You’re Probably Wearing The Wrong Bra Size

How to Find the Right Bra Size via Positively Smitten

I am going to fill everyone with breasts in on something: there’s a huge chance you’re wearing the wrong bra size. Victoria’s Secrets and basically everywhere else you can get easily measured (discounting actual seamstresses) is doing it incorrectly. Even if you have a smaller chest you were probably sized wrong!

Read on to figure out your actual bra size.

The myth of cup sizes

In the U.S., we have an extremely warped view of breast sizes. The general consensus is that an A cup is extremely small, a C cup is considered the “most desirable,” a D cup is enormous, and anything beyond a D is unfathomable. Here’s the thing though: cup sizes are not static.

A cup size is based on the difference between the band size and the bust size. The band size is the measurement of your underbust, right beneath your breasts. The bust size is the measure around your breasts.

The difference between cups is the volume the bra holds. A 32 DD holds different volume than a 40 DD. This means if you go up or down in band size, you’ll need to adjust your cup size accordingly.

How do I know if I’m wearing the wrong size?

Here are some warning signs that you’re in a poorly fitting bra.

  • You’ve been measured in Victoria’s Secret. Unfortunately, the associates there can be less-than-accurate with their measurements. Throw that measurement away.
  • You have back pain. You might have lower back pain from trying to correct how you’re carrying your breasts or you may have “bra pain” which hits right at and underneath your shoulder blade. This means your band is too large and your breasts are pulling your back muscles.
  • Your band is riding up in the back. This usually means your band is too big.
  • The gore (centerpiece in the chest where the wires/cups meet) isn’t firmly against your skin. It should remain firmly planted between your breasts.
  • Your breasts are forming a “quad boob” and spilling out.
  • You have armpit spillage. Believe it or not, this spillage generally isn’t “just fat” — it’s breast tissue that should be in your bra!
  • When you lift your arms your bra pull away from your ribcage, or rides up in the back, or creates spillage.

So how do I measure myself for the right bra size?

  1. Get naked. Really. In order to get a correct measurement, you need to be!
  2. Measure your band size. Take a measuring tape and measure beneath your bust. Take a snug measurement and a tight measurement. If you got an odd number round to the next even. Write this number down. Make sure the measuring tape is wrapped all the way around, flat on your skin and straight, parallel to the ground.
  3. Measure your bust size. First, lean over to where you back is parallel to the ground, wrap your tape around your back and measure at your nipples, keep this somewhat loose. The point of this measurement is to measure in all the breast tissue that’s been hiding in your armpits from ill-fitting bras. Secondly, standing straight up, measure again around the back across the nipples. Lastly, lay on your back and measure again, around the back and across the nipples. A lot of people will get the same number and a lot won’t. Take these three numbers and average them. Write down the averaged number.  (Use this image to help.)
  4. Subtract the band size from the bust size. So if you measured a 34 band size and a 40 bust size you have a 6 inch difference.
  5. Find your cup size! I have put them in UK, European and American because UK is tremendously more accurate across brands; whereas American measurements are…not, sadly. (Including European because it’s literally the easiest so if you come across a company that sells European you’ll be happy!)
Difference in bust and band size UK Measurement European Measurement American Measurement
Less than 1” AA AA AA
1” A A A
2” B B B
3” C C C
4” D D D
5” DD E DD/E
6” E F DDD/F
10” GG J J
11” H K K
12” HH L L
13” J M M

How to find the properly fitted bra

I am now hearing “What, what, what? I am NOT a G cup!” Chances are you are. Remember cup sizes aren’t static and a 34AA holds the same volume as a 26D! What you measured here is basically a starting point.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • A good fitting band will help ease back pain. For years, I was getting a larger band size because I thought a smaller band size would hurt my back. Not true!
  • Start on the first (loosest) hook setting on the bra. It should be snug and shouldn’t ride up your back. As you wear the bra, the elastic will begin to wear; this is when you want to use the tighter hooks.
  • Swoop and scoop! Using your hand swoop and scoop all of that breast tissue (that you may have been calling fat) from your armpit area into your bra. That’s where it’s supposed to go. With a properly fitting bra, it will move to its proper place with the breast tissue brethren.
  • A proper fit means your bra is straight and parallel to the floor. Your band shouldn’t be riding in the back.
  • The straps should be digging in either. Adjust them as needed, about 80% of the support should be in the band, therefore alleviating the strap-dig.
  • The gore should be flat against your chest.
  • Your breasts should fit smoothly into the cup and should not spill out with raising your arms or leaning over.

Troubleshooting them boobs

  • If the band feels too tight, your breasts may be causing the tightness, go up a CUP size first. Yes, you heard me, the band is the support, it needs to be snug.
  • If that didn’t work go down a cup size and increase the band size. Here is a handy chart that shows how much volume fills each bra size, this will help you find a sister size.  (A sister size is a bra that will hold the same volume. This is handy if the store you’re shopped is sold out of a certain size or you need a bigger band, etc.)
  • If the gore isn’t against your skin try a larger cup size.
  • Can’t find your size in your area? I’ll provide links for some online shops, if there is a Nordstrom you can travel to they carry UK sizes and you can try things on there and then find similar products online.
  • Scared that you’re wearing a K cup? Bah! Again, cup sizes are not static! Don’t buy into that, your continued comfort is what is important.

General tips

  • You may see an increase in back pain and soreness in breast tissue while your body adjusts to how it’s supposed to carry your breasts. This is normal. If it continues more than 1-2 weeks, reevaluate your bra size.
  • When purchasing online review the return policy, you don’t want to end up with a $50 bra you can’t return or wear!
  • Ignore people who measure you and add 3-4 inches onto any of the measurements. This is WRONG.
  • Wash your bra by hand and air dry it.
  • If you go down a band size, don’t forget to go up a cup size (or two). Account for volume of breast tissue!



Photo credit Manuela Montanarelli



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