Why Bra Fitting is a F*cking Scam

Ladies, do you remember the first time you were fitted for a bra? If you’re in your thirties or forties, you were probably between the ages of 11 and 15, with an anxious parent waiting outside the dressing room as an older lady with shellacked hair, creased lipstick, and bifocals measured, poked and prodded at your nascent breasts. These ladies were from another generation, when shape wear and cone bras were NOT optional, but a requisite of proper womanhood. They often had decades of experience measuring boobs under their girdles, and they did not play around- they would find you a bra that fit perfectly, even if it was a hideous shade of beige with 5 rows of hooks.

Finding a bra that fits well is fucking important, given many of us spend the majority of our waking hours wearing one. Nobody wants saggy boobs, straps that dig or slip, or stabby underwires. But unfortunately, it would seem that the aforementioned generation of bra experts have all retired or passed away, only to be replaced by a legion of 22 year old minimum wage chippies in stilettos who are more invested in stroking one’s ego than helping you find a bra that actually fits properly.

I first noticed this shift about seven years ago. I had a friend who I’ll call “Martha.” Martha was a curvy girl with smallish boobs, about a B cup if I had to eyeball it. I was a little surprised when I was getting rid of some too-small D-cup bras and she offered to take them off my hands. “I went to the department store the other day and found out I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size all along!” she crowed. “I was wearing a 38 B, and it turns out I’m actually a 36D! The sales lady told me that I have a bad habit of pushing my breasts back into my armpits, which is why they look smaller than they really are.” I smiled and nodded politely, but all I could think was WHAT THE FUCK. How does one push one’s breasts back into one’s armpits, exactly? What bizarro logic inspired this convoluted and patently dishonest sales tactic?

So, it’s a well known fact that you can drop a band size if you add a cup size, and essentially have the same size bra. A woman who is a 36C can probably wear a 34D, and vice versa, though you’ll probably get a better fit if you stick to your true size. Nevertheless, you’ll meet a lot more women who claim to be a 34D than a 36C, since the tiny ribcage to huge boob ratio is considered the feminine ideal. This new generation of bra saleswomen are exploiting these insecurities to score hefty sales commissions. I have heard stories like Martha’s over and over again- a small busted woman tells me of her miraculously promotion to a C or D cup by a persuasive salesperson (who then convinces them to buy a bunch of bras in their “new size”).

I can’t help but feel a little cynical about these shenanigans. Nevertheless, I was curious when a fellow big busted lady (I wear a 40 or 42 DDD, E, or F, depending on the brand) told me that Nordstrom sells several lines of fancy larger-sized bras. “They have this special measurement system where they have twice as many cup sizes as a regular store!” she gushed, showing off her fancy bra in the changing room of the Korean bath house where we spending the afternoon. Intrigued, I asked my mom to take me bra shopping as a birthday present, since those puppies ain’t cheap.

The young, eager saleswoman at Nordstrom whisked me away to a dressing room where I presented my boobs, and she got to work with a measuring tape. “Okaaaay,” she trilled, after punching some magical rib cage to bust ratio into her pocket calculator. “You’re a 38 H!”
WAIT, WHAT? I hadn’t worn a 38 band since I was in high school, and although my friend had warned me about their extended cup size system, I wasn’t exactly ready to be an H cup either. H cup was bra size no-woman’s- land, inhabited by porn stars with massive implants who looked like they might fall over from the weight of their breasts. I sucked up my pride tried on a handful of bras in my “new size.”

“This feels kind of tight,” I wheezed, as I struggled to breathe.

“That’s because you’re not used to getting proper support!” she insisted in an authoritative tone. She was correct in that my boobs were utterly immobilized- not even jumping up and down could elicit a jiggle.

I left that day with two new bras, expecting my life to be forever changed as a result of this much-hyped bra fitting. Well guess what: 9 times out of 10, I choose to wear my cheaper 42DDD Lane Bryant bras over my $50+ 38H Freya bras from Nordstrom. True, the Freya bras give me more support, but they also give me backaches, and the underwire digs painfully into my armpits, leaving red welts. Frankly, I think a 38 band is just too damn small for me. (To be fair, the salesgirl at Lane Bryant also said that I’m a 38, but admitted a 40 might be more comfortable for daily wear.) Am I insane to think that vanity sizing has replaced accuracy? I am ok with wearing a bigger band size if it means I’m not distracted by how uncomfortable my bra is all day long.

Ladies- don’t buy the bullshit these salesgirls are slinging about how a “proper bra fitting will change your life” and how “most women wear the wrong size bras.” It’s nothing but a bullshit sales tactic with no basis in reality. I suggest, instead, trying on several dozen bras until you find a few that actually fit well. You can still lie about your bra size if you want to, but at least you’ll be comfortable while you’re doing it.

Update: I wrote a response to the negative feedback I’ve been receiving about this piece which may clarify things for people. You can read it here.

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Find out what else Bianca has to say here.

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Comments

  1. I’ve never been fitted for a bra. Is that weird? Mine are really too small to be bothered with all of that. I’m usually a 34b. At least I was before this pregnancy, I don’t know what I am right now, I just know I cannot deal with an underwire while I’m in this condition and I don’t want any frigging padding. Why does everyone insist on padding the hell out of everything below a D cup? Seriously, who am I trying to kid? And why? My boobs are small and I don’t care if the whole world knows it. I think I’d be super uncomfortable having someone measure my boobage anyway. Whay can’t they just hand you a measuring tape and a calculator at the dressing room and tell you their magic formula? You’d think it would be more cost effective than paying someone to lie to you and then giving them a commission.

    • It’s actually harder to measure yourself than I figured, because it depends a lot on the shape of your breasts and stuff. It’s supposed to be your band size is the area below your breasts (32, 34, 36, etc.) and the cup size is the difference by inches (so if you’re 34 under your breasts, and 35 across the fullest part of your breasts, you’re an A cup, I think?)

      But because women have different shapes and sizes and firmness, it kinda differs from person to person.

      • I also assume the E cup a person with a 32 band would wear would be smaller than the 42 E cup I wear. I assume it expands proportionately.

    • Lane Bryant sells padded bras in my size too, and I’ve got a massive rack. I save them for special occasions rather than everyday wear.

  2. I just don’t get bra sizes. They’re so confusing, and I see all these women that are smaller than me saying they’re D cups, and I’m just kinda confused by it all. I think a lot of people tend to lie in casual conversation to make their measurements more palatable.

    It’s no wonder I read so much fanfiction written by guys where they say she was a tiny woman with 40D breasts. Who knows any more!

  3. “I see all these women that are smaller than me saying they’re D cups” <—- this!!! They may have actually been told this by a sales person!

  4. Over the last few weeks I have experienced weirdness around my boobs. I went to a specialty store where they basically had me try on a bunch of bras and help me figure out my real size – 32E awesome! I agree that the band size was a little tighter than I’d like but that’s where the support is and 34 feels huge. I was just told by a sales lady that “I don’t look that big” which just made me think that she’s probably doesn’t wear the right bra size because you don’t have to be falling over to be that size. Sigh, breast issues, I have them.

    • I don’t know when a B cup became small. I wear a B cup and I’m more than a handful, for sure… Maybe I’m wearing the wrong size, but this 34B bra I have on right now fits perfect.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think that a B is small just like I don’t think that an E is huge. I went up a cup size recently with no real noticeable shift when I’m braless, but the cup runneth over. The way a cup fits can be really subtle. My C could be your B because the difference in shape and positioning can change the fit.

      • Woops that was my reply … Just forgot to put a name there.

      • I consider my 32Bs small — and that’s not a bad thing. I can enjoy activities like sleeping on my stomach and jogging (which I don’t actually do). I don’t think they could pass for a bigger cup size, but maybe a smaller one.

      • shannonhumphreys says:

        My B’s are small, but I don’t think all B’s are necessarily small. I think it’s a shape thing with me. Mine are super spread out, but small. If I get an A cup, the cups are too close together and I get all sorts of side boob smooshing going on. Personally, I think bras are evil and designed by the devil to make my head explode.

  5. I think you have a valid point. I got fitted at “Vicky’s” several times and the attendant was always younger than me and never knocked me down a size. Then I got fitted by an older woman in a fancy, super expensive bra boutique a few years ago and was told my cup size (C) was too big and got “downgraded” to a B. My new bras fit much better and I’ve adjusted psychologically but I will say on the spot I felt a little upset — not cry my eyes out upset, more like soft resigned sigh upset — because there is an idea that bigger breasts are sexier. On the other hand I had a friend who spilled out of everything she wore who finally got fit in a boutique only to find she is an H cup. Personally I think other places never told her that because they didn’t have her size on hand and thus there would be no sale that day. I honestly do believe she is an H cup, rare as they are, because she is tiny everywhere but her bust and when we went to bath houses together she was drooping at a 60 year old lady level when she was 24. She developed late in puberty and just hadn’t adjusted to the “tank tops with a shelf bra built-in” were no longer cutting it.

  6. Kinda making me a little scared! I need to go get new bras WITHOUT the underwire. I can just see me as “Maxine”…boobs drooping down to my waist…lol. Getting ready to go through radiation for breast cancer and no underwire is suggested. Yikes!!! I’m a 42DD and just cannot imagine going without that support. Oh Lord…. Guess we’ll see how THIS goes! At least, the “girls” are still here!

    • Hi Mary! I think of you often and fondly. Sending lots of good vibes your way. You are going to be a total mass kicker. Hang in there (pun intended)! hardy-har-har

    • @Mary
      try looking at the bras offered by Title 9 – http://www.titlenine.com/category/sports-bras-and-undies.do?nType=1

      I’ve had huge boobs since 6th grade, by high school I was a 36D and wore 2 sports bras to soccer practice b/c I was uncomfortable (and embarrassed) with my boobs bouncing while running. My mom got me to try one of their super-support sports bras (called the Frog Bra) and while it was a total masher, definitely kept everything in place w/ no jiggle. They have an awesome ‘barbell’ system for rating the intensity of the support each bra offers. Now I’m approaching my late twenties and my boobs are at 36E, and I only buy my sports bras from them! I know you’re not asking about sports bras though! The reason I suggest you look at Title 9’s bras is that they also sell some awesome bras that are less like sports bras and more like real bras, but still made out of comfortable elastic/stretchy fabric and supportive/attractive enough for daily wear (try looking at the bras rated 1 or 2 barbells). Im sure you can find a good one without underwire that still shapes your bosom nicely! I hope this helps, and good luck with the radiation therapy!

      • Thanks Cat!

        I’m gonna look into this. I did buy a Maiden Form bra to try and let’s just say…my nipples show….lol. I wear a lot of t-shirts but this appears to be a problem. I wanted something to “perk me up” without drooping and showing. Thanks again!

        MaryB

  7. Oh yes! Every time I have ever gone for a bra fitting, they’ve shoved me into some ginormous cup size that is all floppy and loose around my breast, and then cinched the band down until it’s too tight. Of course, that always puts me in to the “specialist” cup sizes of F/G/H… which means far, far more expensive bras! But when left to my own devices to try bras on and find those that give me the nicest shape, cup my boobs firmly but gently and fit around my rib cage comfortably, I end up in a DD or E with a larger band size.

    The whole thing is a big old scam to get you buying more expensive bras that wear out quicker.

  8. Becky Mount says:

    This was painful to read. It’s not your fault America has a TERRIBLE fitting service but it is a proven fact that most women are in the wrong size bra. That can’t be denied. Have you tried fitting yourself? I suggest going to ‘A Sophisticated Pair’ and using their fit calculator as a starting out point.

    • I have to agree with Becky on trying to fit yourself. For your description I think probably two things are going on with your bras:
      1. The wires are not wide enough for you and they’re actually sitting on your breast tissue that’s underneath the arms, hence the pain. The reason that the 42 bands aren’t giving you pain it because the band is too loose so even though the wires are certainly sitting on top of your breast tissue, they aren’t poking it as much.
      2. When you put on your bras, do you lean forward and scoup all of the breast tissue into the cups? if not it could also be the same issue of having your wires sit on top of your breast tissue.

      Unfortunately, the information out there is horrific when it comes to bra fit and knowledge. I live in Brazil where most women don’t even realize that bras come in different cup sizes., so I’ve had to learn how to fit myself. It’s not nearly as hard as fitters will lead you to believe but it does take some effort in terms of trying on different styles, sizes. My guess is that Panache bras would be a better fit for you because they have wider wires…

      • Also, I wanted to mention. I’m someone who always had back pain and body image issues because of my breasts. Finding the correct size really has changed my life. I can exercise better, I dont feel as self-conscious, and the pain is gone. I grew up my whole life thinking that I HAD TO have a breast reduction because I was too big and it was only after finding my correct size that I truly came to accept my body.

        I’m not a fitter, I don’t get paid for saying this. I’m just a woman like you who’s seen a major change in her life after finding the right bra. Certainly, it’s your choice to wear what you want but understand bra fitting can and does affect other women extremely positively.

      • To the ladies complaining that I’m opposed to bra fitting: I’m not, I’m opposed to BAD bra fitting, or using bra fitting as sales tactic. That’s exactly why I say, at the end of the article, to try on a bunch of stuff and see how it actually FEELS irregardless of cup size. Honestly, if my Lane Bryant bras are comfortable and give me good support, that’s good enough for me- I just felt a little underwhelmed by the claims that getting fitted would change my life when I find those bras to be unpleasant to wear. I know there are bra saleswomen who actually are competent at fitting women- I’m primarily bitching about places like Victoria’s Secret where they will tell you whatever to make the sale, and where you’re not actually getting an accurate fitting. I have no problem with people wearing whatever size that fits them properly, I have a problem with salespeople who exploit bra fitting as a means of marketing over true accuracy, and that alone was the point of my article. Shalom.

  9. Melissa Sharpe says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Becky. We are very lucky in the UK to have a much better range of styles and sizes available at reasonable prices. The reason women are mostly put into bras 4 inches too big round the back is: ‘The band measurement system was created by U.S. bra manufacturers just after World War II when the supposed ideal American female hourglass figure measured 36″-24″-36″ (91-61-91 cm). Tomima Edmark, founder of a major lingerie company, reported that manufacturers wanted to convince women that their measurements matched this ideal. They conceived of the idea of adding inches to the actual measurement so the woman’s resulting measurement would be closer to the artificial ideal’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassiere_measurement#cite_note-ytherroom-11) so actually the large band measurements are the vanity issue, not the large cup sizes. Rather than following this system women should use their under bust measurement as their band size and not add inches. I would agree with using the advice on a Sophisticated Pair: http://www.sophisticatedpair.com/therightfit.htm
    To buy cheaper ‘specialist brands’ I recommend checking out http://www.brastop.com/ They are UK based, but offer international shipping. A lot of their prices are so much lower than prices in the US that it makes it worthwhile.

  10. Hi there! I work at a bra fitting salon in Louisiana. I was fitted properly back in 2010 and it made a MAJOR difference in how I felt and how my clothing fit. I went in wearing the good old LB balconette style in a 44 DDD with an extender. I got fitted because I was tired of HATING my bras – I popped out of the cups, I pulled my band down all day long, I bent my wires out on the sides because they dug into me. I left that store wearing a 42 FF and feeling supported for the first time in my life. The cups were deep enough for me, the band didn’t ride around, and I didn’t look saggy for the first time EVER. I admit, it took me a while to get used to the snug feeling – but after a few wears, they were fine. I now wear a 38 G (just two cups below that H you were fit in) and I work at the store that fitted me.

    I’d just like to say I’m very sorry you had a bad experience being fitted at Nordstrom. It sounds like the salesperson was just trying to get you in a bra and make the sale. She should have listened to your concerns and changed styles based on how you felt. If the band was cutting into you and the wires were poking you in the armpit, she should have changed to another style – maybe even gone up a band. If you are technically a 38, but feel better in a 40, and it is still giving you the support you need while on the loosest hook, then go for it! Bra shopping is like jeans shopping – different bras fit differently. One company’s bras can fit a little small in the cup, some can run a bit big. A good fitter will find what fits you, what you feel comfortable in, and work with your needs as best they can.

    As for the questions about how some ladies can wear a D or DD cup and not look “big” – that all depends on the band size. Your cups are proportional to your band – so someone who wears a 30 A and someone who wears a 40 A are not going to have the same volume in the cup. So, a 32 D is technically smaller than a 38 B – even though the letter is smaller. Also, just because the majority of US stores stop at a DD – maybe a DDD if you’re lucky – doesn’t mean that it is the biggest size out there. UK companies go up to a K – some even go up to a KK or L cup. DD is not as big as everyone thinks it is.

    As for the “expensive” issue – obviously, that depends on the markup at the store. At our store our bras run between $30 and $120, and our best seller is around $60. I remember LB bras running around $40-$50 when I was wearing them, and I hear that Vicky’s are about the same price, sometimes a bit higher. A $10 difference for something that fits is not that bad – and if you are looking for a specific price point, let your fitter know!

    I do what I do because I’ve had first-hand experience with seeing what a proper bra fitting can do. I simply want to help women feel good about themselves and their bodies. I’m not out to “scam” anyone, and I’m not going to lie just to get a sale. I’d suggest giving a fitting another go – maybe not to Nordstrom’s, but a local bra fitting store. They will work with you one-on-one. If you lived closer to me, I would LOVE to help you and give you a much more positive experience! 🙂

    • “Your cups are proportional to your band – so someone who wears a 30 A and someone who wears a 40 A are not going to have the same volume in the cup. ”
      This is NOT what we’re told. We’re told that an A cup is 1″ bigger than the band size, regardless of the band size…In a 40A, the coverage might be more, but the depth is still 1″. This is how a DD woman can look small(ish). If she has a 32″ band, then the bust is 37″. If another woman with a 37″ bust has a 35″ ribcage, then she’s a B cup.
      I disagree totally though that sizes are interchangeable. Yes, a 32DD has the same chest size as as (fictional) 35B, but the bra would totally not fit. I do fluctuate between a 36DD and F, and I do have some 38D’s, but on those ones, the band is too loose and the cups a smidge small. Our ribcages do not tend to fluctuate during the month, so there only reason to have different band sizes would be due to the manufacturer’s discrepencies.

    • Anonymous says:

      When I was a 32D there was no way I could wear a 34C (sister size) the cup was too small- so I know a 36B wouldn’t fit not only in the band but the cup would be miniature.- forget 38.
      That one inch from the bust is in according with the band size they are told they are- not every band size.
      The smaller they go in the cup going up in band size, the cup will look like a bandaid on the nipple.

  11. I’m agreeing 100%+++ with Karen just above me here. For years and years I thought I was a 34DD, and those bras are hard enough to find… I would mail order to get some (I live in Maine, not a lot of lingerie shops around), and return them all because they didn’t fit. I was clearly spilling over the top in a massive quadriboob way.

    A forum in a knitting community (“The Bust Line” in Ravelry) noted that I was probabl more like a 32F or G. I thought “HUH??”… and then I got fitted at Nordstrom. I had a mixed experience there, and have been mail ordering from other places to try the bras around 32G. The difference is amazing.

    The bras in these sizes (30H, 32G, 32FF, 32GG depending on brand and style) fit so much better. My breasts are no longer smushed to the sides. The center gore of the bra actually sits against my sternum. I don’t spill out of the top or sides or bottom of the bras.

    Yes, they are expensive, but so were the 34DD’s I was looking at (there are more DD’s available starting at 36 bands, so they are not as expensive). Also, the bras from Freya, Fantasie, etc. are really lovely.

    I very much disagree with you that the large cup size is desired, that large cups are the land of porn stars and implants, and that they topple a woman over. We all have enough issues with body image (thank you very much mainstream media), that we shouldn’t be perpetuating these ideas onto each other.

    ALL women deserve to be in well-fitted undergarments, whether that means a 26A, 28H, or 48B (large band/small cups are also hard to come by). Don’t get hung up by the number or the letter.

  12. Veerukka says:

    Chiming in my agree to the above posts. I used to wear 36C bras, now I wear a 28FF/30F. Why suffer with shoulder pain and no support? As for the bras being expensive, I shop sales and ebay. I don’t pay more than $30 for my bras (originally priced at $50-80). I actually find it funny I am an F-FF cup, because when I tell someone what bra size I wear they are shocked. My friend told me not to mention my bra size on my blog. I laughed and said if someone is directed there by mistake, they’re going to be disappointed!

  13. I am a 32k, not out of vanity but out of necessity to be properly supported and encased. I am sorry but I found your article offensive in its suggestion that I wear a vanity size. I do have a all rib cage with massive tits and that isn’t my fault. I celebrate your right to freedom of speech but I also celebrate my right to tell you your article is wrong. Sorry to sound so mean but I feel unwell today and don’t have an internal censor.

  14. I believe that in this article, you were trying to defend your right to wear a comfortable bra, which you did not find in a “properly fitted” bra. You have every right in the world to wear whatever bra size you want. However, I think it is fair that you recognize that other women are allowed to wear whatever size they want, without calling them vain.
    Your boobs are the exact same size regardless of the bra. If you were fitted into a 38H that was tight, the sales girl should have offered a 40GG or even a 42G for you. Your boobs became no less “porn star”-y just because you are wearing a DDD bra. My boobs are the size they are, whether I wear my perfect 36K bras or try to make a 40F work. If I have less pain and better support in the 36K bras, then I think that I would be a fool to wear 40F bras for the sake of not sounding vain.

  15. Also- a note to the UK folks who are posting here- bear in mind that the retail experience in the US is driven more by profit than good service, and that our sizing may be different- I honestly didn’t know a K cup existed prior to this article.

    • Christina says:

      Not all US companies (which you stereotype them into) are driven by profit than good service. My favorite store, Sophisticated Pair, does not let customers leave wearing something they are not 100% comfortable with. Erica, the store owner, does her best to talk customers out of ‘settling’. Your experience seems more indicative of LB or VS or even Nordies. You should find a specialty boutique that focuses on customer service over profit margin. And to combat something else you mentioned, most retailers only use the MSRP of the supplier for bras. That means they normally get less than a 50% markup. So if they pay 20 for the bra, they sell it for around 40-45. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that half the money they make goes right back into inventory and then the rest is used to pay utilities, rent and employees. Smaller boutiques have to relay on stellar customer support to sale enough bras to stay open. VS/LB and Nordies can afford to lie to you to put you in the wrong bra and not see you ever again.

      • More mom and pop lingerie stores carry K cups rather then mainstream department stores. ‘Wizard of bra’ in Monrovia, CA carries up to an M cup. K cups and higher do exist in the US you just have to educate yourself with where to find them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I find it even more disturbing that you didn’t know a k cup existed but found that you were qualified to write this post attacking bra fitters.

      • EXACTLY, absolutely ridiculous.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wait, what? “Attacking bra fitters?” You find her lack of knowledge of a k-cup “disturbing?” Stop taking this so seriously, tiger.

      • Are you posting from the UK? I have never seen a K cup for sale in the United States. I don’t doubt it exists, I’ve just never seen in in my many years of shopping for bras as an extremely big busted woman.

    • I am in the US and wear a 28H/HH UK bra, after suffering for years in a poorly-fitting, pain-inducing 36DD. I don’t know if Nordstrom usually stocks K-cup bras, but I’ve definitely at least seen J-cup bras there in UK brands (of which Freya is one). As a smaller-framed, larger-busted woman, I’ve done a lot of research about bras/bra sizing/bra brands out of necessity. It is true that most women *are* wearing a band size that is too large and a cup size that is too small, but I wouldn’t really trust most US stores (especially Victoria’s Secret, a store that’s notorious for bad sizing!) to be able to fit most women very accurately. Nordstrom is one of the better ones.
      Yes, US vs UK brands use different sizing (US cups go D, DD/E, DDD/F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, etc, and UK cups go D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K, KK, L). I’ve found that the majority of women who require a larger cup veer towards UK brands due to selection and availability. I believe most women commenting on this article are using UK sizing, even though many of them are in the US.
      If you found a 38H (UK sizing) to be too tightly uncomfortable, I would echo what others have said and maybe try the sister size of 40GG (UK), and maybe a UK brand besides Freya (like Panache, Fantasie, Curvy Kate, Ewa Michalak, etc).

    • I know a lot of people live in bra deserts, where VS or Lane Bryant are the “best” options. But I live in Portland Oregon, where *two* local bra stores encourage proper fit–based more on fit indicators than numbers–and at least one carries a K cup. The brands that go up to those sizes are limited more because the true fitting scams (the sort that VS and the like advocate) push everyone into the 32-42A-DD range. Thus, there is less demand for a 28G than a 36D, and few companies step up to fill that smaller demand. But that’s changing! Affinitas is a cheaper bra brand in the traditional range who recently expanded to a line called Parfait by Affinitas, which caters to larger sizes. (They only go up to a G though, sob! Their bras are beautiful and inexpensive, and I’m a 28GG, too small and too large.) But things are changing, because people are starting to be more educated and demand better/wider service–and make the change themselves! My favorite bra store was actually started two years ago by a woman who “saw the light” in the UK and came back to fill the niche here.

      I agree with you that fit should be based on how it feels, not numbers. However, the article raises my hackles with your reaction to your friend who is actually a D cup, and the idea that these larger sizes are vanity sizing. Nobody’s lying about their size here, they’re actually reporting what the label says. (And did you delete a line about “porn boobs”? I swear I read that the first time I saw this link, though it was on my phone so reading comprehension may suffer.) So yeah, that’s why you’re getting a lot of responses now!

      The way to encourage proper bra fitting is not to shame women for wearing one size or another, but to educate about how bras can fit. It’s really a shame that so many fitters are not taught how to actually fit bras themselves, and so send people home in ill-fitting bras. Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if profit plays a big role (for the companies of course and fitters too), but education and awareness play a large role.

      • Wait, my pre-coffee reading today was the faulty reading!
        H cup was bra size no-woman’s- land, inhabited by porn stars with massive implants who looked like they might fall over from the weight of their breasts.

        And THAT is why hackles are raised, including mine. That mentality is not conducive to education and rational discussion on any sides. (It’s also sex-shaming and arguably anti-feminist, as a bonus!) Unless you’re following that up with “and then I realized that I was wrong”, you’re the one who is full of bullshit. And know what? I don’t think you are completely full of BS. I think you probably are just undergoing a bit of sticker shock and also frustration over unsuccessful fittings.

        I hope you find the bra that works for you. Shalom indeed.

  16. Not a porn star says:

    I find this post unsettling and rather insulting. With all due respect, what you’ve written here circulates many incorrect, misconceptions of bra sizes and how sizing works.

    I used to wear a 34DD. I was fitted into a 28HH/J. Not because the fitter was trying to flatter me with vanity sizing, but because that’s what I need.

    I don’t look like a porn star, I am in proportion and can walk without falling over, and I don’t prefer to say I’m a J over a DD because it makes me feel better about myself. It’s just the size that fits. Hell, I’d probably rather I was in a DD size just so I could avoid being called a liar by people who don’t understand how cup sizes work, when the conversation comes up. A J isn’t as big as people think.

    Every fitter before that added several inches to my 28 inch underbust to ‘fit’ me into what they had available – generally a much larger band size. Most places still fit this way, which is completely incorrect, and the complete opposite of ‘vanity’ sizing.

    Cup sizes are relative to band sizes. A 28G = 30FF = 32F 34E = 36DD = 38D = 40C = 42B = 44A. So a G cup can actually be smaller than a B cup! A properly sized DD on a small frame is actually rather small, so your friend would be a D or even bigger. The idea that a C is a bit big, D is big, DD is huge, DDD is enormous and anything larger than that is either impossible or porn star esque is incorrect… And potentially damaging to a woman who is perhaps already having trouble coming to terms with her size without being made to feel like a freak.

    Most women ARE wearing the incorrect size. That isn’t an unfounded statement/sales tactic. It’s true.

  17. I find it exceptionally disappointing that you chose to use poor fitting services from Nordstroms and VS. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE knows they aren’t worth anything when it comes to fitting. Why would you trust someone to size you if they don’t even carry all of the bra sizes available? They WILL try to smoosh you into something, but it’s your duty to recognize that step back and assert yourself. BreakOutBras in NC offers exceptional online and offline services…why didn’t you start there instead? One phone call and they would have helped you fit yourself and you would have had access to several brands and a vast array of sizes. I feel like the women in the USA, just like you, and just like I was ARE brainwashed. I’m a 34J, I don’t look like a porn star, I look like a just another normal person – I’m 220lbs and you wouldn’t call me a porn star to my face so why would you judge someone so excessively on size labels that YOU DON’T EVEN GRASP. Unless you’ve devoted the time and effort like some of us to fit ourselves that have taken years, I don’t think your opinion is worth anything at all… it’s like talking to someone about medical concerns but they didn’t go to med school. What a trash article. FWIW – 34B ladies – you are probably more like a 30F.

    • Really? Nordstrom is worthless? They at least have a size range that approaches inclusive, and some fitters do a really nice job. For a lot of people in the States, Nordy’s is their best local hope.
      Personally, they put me in 32DDs when I should have been in 30Fs or so, but other people have had a lot of luck there. It really depends on what they have in stock and who the fitter is. Victoria’s Secret, on the other hand, is pretty much universal crap. In my experience, VS is pushy and really bent on numbers and cleavage; Nordstroms is not.

  18. I think it’s really depressing that you’ve written a post that will basically try to stop women finding their correct size. Just because your (very subjective) view is that they are ‘all’ wrong, and just because you have not been able to ‘magically’ find your correct size, it does mean that everyone else is wrong.
    You use the term ‘vanity sizing’ – do you actually know what vanity sizing is? It comes from the 50s when women wanted the perfect hourglass 36-24-36, and bra companies would put 36 in the bra labels to make them feel as though they did measure 36. THAT is vanity sizing. What you are talking about is not. These days bras are not made of stiff material, they are stretchy and maleable. That’s why you must wear one that fits you properly, otherwise you will get no support, and probably end up, oh I don’t know, ranting on a blog about not finding a bra that fits.
    As for the ‘pushing your breasts into your armpits’ comment, you only need to google it to see how common that it. Body tissue can change dramatically in size when forced into one area, (it’s the same thing with a ‘muffin top’ when small jeans caus dents in hip tissue) and a too-small bra can push the tissue out giving you what people either term ‘sideboob’ or ‘armpit fat’.
    Perhaps 38 is not the size for you, or perhaps that particular bra is not, so what? Find another one, don’t rant online when others are actually trying to HELP women find the right size, not hinder them.

  19. Thank you to everyone who linked to our website or calculator for fit and sizing information! Something that strikes me from reading this article and the comments is that there seems to be some confusion with how bra and cup sizing works. We wrote a blog on this several months ago because many women who were buying bras in the B-D range were leaving the stores wearing DD+ cup sizes, much to their own incredulity.

    http://sophisticatedpair.com/blog/?p=751

    As a lingerie store owner (in the US) and a professional fitter, I can appreciate that sometimes what the measuring tape says is not always the best or most comfortable size. Bra fitting is an art, not a science, and each woman will need to try on a given style to see how it fits to her. We always like to emphasize fit, but comfort is key. A bra can fit you perfectly, but if (for whatever reason) you are not comfortable, then it is not the bra for you. Many major retailers in the US and abroad will fit you into sizes they can sell. This is why it is important to research and find a reputable boutique for a fitting and to continue to support them. Without boutiques, many of the smaller lingerie labels won’t have vendors, and customers will lose one of the few places that will emphasize customer service and satisfaction over a sale.

  20. As some one in “porn star” territory (34H-HH) I thought I’d chime in. I started wearing the wrong size bra in about 8th grade. My mom is a 34B or 36B. I skipped training bras and went to a B cup by around 5th grade. In middle school, I graduated to a 34 or 36C, and started giving my mom my hand-me-downs. I never had enough support. I tried to wear an extra bra with my sports bra in gym class so it wasn’t so painful I thought sports bras were torture devices.

    My mom didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be a D cup in middle school, so I kept with the C’s until high school. Them moved into Ds. Of course they were wrong, and I was falling out of the bottom. I thought this was completely normal if you have a bigger chest. One of my aunt’s is also well-endowed, but she wasn’t very helpful, because she only wears softcup bras and not underwire ones.

    I actually didn’t get a properly fitting bra until I was 27, 17 years after I started wearing a bra. After my sister told me that she got fitted based on Oprah’s advice. I went to a local indie lingerie store, the shopowner asked me what size I was wearing (I think it was a 42DD at this point, and I was worried as I was sizing out of Lane Bryant.). She said, that is impossible, your back isn’t that broad. I was fitted at a 36GG-H or so. After that, it was like a new world opened up. My waist looked smaller, I didn’t have to worry about adjusting and falling out of my bra all day.

    I believe in the vanity sizing. My underbust is 33 inches, trying to make do with a sister size available out Victoria’s Secret is an exercise in futility.

    I have had mixed experiences with fittings at department stores, but once you find your true size, I think it is liberating! (Especially when you want a useful strapless bra.)

  21. I have both the UK and North American perspective as I’m English but own a Canadian online store that only sells D-K cup bras. I know the availability, knowledge and social acceptance of larger cups/smaller bands in the UK and the sheer lack of availability and knowledge in North America (I have equal US and Canadian customers). North Americans have been massively short changed by both the industry and the media perpetuating the idea that D+ cups are unnecessary and those who wear them are morally ambiguous. Both of these things are wrong but are peddled by brands like Playtex and stores like Sears. This blog post made me really sad because small bands/larger cups have nothing to do with right or wrong fit – good fitters and correctly fitting STYLES are the key. Not all bras fit alike and that’s often style not size, but knowing your correct band and cup size/s if essential. I know one thing for sure, consumers need to get interested in bra fit and start demanding better service, knowledge and product availability from brands and stores – only consumer power will bring down the price and drive up the quality of bras and bra service in the US and Canada.

  22. this blog post is a f#@**$#@king scam. i feel bad that you didn’t get a proper fitting, however, as a woman who does wear a smallish band large cup size i can tell you it’s no scam. for years i walked around looking droopy and frumpy in a 36 DD because i refused to believe i could possibly wear anything bigger (i’m just not that big boobed) until i broke down and got measured in a boutique into a 34 F. The bra felt so much better and everytime i wore it people would ask me if i had lost weight, no just found my waist, lol. I now buy online because i find a better selection than in department stores where ingnorance like yours runs rampant. FYI….small band- small looking boob even in a large cup.

    • Kate, Thank you! You obviously got fitted at a correct boutique and knows how a proper bra should fit. This post is ridiculous and she needs to go where you went.

  23. Ok, just read all of the above and have to agree that the US is very poorly served for mainstream high street stores stocking over a DDD cup. I’ve been on several visits to the US and as a Brit was amazed to find the one area of retail where the US isn’t bigger, better, more!

    Ladies please consider this: Mens suits come in chest sizes – in the UK the average sizing in a store starts at a 36 inch and goes up to a 46 inch chest. Are most of us really under the impression that we have the same size rib cages as the average man? Note I say rib cages – just because you are carrying a few extra pounds, it doesn’t make your rib cage grow. Your rib cage is the foundation that your bra band sits on, and unless it fits well, it will not be supportive. No, the band shouldn’t cut into you, but it has to be firm – if that means a bit of a bulge over or under the band then so be it – I’m sure the boffins are still working on that one.

    Rubbing occurs and underwires dig in when the band moves with your boobs, not your torso. You shouldn’t have to pull your bra band down more than a couple of times a day if at all. When you purchase a new bra you should get the size that fits on the loosest hook as the elasticity will decrease as you wash and wear it.

    All this from an ex-expert men suit fitter and 30J cup wearer. I don’t look like a porn star, my boobs jiggle a little but don’t look huge or draw too many comments and I am very lucky to live in the UK and always had easy (if expensive) access to well fitting bras.

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