Bra Myths Demystified – The Bra Size Fallacy

Warning: Long post

coconut with pink tape measure over white background (concept of

We’ve all heard the statistic that 70%-90% of women are wearing the incorrect sized bra, mainly that their band size is too big and cup size is too small. The statistic seems to have come from a survey ran by Debenhams (a department store in the UK)  in 2011 however, no academic research has been done (to my knowledge). The statistic seems to be quite relevant however; anecdotal evidence is everywhere.

What does this mean? Mainly that most women aren’t wearing a correctly fitting bra and should check that they wear a bra that fits correctly however, there is a deeper, underlying point that is not often explored and that is the fixation on size. I call it the “Bra size fallacy”.

Most of my friends and other women that I talk to about bras will insist that they are a particular size, especially after fitting. This is simply not true for several reasons.

Reason number #1 – The fitting method used by salespeople is not accurate (in most cases). I will discuss this a little later in this post.

Reason number #2 – Not all brands are created equal, a.k.a. ‘vanity sizing’
Nowadays there are lots of different brands offering bras, which is fantastic however, with more variety and popularity comes change. Each brand has its own style, sizing and shaping which affects the actual size of the bra. There is a huge variance in the true size of bras, even though the labels may be the same sizes. For instance, in my recent trip to the Bendon outlet in Melbourne, I tried several different brands including Elle MacPherson Intimates, Bendon, Fayreform, Lovable and Pleasure State. I found that while I was a relatively comfortable 14E (Aus) in the Bendon (which I considered closest to the ‘true size’) the equivalent sizes in several brands tended to be on the smaller side, especially the Intimates range. The intimates was particularly small in that when I tried the largest cup size in that range, a 14G, it was still too small.
Why is this? I believe there are two reasons; the first is that there is no industry standard for bra pattern sizing and the second is ‘vanity sizing’. Since ‘larger’ busts are portrayed in the media as more attractive, some women seem to gain a confidence boost in a larger labelled bra. So by labeling smaller bras as larger sizes, you increase your sales as it has a psychological boost to the women buying them.

Reason number #3 – Not all breasts are created equal, a.k.a. natural variation.
As well as size, breasts come in many different shapes. Bottom heavy, top heavy, tubular etc. So two different people might have the same ‘size’ in a fitting only to have completely different breast volume (and therefore different ‘true’ sizes) and conversely, two women with the same breast volume could have completely differently shaped breasts, meaning that different sizes fit them.
Earlier this year I found this funky quiz that is helpful in giving a generalised classification of what sort of breasts you have. While it is not the most accurate and will not suit everyone, I found it interesting and definitely opened my eyes to why I was having trouble with particular types of bras.

Reason #3 II – Breasts change size often.
It’s not just weight gain or loss either, hormonal changes such as in the menstrual cycle, water consumption and other factors affect your breast size. So it is always good to have variance in the sizes that you own to account for this.

Reason #4 – Styles affect size and fit.
Bras can come in very different designs and styles and like breasts, they don’t always fit the same way. For example, a bra designed for a bottom-heavy breast in a small size might fit a larger top-heavy breast. Sometimes, no matter what size you try, a particular style may not fit at all. I tried a bra that must have been designed for extremely wide-set breasts as it had a gape at the arm-pit side of my bust but gave me a quad-boob at the front, no matter what size I tried, it did not fit.

One of the major reasons that women are still wearing incorrect sized bras is because they were not fitted correctly, something that is an all too common occurrence.
While this may be a result of the fitter being inexperienced or badly trained, the real problem lies with the method of fitting. In order to find your size, you will be measured around the bust at its widest point and at the under bust. While in theory this works, in practice, this method is highly inaccurate. By only measuring the bust at its widest point, you are not getting a correct representation of the volume of the breast. Perkier, rounder breasts may be assigned a larger cup size using this method than a flatter, larger based breast of the same volume. One of the largest flaws in this method is that it measures both breasts at once, leading to an average being taken. This means that the larger breast may end up spilling out of the bra, leading to a poor fit.
One of the biggest issues is if the fitter gives you a size and only hands you bras in that size. Ideally, the fitting should be used as a guiding point to start trying on different sized bras.

Finally, the last and biggest issue that comes with bra sizings is that cup sizes and band sizes affect each other. A lot of women I know will often compare and say things such as “You’re not a B, your breasts are the same size as mine so you must be a D” or “There is no way you are an F, I am an F and my breasts are much bigger than yours.” This only further causes women to choose incorrect sizes as they compare themselves to their friends rather than wearing the correctly fitting size.
Something that I recently learned when researching bra-making is that equivalent cup sizes with different band sizes are different volumes.
The volume of a  C cup in a size 14C is larger than a 10D. (Australian sizes, if you wish to convert them to another countries system you can use this converter:
This may seem counter intuitive but the letter size is not constant. The cup of a 12C is not the same size as the cup in a 16C.
For a cup to have the same volume, the cup size increases when the band decreases. For example, 8F/10E/12D/14C/16B/18A all have the exact same cup volume.
If you take my size for example as well, 14E has the same cup volume as 10G/12F/16DD/18D.
So if your band size is different to someone else’s, stop and think before you claim that they are a different size to what they are. You may be a 16E, but be aware that the equivalent volume in a band 10 is an H cup.
I am stressing the point because I have seen many people arguing about this and it’s simply because of misinformation.

So I hope I’ve cleared up some things relating to bra size and iterated my point that size is just a number, don’t rely on it and always go with what fits.

Stay tuned for my next post on Bra Myths Demystified – What makes a good fitting?


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Filed under Bra Size, Bras, Demystifying Myths, Fitting, Information

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