Finding your Starting Point
Finding your Start Point Size
Some fitting services and brands now choose not to use measuring tapes and are able to offer fitting based on the bra size you are already wearing and adjusting according to certain fitting criteria similar to some of the points covered in the “Signs of a poor fit” page. However using a measuring tape can still be a useful tool in helping to find a good fitting bra, as long as you are accurate and take into account your personal preferences regarding fitting.
Why is the measuring tape a contentious issue?
As previously mentioned around 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, usually the band is one or two sizes too big and the cups are too small. This may be explained by the use of measuring tapes and traditional fitting methods. Traditional methods involve you measuring your underbust (torso) in inches and then adding four or five inches depending on weather you have an odd or even measurement. For example a lady who measures 30 inches around under the bust would need to add four inches to get their band size 34. Those women who measure an odd number for example 31 would have to add five inches to get their band size 36. This practice originates from a time when bras were made from silk and other non-stretchy materials, so the four or five inches were added to the measurement for breathing room. Modern production methods have allowed for the use of elastic and other stretchy materials, they contour to your shape and will move with you when you breathe therefore eliminating the need to add inches to yourself when measuring for band size.
However some shops still use this out-dated measuring practice which sizes the band too large and then therefore the cups too small. The cups are calculated by finding the difference in inches between your band size and your full bust measurement. If the band has already been oversized the difference between your full bust and band size in inches will be less than the true measurement therefore resulting in cups that are too small for your breast volume.
If you haven’t measured yourself in a while or things have changed since you last measured such as weight loss/gain or having a baby it would probably be a good idea to check your measurements, you may find your bra size has changed.
Before you start
You will need a fabric non-stretchy measuring tape to get an accurate measurement. You will also need a large mirror to check the positioning of your tape measure and some time to yourself when you will not feel rushed or be disturbed. It is a good idea to have a pen and paper to record your measurements or any notes. We suggest measuring without a bra on if you can as you will get a better result, not affected by padding in the cups or the shape of your bra. If you prefer you can wear a bra but it is best to choose one without any padding and not a minimiser or push-up bra.
To find your start point band size
Put the measuring tape around the circumference of your torso and place up under your bust. Be careful to make sure the tape is not twisted or slack, the inches measurement scale is visible and it is the correct way up. The tape needs to be level all the way around your torso and pulled firmly, not so tight that you are digging into your skin but just firm.
Check in the mirror that the tape is level across your back and is positioned under the breasts where they join your torso, but not resting on any of your breast tissue. Do not cross the tape or pull it down to read the measurement as this will distort the number you get. Looking in the mirror see where the tape starts to overlap the end and put your finger here to mark the place. Try to look in the mirror and read the number before you move the tape. Next keeping the place you marked with your finger, take the tape off and check the number. Hopefully it will match with the number you saw in the mirror (or the one you could see if you were able to look down). You may want to try measuring yourself with the tape starting at your side if this is easier, as your bust may get in the way of reading the tape! Just make sure all the points above are covered. You can do this a couple of times just to make sure you get the same number each time.
You can take this measurement in inches as your band measurement but you will need to take into account these points:
If you have an odd number such as 29, 31, 33 etc. you can choose the band size above or below depending on your personal preference. Manufacturers only make bands in even increments at the moment so if you measure 31 inches you could choose a 30 band or a 32 band.
If you have been used to wearing a too large band, your actual or true band will feel a lot tighter. This again is down to personal preference, you can size up in the band if you feel your true band size will be too tight and restrictive or you can give it a try and see how you get on knowing you can size up a band if needed. We would suggest that you only size up if you really need to as the band will be less supportive the larger it is compared to your true band measurement. Remember the band provides 80% of the support of your bra so it should be firm and snug.
Ladies who have less flesh or padding on the torso may want to size up a band as their band will be sitting more or less on their bones and this may feel too restrictive. Ladies who have a bit more padding or flesh around their torso may want to size down a band from their true band measurement as they may feel the band can be tighter to give more support to the bust without being uncomfortable.
To find your Start Point Cup size
Now you need to measure the fullest part of your bust. This is usually roughly in-line with the nipples and is the part of your bust that projects out the most (sticks out the most).
Make sure again that the tape measure is level all the way around and not slack, however you can be a little less firm on this measurement. By this I mean do not pull the tape in any way to squash your breast tissue. The tape should just be lying across the bust. Again check in the mirror and make sure the tape is the right way up so you can read the measurement and gently mark where the tape starts to overlap with your finger. Take the tape off, read and note down your measurement.
You may want to try a different position to measure your full bust just as a comparison measurement. Try to measure your full bust by bending at the waist so that your breasts are parallel to the floor (I know this sounds strange but it is worth a try). Use the tape measure in the same way but this time you won’t be able to see the number on the tape. Look in the mirror to check the tape position across your back and feel with your fingers were the tape starts to overlap at the front on the fullest part of your bust. Hold this place and then take the tape off and record the number. You may get a higher number this way than the upright method; this is because by bending over you have allowed all the breast tissue to fall forward. When upright some of the breast tissue at the side may not be taken into account fully as it is compressed when upright. This can be a useful measure if you find that your cups tend to be a little small even when you have measured upright and everything else seems to be correct.
To find your cup size you need to subtract the band measurement from the full bust measurement, this number is the difference between the two and will correspond to a cup size. A difference of 1 inch would be a UK A cup, a 2 inch difference would be a UK B cup and so on. We have produced a chart below so that you can easily find your cup size.
|Measurement difference in inches between Full bust and Band.||<1||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12||13||14||15||16|
If you measure between cup sizes you will need to make a note of the sizes either side of your measurement. When trying on bras from different brands and in different styles you can try both sizes to find the best for you.
EXAMPLE: I will use myself as an example so you can see how the whole process works. I have measured my underbust in inches and find I have a figure of 28. When I measure my full bust upright I get 36 inches and when using the bending over method I get 37 inches. So, 37 or 36 – 28 = 8 or 9 inch difference making my start point size a UK 28FF/G. I find with some brands that a 28 band is too restrictive and so I would size up to 30 band and the corresponding cup F/FF. Remember Up in the Back Down in the Cup OR Down in the Back Up in the Cup. This method can be used to find your sister sizes or to adjust your Start Point size if you feel you need to for comfort reasons.
We suggest that if you are sizing up or down in the band for comfort reasons as mentioned in the previous section, you will still need to use your true band measurement and full bust measurement to find your cup size and then adjust the cup according to how you have adjusted the band.
For example if a lady measures 30 inches at the underbust but would find a 30 band too tight she would size up in the band to 32. However to find your cup size you would still use you true band measurement. So say you measure 36.5 inches at full bust, 36.5 – 30 =6. A 6 inch difference puts her at an E cup. But as she wants to size up in the band to 32, the cup size will need to shift down one cup so that would make the lady a 32DD.
Different manufacturers will size their bras slightly differently so although you can measure and find your Start Point Size you may find this will be too tight in certain brands or styles and too loose in others or sometimes the shape of the wires or cups may not be quite right. This is why we stress that it is a start point or reference size for you to try and then you may have to tweak certain aspects to achieve your best fit. You may have to go up/down in the cup or in the band.
You can use your Start Point size to test out a range of bras in different styles and from different brands to see which fit best for you. But as you know manufactures all size slightly differently and due to the differing construction methods for different styles you may not find that all the bras you try on in your Start Point Size will fit perfectly. This is where Sister Sizes come in! You may have an idea of how they work from the information in the other sections.
For example if you find your start point size is 34HH with no adjustments and then you try on a 34HH and it is too tight in the band, but fine in the cups, you can then try your Sister Size 36H. Next you try another brand in 34HH and the band feels a little loose, so now you can size down in the band to your other Sister Size 32J. Sister sizes allow you to try one size either side of your band measurement whilst still maintaining the correct volume in the cups.
So if you find your Start Point Size is a 30C your Sister Sizes would be 28D or 32B. If your Start Point Size is a 36E your Sister Sizes would be 34F or 38DD.
Sister Sizes are a way to tweak your Start Point Size, if you find the band is a good fit on a bra but the cups need adjusting you can just adjust up or down in the cup for that particular style. For example moulded cups or foam lined cups tend to run a little small as the material of the cup is thicker taking up some of the room that should be filled by your bust. I have found that I often have to size up in the cup for styles with padding, foam or moulded cups. Using myself as an example my Start Point Size is 28FF, I have found a bra that I like but they don’t make a 28 band size so I will start with my sister size a 30F, however the cups are moulded and so I find I have a little spillage with the F cup. Next I try the 30FF and this is perfect.