Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Starting Points

You might notice I’ve created a new category for posts called “Starting Points”. I think this is important because not everyone is at the same point on their journey towards bra happiness and boob happiness.

When I started this blog, I decided to proceed with the assumption that everyone who ended up here would already have some idea of their size, or at least would know that there are sizes above DD. But it’s unfair to assume that awareness of the sizes implies knowing your own size, plus we all need to re-check once in a while.

A great post that has a comprehensive overview of the whole topic is "The Bra Fitting Revolution" at Barbara Rae's Rants. However, she doesn't say much about 'swooping and scooping', so go read her post, and then come back and read what I have to say.

The most important thing about bra fitting is to achieve a stable, comfortable fit where the band is tight enough to provide support and the cups are large enough to fit your breasts. The band should be straight across your body, not riding up, and the center gore (the part of the bra between the cups) should be sitting flat against your body.

To figure out your band size, measure around your underbust--the place right under where your boobs end. Do it in front of a mirror and make sure that the tape measure is sitting horizontally straight. This measurement will help indicate your band size. If you want a tight fit or have very heavy boobs, you'll want to try a band size that is the same as your measurement in inches (so if you measure 30 inches around, try a 30 band). If you want a slightly looser fit for comfort, without sacrificing stability, add 2 inches to your measurement (so if you measure 30 inches, you'd try a 32 band). Don't be afraid to try multiple band sizes. If your measurement is not an even number, you can either add or subtract one inch to get your size, depending if you'd prefer a tighter or looser band.

Band size is important to figure out, but cup size is MOST important. You can find more detail on that in my post here. Most women will find they are wearing a size that is too small. A great starting point to figure out your cup size is the Sophisticated Pair bra calculator.  Another good one is the Curves and Corsets calculator. These two are the only calculators I've found online that are fairly accurate. Based on what these calculators tell you, you'll want to order A TON OF BRAS. Order bras in the suggested cup size, one size smaller, and one and two sizes bigger. (Don't worry, you're going to be returning most of them.) You need to try a lot of different shapes and sizes in order to figure out what works. Bravissimo, Figleaves, Brastop, and Large Cup Lingerie are good places to start looking for bras.

When you try bras on, YOU MUST 'SWOOP AND SCOOP' your tissue to figure out if the size is correct. Basically, reach into the bra cup and pull up all the tissue. You'll find that a bra that might have looked too small will now fit; a bra that might have seemed like it fit will be revealed to be too small. You must swoop and scoop every time you put on a bra to make sure your breast tissue is being supported and lifted, not crushed and damaged.

To increase your success, it's best to also educate yourself on breast SHAPE as well as size. For this, check out my posts on figuring out the shape of your boobsmore detailed information on the same, and figuring out what shape you like to get from a bra. These posts will likely also help you figure out what bras to try.

You can also check out my brand overviews on FreyaPanache/CleoCurvy Kate. More overviews to come on Bravissimo, Fantasie, Tutti Rouge.

A lot of people will tell you that the only way to get properly fitted is in a shop, but that isn't realistic for everyone. First of all, real professional lingerie shops with good size ranges are very difficult to find, especially in America. Second of all, if you don't have a vague idea of what size should work for you, how can you tell if a fitter is doing their job correctly? You don't want to be victimized by a mediocre fitter. If you live in New England, definitely go to Zoe and Co; I can vouch for them that they are amazing, attentive, respectful fitters. Intimacy is another good, trustworthy store to get fitted at. If you live in the UK, Bravissimo is the ideal starting point for a fitting. Regardless of where you go, it's always a good idea to go in armed with some information.

Assorted tips and hints:

Beware of any website, store, brand, or size calculator that uses "American bra sizing"! There is no such thing as a standard of sizing in America. Most brands that market to America and reputable stores in America will usually use UK sizes. That is, in proper UK sizing, the cup sizes are AA, A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K, KK, L. Each size is one size bigger than the one before it--there is no such thing as "half sizes"; some of the cup sizes are just called by a double letter while others are called by a single letter. One really odd thing I have seen is that certain online retailers only stock the single-letter sizes, as though they believe that the double letters are "half sizes" (they aren't!). Be cautious with retailers like that. If you see anyone listing sizes in a way different than what I've listed above, be careful when ordering from them because what you get may not be what you expect. If you encounter an American bra whose cup size is listed as "DDD", this is the equivalent of a UK size E.

If your bra has underwires that feel too wide, or the wires are digging into your ribs, it’s probably because your body isn’t constructed out of flat planed surfaces. Be sure to check out my post on bending the underwires to fit your body.

If a new bra has itchy bits on it from the rough edges of seams or threads in small areas, try rubbing at that itchy part with a nail file so it becomes smooth. Often this will solve the problem. If the tags are itchy, save time and just cut them off.

If a bra has a ribbon bow that’s too long and you want to trim it, but don’t want it to fray, cut it and then gently dab at the end of the ribbon with clear nail polish. That will seal the end so it can’t fray.

If you’re a student and your back hurts from long hours sitting in lectures and the library, try studying in bed. You’re worth it. (Sadly, this doesn’t apply to office jobs unless you work from home.)

Read this article on Boobius Maximus to learn how to recognize bad bras from good bras, and to pick out bras similar to ones that have worked for you in the past. This is the biggest wealth of information EVER contained in a single blog post. Read. It.

A great classic post from Thin and Curvy about good versus bad reasons to have reduction surgery


  1. Great post! Wish I knew all this when I was a teenager stuck in the horrid Bella bra.

  2. Great post.

    Based om what you write and what I have read in some others blog I am a liitle nervous about ordering from Victorias Seceret . I like the look of some of their bras, and I have also been told that the material should be very comfortable to wear. But I have also been warned of their fitting.

    Does anybody have any idea, if it be futile if i tried to order a 34ddd from Victorias Secrets, (normal size 34e from Freya and Curvy Kate)?

    1. If you are lucky enough that your size is actually available from Victoria's Secret, definitely go for it! I actually think their bras are very well made and very well constructed. If they had my size I would most certainly buy bras there!

  3. I live in mid-west US and there is a store called Ann's Bra Shop that carries Panache, Freya, Fantasie (and many others) and the staff doesn't add inches to band measurements. I've also had good luck at two different Nordstroms as far as fittings and brands. I keep going down in band/up in cup as my armpit fat shifts to where it belongs, and I'm running out of options at Nordstrom now. I've found up to a HH in Panache, and they will order many sizes. I was lucky enough to stop in when the Fantasie/Freya rep was there. She was trying to help me, but I kept going for Panache because there were not any others over an H. I can find the bras cheaper online most of the time, but I'm kind of attempting to show the local stores that my size does exist and I will be a regular customer if I can keep finding my sizes.

  4. Thank you so much for this blog! I have just begun my foray into well-fitting bras (after a dozen years of ill-fitting ones), and all your information has been so helpful! Your links/suggestions of other blogs and sites have been incredibly helpful as well.

    Armed with new knowledge (and a page of scribbled notes) I'm about to head out to the nearest Nordstrom (since that seems to be an oasis of decent bras in the US) and try my luck!

    Thank you again!

  5. I ran into your blog today and I know what you mean!! I am only 16 but being busty has been hard for me already. I had been wearing a cup bras for years, and when it became evident that they were hindering my breathing at age 13, i moved on to wear 85b(38b in us). It wasnt until my boobs broke the underwire that I figured out about my true size. I think this has a lot to dk with me liveing in Korea. At places like Lottemart and Homeplus(which are big markets like Target and Walmart), you are lucky to find a b cup. And most Korean underwear shops don't carry above c cup. I wear 75e(which is 34dd in us size i don't know about uk size though) so i always have to shop at big department stores which charge me about 70 dollars per bra. And those bras are usually not even pretty!!
    The average size for Korean women is 75a(34a), or so they say. Although it's true thar Korean women tend to be small busted compared to other women, I think this is a misconception. For one thing, Korean girls are usually so thin that there is no way that they actually need a 34 band. Anyway, this is what people think in Korea, so clothing manufacturers think of tiny breasts when they make female clothes. This is probably why I always have difficulty finding tops that are flattering for my shape. The bigger problem is school uniform!! Korean schools require that students wear uniform but it's hard to find blouses that close over my chest. I mean, I could buy a bigger size, but remember that I said Korean girls are thin?? They don't have many large blouses. Besides I am petite (5'1) so big blouses don't fit me on other parts anyway.
    But the hardest thing will be the way people stare. I myself didn't know that size above c cup even existed before I became 12, and things are like that for many people. So when my friends figure that I wear a e cup(dd cup), they think it's really weird. And in the summer!! It's scorching hot and so humid in the summer so I like to wear clothes that show skin. And because of my breasts, I always look like a lump in box t shirts, which is what all the Korean teenage girls wear. So I usually wear t shirts that at least show where my waist is. And they are about 1-2 inch above my cleavage, so it's not even so low cut in any other parts of the world. But they are very low cut in Korea. Due to the influence of Confucionism, people consider showing your body(I dont even actually mean revealing it. Stuffs such as clothes tha hug your body and show your figure) is considered sinlike and trashy. Sigh.
    Right now I live in a country where I have no access to any of the stores in your blog. Yet it is very comforting that at least somewhere somebody is trying to make life easier for curvy girls. Thank you so much.

  6. Hey! I just discovered your blog today and am loving it!

    After a long period of body-hatred during which I stubbornly smashed my teenage DD+ boobs into a B-sports bra (relic from age 11), I've been wearing 34DDs for years... but I just used the "Sophisticated pair" size calculator and was told I'm actually a 30H??? A different (google-search result) bra size calculator told me I am a 34D (no DD!)--is this typical and why is this??? So confused!!

    Thank you!!

  7. Hey! I just discovered your blog today and am loving it!

    After a long period of body-hatred during which I stubbornly smashed my teenage DD+ boobs into a B-sports bra (relic from age 11), I've been wearing 34DDs for years... but I just used the "Sophisticated pair" size calculator and was told I'm actually a 30H??? A different (google-search result) bra size calculator told me I am a 34D (no DD!)--is this typical and why is this??? So confused!!

    Thank you!!

  8. Hi! I just discovered your blog today and have been enjoying it so much!! After a long and arduous middle/high school period of hatefully smashing my DD+ boobs into a B-cup sports bra (a relic from age eleven), I've been wearing a 34DD for several years... but when I sized myself just now with the Sophisticated Pair calculator, it told me I was a 30H!!! Whaaat? Is this normal? So confused!!

    Thank you!

  9. Just wanted to say thanks. After checking out your blog and a few others, I was convinced that VS has been putting me in the wrong bra size, judging from problems I've been having (band riding up, four boobs, back pain, and probably enough armpit fat to warrant its own bra). Well, I measured myself and as it turns out, instead of the 34DDD that I've been wearing, I'm a 30GG! I could hardly believe it, but I'm a fairly open minded individual, so I decided to order a couple of bras in that size to see what would happen. Perfect fit. Life changing. So thank you.
    I also had a bra question for you. The bras I ordered were the Cleo Juna and the Freya Enchanted. I really like the Cleo, but I'm kind of a full-everywhere breast shape, so I had some problems with the Enchanted cutting in on top (It fit otherwise, but was super duper scratchy). That being said, I really like unpadded bras that don't put my chest too far out to the sides. I'm okay with round or a little pointy. I was thinking about trying the Panache Andorra, but I'm looking for suggestions.