Skip to content
2009/03/11 / AoM



I tend to believe the so-called statistic floating around out there that some 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra.  I’ve yet to meet a female who didn’t tug, yank, adjust, and bitch about this most necessary garment.  For me, I had NO clue how it all worked.  Rocket science?  Pretty close. 

The other night I ran to a local department store to “just pick up a few bras” as all my old ones were shifty, wangy, and just plain uncomfortable.  I supposed it was because they were all older than dirt and were just stretched out.  Figured I would zip in and out, try on a few in my size, and I could spend the rest of my evening chilling out to Food Network or something.

Thirty-seven bras later I staggered out of the store. 

We women run businesses, run households, drive, vote, received advanced degrees, and give birth for cripe’s sake.  Why is this bra thing so damn hard?!


I am by no means a bra expert.  But I’ve gotten so many emails in the last week sympathizing with my Bra Quest, I thought I might be able to steer a girlfriend or two in the right direction.  It ain’t the Holy Grail, but til now it sure seemed as unattainable.  Read on, and let me know how your own quest turns out. 


 Here are some indications that you, like The Old Me, wear the wrong bra size.

[photos from Fig Leaves]

The dreaded pit fat:



My former problem – band ride-up:




Cup size definitely too large:


And, for any of you who are over 30 or have children (or both), this from Bravissimo  summed it up for me:



Down to business.  Measuring does not have to be rocket science if you ignore most of what you’ve been previously told.  First of all, the “old school” way of measuring yourself for a bra no longer holds.  Measure around your ribcage, just under your breasts, then add 4 (or is it 5) to that number?  Not even close.  That’s the reason I was wearing my band FOUR SIZES TOO LARGE.

0013   No! No! No!


Measure like this:

Please note that the tape measure in back is aligned with the bra band, and in front up above the breasts.  This will be (approximately) your band size.  Do not add 4.  Do not add 5.  Do not multiply by pi.  This is it.  [If you get an odd number you apparently should just round down to the nearest even number.]

Measure around the fullest part of your breasts:


Write these two numbers down.   Use a handy size chart like so to figure out your cup size.  Cup size = second number minus first number.


And a note on sizing.  Like everything else women wear, sizes vary among countries.  If you buy US or foreign bras your cup size letter may be different.


[charts from Bare Necessities]


You might be surprised by what size you truly should wear.   I’d be willing to bet that, out of all those women wearing the wrong bra size, 90 percent of them have too large a band and too small a cup.  I know I did.  I never caught her “Bra Revolution” show, but Oprah herself admitted to incorrectly wearing a C cup for years because, she says, “I thought only strippers were Ds.”

There’s a lot of stigma attached to bra sizes.  A certain size equals too small or —  horrors! —  too big.  A particular letter can only be worn by strippers and/or women with enormous fake ones.  Like there is some magic size that exemplifies what “regular” women wear.

I read in quite a few places that  the average woman wears a 36C bra.  But, we just established that a good many of us are in the wrong size.  So maybe this claim should read something like “The average woman, for fear of being a Hooters girl, chooses to wear a 36C bra.”  Sounds like a good size, doesn’t it?  It sounds nice and full, but not too full, not too puny, and not too Hooters-ish.

According to Bravissimo,

 most people who wear this size should actually be wearing either a 34D, 34DD, 32DD or 32E bra. The true average bra size is around 34DD


Women and the size psych-out is too much topic to be handled here.  Let me just say that, if we look good and feel good, who really cares what numbers and letters are involved?

Armed with your new measurements, you must now go shopping.  Grab a dozen bras in your new & improved size, in whatever style you like.  Ignore the glare of the sales clerk who’s thinking about enforcing the “five items at a time” rule.  She will never help you find the right bra, so what else does she have to do but re-rack all the duds when you’re through?  Try them all on.  Repeat if necessary. Find your Holy Grail.  Buy 64,000 of them in case the style gets discontinued.


Back to my own Quest.  I have been “sized” countless times since puberty, and every time got a different answer.  32B, 32C, 34B, 36B, 38B, 34C, I was all over the bra map.  I found I was really… well, we’ll get to that later.  Because as it turns out I was a wee bit off.

[Note: if you can, get a friend to help you measure.  Or, at the very least, try not to do it yourself with two kids pounding on the bathroom door and your phone ringing. ]

Now, this is why I said “approximate size” earlier.  If you measured inaccurately, like me, you may need some trial and error to get it right.  The first round of bra shopping for me was a total failure.  Undaunted, I did some recalculation.  Added one size to the band because I do enjoy breathing, and so because of that I subtracted one cup letter. 

Round two?  Bingo!

For the first time in years, I liked what I saw in the mirror.  After losing and gaining and losing 30 pounds several times over the last 7 years (thanks to wedding vanity, then successive childbearing), my chest has taken a permanent trip south.  These bras were cheaper than plastic surgery and just as effective.  Glory Be! I was perky again!   I had brought a fitted, light colored t-shirt with me to the shop [another brilliant idea from the web] and to my joy the winners did not show through the shirt as bumpy, lumpy, saggy, or nasty in any way.  Holy miracle rays shone down on upon me in the dressing room and a choir of angels sang Hallelujah to my new and improved breasts.

Today was the first day of the New Bra Era.  It was a total revelation.  I had no idea bras could ever be comfortable.    I don’t feel I’m exaggerating when I say that I am a changed woman.  You don’t realize how much bullshit you live with until it is gone. 

I am now going on 14 hours with my new bra and I have not adjusted myself once.  No yanking on the band.  No fixing a strap.  No boob-hiking.  No adjusting whatsoever.   And I had a busy day.  Chasing the kids, doing laundry, running errands, bending, stretching, you name it.  This bra is still sitting just where I left it this morning.

Can any of you ladies say the same?  If not, get yourself measured properly and get shopping!  

Oh, and, for the record – I wear a 34D.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: