a bra style with a much fuller cup coverage.
- Does the band of your bra tend to ride up? If so, you may be wearing a bra with a band size that is too large for you. If not, it might be explained by your large and heavy breasts, your stockier build, or your spine problems (if any). You might first try to tighten the hook of your bra, but if that’s not possible, you should buy one with a smaller band size. You might also want to consider wearing backless bras, front closure bras, or posture bras.
- Is the band digging into your skin? The band size you’re wearing might be smaller than what fits you best. You can try a looser setting first with your bra closure, but it is very likely that you need to buy a bra with a larger band.
- Is there cup spillage? If you’re breasts tend to spill out at the top or on the sides while wearing a bra, then that means you may be wearing a smaller cup size or the wrong bra style. You can try to adjust the straps first, but if that doesn’t work, it’s time to go shopping for a new bra that fits you better.
- Do you have “under boobs” while wearing a bra? Your band size might be larger than it should be, or your cups size might be smaller. You should first try to tighten the closure of your bra, but if that doesn’t work, you should buy a bra with a smaller band size or a larger cup size.
- Do your straps keep slipping off? Naturally, you should try to tighten them first, but if that doesn’t work, you might be wearing the wrong cup size, band size, or bra style. You can shop around until you find a bra that suits you best, or you may seek the advice of a professional to make bra shopping easier for you.
- Are the bra straps digging into your shoulders? You may be wearing a smaller cup size, or the placement of the straps are too tight and narrow for your build. Your bra may not be providing you enough support, so you might need to purchase a bra with a tighter band size with underwires and a larger cup size.
Tips on How to Buy the Right Bra for You
- Get professionally fitted. Visit a clothing or lingerie store that offers a vast selection of bra styles and sizes and which employs professional bra fitters. Aside from your band size and cup size, these trained fitters know other considerations that come into play when picking out the best-fitting bras for you.
- Take your measurements before you go shopping. It is recommended that you check your body measurements every six months since breast size and shape can be affected by factors like weight gain and pregnancy. Simply follow the instructions provided above on how to measure your bra size so that you already have an idea on what you need to buy once you arrive at the department store. It will make trying out bras an easier process for you.
- Wear a thin T-Shirt when trying out brassieres. You need to know what your bra looks like when you’re wearing sheer or thin clothing. You may not want it to be too eye-catching, so it’s important to know on the get-go if the bra is too noticeable or subtle enough.
- Try on the bras correctly. The best way to test if a bra fits you well is by leaning forward (about 45 degrees) and scooping your breasts into the bra’s cups before fastening or hooking both ends of the band at the back (or in front for front-closure bras). Then, stand upright and adjust the shoulder straps so that as much breast tissue is covered and supported as possible. Watch out for the red flags listed above to know if you’re wearing the wrong bra size or the right one.
- Try not to be emotionally affected by your bra size. The bottom line is that you find a bra that fits you well and provides you the best support and comfort as possible. Don’t feel bad if your band size too large or your cup size is too small. Bra size labels just make it easy for you to find the right fit; they don’t define who you are.
Bra Size Charts for Various Brands
Band Size Chart
|Bust measurement (in centimeters)|
|FR / BE||80||85||90||95||100||105|
|UK / US||30||32||34||36||38||40|
|DE / EUR||65||70||75||80||85||90|
Cup Size Chart
|Chest measurement (in centimeters)|
|Bust Minus Band Difference||US Cup Sizes||European||UK|
|less than 1"||AA||AA||AA|
Band Size Chart
Cup Size Chart
|D2||DD or E||DD||E||E||E||DD or E||F|
|D3||DDD or F||E||F||F||F||DDD or F||G|
|D4||DDDD or G||F||G||G||G||DDDD or G||H|
Band Size Chart
|LP / IT||0||1||2||3||4||5|
|DE / EU||65||70||75||80||85||90|
|US / CA||30||32||34||36||38||40|
Cup Size Chart
|P / IT||A||B||C||D||E|
|DE / EU||A||B||C||D||E|
|US / CA||A||B||C||D||DD|
|Band / Cup Sizes||30C||30D||32D||34D||36D|
One Hanes Place
|Back Size||Cup Size|
|Band Size Chart||Cup Size Chart|
|Measurement (in inches)||Band Size||Difference of Band and Bust Measurements||US Cup Size|
FAQs About Bras & Their Answers
#1: Why should women wear bras?
There are many advantages that come with regularly wearing properly-fitted bras. Aside from hiding the nipples and enhancing the aesthetics of your upper body, wearing a supportive and right-fitting bra might help delay the sagging of the breasts. It also reduces the pain and discomfort you feel when your breasts are bouncing, especially if they are larger than average. Bras also provide insulation, reduces friction, and regulate sweating in the bust area.
#2: What happens if a woman doesn’t wear a bra?
Nowadays, a lot of women choose not to wear a bra at home and in public. While there are certainly no known negative side effects to your health if you choose to go “bra-less,” you might not get the same protection, support, and comfort that you’ll get from wearing a properly-fitted bra. Hence, for women with large breasts, they might feel discomfort and pain and even have posture issues if they don’t wear one.
#3: When is the best time to start wearing a bra?
Women are hit by puberty at different ages. For most girls, noticeable chest development begins when they’re around 10 to 11 years old. However, there are early bloomers that develop breasts as early as 8 years old and late bloomers that do so at 15 years of age. Therefore, your daughter should start wearing bras when you notice that her chest is starting to grow since she may already begin to feel discomfort and pain at that point. Moreover, your child might be more self-conscious about her chest, and she may unknowingly alter her posture to hide the protrusion of her bust.
A helpful trick is the “pencil test.” If the breasts can hold a pencil under them without dropping it, then it’s time to wear supportive bras.
#4: Should women wear bras during pregnancy?
Expecting mothers may choose to wear or not to wear bras. However, there are some benefits to wearing on since breasts tend to be larger, heavier, and more sensitive during pregnancy. Wearing a bra can provide extra comfort and support. Moreover, women tend to leak milk during and after pregnancy, so a nursing bra might protect the outer clothing from getting soaked.
#5: Can a bra be worn at night?
Until now, the benefits and negative effects of wearing a bra while sleeping is still heavily debated. But so far, there has yet to be any definitive evidence which proves that sleeping in your bra is dangerous to your health. So, at present, the decision to sleep in a bra is totally a matter of personal preference and comfort. You may choose not to wear one, but if you feel like you need some support while sleeping, it’s best to wear a soft-cup bra that doesn’t constrict circulation in the breasts.
#6: Does wearing a bra affect milk production?
The production of breast milk by the female body is typically dictated by how frequent a baby feeds on the mother’s breasts. Therefore, if a baby starts to reduce his intake of breast milk, the mother’s supply usually starts to deplete as well. Of course, other factors like medication, dieting and health problems can affect a woman’s milk supply. However, there is no scientific evidence that proves that wearing a bra is the cause of poor milk production. That being said, there are disadvantages to wearing bras with underwires or undergarments that are just too tight. They may be pressing against a milk duct which may consequently lead to a plugged duct, or worse, an infection of the breast (mastitis) [Source: California Pacific Medical Center].
#7: Can wearing a bra cause breast cancer?
The myth that wearing bras can cause breast cancer is still believed by many today. However, current studies have yet to show a direct association between wearing a bra and an increased risk for breast cancer [Source: American Cancer Society].
#8: Will wearing a bra prevent sagging breasts?
Unfortunately, wearing bra cannot prevent the inevitable. Age and gravity have more to do with the sagging of the breasts than bras do. However, some bras (e.g., supportive sports bras) do provide enough support that could help reduce the wearing down of connective tissues caused by high intensity exercises.
#9: When should I change bra sizes?
As previously mentioned, breast sizes are affected by factors like genetics, age, pregnancy, and weight change. Therefore, you should switch bra sizes if you are pregnant or in the process of losing or gaining weight by working out or altering your diet.