Bra Fitting

There are many great resources out there to helping you figure out your bra size - A Bra That Fits is one of them!

But here's a quick-and-dirty method for figuring out your "starting point" bra size:

1. Get a fabric tape measure.

2. Take a firm measurement of your underbust (i.e. your ribcage right under your breasts, without wearing a bra so the band won't get in the way).
Write this number down. This is your approximate band size.*

3. Take a fairly loose standing bust measurement. The main goal here is to measure how much breast tissue you have, so measuring while wearing a bra that squishes you down isn't going to be helpful or accurate. Then, for better accuracy, take another bust measurement while bending forward at the waist.
Write these numbers down. If there is a large difference between them, start with the average.

4. Subtract the number you got in Step 2 from the number(s) you got in Step 3. The resulting number indicates approximate cup size, using 1 inch per cup letter (i.e. 4 inch difference = D cup, 5 inch = DD, etc). Use this U.S. vs U.K. Size Chart to help you determine the correct cup size (starting at A=1). The majority of good, well-known bra companies use UK sizing.

An example:
Underbust measurement: 28 (band size)
Standing bust measurement: 34
Leaning bust measurement: 35
34-28 = 6 inch difference (A, B, C, D, DD, E)
Bra size: 28E or possibly 28F


*note: if you get an odd number (like 33), you'll need to round to the nearest even number for your band size - generally it's best to round down, but experiment with both 32's and 34's (in this case).

Exceptions to the "rules":
-Women who are more muscular and have "flared ribcages" may need to go up a band size or so from what their underbust measurement indicates, especially if they have smaller breasts.
-Women who have larger underbust measurements and/or more cushion around their ribcages may well be able to go down several band sizes from their underbust measurement, as bands get stretchier as they get larger (a woman with a 39" ribcage, for example, may possibly do best with a 36 band)
-Women with little cushion around their rib cage ("bony ribcage"), often paired with a small underbust measurement, may need to go up in band size for comfort.
-Cup size may vary a bit based on breast shape.
-Remember that this gives a starting point size only. Bra fitting is an art, not a science, and you'll probably have to try on several things to get the best idea of what size and shape works for you. Do your research, and go with the bra and size that fits and feels the best!


For further reading:

More on Measuring and Calculators:
List of 5 Good Bra Calculators
How to Measure Your Bra Size from Thin and Curvy
On Sizing - from Sweet Nothings
Fitting Guide from the subreddit ABraThatFits

Fitting Tips:
Detailed Fitting Instructions from Breakout Bras
Five Signs of a Poorly-Fitting Bra
U.S. vs U.K. Size Chart
Why Wear the Right Bra Size?

Database of Bras and Resources/Bra Measurements and Comparisons/:
Bratabase
Busty Resources on Wiki

45 comments:

  1. Hi

    "**note: if you don't have a bra that fits at all, take this measurement braless while leaning forward at the waist, so you make sure to get all your breast tissue/volume accounted for."

    Why have no one ever told me this before :O I was three inches of measuring from standing up. From 103 cm - 111 cm while leaning forward. That is three cup sizes :O No wonder everything feels small.Thank you!

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    1. Hi, thanks for commenting! :) If a bra feels too small in the cup, you'll definitely want to try a cup size up! If you measure your bust both ways (standing up and then again leaning forward), and the difference is quite a lot between the two measurements (say over a few inches), you may want to start off by trying the average of the two measurements - a little up from the standing measurement but not quite as much as the leaning over one. That may give the best starting point, although it will depend somewhat on the person and their breast shape. :)

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  2. Lovely Post! Good fitting advice. I will have to try it later and see what I get but so far, this is one very accurate post( too bad you cant take over a major bra retail chain :P) . I didn't know about the breast tissue/volume thing either.I am so glad you blogged about this because a lot of women have heard terrible advice from shops *the lovely plus four-six bit*.

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    1. Thanks! Glad it could be helpful! :) x

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  3. YEP I just did this, I need ALL new bras, and I am an atypical size as well. My life has just become a lot harder, but hopefully a lot more comfortable!!

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    1. Woohoo, new bras! Let me know if you need any tips for shopping sources :)

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  4. I went to a store that seemed to follow the +8 method...my 32H's weren't impressed by the 40C bra the sales lady was trying to sell me. Thanks goodness there's finally an online calculator that doesn't add inches!

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  5. HI,

    I am brand new to this website and have been very encouraged by what I read here, and was hoping you all could help me? This will be long but I am desperate. I am 5'3 and around 150 lbs, have been since college and I am 36 now. Very flat chested no cleavage. About 4 years ago I decided to go get a bra fitting and was told that out of the four places in my town to go, that Dillards was the one. An older lady with a 25 year bra fitter badge fit me, measuring on top without my shirt saying I was 37. She brought back 38A bras and 36B, and the 36Bs fit horribly, as I thought they would, and the 38s she said fit. I believed her and never had any bra issues.

    Over the years I had gone back to that store and when I would ask to be shown 38A bras the various sales ladies would eyeball me and say "you are not a 38 band." I would leave upset. I resorted to just buying 38A online or going to that store and just saying I needed no help and find them myself. Same thing happened there last week where I was declared 36B.

    Last week I also went to a specialty shop where once again I was told "you are not a 38 band" before being measured. They too took a measurement over my breasts and this lady said I measured 36 overbust but 32(tight) under, so she brought back 34s and 36s in lots of styles. I could hook the 34 but was in big pain. She tried me in 36B and yet again, couldnt find a bra that fit right. Bra bulges mostly in the band area and some over the cup sides. I did find one that sort of worked and bought it.

    Then I went to Victorias secret, where a week before I was also measured over my breasts but for the fifth time had been told "you are so not a 38 band." I didnt bother to try on any bra because I was in disbelief.This was before the Dillards trip. The gal recognized me from my first visit and was really nice when I told her I try on 36B and they about never fit me.She took lots of time with me and concurred that I am 36B, so all three fittings came up with that.I showed her the specialty shop bra that was 36B and i had bulges with and she agreed it didnt fit me, and said, "I think you were fitted in the right size but the wrong style!" You need a wider band and we only carry one bra that will work for you." No one ever tried different styles with wider bands with me on their own.Excited, I tried on the Body By Victoria bra she had and while I still feel there is SOME bulge, I am not bulging over the sides or cup. It feels tight but not bad. When I left the store I remembered that the ONE bra the lady at Dillards fit me that FIT was also wider band.

    My mom and I though,measure me at underbust comfortably at 34. Wouldnt that make me a 38 band? I told the ladies at VS and Dillards there was some bulge under my band but they said it was slight, and that I was used to wearing to large a size so thats why I was noticing it in the 36? I dont have a flared ribcage so is the 36 these 3 companies told me I am a good choice? It feels snug but I am only 34 underbust! Also, how can one lady 4 years ago tell me I am a 38 and then she tells me last week i am 36 when I measure the same then as I do now?

    Any help would be appreciates. 38A LOOKS alot better on me than 36

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  6. I would like to add to my previous post that neither the 36 or 38 ride up on me, but if the 38 is too large shouldn't it ride up? I also had to hike up the straps to almost halfway or more in the 38 if that means anything? And. the clasp of the 36 band where the hooks are slightly touch my skin whereas there was some small space between my back the hook on the 38. Thanks for your help I really need it!

    RADIO10465

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    1. Hi there! :) It definitely sounds like you could use a more supportive band than a 38. With an underbust measurement of 34, you'll be about a 34 band (adding inches to the underbust measurement to get a band size is an outdated method that's unfortunately still used by many US bra stores).

      If a 36 band is feeling too snug, it's most probably because you're wearing a cup that is too small. Do you know what your bust measurement is? The difference in inches between your raw underbust/bust measurement is going to be your approximate cup size - for example, 4 inches of difference is a D cup, 5 inches a DD, 6 inches E, etc.

      It sounds like your main issue is the most common that women face - a too-big band and too-small cups. You might want to enter your measurements into the Sophisticated Pair Bra Calculator (one of the most accurate out there) to see what you get: sophisticatedpair.com/bracalculator.htm
      Your band should feel comfortably snug, but not painfully tight - you should be able to stretch out the bra band about two fingers' worth, but not much more. The cups of your bra should have enough room to encase all of your breast tissue completely, and the center gore should be flush with your sternum.

      For more reading/another place to get advice, I recommend http://www.reddit.com/r/abrathatfits. Good luck! :)

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    2. Hello,

      Thank you for your comments, they helped alot as does this site. I will say the bra lady who fit me at a 32 underbust (she pulled so tight i gasped) did try 34 bands on me, the dillards lady didnt as she thought it would be too tight. The three fit ladies I saw all thought 36A would be a size to try and liked how the band fit me, but oh was I spilling out of the cups. I have wide set breasts and no cleavage unless I bend over, but 36B was tried on me as the A was not good. Bust measurement is 37 and I went to the bra calculator you suggested and also came up with 36B for slightly snug band.There is no spillage, gaping, center gore flush.

      I just have a few more questions. One, I get some light markings from the bra band, NOT the straps. On one side of my body I had an indentation where the band was but it was only maybe an inch long and could have been how I was sitting against the couch. My sister and certain websites say that is not normal, but some say it is. Does anyone else get that? My panties and socks leave marks too.

      The bra is comfortable and I feel more confident in it. My old bra that was too big in the back never rode up, but I hear if they are too big they will? I did slightly feel it shift but not ride up.

      Thanks so much again!

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    3. If your 36B feels good to you and you don't have any signs of a poor fit, I would stick with it! You could try a 34C, the sister size of a 36B, just to see how it works, if you decide to go try more styles/sizes. If you're spilling out of the 36B at all, you might try a 36C.

      Light markings are normal; bras will leave marks just like socks and underwear. If you're getting deep red marks, pain, and/or irritation, that would be something to worry about.

      Bras that are too big in the band don't always obviously ride up, especially if the cups are too small and the band has to stretch to make up; if you can pull the band more than an inch or two away from your body, that's another indication of a too-big band. Shifting is also an indication of a too-large band; the band should be firm and straight.

      Glad to be of help! :)

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    4. Hi,

      I will definetly have to look into sister sizes.The lingerie shop sold me two Felina bras in 36B and already I can hook one of the bras on the tightest clasp . Its snug but I have lots of room in the band when I pull it back. Do Felina bras run bigger in the band? no other store here sells them so I didn't know what to expect. It seemed ok in the store.

      Thank you

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    5. I am not sure about Felina bras in particular (I don't think they run big or small particularly), but it does sound like you'd want to try a 34C next time - same cup volume as 36B, but a more supportive band. The 36B band definitely sounds too roomy for you. Often, brand-new bras that are too big in the band will seem okay in the store when they've never been worn, but once you get home and wear them, they stretch out pretty fast. A well-fitting bra should feel quite snug when brand new, and it'll relax a bit once you've gotten it home and worn it a bit. :)

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  7. Hello. Can't tell you how much I appreciate this. I read your post about Victoria's Secret and wanted to try this out. VS told me I was a 32DD and 34D was my alternate size. I have a hard time finding 32DD on their site and 34D is too lose in the band for me. I tried this measurement out and I got a size of 30G which I'm pretty sure VS doesn't stock at all. I am new in the US and have no clue where to shop for a bra. I would love any suggestions?

    I would have to add that I thought my VS bras fit properly but maybe I don't know since I practically wore a 34B my entire life which I now cringe at because after reading a lot online I can see the massive spillage all over and understand why my breasts kept spilling down the band (what I always thought was because my bras has a short shelf life and just got loose too soon).

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    1. Hi, Gambetto! Nordstrom should have bras in the 30F/FF/G range for you to try (I'm not sure if the 30G measurement you got was US or UK sizing, but generally you want to stick with UK sizing, especially in smaller bands). You may also find those sizes at boutiques in your area. Otherwise, there are many great online options. I'm guessing a 30G would fit you much better than the 34D/32DD's. Good luck in your search!

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    2. Thank you so much for replying! It was US. So I am 30F then?

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    3. That sounds like a good place to start! :) Nordstrom, Dillards, and possibly small shops/boutiques should have your size range, as well as many online stores.

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  8. I just checked out the VS website...I guess my closest size in the ones they have available would be 32DDD...or 32DD. Makes me sad...

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  9. HI,

    I was wearing a band size to big, and was recently put in my correct size. I notice now though, that I am very awar of the band on my body. When I bend over or turn to the side I can feel the band against my back. I couldn't feel that in my larger size. Is this normal?

    Thanks

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    1. It's great that you found a better size! Yes, it's completely normal to feel the bra on your body - it's supposed to be able to give support, so it has to be snug to some degree. In fact, you shouldn't be able to pull the band more than a few fingers' worth away from your body (an inch or so). A snug, firm band may take a little getting used to, but it'll be much more supportive!

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  10. I have a constant problem with bras that they fold and creased above the underwire. Also, the underwires never sit flat in the front because my breasts are set fairly close together. Theoretically my size is 28FF or 30F UK (28.5" underbust, 36" bust). Any advice on what I'm doing wrong? Also, could you suggest any brands, styles, and stores I should try? I live part-time in Virginia and part-time in Rhode Island.

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    1. It sounds like a shape issue - if you think you might have "bottom-heavy" breasts, this post by Braless in Brasil is helpful: http://www.bralessinbrasil.com/2012/10/bottom-heavy-breasts.html

      You might also check out Bratabase for suggestions for styles that may work with what you think your particular shape is. Hope that helps!

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  11. Hi,

    I have posted here before and had one last question. Now that I am wearing a tighter band size, like I mentioned I get red marks, which I know are normal especially for very fair skinned people like me. I also am "squishy" around the ribcage. My question is how long should it take for red marks from the band to go away? The marks around my sides and back go away fairly dast, but the ones under my breasts sometimes take hours to go away, even in wireless bras. Is that still ok? They are not deep red, itchy, painful or anything like that.

    Joie

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    1. Hi Joie - those red marks sound normal. Any clothing that's at all tight (underwear, socks, etc) will leave marks/indentations after wear :) I wouldn't worry unless they're painful or itchy.

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  12. Hi, I have been having a lot of trouble trying to find proper fitting bras. I have found a lot of conflicting information about what constitutes a proper fit. For example, lingerie companies who have a bra calculator and say to add 4 inches to the underbust measurement. IF buying from said company should I calculate based on their info, so that it wont be crazy tight, or go on my regular measurement. I have a 29-30 in ribcage and a 41 inch boob measuremnt. I've been wearing a 36DD or even a 36D for probably 10 years since that's the biggest I can find in the mall. According to my recent research I should be in a 30H or a 30GG (UK). my main concern is should I go on this measurement or that given by the individual company? Thanks

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    1. Hey there - adding four inches is an outdated method that really won't give an accurate size estimate today. With your measurements, about a 30H (UK) sounds like a good place to start for you. If you're in the US and live near a Nordstrom or Dillards, you may be able to find bras in the 30GG-H range to try on (also, check and see if you have any good boutiques in your area). There are many options for your size range online, as well.

      Other sources for checking out reviews, what bras might work best for your shape, etc. are www.bratabase.com and http://www.reddit.com/r/abrathatfits. Good luck!

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  13. I have a question about center gores: why do most women prefer to have their breasts separated? I understand that it can get hot and uncomfortable, but I have always found wires on my breastplate to be very uncomfortable. I tend to go for plunge bras and to me, at least, it feels better to have my breasts touch slightly than to have wires poking at the inside edges of my breasts. I believe they are very close set and the centre gore would have to be about 1cm not to irritate me. I was just wondering if it's a matter of preference or if there is truly some health benefits to having a bra separate the breasts. Thanks in advance,

    JJ

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  14. Hi! I have two questions and hope you can help. =)
    I've recently measured myself and the number are around 35in under and 43 on the bust. I put those number on a calculator online and the size that came up was 36F(UK). Does that sound ok?
    My big question though is if you know how this converts to the french size (since that's the one we use around here). I got 95G (online thing as well) and hope that's the right size since I just order a few bras by parfait and I really really want them to fit.

    thank you so much!

    MC

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    1. A 36F sounds like a good place to start, although you may find a 34FF works better depending on the brand :)
      Parfait bras tend to run small in the band, so I'm guessing a 36F is a good bet for that brand for you. Even if it doesn't quite fit, at least you'll have something to go off of for next time!

      For European sizing, a 36F would equal an 80F. But this also can depend on the brand and how they do sizing. I hope this helps - www.bratabase.com may also be useful to you for looking up brands and asking questions :)

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    2. thank you for your reply. we use mostly the french size, not the european, the 80F (from this chart I found online: http://www.boobytrapwarehouse.com.au/brasizes.htm) would equal a 95F and I own a few bras in that size and they don't fit so well in the cup so I'm trying for the next size, the 95G.

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  15. I've got a teeny tiny rib cage (23 inches tight or 24 inches snug) and boobs that run about 32 standing up, 33 leaning. I've looked everywhere for good bras. I've mainly been wearing 32D (Victoria's Secret) and 30DD (Calvin Klein). I'd love to try a 28E but can't seem to find anything I like. Many bras just don't fit me right. T-shirt bras I've never had any luck with, Demi cups have always given me quad boob, and mesh cups just make me look completely flat(I look better without it). All of my bras are push up based as they have been the only thing that seems to fit better. The issue I run into while looking for a 28E bra is nothing has any push up, and to be honest I'm worried to try anything else. The best bras I have are the 32D Victoria's Secret Sexy Tee Push Up bra and the 30DD Calvin Klein Perfectly Fit Gel Bra. On both of these I still have to tighten the straps all the way and use the tightest hook. I'm at a loss at what to try or even look for.

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    1. It sounds like you'd do best in something like a 24G or 26FF, which, unfortunately, are sizes only made by custom order from Ewa Michalak. I would try out some 28F's - the shape of the bra should be much better for you, and a bra that's more in your ideal size will give you better lift and cleavage (in the proper style) than your current ill-fitting pushups. Bras that give the more rounded, "uplifted" look are plunges by Ewa Michalak, the Freya Deco, some of the moulded bras by Affinitas - there's quite a number! Check out the links in the "where to buy bras online tab" and take a look at the styles different stores have to offer. :) There are also lots of reviews out there for further research.

      You might also try posing the question on http://www.reddit.com/r/ABraThatFits/ for further suggestions. :) Hope that helps!

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    2. Thank you very much! I'll have to wait until my birthday at the end of July to have the money for it. I'm still not sure which size to buy which is why I've been considering the 28E (I'd rather have it a little bit snug then completely unusable). I've tried to talk my Mom into helping me get one but when she finds out it's an "E" cup she say's it won't fit, and rolls her eyes at me. I've explained to her countless times how band and cup size works. I will look into the brands you gave me and make use of the website. Most of the bras I've been eyeing have been Freya.

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  16. Hi, my underbust is 28 inches and my bust is 33 inches. What should my bra size be? Thank you :0 xx

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    1. Try a 28DD/E or 28E/DDD. That's just for a starting point, remember. Bras are just like other clothes - cut, style & brand can affect fit.

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  17. I just tried it and victoria's secret and macy's were actually right 34DDD

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  18. Hi, very glad to find this site, where I can ask "stoopid" questions...
    I have a small ribcage but largish breasts, and usually wear a 32DD/E or sometimes D in some Fantasie models (I'm in the UK). Trying on some newer styles, by Cleo / Freya / Fantasie, would like something more colourful. I think the band size is right, and I appear to be filling the cup and I don't have the dreaded "quadraboob", but my nipples don't appear to be sitting in the right place! They are lower and more to the side than I feel is natural. I would expect them to be in the most forward part of the cup. There is no creasing of the cups but with these lower / padded styles there wouldn't be anyway. Smaller cups would produce bulging above. Are the cups simply the wrong shape for me?

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    1. Hi there! First off, do you know your measurements? It may very well be that you need a smaller band size and larger cup size. However, it may also simply have to do with a combination of your breast shape and the shape of the bras you've been trying.

      If you're in the UK (lucky you!), I would also suggest stopping by a Bravissimo store. They tend to be quite good in terms of fitting, and they have a lot of selection. :)

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  19. Hi, I recently measured myself and my underbust is a 27, and my bust itself is 33. I was just at Nordstrom and bought a 30dd parisa plunge bra. I'd tried the 30ddd, but although it fit great when I stood straight, when I would slouch there was major gap in the cup. The 30dd gave me a little quad-boob, but since it didn't gap when I slouched, I decided to buy it. The sales girl thought the straps being a little long might have been causing the gap, and I didn't want the 30ddd not to fit as soon as the straps stretched out. However, this 30dd, it feels like it's digging into my ribcage but still the teeniest bit loose on the sides of the band. From here on out, what exact size should I try for, if I can find one with slightly smaller straps? 28e? 30dd? Nordstrom also has 30ddd rather than 30e...?

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    1. I'd say try the 28E (or even F, depending on style). Even though your measurements would technically put you in a 28DD, 28E has the same cup volume as 30DD so if this is the right cup size, stick with it (but don't be afraid to go larger or smaller)--remember, measurement is only a starting point.
      I also have similar problems with bras digging in to my ribcage in front (the central gore) but still being too loose on the band and I still haven't found a cure for the wires digging in. Anyone who has, please let me know!
      (I'm a "technical" 28FF but in reality 28F who wears 30Es often because I bought them a while back and have no money for my proper size. Most of my bras are 32DDs because I prefer the material on Victoria's Secret to the other bras I bought. I know other retailers make bras with softer fabric, but none of the ones I've ordered have, so I'm in 32DDs for now.)

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  20. Does anyone know where you can buy bras larger than a k cup fitting? I was measured at a 32K but have put on weight and my back has gotten a tiny bit fatter but my breasts are absolutely falling out and being squashed now. I live in Australia and there is nothing.

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  21. Thin women under a c cup tend to wear too high a band size and too low a cup size and heavier women with c cup or more tend to wear too small a bandsize and too high a cup size. This site and thin and curvy as well as some other blogs tell you not to add inches to your underbust measurement. However, if you gain any weight on your roots and are over a c or d cup you should add inches depending on how much you've gained. For moderate weight gain add two inches, if more 4, etc...This is because the lower part of one's ribs tapers off towards the waist and younger people don't gain as much weight on the waist due to estrogen (or for men testosterone). So if your roots get bigger due to weight gain and consequently your underbust measurement is near your waist, you'll be wearing your band waay lower than a thinner person, calling the measurements of two different places by the same name. A very extreme case is Brittany of the blog Thin and Curvy and this explains much of her discomforts and lack of band support. She should wear different brands in bigger bands and lower cups, but her measurement method of never adding to the underbust despite weight gain has her wearing all bras just a couple inches from the waist. She claims to be a 28H or around that size, but her chest is actually a lot flatter than the depth of a real h and most area appears to be in width, like celebrities Kate Upton or Christina Hendricks. Look up 26j or 28H and there will be a whole slew of incorrect fits on opinionated blogs, the most laughable site is that bra band project though, the examples of sizes are totally not the right fits...There is a whole population of women claiming to wear low bands and high cups who just won't admit that they've gained weight so they keep shifting their bands lower. People don't go down in bandsize over time unless they lose weight...and one's roots do not keep spreading after a D or dd, the breast tissue starts growing outwards, making for higher cup sizes. Breast tissue grows far away from waist collar bone and doesn't go in to armpits or quite meet itself on the chest. ..There is a difference between breasts tissue and fat tissue around and on the upper torso/chest.

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    1. Betty Collins, I am pretty sure that a distinct advantage of measuring directly is that you don't need to muck around with adding inches. Whenever things stop fitting, you can always remeasure at the same place on your ribcage, and just read off the new size (obviously adjusting for comfort.) I know that Brittany has done this, since she used to wear a 26, and has recently gone up to a 28 with the little bit of weight gain.

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  22. I do commend you for recommending bratabase, which makes Internet bra shopping possible...do other blogs just not know of this?

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