How to buy a bra that fits – the real guide

Depending on which source you rely on when reading about bra measurements, on average, 80% of us are wearing the wrong size bra. It’s really not surprising as most high street and supermarket brands that we know, love and trust have 34 as their smallest band width. Quite frankly it’s utterly ridiculous as the Eveden brand’s (parent company of Freya, Fauve, and Fantasie) best-selling size is 32G. The belief that anyone bigger than a C cup is a Big-Boob Brenda is archaic and completely out-of-date.

If you are planning on having a bra measuring consultation heed my advice and warning. As soon as the well-meaning but truly uneducated fitter “adds 4 inches” to your chest measurement to get your band width, stop the fitting right there and walk out. Putting your top back on might be appropriate first though.

Wearing the right size can reduce back pain, improve posture, prevent breast tissue from migrating to the armpits or back, make bras feel comfortable, and extend the life of your bras. If you’ve ever thought of your boobs as strange  because they “just don’t look right in any bra,”  It’s not you that’s wrong, it’s your bra that’s wrong for you.

There are 2 measurements you need to take.  Grab a friend to help, install yourselves in front of a mirror and use a flexible but non-stretchy measuring tape.

bra measurements, fitting

To take your underbust measurement, hold the tape snug but not too tight, write down the measurement in inches. To take the overbust second measurement you need to do this below (but don’t include your nipples, measure just at the top on your areola):

bra measurements, fitting, bend over

And you’ll get something like this:

bra measurementsYour band width is the closest even number to your underbust measurement. If you come out at 31, you can size down to a 30, or size up to a 32. The best thing to do is try both on and see which one is more comfortable. Trying on the smaller one first is best as you’ll know if it’s too tight, you’re less likely to be aware if the band is slightly too loose.

Your cup size is found using the difference between your overbust measurement and your underbust measurement. Most UK manufacturers use the bra-lphabet of A,B,C,D,DD,E,F,FF,G,GG,H,HH,J,JJ,K,KK,L. In the US it’s slightly different – take a look:

american and british bra sizes


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. You should probably try 1 cup size either side of this to be sure.

And for example if a 30GG isn’t quite right, you can size the band up to a 32 but the cup size must decrease to an FF. The cup size is always the difference between the band width and your overbust.

Once you’ve determined your band size, it’s time to focus on the cup. Lean forward like in the picture above, drop your breasts in to the cups and do the bra up at the back. 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. 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 (that bit on the middle of the cups) should sit flat in between your boobs, the bra should be done up on the loosest clasp (it will stretch over time and then you can tighten it) and the back of the bra should not ride up. If it does then the band is too big and you should size down.

When doing this for the first time, most people tend to be slightly shocked. Usually their band size has decreased by a few inches and cup size increased considerably. Put it this way, for years I’d just walk into Marks and Sparks and blindly lift a 36B from the rack. I’m actually a 32E. And I have the smallest boobs in the world; go figure!

Whilst writing this post I decided to put a few links in to cheapish places to get nursing bras as that’s my boulder-holder of need right now. To my huge dismay and the shame of the shops, most places start at a 34 band width. Marks and Spencer has a couple of styles that start at a 32 (I bought some yesterday, they are definitely not the most attractive things in the world but I can attest to their comfort). The big department stores are the way to go unless you’re near a Rigby and Pellar or small local boutique. John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams all have the smaller sizes and a larger selection of named brands.

Let me know how you get on!