Getting a Few Things Off My Chest

Me n’ my poor misunderstood H cups.

I have debated whether or not to respond to the ongoing kerfuffle about the snarky essay I wrote about bra fitting and vanity sizing and as a dishonest sales tactic back in April.  The piece ran months ago, with generally positive feedback and thought provoking discussion in the comments. That is, until some people in the bra blogging community (which I didn’t even realize existed) read it, decided it was offensive, and a launched full scale (and in my opinion, misinformed) attack against me.

In a nutshell, the essay describes how proper bra fitting has descended from an art form into a cheap sales tactic where vanity sizing is often used to bolster profits (in the US, at least). I’ve met countless women who have encountered this while shopping at lingerie stores like Victoria’s Secret, and my suspicions are backed up by Brighid‘s recollections of working for the chain:

 We were instructed to try to sell women into new sizes in order to increase our own sales. It was really common to “fit” 36C women into 34Ds, or 38C into 36D. Women thought they lost weight AND grew a cup size. Just like fitting into a smaller size of jeans, that type of sell worked wonders.

I compared this anecdote with my experience shopping for bras at Nordstroms, where I was fitting into a band a full 4″ smaller that what I normally wear, as well as an H cup, after comfortably wearing a DDD bras for years. Part of the reason my cup size jumped so dramatically was because I was trying on European bras, and it’s entirely possible that I usually wear a smaller cup size than ideal because it’s the biggest size I can find in brick and mortar shops. However, I do feel like I get decent support and coverage from my DDD bras, so I’m not going to kill myself seeking out H cups if I don’t have to.

The speculation I put forth in the article was that the salesgirl was putting me in a bigger cup/smaller band for the same reasons that Victoria’s Secret does- because it sounds more flattering (thinner rib cage and bigger tits= societal ideal), and to sell me a bunch of bras in my new size. Many commentors have insisted that this was not the case, but to be honest, these bras were so tight that they gave me back pain and were uncomfortable to wear. So it’s possible that this wasn’t a case of vanity sizing, but I was nevertheless dubious when she measured me at the same band size I wore 60 pounds ago.

So, fast forward three months. Bra bloggers HATE this essay, and fur is flying. I have attempted to reply to some of the commenters in a civil fashion without much luck, even contacting bloggers and asking a prominent bra blogger if she’d like to have us re-post something on MsBehaved about how to get properly fitted for a bra, if she thought it would put things right. (I fully admit I am relatively ignorant to the finer points of bra fitting, and am happy to share the perspective of someone who specializes in that sort of thing.) The irony was that while she was happy to drag my name through the mud on her blog and twitter, but couldn’t be bothered to follow up when I politely offered her a chance to share her perspective on the matter on my own website.

I have stopped bothering reading the comments and blog posts shredding my essay, because they stress me out, and I have bigger fish to fry. I’ve stopped responding to individuals, because the impression I get is not that these people want to actually relate to me as a human being, but pick a fight and paint me as a big, body shaming meanie. As a public health student and body positive advocate who writes extensively on this topic, this admittedly pisses me off, and I decided I need to write a general response on Ms. Behaved, for my own mental health, if nothing else.

Here are some of the accusations that have been flung at me based on my essay, and my responses:

1. I think ALL bra fitting is a scam.

I think people are coming away with this assumption based on the title of the article alone. There is nothing in this article that implies that I am opposed to the practice of bra fitting done properly, as opposed to unethical practice of using vanity fitting to drive sales (which, as Brighid explains above, is very real). Putting profits ahead of service is a problem across the board in American corporate retail, and I don’t think that readers in the UK  really understand what it’s like to shop for a bra in the United States, not to mention differences in our sizing system.

I’m also accused of “discouraging women from finding proper fitting bras.” Actually, this is what I say at the end of the article:

“I suggest, instead, trying on several dozen bras until you find a few that actually fit well. ”

This strategy has generally worked MUCH BETTER for me than working with sales people. Sad but true.

2. I think all women with large breasts are porn stars with implants. 

Based on the following passage:

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.”

A lot of women have taken this as a personal affront to their H-cup breasts, asserting that they are not porn stars, and that their boobs are real. Now, if I were a small-busted women asserting that only porn stars with fake boobs have H-cup breasts, I would understand this sentiment. But it’s pretty clear from this statement that I also have H cup breasts, and that I am not a porn star nor do I have breast implants. (And there’s nothing wrong with either of these things- I am lucky enough to count some awesome porn stars among my friends!) I assumed from the context of this statement that it was pretty obvious that this was a humorous description of my visceral reaction of horror when I jumped up 4 cups sizes in one fell swoop of a tape measure. One blogger even admitted that this was also her initial reaction to being sized as a larger cup, yet still interpreted  this passage as an offensive, body shaming condemnation of large breasted women. Was my reaction offensive? Perhaps. But it was intended as a commentary on how society views women with H-cup breasts, and how I’d unwittingly internalized that, even as a person who is generally body positive. Truth be told, this was in fact the first time I’d EVER seen an H cup bra outside of a porn film. Thanks to copious feedback bra blogging community, I realize that a lot of women in DD or DDD cups maybe should be wearing F+ cup sizes, but don’t, because most US stores carry a very limited range of sizes.

A lot of people are asking me to re-write the piece to “clarify” that this reaction is not meant as a personal attack on large breasted women. When I wrote the piece I thought it was fairly obvious that I was describing the experience of big boobed woman having an insecure freakout during a bra fitting that might be relatable to others in it’s cringeworthy honesty. It was a reaction to what I perhaps mistakenly perceived as vanity sizing, not a condemnation of large-breasted women. I totally own that it’s cringeworthy. But the truth is, once I got past the initial shock of being a handed a H-cup bra when I had never encountered one before, it didn’t bother me. I have big boobs, period, and I’m comfortable with that, regardless of my cup/band size. But that’s not really what this essay is about, and I’m sorry if that was unclear. I have no interest in shaming myself, nor the bodies of others.

Thing is, a lot of people did take it personally.  I read a piece about someone feeling insecure or uncomfortable about gaining weight, I wouldn’t view that as a personal attack on my fat body, I would see that as their personal process informed by a body-negative society, and would try to offer encouragement. I don’t take other people’s body issues personally, because I’ve done a lot of work on my own self esteem, and feel secure in my body.  I get that  that if you’ve been teased or harassed about your breasts, or if you feel like you have to defend or justify your unusual bra size, that this might be a sensitive topic for you, and that’s valid. But also realize this sensitivity going to effect how you read this essay, and that your emotional reaction might blind you to the subtler nuances of what’s actually being said.

The thing is, none of the commentors replied with “I can see how it might be surprising or initially upsetting to realize you wear an H cup, but it’s actually more common than you think, and nothing to be ashamed of,”  but instead, the response was overwhelmingly defensive and accusatory.

Although I am offering this response for consideration, I am choosing not to rewrite my essay, for reasons I outlined on a post I wrote a while back:

I’m a writer. I write like I talk. If you don’t know me, you might misconstrue some of the things I say. I’m happy to explain my intent, if you’re actually willing to listen to me. But I am not going to contort my voice to the point of extinction to attempt to avoid offending your easily-provoked sensibilities. Mutual respect is the name of the game. If you really think I’m truly being an ignorant asshole, call me out on it, but don’t fucking attack me based on assumptions about who I am when you don’t know me, and accept that I may have a totally different (and valid) take on things.

Admittedly my writing can be a weird mixture of blunt/bitchy and empathic/loving (I am a big hippy that loves humanity like family, even when we fight like family). I have strong opinions and I don’t sugar coat things, but my heart is generally in the right place. It just makes me intensely uncomfortable when people seek to police my words and opinions when they really don’t know the first thing about me, my values and my writing.

3. I am convinced that all women are lying to themselves and wearing vanity sizes. 

I DO believe that many women who shop at chain stores are wearing vanity sizes, and I believe this is the result of aforementioned shady sales tactics that tinker with cup to band ratios. However, I don’t think that a small band size/large cup size=vanity sizing by definition, especially if you’ve been fitted by a competent professional. Nevertheless, certain bloggers have gone as far as posting photos of themselves  in various sized bras as “proof” that they are not a victim of vanity sizing. If you care enough about bras to dedicate an entire blog to writing about them, I am certain you’ve done your homework and are wearing the proper size, and there’s no need to prove that to anyone, especially not me. Your bra size is your business, and while I do think vanity sizing is a real problem, I’m commenting on a larger issue related to bra shopping in general, not accusing women with unusual bra sizes of lying to themselves. If anything, I am asking the average woman to STOP listening to manipulative salespeople, and wear bras that fit properly without worrying about the number and letter on the bra.

I honestly don’t expect any of the angry commentors from the original essay to read this response, because most of them don’t actually read Ms. Behaved on a regular basis, or have any context of who I am as a writer and human being.  I stand by my essay, snark and all, and I have no problem with dissenting opinions expressed. In fact, I’ve learned some new and useful things about bra shopping from the feedback I’ve received.

However, I do have the problem with the way I’ve been demonized as a horrible body-shaming monster based on the ways people chose to interpret what was ultimately a flip bit of snark. Try reading some of my MANY other essays on body image (there’s ten right there), or actually TALKING TO ME DIRECTLY before ripping me to shreds. I’m all for thought-provoking, productive discussions with room for different opinions, but this seems like a pretty stupid thing to fight about.

-Bianca James


  1. Brighid says:

    Bra-vo (all puns intended).

    For what it’s worth, this is actually a pretty good guide for roughly figuring out your bra size: . But, as you say, experience will vary with user. Because full coverage cups, molded cups, demi cups, and plunge cups are all cut differently AND because breasts are all shaped differently, it’s really worth trying a bunch of sizes and style around your measured size. As an example, I measure at a 32DD/DDD (fluctuating now that I”m pregnant). Pregnant or not, I cannot wear a full coverage 32DD because it is too big with lots of gaping fabric and underwire up to my collar bones, but I easily fit 32DDD and 32E demi and plunge cups. This is because I’m short and my breasts are “short” (measured top to bottom). I need a cup with depth (moving out away from the body), not length. Molded cups are a whole other bra-fitting ball game because they never have the cup depth I need (when on my body, the underwire rarely rests against my breastbone until I go up so many cup sizes that the bra doesn’t even come close to fitting. And now everyone knows all about my breasts.

    My best fitting tips: grab a mirror, a tape measure, and measure your self at home. Then go to a store like Nordstrom’s Rack that carries a really extensive range of sizes (and are really affordable, I snag my $80 Natoris for $20, Betsy Johnsons for $25). Grab a shit ton of bras (as many as you can find) in your measured size, in a cup size bigger, in a band size bigger/smaller, and in as many styles as you can find. Take a deep breath, take off your clothes and begin trying on bras assuming that most of them won’t fit – remember look for fit not pattern, color or style. Take mental notes on “too small/large” and where things fit poorly. For the larger busted ladies especially: bend over, touch your toes, and stand back up. Did your bra/cups/underwire migrate off your body and down your torso? If so, the cup size is too small. Grab more bras in the size that would fit better. Keep note of mfg and cup style/shape. It’ll take some time, but you’ll learn a lot about your self, your breasts, and bras. At the end of the day, take home what fits OR take home all the info you collected and try a different store to see if you can find a better fit. When you’re all done, successful at finding a bra or not, do something nice for yourself (wine, pedicure, whatever).

    I’m (only sort of) looking forward to posting about this in a few months when I get to figure out how the hell to fit the girls into a nursing bra….

    • Brighid says:

      Sorry for hijacking in the comments – more importantly, good for standing up for yourself and your work.

    • Then go to a store like Nordstrom’s Rack that carries a really extensive range of sizes…

      I totally want to shop at your Nordstrom Rack. That is all. 😉

  2. Personally, I think anyone that read the original article and didn’t either relate or wet theirselves laughing should be more concerned with their over inflated sense of self worth than their bra size. I have H-bombs, I say that loud n proud. But my initial reaction was much the same as yours. Only I swore more. H? They’re made that big? Seriously? Are you “effing” kidding me?

    • LindseyLoves says:

      My boobs have never stopped growing and as my mum calls me her boobiliscious baby we have named all the sizes from D- Delectable, E – Enormous, G-Gorgeous, H, Humungous, J – Just ridiculous jugs, and Now K – well it’s pretty much korrrr blimey! I haven’t changed as a person just because the size of my boobs has changed. Anyone that defines themselves by a size, a number, a letter, their height, their weight or how much they earn needs to learn to get their validation elsewhere. Soapbox put away now 🙂

  3. Okay, I am going to share my story because I do think that you may have been incorrect in your assumptions on the source post. I went into Victoria’s Secret a few months ago expecting to be downsized from a 36D back to what I had been wearing, a 36C. Instead, I was measured as a 36DD. Clearly there was something wrong. No way was I that large. I tried on one of the bras, and it fit! Nice, lifted, round. I was happy with the fit, but unhappy with the size. No way was I a 36DD. I am average, but certainly not what I would call large chested. Clearly this must be vanity sizing. . . .

    So, I jumped on the computer and did some research only to learn about the sizing method that you disagree with. I thought I would give it a try and try a 34DDD. No fit. The bra just looked silly, it was way too small overall. I struggled to get that band closed. I read, and I read, and I read, then I asked the blogger at Thin and Curvy why that was. She told me to try a 32FF Freya based on my measurements. I wasn’t ready for anything that radical. I ordered a Freya in 34F. Perfect fit. I ordered a Curvy Kate in 34F, reasonable fit, but a bit of quad boob, stretchy band though. They both fit well, but a few weeks later, the bands were starting to stretch and I was losing weight, so it was time to buy newer ones. My 34 bands were starting to ride up my back. I will reinforce the bands, but have since purchased some 32 bands with FF and G cups.

    On the middle hooks, (loosest hooks still ride up) my 32 bands hold firmly in place. I don’t have to readjust anything at all now. I have no back squish because my band is sitting where it belongs. Neither of these things were true in a Victoria’s Secret bra. I feel much better supported and secure, which is new to me, and I like it. Best of all, my armpit fat is going away! I am not crazy, it truly is going away. I look overall smoother in clothing now. Knock that method because you thought your band was too tight, but it works for a lot of us, and most of us aren’t even happy about it. In fact it took me a while to accept such bra cup letters, even though I knew that was all they were, letters.

    The cup size is in proportion to the band. A D cup could be tiny or very large, depending on what the band size is. A 32B is much smaller in cup than a 36B. Hold my 32FF Freya Deco cup against my 36DD Victoria’s Secret cup, and they are very, very close to the same cup size. My 34F Freya is smaller in cup than my 36DD Victoria’s Secret bra. Now, I would like to address what happened with your H cup bra. Sometimes a too tight band is the result of a too small cup…remember that 34DDD I struggled to close? a 34F fit fine, and I didn’t lose or gain cup volume. My 32FF Freya Deco gives me no problems and even borderlines on being too small in the cup.

  4. I don’t get how you can write in the same piece that slimmer + larger breasts is a society ideal AND that H cups on band smaller than 38 are associated with implants and porn stars. If your initial reaction (and that of lots of women) was “I don’t want to be that size”, it is surely not that “ideal”. Obviously you are aware of the stigma if you joked about it.

    • Ha! I didn’t even catch on to that one. Lol, I do understand where she was coming from with the whole porn star comment. I remember being sized in to a 36DD at VS and wondering what was going on. The bra fit well, but surely I couldn’t be a DD. I honestly thought they were practicing vanity sizing because my grandmother wore a DD cup and those cups could have gone over our heads. I also thought of my friend who kept wearing DD cups whose boobs are bigger than my adult head, but whose bra was always way too small. I thought there were no other options for her. I went home with my bras and looked online to find that OMG! I should be a 32G? or 34F? Are those sizes even real? And I am wearing a 32FF right now that fits so much better than that 36DD. I think the cup is even slightly smaller.

      I think the thing that upset me about the original post, and probably a lot of people were the idea that she more or less acted like she had the authority and knowledge to determine that bra fitting was a scam. I do have to agree that many bra fitters suck, and many will try to sell you something that doesn’t fit because that is what they have in store, but bra fitting is NOT a scam. I think the wording in the blog also implied that those of us who do go for the smaller band with higher cup size are delusional, when in fact, some of us just don’t want our bands riding up our backs. I always had that problem before I started buying a smaller band.

      • LindseyLoves says:

        I don’t think that the writer implied that the consumer changed size for vanity reasons but that stores use it as a sales pitch to encourage sales. Telling their customer that their boobs are smaller or they are fatter wont drive sales. People are (somewhat baffling to me) desperate to be seen as smaller and or with larger breasts. In fact, in all the bra blogging world reviewing fitting techniques; see fuller figure fuller bust and a sophisticated pair for reviews on fitting experiences, to see that equally if a store genuinely doesn’t stock sizes big enough for those with ‘porn star sizes’ they size the other way with larger bands and smaller cups to again clinch the sale. It may just be my perception but I thought the writer was slating deplorable sales techniques rather than larger boobs or even people that do size up, down, left or right to get a bra that fits them as they are comfortable.

    • Any skinny, petite, small-boned woman who would purposely have IMPLANTS to make herself an GG or H cup must WANT to have to spend way more on bras. That can’t be a “societal ideal” thing, it’s a “you have money to burn having to buy the more expensive bra lines” thing. I would associate implants with “rich” rather than “porn star” because presumably doing porn for a living is what women may have to resort to to pay the bills.

      • Your comment is all sorts of ignorant. I am a thinner woman who got breast implants and now wear a 28G. I didn’t get implants so I could spend more money on bras. I got the surgery because I was not comfortable with the breasts I had. Due to extreme weight gain and loss because of medical treatments. You also don’t get implants to achieve a certain bra size but more of a look.

  5. Hope all of you ladies are having a good day. I actually got to this blog by accident. I am working on a FB page for my bra fitting boutique & ran across this discussion. I must say there is a mixture of right, wrong & misconstrued information out there regarding bra fitting. (I will not knock any of the other retail businesses that have been mentioned here since I would not want them to knock my establishment.) Just like anything else in this crazy world we live in, there are people out just for the $$$, but there are also some of us that care about helping others.
    Bra fitting is as much of an art as it is a science. It has been my experience that educating the client on her specific body type is the most important aspect of bra fitting. The client first has to understand her basic needs in acquiring the “perfect” bra and I need to understand her needs. I also would like to keep her as a client, so fitting her in something other than the correct bra (or outside of her financial range) would be a disservice to both of us.
    Let me address the bloggers experience. First of all, there is some truth in her complaint. Freya bras are only available in 36 or 38 band size depending on the cup size (except for their sports bra which goes up to a 40). So if she is a true 42 band, Freya would never fit. I feel in this instance an Elomi or Goddess style would have been more appropriate.
    Next, let’s address the “vanity” sizing. The best example I can give you is my own. Before I was “educated” I was wearing a 38D in an underwire and was still uncomfortable all the time (wire was cutting in under my arm). If I tried to go to a 38DD, there was just too much puckering in the cup. I was wearing these on the tightest hook & still had to whip out the old sewing machine and run another seam up each side to take up the slack (and keep the girls from falling out the bottom of the cup)! Once I was correctly fitted, I found that a 34DDD (in a balcony/demi cup) fit perfectly! The larger underwire comfortably cupped my breast & no longer pinched or poked me. Best of all the 34 band size fit perfect on the 1st hook & my bra never moved or shifted. Now, if I choose a plunge or full cup style depending on the style/manufacturer and a look I am comfortable with, my correct size will vary from 34DD to 36DD. So please don’t think your Bra Fitter is crazy, if you end up with a couple different sizes. Even the same style bra by different manufacturers could result in different sizes.
    The flip side of that is, I have to admit, occasionally, we run into the customer that does insist on what she refers to as “vanity sizing”. But I look at that as a personal preference on their part & not something I would promote. I just try to educate them in the facts & that they may be injuring their breast tissue. I can usually get them to allow me to try on a bra that fits them correctly just to show them the difference in appearance & comfort. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
    The next obstacle to overcome is the “fear” of seams in your bra (especially for those in the larger cup sizes). I know here in the Midwest everyone wants the seamless T-shirt bra. There are 2 problems with this—-1) depending on your cup size, they may not be available & 2) they may not give the support you need.
    I would like to advise that you should be properly fitted by an independent professional. (In my boutique, the fitters are not commissioned.) If there is not one in your area, DO NOT try to measure yourself ( your measurements tend to increase when you raise your arms & will be inaccurate). At best have a friend measure you following the directions you can find everywhere online. I have found the most accurate is to be measured with your best fitting bra on, measure directly under the bustline (make sure the tape is flat & even all the way around) then around the fullest part of your bust. Do the math & follow the charts as a starting point. Please remember this is only a starting point!!! From there you have to work with the shape of your breasts, any medical conditions you may have (previous surgery in the bra/band area, lumpectomy, etc.) & the final look you want to achieve.
    Please do not try to order online before trying the bra on. If you are looking at “better” bras, the price in your local boutique will probably be the same price as the bra online (plus you save shipping costs). The time to order online is once you have your bra & you might want it in a color your boutique does not carry. (In my searches, the only sales online are on discontinued styles or colors).
    Let me also mention spending $40+ on your new bra. I feel if you are investing your hard earned money in a product it should last as long as possible. Your new bra should fit you properly on the loosest hooks (that way as it wears & stretches, you can tighten it as needed). Most important is to hand wash/line dry! We recommend Baby Shampoo (a little cheaper than the lingerie washes available). You should not wear your bra more than twice before washing. This lets the fabric “rest” and keep its vitality. I have bras that are 4-5 years old that still look brand new!
    Do not be rendered comatose from any large cup size!!!! I have many customers that have been blessed with natural L, M & N cups. For years they have been wearing the largest band size they can find in a DD/DDD cup & are amazed once properly fitted! Not only do they look wonderful, but they constantly come in to thank us for taking away their back/shoulder pain & tell us about all the compliments they have received.
    I hope that this information helps at least 1 of you & convinces others there are reputable fitters out there. You just have to look!

  6. I won’t say that your previous article was rude, But there is a lot of misinformation. I guess it’s very disheartening to work hard to try to help other women with their with issues that stem from bra sizing and but then see articles that spread misinformation get a lot of attention as well. I do believe there are bra fitter that just want to sell, and they don’t care if the bra fits well. But i don’t believe that vanity sizing exists and back fat and armpit fat is caused by wearing a poorly fitting bra. It’s your choice to wear or not wear a bra in whatever size you think fits you best.

    You mentioned when wearing the 38H that wires poked you in arm pit. I get that too when wears a new bra that hasn’t been broken in yet. It normally takes me a week of everyday wear to break in a bra. But it could also be the style and brand that you chose. Taller women need a longer wire than shorter women. It’s also possible that maybe you weren’t fitted as well should have been. Maybe you needed a larger cup size, rather than a smaller band. I guess without your measurements It would be hard to say where your starting point should be.

    I also didn’t like how you made a huge claim about vanity sizing and bra fitting being completely bogus. But didn’t offer any tips on how your readers that have the same bra fitting issues as you could do anything about it.

  7. Well, one problem with finding oneself in an GG or H size bra is the COST of said bra. You can’t find them at Wal-Mart or K-Mart or even Sears and rarely at JCPenney and even then only in their CATALOG. If you’re poor or on a budget and find yourself at the age where gravity takes its toll and you need more support for your large-cup but small-band-size boobs or a breast reduction surgery you can’t afford to pay for because you’re a part-time worker or substitute teacher and relying on almost poverty like wages or state Medicaid to pay for everything, then where are you going to get bras that fit….problem is that places like Nordstrom Rack don’t even exist out in the boondocks where most of the teaching jobs are. Mail-ordering from Europe is guesswork, and you have to hope the thing fits when it gets to you or send it back for another size. I’ve even had to mail order the ones out of the JC Penney Catalog and do the send-it-back thing. I swear, I should find some way to pay for breast reduction surgery just so I can fit into the bra sizes I can AFFORD at the kind of stores they HAVE out in the boondocks. That’s a whole other side of this issue that, as usual, is not addressed.

    • Paige I think it’s really dumb to get surgery to just get a bra that fits well. I’m not saying that you are dumb. I understand your frustration 1000%. Bras are meant to fit you not the other way around. Currently offers skype fittings. You could also consider getting a tax id and buying the bras at the wholesale price. But that is something you should talk to your accountant about. You can’t be the only D+ woman in the boonies.

      • Actually, needing liposuction is an overall overweight issue, thanks for assuming I’m being “stupid” about the unnecessary size and flabbiness of my own body. No amount of diet or exercise seems to be doing the trick. And yes, DOCTORS have told me I need to lose weight to get my blood pressure down. And also, if a bra fits badly enough it can make the wearer look like she has two extra sets of boobs, one on top of the other one in the front and the two in the back from where the straps push the back fat up to look like two extra “boobs.” I’ve seen it – I’m not quite that overweight yet, but I’ve seen it. I’m overweight but I’m still only 34 inches under the rib-cage.

    • You can take things how you want to take them It’s up to you. I just don’t see the point of getting a surgery that has been life threatening just so you can get cheaper bras. If you are having trouble losing weight I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t say that you were overweight. There are thin women with large breasts.

      • You’re the one that started your criticism with “it’s dumb” without knowing anything else about the situation. Not me. No, YOU haven’t seen me, weighed me, or measured me or my blood pressure – yet you started the conversation that way. I”M not the one taking things wrong, here. And “bras that don’t drain my bank account” is only part of the big picture. You’ve only read one part of everything I’ve written and come out with “it’s dumb.” That’s what I’m saying. Thanks a lot. And again, you didn’t read the fact that I need to lose weight all over ANYWAY. I’m glad I teach Math and not Reading Comprehension.

      • You clearly need to learn how to read. Take your meds and calm down.

    • She said getting an unnecessary medical procedure to just fit a certain size range of bras is dumb. Also when did you bring liposuction into this. Also liposuction isn’t meant for weight loss, it is meant as a way of removing stubborn areas of fat that exercise and proper diet has not been able to change. Liposuction is recommended for persons who are healthly and at their ideal body weight but still with so called problem areas of fat. Put money away slowly each month so than you can afford other bras. eBay is a great option ussually you can pick up bras around 20 dollars with very cheap shipping. A proper fitting bra will last much longer than a bra that has a bad fit.

  8. I have tried many bras in 42DD that either couldn’t be closed for more than a minute from the pain or had gaping because they were too large in the cup. I wish they would sit like the picture on the sites, but often they look too pointy, like a cone/bullet bra. The sizing in my country isn’t like US/UK, it mainly has small, medium, large, etc. Needless to say I’ve lost a few bucks ordering online. I did keep one bra that fit.

  9. I’m 41.3 band and 48 chest. Most were tight in the band and big in the cup. I know I should have bought F cups with those measurements, but that seemed too large because my breasts don’t look big at all (due to their shape). I’m also aware of minor sizing discrepancies among brands (lack, of DD, DDD, etc). I’m thinking about buying 44 band now. My breasts are pear shaped, so maybe that’s the problem. Though I don’t see as fair to only design bras for round breasts. The extra large in my country seem to fit my well enough when they have the right shape for me. I can often find clothes (non revealing) to go braless or wear a stretchy bandeau too. I rather not disclose my country, but I can tell you it isn’t USA or Europe. The whole bra fitting didn’t live up to my expectations at all.

    • Going by your measurements I think you should try a 42F or a 40FF. When you measured your bust did you do so standing at 90 degree angle? When you measured your under the bust did you pull tightly. I wish I could help you find a store near you. If you want you could leave me a message on my blog and I can delete it after the fact.

  10. 42 band is snug at best, 40 is out of the question, I don’t think it would close. I know most women trying bra fitting go up in cup and down in band, but really isn’t my case. I’m a big person. 5’8, 240 lbs, apple shaped. I have this 42DD strapless that is very tight in the band, and loose in the cup. I love it, but it hurts to wear.I just ordered 44D of the same and I think it will be perfect. Strapless is really the only kind I need a “perfect fit”. It’s quite unfortunate that most “specialty brands” don’t go over a 40 band. To answer your another question, I measured standing up in front of the mirror. I’m not sure how tightly you want me to pull because I’m “soft”, so the tape could go in a few more inches, however my problem is the 42 band is too tight! A fitted bra should not hurt. I’ve been reading about bra fitting for over two years now…There should be more consistency among brands.

    • The reason why the 42DD is tight in the band is the cup is too small for you. And your breast tissue is being pushed into the the band. Try pulling all your breast tissue into the cup from the bottom and the sides and you will see what I mean. Actually larger women can go down on the band size. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could wear a 38 band. The bands of most bras are quite stretchy. Currently I have a 37 inch under the bust and I wear a 36 band. I

      When you pull the tape, pull it as tight as you can, You don’t have to breath in. Just breathe normally and don’t totally deflate your lungs.

      There should be more consistency between brands but I don’t think that will ever happen. Certain brands or styles are better for certain women.

      If you want to find stores near you, you should go to the Elomi or Goddess website and see if there is a store near you.

  11. I’ll continue to buy some bras to experiment with, bigger and smaller around my measurement. Online is my only option though. But like I said before: ” I have this 42DD strapless that is very tight in the band, and loose in the cup.” Turns out measuring my breasts don’t help/isn’t much different than just looking at the garment. Bra fitters don’t even exist here.

  12. My initial comment wasn’t really looking for help. I was agreeing with the author. Bra fitting has its issues.

  13. I found your original post extremely disheartening. I had my first ever bra fitting at Victoria Secret and while I do agree that they were just trying to get me into a bra size that they carried, I do not think they were using “vanity sizing” mostly because at 16 years old my correct bra size probably would have been around 30D-28DD which VS does not carry but which would have appealed more to my “vanity,” as opposed to the 34D they squeezed me into.

    I went many years squeezing myself into 34D-DD because the VS employee had convinced me that I was. While I was 32 weeks pregnant with my first child I was fitted at a boutique where I was put in to a 34FF. Not realizing how much (and how quickly) my body would change with pregnancy I continued to wear that bra for almost a year until my mom saw me and insisted I get a better fitting bra.

    Most recently after my son was born I went to Nordstrom to be fitted and the lady there did a wonderful job. I am now in a 32G that fits me perfectly. I was neither surprised, nor elated at my new “vanity size” as I knew my body had once again changed throughout pregnancy.

    Also, I’m a pants size 2, so I’m going with the measurement.

  14. Thank you for confirming my gut feeling about VS bra fittings. What I don’t get is why any woman would buy an uncomfortable bra. In my case, I went to VS specifically to buy 2-3 new bras to replace some that were getting “tired” and worn. Old ones were 36B and from about 10 pounds lighter. They put me in 34D and so tight my 10 pounds were being squished out all around. Not a good look for a woman nearing 50! I ended up doing exactly what you suggest in you first post: tried on a variety of sizes and styles from 34 to 38 with cups from B to D. For me, 36C was best even though sales girl kept pushing 34D. Anyway, just want to say thanks for sharing your experiences. Keep up the good work.

  15. There’s also a lot of sizing that’s the opposite of this (un-vanity sizing?). I know that I, and many women around my size, have been fitted ‘professionally’ into 32C/D with a 26,27,28″ ribcage, when I find that I am actually more like a 28FF.

    I’m not saying you are wrong, but possibly it’s more a case of “fit all of the women into the range that we carry” rather than vanity sizing.

    • I definitely think that’s true. I’ve realized that I should probably be wearing a smaller band and bigger cup. Ironically, when ordering bras in the next smaller band, going up one cup size wasn’t enough, I had to jump two from what I wore before. Let’s face it, bra shopping is a clusterfuck.

  16. LindseyLoves says:

    Hi, I stumbled across your blog from the big bra blogging world (please don’t hate me for that :P) saying how awful your article was. I have to say that I thought it was actually a very well written piece that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and even as someone who agrees with the whole +0 method to measure which some might see as vanity sizing I actually agreed with most of what you said. I took away from your article more than anything, that you should wear what fits you and what you are comfortable in and not trust everything a sales person says – their job is to sell after all! I’m glad after reading this post that you’ve stuck to your guns and not taken offense because you’re a fabulous writer and I look forward to reading a lot more of your work.

    🙂 Lindsey

    • Thanks Lindsey, you are awesome. I think a lot of people interpreted this article about being about themselves, somehow? When really it’s a generally commentary on a very particular phenomenon. I appreciate your kind words very much. ❤

  17. aggieshooter says:

    My only issue with the concept of “vanity sizing” is that I have more often been confronted with “availability sizing.” I get that you talked to someone at VS who said they were told to put people in smaller bands and larger cups to make them feel skinny and big busted. However, on the other end, my experience at VS was that they were putting me in too large bands with too small cups because they didn’t carry my correct size. They generally put me in 36DD or 36DDD. They almost always felt too small in the cup with no support. They never fit like I had read a bra should fit, especially the part about the center gore sitting flush on the sternum. I tried going to 34DDD, but a) they only had one or two options in that size, and b) it often felt too small all over. It wasn’t until I learned about UK sizing that I managed to find my good supportive size, which tends to be about a 32FF.
    So I agree with you, to an extent. But it isn’t just about vanity sizing. Smaller bands and larger cups are not just about vanity. There are many women being put into bras that don’t fit just so the sales person can make a sale – sometimes it may be vanity sizing, but I have this feeling that it is more often availability sizing.

    I also have to support the idea that just because you had one bra that was uncomfortable in the smaller band/bigger cup size doesn’t mean that size doesn’t fit you. There is also the shape of the bra and wires that have a lot to do with the comfort based on your body shape. I have to get just the right bra because I’m short and many bras poke in the underarms, especially after wearing them all day.

  18. Just my 2 cents about this whole thing,

    Personally I loved your first article, and I found this one because of your update. I had a really bad experience going to VS, so I thought I’d share it here.

    The sales girl gave me two options, 34 DDD or 36 DD (I actually range between a 34 F-G, 36 E, depending on the brand and bra style/type; I found this out recently when I went to be properly fitted). And in the end, I ended up majorly spilling out from one side and the other one gapping. Ugh, a total nightmare! Turns out one breast was bigger than the other by about one cup size, so there was no happy medium between the two. But the girl kept on pushing me to buy one of the bras and that it “totally” didn’t look awkward or anything (trust me, it was really bad when I put that T-shirt on!).

    I understand that these girls have to bring in sales and what not, but I think they should let people know that the sizes are interchangeable, so then they don’t have to buy a completely new/different bra. I think at least that way it won’t seem like they’re “lying” or “pushing for sales”. Plus, if they have to keep on buying bras every other month…that’s another issue :/

    And Ms. Behaved, I love your blog, especially your positive body image posts. So keep writing please!

    Looking forward to your next post!!

  19. Hey, I’m an H-cup too! I too found your original article from a reference in the big bra blogosphere about how some women think bra fitting is a scam. I would like to say that as someone who comfortably wears a 28H bra at eighteen years old, you have MANY good points in your article.

    I also have a pear-shaped “curvy” friend with small boobs who proudly proclaimed that after receiving a bra fitting from a department store, she had magically “grown” from a 34B to a 32D (she attributed this growth to taking birth control which also magically did NOT cause her to gain weight elsewhere on her “curvy” body–please tell me you catch the sarcasm). Please note that both bra sizes equal a 36-inch bust–in other words, THEY’RE THE SAME FUCKING CUP SIZE. 32D isn’t bigger, and her boobs didn’t fill out her new bras anyway. I have actually measured her rib cage (we were in an aerobics class) and she measures 30 inches below the bust. So the new band was still technically too big, but she still felt better about herself and the store didn’t have to sheepishly whisper “we don’t carry that size”, and got her mother to purchase her three new $60 bras.

    I, on the other hand, am much slimmer and actually pretty damn busty and only got into trendy proper bra fitting after the traditional fitting method left me in a cup size bigger than what the stores had, so I had to order expensive bras online anyway. I know good and well that NO store is going to carry my size, so I have always measured and fit myself to the best of my ability at home and ordered online, which, again, I would STILL have to do if I wore a 32 band and a FF cup.

    For me, a tighter band is more comfortable, but I see MANY of these big bra bloggers, who are not in the least bit slim, who insist on wearing 28 bands; who are not proportionally large-busted, but feel the need to gush about their difficult size to everyone on the internet; who, in their attempt to break the stigma surrounding large cup sizes, shame women who DO have implants, who ARE porn stars, or who *GASP* actually like CLEAVAGE! And I recognize that these people, are, in fact, full of shit.

    In conclusion to this drawn-out, still-up-at-five-a.m. bullshit, I will admit that at first, I did intend to harangue you about proper bra fitting and call you a misinformed asshole. However, once I read both the article and the follow-up, I realized I was kind of being an asshole. No, proper bra fitting is not a scam. However, a bra fitter in a store will most certainly try to scam customers into buying WHATEVER size or style of bra that is available, and one should forgo that experience entirely and try things on, measure, read reviews online, and pick their own underwear themselves. And while a stupid teenage girl such as myself has no real authority to offer advice about anything, I think it’s a good idea to wear what makes you look and feel good.

    P.S. I think you are a funny, brilliant writer.

    • Taylor, thank you for taking the time to read and respond instead of knee-jerk ranting! I’ve gotten such an overwhelmingly WEIRD respond to these pieces that I barely bother replying anymore. The irony was after having all the bra bloggers insist I was wrong, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and bought a few more bras in smaller band size, and honestly I regret it. I’d rather wear a bra that will eventually stretch out (and that I can fix on my sewing machine) than one that chafes and leaves marks and possibly even possibly contributes to future breast cancer by blocking lymph flow. People have different philosophies about bra fitting but I don’t strongly feel that there is ONE TRUE WAY despite the opinions of these outspoken individuals. And while I don’t think that bra fitting=vanity fitting, I do think vanity fitting is alive and well and it is up to the consumer to be honest with themself and pick the bra that feels comfortable, not the one that sounds the most flattering. And sizing across brands is completely inconsistent anyway- for all the flapping of wings, I have yet to find one perfect bra, ever.

  20. It’s funny. I have big breasts too. Not massive, but 34dd/36e whatever! I swear I don’t really know how big they are though because a bra will dig in or my boobs will overspill or it’ll be too loose, I guess I’ve yet to find a bra that fit me for longer than one day! Ha!

    Anyway, the reason I wanted to comment is because when I read your original article I wasn’t offended. I didn’t think you were being negative about the female body. Instead I thought ‘yes, that is quite likely, actually. There’s a company that wants to make money. They need to upsell in order to increase profit margins. They care more about money than the size you go home with. I took what you said as no attack on any individual. Thanks for the good read and sorry to hear that some people are unwilling to accept certain possibilities or even take up the chance to have their say on your own website.

  21. Taylor, 32D IS BIGGER than 34B isn’t it? They don’t have the same cup volume. Your friend would be put into the same size cup if they’d sold her a 32C. Perhaps the issue wasn’t that her breasts had grown, rather that she hadn’t realised her true size previously. Many petite women are shallow breasted, meaning the breast tissue is very spread across the chest with little outward projection. This can create the illusion that they have smaller breasts than they actually have. I know about this from experience. It is very frustrating because people tend to react like you did, and the author of this blog, to the suggestion that someone they eyeball as an “A” or “B” cup could possibly be a larger letter. I wore a 34A up to age 35 and was fitted several times as a 32A. But I got so fed up with bras riding up my back and wires digging in painfully that I started to read about how to size myself. At first I couldn’t believe I was a 28DD. It seemed ridiculous. But repeatedly trying on bras has convinced me. And actually, 34B is a sister size of 28DD so I was only one cup size out all along. I realised that I been sized wrongly repeated because the stores in the UK generally carried bras from 32 band upwards – they’d simply put me in what they had in stock. Nothing about this appealed to my vanity I assure you. I felt that I had weird breasts because nothing ever fitted. What a shame for your friend Taylor, that she was not able to try the 30 band. That may have dealt with the imperfect fit she was still experiencing. I think what I’m trying to say to you Taylor, and the author of this blog, is that I don’t think you spoke about your friends very respectfully, implying that their vanity and gullibility had led them to buy wrongly fitted bras and “boast” about their increase in size. Perhaps they were feeling the excitement I first did of realising their breasts WILL FIT PROPERLY into the right bra. Perhaps they wanted to share this with you because they thought you might need to check your size too if it was so easy for them to get it wrong. Perhaps they hadn’t had enough time to try out different sizes and styles to be sure of their new size. I don’t think you should assume you can tell you your friend’s bra size from seeing that one bra doesn’t fit her, or just by taking a guess. I spoke to two friends and my mum about this after realising I was wearing the wrong size for so long. My mum thought I was crazy I think, and my friends seemed incredulous but open minded, since they realised they didn’t know how bra sizing really worked. Both appear very similar in build, size and breast shape to me, and I knew they had been wearing 32/34As. I suspected they needed smaller bands too. It turned out they both did; one tried on all my new bras and we both had a good laugh when her hubby declared the bras “enormous” and then she proceeded to model them with a perfect fit hehe! My mum also went to be fitted professionally and is now wearing a smaller band and larger cup. It turned out the 38 band she was previously wearing measured 32 inches unstretched. The fitting revealed that her rib cage measures 32 INCHES *facepalm*. Women do need helpful and constructive info out there about finding a good fit, so while I endorse the bloggers right to express her thoughts and experiences honestly, I think it’s important that you send women the message EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THIS. Read about how sizing works, make sure you understand it before you even go near a salesperson. That would be more helpful than just saying don’t trust salespeople, they often lie.

  22. Forgot to add, Taylor, is it fair to mock your friend for describing herself as “curvy”? Curvy just means having an unusually small waist in proportion to hip and/or bust measurement. I have a friend who has the figure of a 40s movie star… Tiny waist, really defined hips, broad chest, but actually not much bust. There isn’t much fat on her but her bone structure makes her so curvy that people often comment on it. If your friend feels curvy, I’d say that’s a thing to celebrate anyway. It’s good to enjoy having curves, I don’t get why you are knocking your friend’s figure or her perception of it.

  23. I’m a 34 or 36H depending o the brand, and store clerks at brick and mortar chain stores actually tried to get me to force myself into DDD bras for YEARS. I’ve been body shamed at stores from Lane Bryant to Nordstrom — there’s an audible gasp every time they ask my size in order to “help out.” I’ve been laughed at and told that can’t be right and blah blah blah… A friend who owns a bra shop told me that most women are wearing bras 3 cup sizes too small because the general range in most American stores is A to DD and MAYBE DDD. She thinks most stores train workers to fit people into the best available size because carrying the full range of sizes would mean very high overhead costs. Maybe the vanity sizing happens around the D/DD range, but larger cups than that are stigmatized and not considered the ideal. That Victoria’s Secret operates in an unethical way hardly surprises me.

    In any case, UK and EU bra manufacturers often carry sizes through a P cup. I’m not tall or broad shouldered, and I think my boobs look fairly proportional and not huge. I guess I think the H size is a lot more common than people think, and the perception that DD and DDD are really big is a product of a culture singularly convinced that a DD is very large. But I was popping out of the DDD bras, and they were causing tremendous back pain.(Incidentally, my rib cage measurement has always been the same — I’m told that I measure at 34 but a 36 might be more comfortable, which is true depending on how stretchy and supportive the band is.). What I’m saying is, there’s been no vanity sizing in my fitting experiences. Quite the opposite — it’s all been shaming to convince me that I actually fit into ill fitting bras because that’s what they carry in the store. I don’t bother with store clerks anymore unless I’m in a specialty boutique that carries a large range of sizes and it’s clear that I’ talking to someone qualified to help. I suppose there may be vanity sizing for people with a smaller bust, but I’ve experienced just the opposite.

    By the way, the Freyas you wrote about may simply have been a bad fit for your body shape. I find Freya bras — and especially the bands they make — really uncomfortable too. Also, they don’t tend to make cups that work for my body shape. They also make bras for women with broad shoulders, and I have narrow shoulders — this is a problem I encounter in most bras that come in my size, actually. Manufacturers seem to assume that everyone above a DDD is broad shouldered. I actually haven’t found the “perfect” bra for my shape yet, but I’m much more comfortable and have a lot less pain when I wear bras with the larger cup sizes. And yeah, they are bloody expensive. I’ve been wearing the Wacoal Awareness for years as my go to, but the lack of structure has started to cause pain. So, I just ordered an assortment of bras from Polish and UK bra companies at zulily — I will be so mad if none of them work. Oh, I’ve found bratabase and reviews helpful when I need to buy a bra but don’t have the opportunity to try it on — not as helpful as trying it on in a store, but better than blindly purchasing things.

    And I wasn’t offended by your article, but then I’m not a bra blogger or bra expert of any kind. It’s hard not to internalize that stigma about larger breast size.

    • I agree that you definitely can’t judge a girl’s bust size based on how she looks clothed. I typically wear a 28H or HH in UK sizing (27 inch rib cage, 38.5 inch bust) and in some brands, could wear a 26 if I could find it. I typically order online, and then resell or give away if it won’t work.

      However, because I have a small frame-disproportionately small shoulders, small hands, short waist, and clothing rarely fits quite right, I tend to cover up my chest, and frequently am told “Are you sure? You don’t look that big,” and worse, right up to “That isn’t a real size. That doesn’t exist.” (That was from Victoria’s Secret, actually.) However, when I take off my ill fitting clothes, you can definitely see that I have a pretty full bust! My shoulder and back pain is much, much better now with my better fitting bras, and I don’t have to constantly readjust to keep my boobs corralled in, or adjust the straps so tight my shoulders have red welts, or feel matronly because the band just isn’t supporting my heavier breasts, causing them to move downwards. (I’m 28.)

      And VS tried to size me at a 34D, which is hilarious, because I have a few pictures in a 32DDD where the band has ridden up to nearly to my neck in the back, and yet boob is falling out everywhere, and I could drop a pen between the gore and my chest. So maybe with smaller bands and larger busts, as someone else mentioned, they size up in band rather than down, and down in the cup rather than up, trying to force you to buy their bras, because they know you might just think it’s the best you can do.

      Overall, though, I got the gist of both the original post and this one. I didn’t take offense to anything except the comment about the girl not looking like a D, because that hit rather close to home for me, for the reasons stated above, though everyone has already explained how cup and band correlation works, so I’m not worrying about it. I just know it kind of hurts my feelings when people assume I’m lying, when in fact I’m just explaining why something won’t fit me.

  24. It sucks real bad. I’m a 24-F to a 24-H when measured using guides — since they are all a little different. But no matter where I go in person, they just seem to assign me a random bra size, even boutiques — I don’t know if it is vanity sizing or getting me to buy… something? I’ve been told I’m a 28E, 28F (best fit?), 30A, 30B, 30C, 32A, 32B, 32C. I think they just stick me in their smallest sizes and go “eh, close enough.” Kinda feels like when you take a car in for repairs, and you dont know whether the mechanic intentionally broke something, is lying, or you legimately need to fix something. All of them are so uncomfortable. So I wear exercise bras — screw the entire system.

    I’ve had multiple VS sales associates tsk or make snarky comments when measuring me. Great for the self confidence. One boutique girl laughed at me. She told me there was no way I was a 24. Even after she measured a 24 underbust– she told me I was a 28B or 30A… The bras didn’t even cover my nipples and I could stick my arm through the band on its tightest. It slide all over the place when I moved my arms. I must look bigger than I am, because most people give me that “you can’t be that small” look.

    I just end up apologizing and leaving properly shamed. I get it, I’m not small.. I just have some warped body that doesn’t make clothing fit.

    So, I think ALL stores don’t want to tell you they don’t have your size, regardless of how expensive, boutique, or brick and mortar, or what you are buying. This in turn, leads to improper bra measuring/vanity sizing, which leads to confusion, shame, humiliation, and anger.

    Likewise I think that bra bloggers live in a fantasy world. Bras are just bloody umcomfortable and I have yet to find that coveted “perfect bra.” Leaving brick and a mortar places just gave me a bigger selection of uncomfortable bras. Don’t let them get to you.

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