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How to measure your bra size: Get the perfect fit

Helen McCue
4 Aug 2022
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Wave goodbye to uncomfortable bras with our guide to measuring your bra size in the comfort of your own home

Time and time again, research by lingerie companies suggests that only one in five women are wearing the correct size bra. To put it another way, that means an estimated 80% of us are wearing ill-fitting bras with poor levels of support. It’s no wonder so many of us look forward to that point in the day when we can remove this uncomfortable piece of underwear.

And while underwear and lingerie companies love to tell us we should be going for professional bra fittings every six months, who really does that? More often than not, we stick to the same size we’ve been buying for years, despite fluctuations in weight as well as a myriad of other external factors that can affect bra size.

Believe it or not, bras should not be uncomfortable. A bra that fits correctly should offer support as well as comfort and it’s really not too tricky to get it right. Grab a measuring tape and get measuring, but remember it’s not all about size, the fit is important - just like any other item of clothing. You wouldn’t assume that every pair of jeans in your size will fit well, offer a flattering shape, and be comfortable. So don’t make the same mistake with bras.

How to measure your bra size

You’ll need a soft measuring tape and some privacy - this is best done without a bra on, although you can take the measurement wearing an unpadded bra.

Firstly, measure around the top of your ribcage, just below the bottom of your bust where your bra band would usually sit. Make sure the tape measure sits flat and level, a mirror is useful at this stage so you can check how it’s sitting across your back.

Be careful not to pull the tape too tight, it shouldn’t dig in. Take the measurement in inches. If it’s an even number this is your band size, but if it’s an odd number you’ll have to round up or down to the nearest even number, so you may need to try out bras in both band sizes to see which is the most comfortable fit.

Next, you’ll need to measure your cup size. For this measurement, place the tape around your back, slightly higher than before and across the fullest part of your bust, making sure it sits flat and level again. Make a note of the measurement in inches.

For both the band and cup size, always work with whole numbers. So, if for example you measure 32.3 inches you would round it down to 32.

To convert the cup size measurement into the familiar letter format that we are used to using for cup size, you’ll have to do a bit of basic maths. Subtract your band size measurement away from the cup size measurement. So for example, if your band size is 36 and your cup size is 39, your calculation would be 39-36=3.

If the answer to your calculation was 1, you’re an A cup, 2 is B cup, if it’s 3 as per the above example then you would be a C cup and so on. Now you just put this letter with your band measurement to get your bra size, so referring back to the above example, the bra size would be a 36C.

Remember if you were between band sizes, you’ll want to work out your cup size for both the smaller and larger options so that you can try both.

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How to check the fit of a bra

This part is just as important as the measurement, arguably more so. When you try on a new bra, always do up the clasps on the loosest setting. As a bra gets older, it stretches, so this allows you to move to the tighter options as the bra elastic becomes looser over time. If it’s too loose on the loosest setting when brand new, try on a smaller band size.

The band should fit comfortably, but without any pinching or gaping and you should be able to fit two fingers between your body and the band, if you can't, it’s too tight.

Check out the bra in the mirror. The band should sit at the same level all the way around your body. If it goes up at the back, it’s too big, and you’re relying on the straps to provide support, so try on a smaller band size.

Now look at the bit between the cups. This should sit flat against your skin, not away from it. If it’s pulling away, you probably need a bigger cup size. Your breasts should fill the cup without any gaping but also without overflowing at the top. If the bra has an underwire, make sure this sits flat against your rib cage all the way around your breast, it shouldn’t be on your breast or digging in anywhere.

Next, adjust the straps so that they stay comfortably on your shoulders without falling down or digging in, you shouldn’t need to over tighten them to feel supported.

If you have one breast significantly bigger than the other, you should always fit the bra to the bigger breast and pad out the smaller one, though in this case it’s worth getting advice at a professional fitting service.

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If I can measure myself at home, what’s the point of a professional fitting?

The clue is in the name ‘fitting’. At a good bra fitting appointment, the fitter will spend around 30 minutes with you and in that time, they’ll measure you, but also give you a selection of bras to try on so that they can assess what size is the best fit.

While some people can get the correct bra with a quick measure, for most others it’s not that simple and the measurement is best used as a starting point. Lots of women do not have equal size breasts and if one is significantly bigger than the other, the fit becomes more important than the cup measurement, and this is where a professional can help.

A good bra fitter will be able to spot the signs of a poorly fitting bra, even when you think it feels okay. This is especially helpful if you’re used to wearing ill-fitting bras. And they can check around the whole circumference of the bra for signs of tightness, gaping or pinching. Whereas when you do it yourself, you can’t really see what’s going on at the back without craning your head to try and look in the mirror.

A good bra fitting is particularly useful if you’ve experienced changes in your body, like if your weight has changed or you’ve recently had a baby. And best of all, these appointments are usually free.

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