Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Victoria's Secret and sizing


If you know me, you know that I strongly loathe don't really care for Victoria's Secret. I'm of the opinion that it's the devil they fit people poorly and offer a very limited range for a shop that's specifically lingerie/bra oriented.

Is Vicky's all bad? Dear readers, pretty much no! If you fit within their fairly limited range, you'll be able to find bras there and sing kumbaya with all the other patrons. If not? You'll either be made fun of (true story) or they'll try to convince you that you fit into the size range that they carry (also true story).

I know my bra size (after years of wondering what the heck was wrong with me when I was 14 and didn't fit into anything at department stores). If you're not so lucky, though, and you go to Victoria's Secret to get a fitting, chances are you'll be put into a size that's not ideal for you.

There are many methods used to figure out your bra size, but the best way I've come across is to measure under your bust and use that as your approximate band size, then measure your bust at its fullest point and use the difference as a starting point for your cup size. For example, if your underbust was 31" and your bust 35", you might start by trying a 32D and go from there. If the band is too large, try a 30DD (when you go down a band size, you need to go up a cup size to get an equivalent cup); if the cups are too big or band's too small to hook on, try a 32C, etc. Bottom line, try things on until you get something that works and use the measurements only as a starting point.

At any rate, Victoria's Secret doesn't use this method to figure out your band and cup size. Instead of taking you to the back and properly measuring you as a starting point, they use the following method:
-Take above-the-bust measurement (around your body, under your armpits) over your clothes.
-Then measure your bust (again, over your clothes, often in the middle of the store).
-Then take the above-the-bust measurement and subtract that from the bust measurement to get a cup size (depending on the number of inches; 1 inch difference = A cup, 2 inch = B, etc).

I don't doubt that this method yields at least somewhat satisfactory results for some. But for others, particularly the large-busted and/or thin, it is ridiculously inaccurate.

For an experiment (and because I was at a mall I knew I wouldn't be coming back to anytime soon), I went into a Victoria's Secret a few months ago to see what size they would fit me into, even though I knew they don't carry my size in their stores. I was curious as to whether they would get an accurate size and whether they would refer me to another store.

(story time!)
When I asked to get fitted, the girl dutifully pulled out a measuring tape and told me to put my hands on my hips. She quickly whipped the tape around under my armpits (about 34 inches) and over my bust (about 37) as she asked me what size I was currently wearing. Then she proclaimed: "Okay, you're a 34C."
"34C." I repeated, not sure she was serious and that she had heard what the current size I was wearing was.
"Yes, or possibly a D, since you have a smaller frame," she said confidently.
Several questions were running through my mind, namely how I could magically fit into a size that I hadn't been able to get into since I was 11, and on what planet a 34 band equaled a small frame. However, I played along and gathered a few 34D's.
I buzzed her over to the fitting room after I'd somehow gotten one on, feeling ridiculous. "How are those fitting?" she asked, cheerily and automatically. I showed her how the band was riding way up and how the cups barely covered the very front of my boobs. The fit was so completely, ridiculously off that I wondered how she would salvage the fitting, much less keep a straight face.
"The cups are way too small," I said helpfully.
"Hmm, how's the band fitting?" she asked, buying time as she sidled around me.
I pulled it several inches away from my body so she could see how loose it was.
"Okay, well, maybe you're a 32DD. Or maybe even a 32DDD," she offered, it seemed to me seriously. "Since you have a small frame." 32DDD is the smallest band/largest cup size they offer, and only in one or two bras usually only sold online. "What size did you say you were wearing currently again?"
When I repeated it, she said "Okay," noncommittally. Then she left, still looking perplexed as to why her original fitting didn't work and probably sure that I would fit into a 32DD (which, incidentally, has virtually the same cup volume as a 34D).

Why was the fitting so very far off? Had the fitter bothered to actually measure my underbust, from which the band size should be based off of, she would have discovered that it measures about 28.5 inches. That's quite a far cry from the measurement she used to determine band size (34), and it's about 9 inches different from my bust measurement as opposed to 3 inches. Using the same method of one inch per letter, these new measurements come much closer to my actual size. It's not that difficult.

So why doesn't Vicky's use this method? I'm not completely sure. Most obviously, I would think it's because they only carry a fairly limited range of bras (32-38 bands, A-DD cups; most of the 32's come in only A-C and sometimes D). Their goal is to sell bras; I get it, they're a business - it makes sense (to a point) that they would want to try to fit people into what they carry.

More importantly, though, I think for at least some fitters the method used is based on an ignorance of how bra sizes work and because they aren't really aware of sizes beyond what they stock. I've known girls who've gone into the store asking for "odd" sizes like 30D and were told "That size doesn't exist!" I've also heard about or experienced being told that you can't possibly be the size you're wearing, that Victoria's Secret doesn't sell "weird" sizes like that, that anything 34 and below is "tiny," and that something is wrong with you if you aren't the size the fitter tells you you are.

I think that their sizing method (of taking a measurement of over the bust for a band size, which I'm reluctant to even link to) could work for people who have a over the bust measurement that is close to their under the bust measurement. But the fact is, not everyone is like that. I thought we were supposed to celebrate our differences, Vicky!

The perhaps even more prevalent method I've seen of adding 4-5 inches to the underbust measurement to get a band size seems to me an even more blatant attempt to get nearly everyone to fit into a relatively small range of bras. A girl with a 29 inch underbust and a 36 inch overbust would be fitted into a 34B or C with their standard math equation (29+5 = 34 band; 36bust-34band = 2 inch difference). A fitting estimate using her actual underbust measurement would put her into about a 30DD. Next time you go to a store see how many 34C's you see in relation to 30DD's. A girl that's a 34C = lots of sales. A girl that wears a 30DD = no sales (at least for Vicky's).

I'm sure many people have had good experiences with Victoria's Secret. Sadly, I haven't, and it bugs me to no end when I see girls getting fitted into sizes that are obviously wrong, especially if the girls are made to feel that it's a problem with them, not the bra they've been given to try.

I may not be "normal." But you know what? Neither are you. You have your own special and unique body that shouldn't be defined and constrained by what measurements you have and what society tells you that normal is.
If you should be wearing a 30C, then you shouldn't have it hammered into you that you have "tiny boobs" and must wear a 34A, because you're tiny and tiny people wear A's. You shouldn't have to be told that your bra size doesn't exist and you can't possibly be a C. You shouldn't be made fun of because you're "so skinny" because a 34A is slipping off your shoulders because the band is too big.
If you really are a 34F, you shouldn't be told that you're a 36D because that's all the store has. You shouldn't be forced into bras that are too tiny and make you feel fat and ugly and ridiculous.
If you're a 32H, you shouldn't have to endure being the brunt of "big-boobs" jokes or told that you look like a porn star or endure horrible back pain because all that the salespeople can do is hand you a 38DD and tell you that you should get a breast reduction.
And you know what? If you wear a 34C and you fit everyone's definition of "normal" and you can get bras at Victoria's Secret, more power to you. Because you are you. And you are beautiful.


  1. How absolutely miserable.

    Thanks for the measuring instructions, I always forget how to do it again when it'd time to buy bras.

    BTW great post. :)

  2. Wow, great post. I had just about the same experience, being a 30DD and measuring out to be a 34C at Victoria's Secret. I was young then and had no idea why my bras never fit well. Having suffered for 4 years I finally walked into Linda's and recieved a proper fitting where a trained specialist measures the ribcage and not just the breasts. They then will ask to see your breasts to determine your proper size (VS will never tell you that breast size also depends on breast shape, just plain laziness I suppose). The bra specialist had me try on a 30DD and looked to see how it fit on me and told me exactly how a good bra is supposed to fit! No more bands riding up, no more sliding straps...I was so relieved. I absolutely hate Victoris's Secret and their marketing practices. What they do to misinform women and girls is horrible.

  3. Anon, that's great you were finally able to find a shop that was able to help you find your correct size! It's amazing how much difference a properly-fitting bra makes :)

  4. When I was sixteen (and I'm guessing I was an 30F) My sister took me to Vicky's to be sized. The woman measured my underbust, then my bust, then threw me a curveball. She measured my overbust but she held the tape away from my body by like 3 or 4 inches. Even at 16 when I knew very little about sizing I was thinking "What the...?" She did her little calculation and calls in another "fitter" to help her because "I keep getting 32 B" Which I was very obviously not.
    I luckily was logical enough to know that they were incompetent and not blame my body type entirely (I still took 3 years to figure out that my body isn't to blame for having a hard time finding bras)They decide I'm a 32DD and put me in the sister size 34D. It fits like crap I wear it uncomfortably for 3 months because I was desperate for a pretty bra or at least one that wasn't embarrassingly plain.
    But I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has a distaste for vicky's because their "fitters" are just saleswomen trying to make the customers buy a bra regardless of if it fits or not. By the looks of their ads they aren't selling fit at all. Every time I see a commercial I find myself shouting "LOOK AT THAT QUADBOOB!" or "SHE'S GOT SIDE BOOB!"

  5. Hillary, you're so right about Victoria's Secret not even fitting their models correctly.... and when girls see badly-fitting bras held up as an example, how are they supposed to learn what a well-fitting bra is?

    Brittany from Thin and Curvy has a post dealing with poorly-fitted VS models that you might find interesting: http://www.thinandcurvy.com/2010/12/victorias-secret-bras-dont-even-fit.html

  6. A friend of mine used to work at vs, she told me that they didn't even train her how to size , its basically a guessing game for bra sizes. They have no idea how to size, my cousin went in and the girl told her she was a 34D and she is a 34C

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. I've been to both Victoria's Secret and Aerie to be measured MULTIPLE times, and have been told that I'm anywhere from 34A (Aerie and VS) to a 32C (my *third* and most accurate in-store fitting at VS), and when I told the worker at Aerie that an A was NOT going to work, she gave me a look of disdain and actually chuckled a bit. However, since none of the bras I had gotten fit well, I decided to take measures into my own hands (quite literally) and measured myself- I now know that I am a 28E. From my experience, most of the employees in big-name lingerie stores only think about making a profit- they carelessly measure you and then tell you what your "right size" is so you'll spend loads of money on their bras, no matter how they fit.

  8. I had the same problem! I usually wear a 30C or D depending on the bra and if i'm on/off the birth control pill. I have a very small frame, 27-28 inch underbust, 33 inch bust and I'm only 5'1". I tried on a 32B in a pretty floral bra, but it was a demi cut and I was spilling over the top, so I wanted a 32C. The saleswoman took one look and told me it was WAY too small. She promptly measured my band size by placing the measuring tape over my boobs (and over the security tag on the back of the bra). She told me because this measurement was 32 (which was inaccurate because of the tag, it's actually 31), that I could try both a 32 and 34 band. She then measured my bust, and somehow pulled a 34C measurement out of nowhere. As I said, my bust is only 33 inces. She brought me a 34C in pushup bras, and because there was so much padding they didn't gap, but they didn't actually push-up my boobs because the cups were too large. Another saleswoman came over and tried to convince me that because she could slip her WHOLE hand under the band when it was on the tightest hook, that I actually needed a 36B. As I said, I usually wear a 30 band, and the 34 kept riding up over my boobs because it was too large. They just kept ignoring me and bringing sizes that I knew wouldn't fit, to the point that I got so overwhelmed that I left the store without buying anything.

  9. So is the adding 5 inches method bad too? I have a 25in underbust and have no idea what size i should be wearing. the bras i have are 32b or 34a, but they dont fit well. the bra i wear the most is a 32b but the lower part of the cups (close to where they come together) doesn't lay flat against my skin. I was actually planning on going into VS this wkend to get sized, but after reading this blog, I am thinking that their sizing won't be accurate. Any thoughts?

  10. For a long time, I my bras didn't fit right - close, but not quite right. So one day I went to a VS thinking "This is the biggest bra store, they'll give me a definitive answer" and they sized me at 34A. In some bras that was OK, but it still didn't fit quite right, and in others it just didn't work at all. I may not be very busty, but I'm fairly broad shouldered, so the area under my arms is wider than the area under my boobs, making the VS sizing model silly for my body.

    Eventually I went to a legitimate (non-VS) store for sizing and got sized as a 32C. (I had never thought to buy a 32C before. I had a collection of 34A, 32B, and 34B bras, but when I got fitted as a 32C, I asked "Wait are you sure?!") The fitter walked me through everything I should look for in bra fit. Now I notice that even in VS catalogs the bras don't always fit right on the models! I see a lot of straps that are hiked way up (and other stuff like here: http://felinefataleblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/untitled.png - I'm not affiliated with this site, just found the image on Google image search).

  11. Victoria's Secret has been the bane of my bra wearing existance. I got fitted the first day at a 32C...didn't have time to try it on, bought it, it gave me quadboob. Went back the next day, they fit me into a 32D (how measurements can wary within a day, I don't know). It seemed to fit fine, but after a while, I was spilling out of the top, and the sides and area were the straps attached were gaping open. The straps dug into me even when I loosened them to the point where they were falling off my shoulders. The underwire was sitting on my breasts, and the cups were digging into my armpits. I went to nordstroms the next day, and the fitted actually looked at me with the bra on and told me how it should fit, and stayed with me for practically an hour until I got something that worked - 30DD. She told me that a 28DDD would fit better and sent one to my house with free shipping, because they didn't carry any in the store itself, but 30DD works great, as long as I go up to a 30DDD for the bras that run small. I don't really have very big boobs, they're pretty average sized, but these bras fit great.

  12. Honestly speaking, I don't know if I can trust any bra fitters. I walked into VS and they tell me I am a 32C. I walk into Aerie and I am told I am a 30D. Then I go to Hanes, where they boasted about certified bra specialists, and I am told by the woman to try 32B even though she said I am less than a 32 and then goes on to tell me I should try their "little girl's bra" section. =___=