Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sizing... WTF?!

I'm sure a lot of you ladies will agree with me when I say that bra sizes can be a pain in the... well... tits. To give you an idea (I'm aiming this at all of you really but it might offer a bit of insight to otherwise 'clueless-about-bras' men), this week I have tried sizes from a D-cup through to an F-cup and had a good fit from examples of each. How is it possible to be a D-cup, an F-cup AND everything in between? I shall tell you how. The only consistency in bra sizing is inconsistency. Seriously. The sizes differ so much between manufacturers, I just cannot see how shopping for bras online can possibly be a good idea! Since my jaunt to Selfridges, I have tried bras by Freya (I took a 36DD... just), Elle Macpherson (again, 36DD), John Lewis' own brand (36E... was a bit of a squeeze though), Lejaby (36E), La Senza (36E and 36F) and today, Kiss Me Deadly (36D). I'll show you a couple so you can see the sort of fit I got in various places.

First is the Elle Macpherson number. Really nice fit, cute style but, obviously, not what I'm looking for. Lacy, not see-through enough and I'm not digging the cream bits at all. Not for this mission anyway. Outside of the quest for the perfect bra, I would definitely wear this. It was comfy too. It was £38 which, though a bit much for a bra I'm not completely head over heels for, really isn't that bad. To be honest, I'd be inclined to buy this just for the shape it gives. Nice and round... not nuclear warhead-esque shapes going on here. I'm not a fan of anything but a nice round silhouette where my boobs are concerned thank you very much! Also, it's not right up to my chin so could be worn with lower necklines.

Next is a totally see-through Freya bra. Yeah, sorry about that. Haha! This was also a 36DD and, although a bit of a squeeze, actually not bad. Goddamn pink bows and bits. If there weren't any of those fussy details, this bra, even with its seams, would have been a sure contender for the award. Sadly, not this time. I grumbled quite a lot about that on my way to return it to the fitting room staff in John Lewis. Still, this pic serves as an example of the fit more than anything really! Snug, but not bad.

Next I headed to La Senza. It would seem these guys don't actually believe in see through at all... so that was a bit of a waste of time. However, time was something I had to kill so I decided to try a black balcony bra I liked the look of just to see what it was like. It made my boobs into a shelf, was way too bulky and not very comfortable. It was a 36E and felt no different in size to the Freya one above except that it was a bit tighter across the back. Have look. That's it to the left. Mega-shelf of dooom.

Finally, for bra pics anyway, the Kiss Me Deadly bra. This is the one my friend Karolina (see 2 entries before this one) found for me at the Playful Promises sample sale last week. What a steal at £5! It was damaged and needed a bit of a repair job as one of the rings that holds the strap at the back had broken. Karolina, being a lingerie designer/maker, had a few spare rings though so she included a pair when she sent this to me. I repaired it this morning and whaddya know?! It fits perfectly... and it's only a 36D. Now. If I was ACTUALLY a 36D, this quest would have been over before it began... but I'm not... so it wasn't. I'm wearing this bra right now (this pic was taken about half an hour ago) and it has to be said, it's £5 incredibly well spent! It's the Van Doren style sheer bra that is still available on the site (linked above) in limited sizes and it retails at £25. Sadly, though more than adequate in every other way, it doesn't make the grade for one major and one minor reason. Major = it's sheer but barely see through at all as it's 2 layers of fairly dense mesh. Minor = seams, goddamn it.

So, all of this faffing about with strange sizing lead me to do a bit of research into measurements and how they work. Ladies! Tape measures at the ready!


Back size: In order to find one's back size (the number bit, so, in my case it's 36), measure around your ribcage, underneath your boobies. If you measure an even number, add 4 inches to this measurement and that gives you your measurement (so, my underbust measurement is 32"). If you measure an odd number, add 5 inches (so if you measure 31", you'd also be a 36). Make sure to pull fairly tight when measuring... but obviously not so tight it's cutting into your skin!

Cup size: Next, take the tape measure and measure around the fullest part of your bust. I find the best way to do this is to measure whilst wearing a NON-PADDED bra. Right. Now you take your back size (this is INCLUDING the 4 or 5 inch addition) and subtract it from your bust measurement. I measure 40.5" so i shall use myself as an example. The next bit is pretty easy. If your measurements are the same (i.e. back size including 4 or 5 inches = 36 & bust size = 36), you are an A cup. If it is one inch bigger, you are a B cup. 2 inches is a C, 3 inches is a D and so on and so forth. Obviously, taking into account the presence of sizes such as DD, it basically continues through the alphabet with each inch indicating one cupsize. As I am 40.5 inches, that lands me right bang smack in between a DD and an E. It is my opinion that in cases such as this it is best to round upwards as a bit of extra room is far preferable to a bra that pinches a little.

By way of a disclaimer, I would like to say that, first of all, I do not profess to be an expert in bra fitting at all... this is purely what I have gleaned from poking about online, paying attention to what happens when being fitted and reading about it in shops. The above instruction for fitting is what most places, including many high street shops, consider to be 'standard' but, as evidenced by the various sizes I supposedly am, there doesn't appear to be any such thing as standard so this is to be treated as a rough guide! Also, please note that sizes in different countries may differ slightly and that this is based on UK sizes.

My advice, where bra shopping is concerned, is quite simple. If you can try on, definitely do so. If you're in a hurry and just want to buy and go, or if you are shopping online, make absolutely sure you can return anything that turns out to be wrong. With the differences I have experienced just this week alone, I feel it would be foolhardy to assume you'll get it right just by going by each shop/brands size chart every time.

Ok, I'm almost done now. I have 2 more things to address! First of all, my last entry received a lot of feedback and suggestions. Thank you very much to everyone who took the time to read and respond! It's much appreciated. If you like what you've seen/read so far, don't forget to recommend it to your friends! Anyway, I'm getting off topic. One of the responses I had to the last entry was from a representative of Gossard having been directed to my blog by a mutual friend. She informed me that the brand currently has a line entitled 'Glossies' which includes a sheer, black, seamless bra. JOY OF JOYS!! But... guess what?! It stops at a D cup. For now anyway. She also informed me that, due to much hassle from larger busted women, they are currently working on larger sizes for this same line with a view to releasing them sometime in the new year. This is amazing news :D Might I ACTUALLY find a suitable sheer, black, seamless bra on the mass market? Time will tell! But this illustrates a different point as well. Enough moaning and hassle from us, the general, bigger busted, publc CAN get results. You see now why I want to get as much weight behind this blog as possible? Seriously. The more the merrier!

Ok, ok... I can see you're all falling asleep. I shall hopefully liven you all up a bit with this next picture. One of the greatest things to come from the whole burlesque movement (and I promise you, I'm not turning this blog into yet another ode to the art of striptease, pin-up or the 1950's) is definitely pasties! And now, with the likes of Gothfox Designs and Nikki Lipstick on the scene, you now have a very contemporary take on the good old classic nipple tassle! Gothfox have stuck with the decorative feel that burlesque is so well known and loved for, but has applied it to designs as fun and far-removed from the boudoir aesthetic as the Star Trek logo. Seriously, go look! Nikki Lipstick, on the other hand, has taken the concept of nipple pasties and made it all her own with seriously cute and eminently wearable designs that include stuff like lips, kitty faces, Hello Kitty-esque bows through geeky designs such as the Tri-Force logo and Pokeballs to more simplistic yet seriously effective designs like X's, crosses & triangles. Being a bit of a goth, I couldn't resist the crosses so I shall leave you with one of my boobs modelling one of my Nikki Lipstick crosses! Cheeky ;)


  1. In relation to bra sizing, I don't think that method of measuring can apply to everyone! My personal experiences, having fitted customers and having been fitted by a variety of professionals myself is that my best bra goes by exact underbust measurement relevant cup size calculated by inches extra. Going by the bra measurement method that most people advise I'd be a 34A or something silly which I know for a fact fits me terribly and rides up loads at the back... My best fitting bras are 30Ds that provide adequate support and aren't overly stretchy in the back! Rambling aside though, just WISH there was more consistency in the industry with sizing, it's ridiculous! And on top of that, a bigger range of sizing!!!

  2. You are absolutely correct. It's certainly not applicable to everyone. There are so many aspects of breast shape, size, firmness and god knows what else to take into consideration when fitting for bras properly. I should have mentioned that the instructions for measurement detailed above are what a variety of places (including many high street shops) consider 'standard'. By that, I mean it's basically exactly the above method that will be employed when visiting a shop such as M&S or John Lewis for a fitting. It's NOT an accurate way of fitting on an individual basis as it doesn't take into consideration all of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between women! I shall edit the post to state this by way of a disclaimer as I completely forgot to mention it! But yeah, it's like most things in life really. Dress sizes for example- off the rack doesn't cater to differences in shape like wider hips, bigger boobs, bigger bums etc. It's the sort of thing that you'll only ever get *perfect* by going custom made. Siiiiigh. Perhaps I'll gar this blog towards finding a bloody blouse that fits once the bra quest is complete ;D

  3. Ditto what you guys have already said - measuring like that simply doesn't owrk for everyone. I measure *looks for tape measure* 37", which would make me a 42" back. I'm currently wearing a 38" which fits just fine. Additionally it seems like (and I'm no expert here :P) that the larger the back size, the wider them make the underwiring? I much prefer the positioning of the 36" (on the front of my body :P) than the 38", which is slightly poking my underarms. I can't imagine how far around a 42" would go! M&S use this as a standard, and wouldn't budge from it when I was measured there, even though my jubblies were falling all over the place. I found Selfridges really good, although I really want a trip to Bravissimo...

    Sorry that was no help for your search :P I've been looking, honest! I'm wondering if a sexier shop might have what you're after?

  4. If you are a 30 back, for example you measure 22-28 underneath it does not count that back way, and most companies like Topshop and Bravissimo, Freya, etc do not operate that way any more according to them, you just measure your back and that's the band size you need. Lovely boobies btw!

  5. Don't bother with a measuring tape! Every brand fits differently, even bras made by one brand can vary massively. Head to Bravissimo, they don't use measuring tapes and find bras that fit properly. They have a big range of brands, styles and shapes. My favourite, and best fitting bras are actually their own branded ones.

  6. Yeah, it may be a standard way of measuring but it's not that effective. I used to wear a 34-36C and my bras never fit properly, so I visited a well known bra fitting specialist in the North East of England who (after having me try on dozens of bras) declared me a 32/34 F. Whenever I've gone to a US department store and had them size me, they always say 36C and are then floored when the bras don't even come close to fitting. I wish it could be that easy!

  7. Ok guys, sorry for the delay in reply... here goes!

    Laura- I think what it basically comes down to is personal preference, body shape/size and what you like the feel of best. As back sizes change, so do the cup sizes (so, for example, an underwire that is a D for one back size, may well be used for a larger or smaller cup size if used in a bra that's bigger or smaller in the back... complicated, yes! I don't fully understand it myself at this point). As much as the women in various fitting places have told me over the years that 'comfy doesn't necessarily mean correct', I would be inclined to disagree to an extent and just try to observe a few basic rules of thumb without paying too much heed to what it says on the label... does the strap at the back sit right without being too far up or too far down my back? Do the wires sit flush with my sternum in between my boobs or do I have a gap? Do my boobs spill out of the cups at all or do I have 4-boob-syndrome going on? If a bra ticks all the right boxes where these things are concerned, to hell with what size the shop is telling me it is!

    Anon- Thank you :D I shall be looking into this whole sizing malarkey ina lot more depth after this... something tells me I'm opening a massive can of very convoluted worms but hey, I'll give it a shot ;D

    Suzi- See what I said above to Laura... personally, I'm becoming less & less inclined to pay much attention to sizes on labels in shops as time goes on. This is also why I insist on trying things on every time as there's just no better way to know for sure! As for Bravissimo, I don't like any of their styles at all so they're off the list straight away! My mum gets their catalogues and I swear, I'm hard pressed to pick out one single bra I like anything about.

    Superkitty- Again, what I said above to Laura pretty much. I totally agree with you. The more time I spend trying on & investigating, the less continuity there seems to be where sizes are concerned. I think it's just WAY too vague given the enormous variety of different shape/size boobies out there. Add into the mix that the vast majority of women have slightly different sized boobs anyway & you're looking at a MASSIVE array of differences to cater to. It's all about try before you buy if you ask me :D