Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bra Fitting: Finding a bra in stores

After measuring yourself and getting a good idea of what your true bra size is, you may feel a little stuck. "But where can I find a 30F/34HH/28C?" you ask. "I've never seen one of those anywhere, much less heard of one!"

You're not alone in suddenly feeling that stores have let you down in regards to their bra size offerings. I recently helped a relative of mine measure herself and try on a few bras. She'd been wearing a 34C, and I estimated her at about a 28F/30E. This relative, like me, has a history of back pain that could be helped (or even eradicated, as in my case) with a correctly-fitting bra that offered good support. The problem? The store we were in (Nordstrom, no less) offered no bras with a 28 band, and very few in a 30 band. The best I could do was show her that a 30DD was too small in the cup and tell her that she should look for a 30E elsewhere - online, perhaps, where I could show her a myriad of sites that offered bras for less than $35.

But the hour of being surrounded by expensive Nordstrom bras and the inability to find a bra that fit perfectly had taken its toll. She offered up the excuses I've heard so many times before - "It's too much trouble - too expensive - what I have is "good enough" - I don't need to spend money on a bra when I could buy other things." And she left, still in a bra that offered no support whatsoever and that was probably causing some of her back and shoulder pain.

It's true, sizes outside the "norm" can be quite difficult to find. For those in the U.S. in particular, it's very difficult - and sometimes near impossible - to find bra sizes in a 30 or below band or above a G cup. But don't give up hope just yet! Sizes like these do exist, and they're far from being the ugly grandma bras that you may associate with "larger sizes"!

For those of us in the U.S, here are a few stores that offer a range of sizes larger than the average department store:*

Range of sizes that they may stock: 30-46 band, AA-HH cup
Range of sizes that you can actually expect to find: 30-38 band, A-G cup
Nordstrom can be a good place to start looking, even if you know that they don't have your exact size. If you think you're a 28G, say, you can go looking for the sister size of 30FF to try on to see how close the fit is, then base online searches off of that. Often the saleswomen will offer to order a size that they don't stock if you find a bra that you like that's not your exact size.
Nordstrom is generally a fairly good place to get a bra fitting, although I've heard of and had hit-and-miss experiences. It's best to get an estimate of what size you are by measuring yourself at home, then take what they say with a grain of salt (but be open! you might get a really great bra fitter).

The range of sizes you can expect to find is generally about the same as Nordstrom in my experience, although both stores will vary on their stock depending on each individual location. I've noticed that Nordstrom is more likely to carry a few good U.K. brands like Freya, Panache, and Fantasie, while Dillards seems to carry almost exclusively U.S- sized brands like Wacoal/Whimsy/b.tempted and Chantelle. The main problem with this is that U.S. brands are less likely to carry smaller band sizes, so it may prove more difficult to find a small band/large cup combination. However, I have seen 30 bands for A-G cup for at least one bra every time I've been to a Dillards.

Fredericks of Hollywood
Range of sizes they may stock: 32-42 band, A-DDD/F cup
Range of sizes you can actually expect to find: 32-38 band, C-DDD/F cup
Fredericks uses U.S. sizing, and their specialty seems to be mostly for a small range of sizes (most bras I've seen there are 34-36 band, D-DDD/F cup), but it can be a good option to check out if you fit within this size range.

Range of sizes they may stock: 30-44 band, A-HH cup
Range of sizes you can actually expect to find: 32-38 band, A-F cup
Intimacy stores are generally small and pricey, but the upside is that the fitters are fairly knowledgeable, and they will alter bras for you so they'll fit you better. If you're a 28 band, they can alter a 30 down, for example. Back when I was looking for 30G's, however, I could only find 2 options in the entire store, one of which fit fairly well, but it was well over $100.
Another note - some of their bras are U.S. sizes, so bras in a "30G" may be labeled "30I" instead.

Boutique stores
Often through a little online searching you can find a nearby bra boutique store. Stores like these have the potential to be better at any of the above stores, both in terms of selection and fitting. It's best to call ahead to get an idea of what sizes they carry, especially if you're going to be traveling out to visit. Some boutiques will even carry bras in a 28 band!
I know of a few good boutique stores in various cities (either through hearsay or experience), and I may compile a list one of these days.

Generic Department Stores and places like Kohls, Target, etc
Generally I would say avoid stores like this for any kind of fitting advice, but if you fit into the range of 32-38 A-DD, you may be able to find a bra that works for you.

Clearance Stores like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx
These are hit-and-miss, but once in a while you can find great bras for much cheaper than you would at a department store. Generally 32-36 band, D-GG cup is what you might expect to find if your search is successful.

Some words of caution:
Even though stores like Nordstrom and Dillards may be better than the average store for finding and getting fitted into a bra, take note that these stores are still a business, and thus they will want to sell you something (like any other store). Neither of these stores carry a 28 band, so it is quite unlikely that they will actually fit you into a 28 band, for example - they may give you a 30 band and tell you that it's "good enough", or even tell you that you can't be smaller than a 30 or 32 band. Personally, I've had bad experiences (I've been made fun of and told I couldn't be a 30 band or smaller) and good experiences (the same store a year later there was a very sympathetic and helpful salesgirl that was a 30F herself and knew a lot about fitting, including that I was a 28 band). So don't get discouraged if you have a less-than-helpful experience, but just be aware that there's always going to be the occasional salesperson who doesn't know what they're talking about.

Do you have any recommendations/bra shopping experiences to share? Questions? I'd love to hear them!

Coming soon: Finding a Bra Online - for those of us who need or want more choices.

*(Note: "Ranges they may stock" means that they advertise (online or in store) to carry these sizes. "Ranges you can expect to find" is the range that they are most likely to have in-store without having to look for the one bra that they do have in the back or ordering it for you. You may get lucky and find more of a range than you were expecting depending on the store, however.)


  1. Oh goodness I love this! I hate going somewhere and seeing we carry XX-XX and getting into the store to find nothing even close. I am insanely jealous of our overseas sisters who have a larger variety of in store options.
    Like you say in your post, I often end up having the person I am fitting try on a sister size in a larger band, at least they get an idea of what volume size they need, then we can order online. I can't wait to see your post about online retailers. I hope you have some suggestions that I have yet to try!

    1. Thanks! X I often wish I lived in the UK so I would have more in-store choices! But I'm getting the hang of the online shopping thing more and more.

  2. Ha, just did a post myself on bra shopping online before reading this! Great minds think alike. I'll be interested to read your thoughts.

    For when you do your list of boutiques, Zoe and Co in Westerly RI and Concord MA is the very bestest. They do proper fittings--they won't even let you go in and not get fitted! And the service is second to none.

    One question, isn't a DDD equal to an E cup, not an F?

    1. I'm glad you did one too - the more advice out there, the better!

      Thanks so much for the recs! I'll be sure to add those to a list of good small stores.

      DDD = an E cup in UK sizing (which goes D, DD, E, F), but a DDD is an F in U.S. sizing (which goes D, DD/E, DDD/F, DDDD/G)... confusing, but I tried to make it more clear by noting that I was talking about U.S. sizing for Fredericks!
      So a DDD/F in Fredericks would be an E cup in U.K. sizing.

    2. (and yes, I have seen G bras labeled "DDDD" in US brands XP)

  3. Figleaves! Barenecessities! Bravissimo are my go to brands.

    1. Definitely! Those are on my list to mention in my online-shopping post!

  4. A note of Nordstrom: they have a wonderfully forgiving returns policy, in that they'll take back *anything* if you're not happy with it. I try to buy form them when I'm trying a new shape of bra especially, so that once I wear it a few times, if it really fits poorly (I'm still learning what fits my shape!), I can take it back to Nordstrom and return or exchange it.

    I recommend to friends and family to shop there when initially fitting if they can, since we happen to have 3 within an hour drive and if they misjudge while learning what their size actually is, they can work with the returns until they figure out what actually fits.

    1. Good point about the returns at Nordstrom. The downside is that Nordstrom is generally more expensive than online stores, but then again, you don't have to pay for shipping and you can physically try on bras!

  5. It's very sad that none of these stores carry 28 bands and such a large cup :-(
    I need anywhere from a 28GG/H or probably could even try a 26H/HH.
    I wish they would know that there are more of us.