Bra fitting guide

Finding the right size bra is often a trouble for many women; estimates are that about 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. This is not healthy for your breasts — especially if the breasts are in a too tight bra.

Let your breasts have free time from bras daily; it's best to spend more than 12 hours of your day bra-free. This will help the lymph flow inside your breasts. And when choosing a bra, try to get fitted by a professional.

A part of the bra fitting tips below have been submitted to us by a professional bra fitter.

Finding the band size

There is NO consensus in these measurement methods (unfortunately). Different opinions exist. So no matter what measuring system you use, you still need to try the garment on to be sure it actually fits. It's worth noting though that a too large band size is one of the most common errors women make in bra fitting.

Have someone measure around your chest with a tape measure, just under your breasts, and around the back. Make sure the tape measure rests flat on the skin and goes straight across your back.

The "old" advice has been to add 5 inches to this measurement - and then that is your band size (also called chest size). HOWEVER, adding only 2-3 inches (instead of 5) works far better for most women. You can even try not adding any to the measurement you get, and just using that as your band size. This is because the band is elasticated, and because the bra band needs to fit snugly so it can provide about 80-90% of the support for the breasts - and then the straps (shoulders) only carry about 10-20% of the load.

If you end up with an odd number, go up to the next even number, since bras usually only come in even-numbered band sizes.

As always, try the bra on, and let that be the final determining factor. If the bra band rides up on your back, the band is too large (loose) and you need to go down in the band size.

Finding the cup size

Measuring the cup size is trickier; even with a measurement it is better to try on different bras and find out experimentally which one fits.

Have someone measure you again, this time the measuring tape goes on top of the fullest part of your breasts. If you already own a well-fitting non-padded bra, you can wear it while taking this measurement as long as it doesn't 'flatten' your breasts (which would make an illusion of a smaller cup size). Record this number, and find the difference between that, and the band-size number. The difference tells you the correct cup size as follows:

negative< 11"2"3"4"5"6"7"

While this chart is useful for determining the cup size, bear in mind that 34A cup does NOT have the same exact volume as 36A or 38A. Similarly, 30D does not have the same volume as 36D (30D is a much smaller cup than 36D). So, if you try on a 36B bra and the cup size fits but the band is too loose so that you decide to go to down in band size to 34, you may actually need 34C cup size so as to have about the same volume in the bra cup.

This is sort of counter-intuitive. Just remember to go by the fit, not by the numbers. You have to try the bra on. If it fits right, that's your bra size even if the tape measure told you different.

General advice about getting a bra fitting:

  1. The band size (or chest size) is the number part of your bra size. The cup size is the letter part. EX: if you are in a 36 B, then 36 is the band and B is the cup.
  2. You are not going to get as good of a measurement as someone else would by measuring yourself. Let someone else measure you.
  3. A measurement CAN be done over the bra you are wearing AND over your T-shirt. If you plan on getting fitted, don't wear a thick shirt like a sweatshirt or sweater.
  4. If you have large and/or sagging breasts, then when the person is taking your band measurement, you should pull up on your bra's shoulder straps so that she can get the measuring tape under your breast for an accurate measurement.
    EX: I had 2 different sale ladies "fit" me a year ago. One did not have me pull up on my straps and told me I was a 44DD. The size seemed to work but I was messing with my bra all day long and the wire kept poking me. I went back and a second lady "fitted" me and had me pull up on my straps and came out with a 40 DDD, which turned out to be my "true" size. The wire stopped hurting me and I stopped messing with my bra while I wore it.
  5. If you wear a bra with padding or stuff your bra, then you are not going to get an accurate measurement. If you plan on getting fitted, wear a bra without padding.
  6. Not all fittings will tell you the "right" size, but will give you a good place to start at usually.
  7. Try on different styles of bras. Every style fits and feels different and can "shape" your breast differently.
  8. Don't rush trying on bras. Really pay attention to how they fit and feel. Go bra shopping when you know you have the TIME for it. Many women have had to take up to an hour or more trying on several different sizes and styles to find the bra that gave them the fit and feel they wanted.
  9. If your bra fits correctly, it should NOT be painful or uncomfortable to wear.

These two videos will talk about and show examples of some common bra fitting problems, such as the band riding at the back, wires digging in, or breast tissue bulging out.

How to tell if your bra fits correctly.

  1. It should fit snugly around. You ought to be able to fit one or two fingers under the band comfortably. If you are pulling down the back strap or pulling up on the shoulder straps throughout the day, then the band size (the # part of your bra size) is too big.
    1. Can you fit 1 or 2 fingers comfortably? If yes, then the band is right size.
    2. If you're having a hard time putting one finger under the band, then move the hooks to the loosest fitting eyes. If it is still tight on the loosest fitting, then try on one in the next up band size.
    3. If the band can easily be pulled away from your body, or if the band rises up your back, then go down one in the band size.
  2. If you are wearing an underwire bra, the wire that comes up between the breasts should lay flat (or as close as possible) to your breast bone. If you are wearing a bra with no underwire, you should have two separate breasts, not just a "one big boob".
  3. If the bra is a soft cup bra, you shouldn't have any extra, gapping fabric. If the bra is a molded cup you shouldn't have any extra room in the cup. Your breast should completely fill the cup. If it is gapping and the band feels fine, then go down in the cup size.
  4. You don't want to be spilling out of the cup - not from the top, bottom or sides. If the band feels fine then go up a cup size.
  5. If you raise your arms up (do this a few times), the bra should stay against your body, not lifting up or off. If this happens try a few things;
    1. adjust the shoulder straps by loosing them
    2. Pay attention to the band. Is it too tight? Or too loose? Or just right?
    3. If the band is just right, and adjusting the shoulder straps didn't work, then go up a cup size.
  6. If you have a small frame or are petite, and you find a bra that fits the band, and you don't quite fill the cup and you have already tried the next cup size down and it's still not quite right - OR if the you have the "right" size, the band fits and you fill the cup, but the wire is poking your underarms, then try a Demi bra. A Demi style bra is different from a full coverage bra. The Demi has less wire, by about an inch or more.
  7. Try on different styles of bras. Every style fits and fills different and can "shape" your breast differently.
  8. If your bra fits correctly, it should NOT be painful or uncomfortable to wear.

For the dads out there helping their girls to shop for a bra:

  1. Just like boxers and briefs and jockstraps are all very different in fit and comfort for you, for her every bra is different and there are hundreds of bra styles to choose from.
  2. Don't rush her. Let her try on as many bras as she needs too to find what is right for her.

About bras made in the UK/Europe:
When you hold these bras up against a comparable US made bra, the cup is positioned higher in relation to the back of the bra. This makes the support more solid and results in needing fewer hooks in the back. (i.e. a thinner band - this is nice for wearing more revealing necklines, etc)


You do a great service with this site. I worked in formal wear for years and regularly (as in daily) fitted women into formal gowns and saw the wide variety of body shapes with which Mother Nature has graced us. I also heard endless expressions of negative self-esteem due largely (IMO) to the media's creation of a myth of perfect, perky, large breasts that can stand up straight without any support. Sometimes 'helpful' family members would only increase the women's problems by mocking her body and/or agreeing with her concerns, at which point I would feel compelled to tell them that I've seen thousands of breasts (much more than the average guy or media photog) and that the woman in question was perfectly normal.

The only time I was ever taken aback by a woman's breasts was a young woman who had more (dark curly) hair between her breasts than most men do.

And finally, I saw and was distressed by the extremely high percentage of women under the age of 30 who had had breast augmentation done. We actually had a description of them, "torpedos" -- due to the fact that they stood straight out, unlike normal women.

As a side note, I think more women would be happy about their breasts if they had a bra fitting done by a professional and purchased the right type of bra for their needs. Countless times I would discover the truth to the fashion industry's claim that most women are wearing the wrong bra size. Odds are -- you are wearing a size close to what you wore when you were 16 and it's wrong. Get fitted. And if you are concerned about sagging, find a comfortable underwire (they are out there) and you will see a tremendous difference in your appearance and your self esteem. I cannot tell you of the numbers of women I forced to try on a properly-fitted bra who stared at themselves in amazement, saying, "I look 10 pounds thinner!" or "I look ten years younger." So before you get surgery, get a good bra.



Are you wearing the wrong bra size? - a visual guide from Bravissimo.

Specialized bras

Equipoised — a bra attachment that counterbalances the weight of breasts and corrects posture. It has gotten lots of rave reviews from women!

Decent Exposures
Comfortable bras and un-bras in sizes from 30AAA to 60J. Custom-made if needed, personalized service.

Coobie Bras
Seamless bras, camis, and tube tops with great comfort. Inexpensive; and one size fits nearly everyone.

Bra stores specializing in large sizes,,, Nordstrom,, and

Bra stores specializing in small sizes (A, AA, AAA cup sizes) and

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