Bra Fitting Guide
We’ve probably all heard the statistics – “80% of women are in the wrong bra size” and while that may sound unbelievable, as a professional bra fitter, I can vouch for the fact that it’s true! Why? Well, firstly, a lot of us have grown up not really knowing how a bra is meant to fit, and secondly when we have had a bra fitting, it has often been undertaken with a tape measure – which is rarely accurate.
The most experienced and skilled professional bra fitters use the ‘fit by sight’ technique. This means they are able to look at a customer and instantly tell them the bra size they need – and actually it is the most accurate way of fitting! Plus, once you understand how bras are made, it becomes fairly simple.
Most bra manufacturers use the same size bra underwire to cover more than one size. For example, the wire that is used for a 34B is also used in a 36A and a 32C bra. This means that the volume in the cup of each of these sizes is the same, and the main difference is the firmness in the back.
This principle is called ‘cross matching’ or ‘sister sizing’ and is explained on this easy to use chart
Why does it matter? Well, quite simply, after years of bra fitting, I can confidently say that the most common thing I see is women wearing a back size that is too loose and as a result being able to fit their breasts into a smaller cup size than is ideal. For example the 32d woman who doesn’t realize how securely a bra should fit in the back may wear a loose back e.g. a 36. In a 36 back she will only need a b cup to accommodate the volume of her breasts – BUT usually doesn’t realize that it accommodates her breasts very badly and she’s actually getting very little support and no shape at all! Here’s an example:
If this all sounds a bit like a mystical art – don’t despair! As someone who trains professional bra fitters, the good news is there are a few top tips I can share to enable you to have a go at fitting at home! All you need is:
1. A mirror that allows you to see the top half of your body from the front, side and back
2. To wear one of your newest , best fitting bras, fastened on the loosest hook with the straps adjusted
about half way up – make sure you know the exact size of the bra you are wearing
3. To follow the 2 Step Formula below
The 2-Step Formula to Bra Fitting
The simple formula for bra fitting is:
1) to determine the back size (e.g. 32, 34, 36) and then
2) to determine the cup size (e.g. b/c/d/e) that you need.
The first step will determine the back size. If, after you have followed this step, you find that you need to reduce the back size by 1 or 2 sizes, you will need to automatically increase the cup size by the same number of sizes otherwise the cup will be too small.
You then need to make further changes to the cup size if you spot any of the other signs that the cup
size is wrong in the next step.
How to Do It:
Stand in front of a mirror that shows your top half clearly. With your top off, but your bra on, you
are going to simply observe the fit.
Step 1: Work out the Back Size
Stand side on in the mirror and look at the band of your bra: Your bra band should form a straight horizontal line across your body when you look at it side on. You should be able to put two fingers underneath the band but not pull it out any more than that.
– If the band is higher at the back than at the front and/or you can fit more than 2 fingers under the band at the back, then the back size is too big. If it rides up a lot and has a lot of room in the back then it is probably 2 sizes too big!
– If you can’t fit any fingers under the back band and it feels uncomfortably tight, then the back size is too small (this is not a common problem though!)
Now face the mirror and look at the straps of your bra: Your bra straps should sit firmly in the middle of your shoulders without digging in or leaving indentations, and only require tightening half way. You should be able to pull the straps of your bra down and find your bra doesn’t really move
when it is ‘strapless’.
– If the bra straps are leaving indentations in your shoulders or falling off, and/or if your bra feels loose or moves around when you lower your bra straps, then the back size is too big. If it does these things when the straps are fully tightened, it is probably 2 sizes too big.
– If your breasts are well supported but the straps are digging in to your shoulders then this actually suggests the straps are too tight (this is not a common problem though!)
How to work out your new back size:
If you see any one or more of these signs, then the back size is wrong. Note down your new back size: e.g. if you are wearing a 36 back and the back band looks too big, go down to a 34 (or a 32 if it looks very big.)
The pictures below demonstrate this.
BACK BAND TOO BIG – the back band is riding up and the straps are digging in
BACK BAND TOO BIG – the straps are falling down,
indicating the back band is too big
WELL FITTING BACK BAND
Step 2: Work out the Cup Size
Work Out your new Base Cup Size: If your back size has changed, then your starting cup size will have changed too! If, for example, you have reduced the back size by 1 or 2 sizes, you will need to automatically increase the cup size by the same number of sizes before you start, otherwise it will be too small – so work out your new cup size first e.g. if you were wearing a 36b and have calculated that you need a 32 back, you will need a 32d.
Use our sister size chart to work out your new cup size easily:
Now check, if you need to make any further changes to the cup size – facing the mirror look at the front of your bra:
– The centre of the bra that sits between the cups should lie flat against your body, with no gaps. If the centre of the bra sticks out or there is any room between the centre piece and your body, the bra cup is too small.
– Your breasts should be fully contained in the cups with no gaps and nothing popping out (i.e. no ‘double boob’ effect!). If your breasts spill out over the top or at the side of the cups rather than leaving a smooth line, the cups are too small.
– The breasts should be fully contained within the wire, the wire should clear the entire breast at the side and feel hard to touch with no ‘squidginess’. If the underwire at the side of your bra is soft and squidgy to touch, rather than firm , the cup size is too small.
– When you try a top on and turn side on to the mirror you should see a smooth line under your clothes, with no bumps over the top of the cup. If you can see lumps and bumps, the cup size is too small.
– If there are gaps in the cup, even when you hold the back band as tight as possible, your cup size is too big – this is less common however and usually caused by the back band being too big so make sure you check this after holding the back band tight
How to work out your new cup size:
If you see any one or more of these signs then the cup size needs to be adjusted. If they are very pronounced then the cup size needs adjusting by 2 or more sizes.
Note down your new cup size: e.g. if you started as a 32d and the cup looks too small, go up to a 32dd or a 32e if it looks very small. (If you are buying a range that doesn’t offer a dd simply go to the e cup)
The pictures below demonstrate this.
CUP SIZE TOO SMALL – the underwire is too far forward and
sitting on breast tissue & the centre front is not flat
TWO CUP SIZES TOO SMALL – the underwire is sitting fully on the breast with breast tissue poking out of the
cup and the centre front does not touch the chest wall at all
WELL FITTING CUPS
And that’s it! Now you know your correct bra size, there’s only one more thing to do – go bra shopping!
Nobody is ever the same size in every bra so always remember to try each bra on and check the fit – and if you need any more help, or a phone or skype fitting, here are a few people, trained by Pudding, who can help:
And finally, if you need any more inspiration take a look at these before and after pictures. All these women have simply had a bra fitting – no surgery needed!
Before & After: