What with the growing knowledge of bra fitting, and the spread of helpful forums like Bratabase, 32D, and others, I'm beginning to think we've all gone off the deep end a bit when it comes to the tightness of bra bands. Lots and lots of people are learning that bras stores like Victoria's Secret will fit you into a too-loose band by adding inches to your measurement. The protest against this takes the form of the "War on Plus Four", and there seems to be a generalized feeling that the only proper response is to use +0 instead. +0 means that to find your band size, you just measure your underbust and use that measurement in inches as your band size. I have come to strongly disagree with this method!
Meanwhile, there has been backlash to +0 as well. Most Polish bloggers and forum members disagree with it. This excellent blog post on "Reverse Letterphobia" calls it into question. Ewa Michalak's size calculators don't use +0, but British customers tend to therefore ignore that calculator. There’s been a lot of clamoring to allow for reasons that different systems could occasionally work, and people stressing that +0 is only a starting point. But I feel differently. I’m actually a big believer in +2. I believe we should measure our underbust and add 2 inches to get our band size, and frankly, I don't think that's 'just a starting point'. I think it's the system that would work best for most people. In fact, I think most of the bra fitting stores that give good fits and don’t use measuring tapes typically do give a fit that is +2, not +0. I measure 27.5 inches around. I wear a 30 band. The brilliant bra store that fitted me didn't use measuring tapes, and put me in a 30 band, which fits me very comfortably. My sister measures about the same. She wears a 30 band. My best friend is a bit smaller and wears a 30 band. None of us experience fit issues.
I spend almost a year wearing 28 backs because I became convinced that since that was what matched my measurements, it was therefore what I should wear. I felt that I needed a tight back because I experienced a lot of back pain. To my shock I later discovered, upon switching to 30 backs, that the majority of the back pain I had been experiencing was NOT because of the weight of my boobs, nor because of a too-loose band. Quite the reverse, I was experiencing pain because the very tight bands were not allowing any breathing room and I got a dull ache from being so compressed all day in a band that had absolutely no extra stretch in it.
I often see reviews on bra stores’ websites or on Bratabase where someone suggests that the back is too loose because it fastens easily on the first wear, or because they can fit their hand underneath it. Being able to fit your hand underneath your band, fasten it comfortably on the first try-on, or stretch it away from your body does NOT mean that it is necessarily too small. It just means that the band has stretch, as it well should. In fact, there are only two reasons you should try a tighter band:
1. If the band rides up beyond the natural angle it sits at (compare to its angle to the cups when it's off you to make sure it isn't just shaped in a way that makes it appear to be riding up); or
2. Your center gore is not tacking to your chest BUT the cups still fit when you press it to your body.
If a band does not feel tight, that does not automatically mean that it is too loose; a band that does not feel tight is, in fact, a sign of comfort, and that is good. There is no reason you should seek out a feeling of excessive tightness.
Another oft-quoted line in support of +0 is the concept that we don’t add inches to our pants measurements, so we shouldn’t add them to our bra measurements. True, mostly. But check out measurements on Bratabase or a similar database, or measure your own bra. A 30 band bra typically measures only about 23 inches unstretched, and stretches to about 31-33. You don’t want your bra band to be constantly stretched to the maximum—we would never expect that with any other item of clothing. Rather, you want it in a comfortable zone where your measurement lies in between the maximum stretched measurement and the unstretched measurement. That’s what the stretch is FOR. Keep in mind, too, that stores like Victoria's Secret usually add more like 6 inches to the measurement, which really is excessive. But adding 2 inches is not in the same zone of inaccuracy.
Here are some signs your band is too small: 1. The hooks are getting pulled slightly out of their stitching. This should NOT happen in a bra that fits. 2. You get a dull ache that is relieved by trying a larger band or just taking off your bra at the end of the day. 3. You get red marks and chafing and feel like all bras are uncomfortable, even well-worn ones.
Yes—these things can happen for other reasons. But for the most part, you should wear the LARGEST band you can wear without it riding up. That’s why women with smaller or lighter boobs often find that +4 works just fine for them and doesn’t ride up—they don’t have the weight pulling the bra down in front and up in back, so a looser band is far more comfortable and a tighter one is totally unnecessary.
If you ask me, band size is NOT the most important thing about a bra. It is FAR more important to find a large enough cup size. When I was wearing a 34DD previous to being fitted in a 30GG, I never had big problems with the band riding up, and when I did, it was seriously the least of my worries. My big problem was that the cups were so small. That’s why I was uncomfortable, that’s why I had to readjust throughout the day. A well-fitted band simply helps stabilize the cups, but if your cups aren’t big enough, then that’s your biggest problem. If I’d gotten refitted at a store that offered larger cup sizes but used +4, I would have been fit into a 32G, and guess what? That would have worked just fine. A 30 band is MORE supportive, but a 32 would be perfectly adequate as long as the cups were big enough. On the other hand, a 30 band bra would have NEVER improved my issues unless it was at least a GG cup. Anything smaller than that would have just presented the same old problems.
Blasphemy? Perhaps. I’ve sat on this for a long time because I don’t want to be seen as disagreeing, disrespecting, or sabotaging the full-bust community. But I feel pretty strongly about this and so I have to post it. I know I am probably going to get some flak for this post, and I know the vast majority of US/UK bloggers are going to disagree. That’s okay. Everyone is entitled to make their own fit choices. However, I do believe that there has been a bit too much of suggestions on forums that people try smaller and smaller bands even when they really don't need to. Life is way too short to wear a bra that compresses your body. Of course, it’s totally up to you if it's your body, and I know some people do like to wear really tight bands. I just don’t like to see people telling others that they need to use +0 when doing so can cause more harm than good. So I'm placing my full support in the +2 camp. Actually, I don't know if that is a camp. But if others agree, maybe we can make it into one.