The Great Sizing Enigma

Situation: You go to your friendly local Nordstroms and venture into their lingerie department. You’re currently wearing a DD, but you decide you want to try a size up, but you’re a little confused as to how the sizes all work ‘way up in the above-D realm. So you decide to ask for help.

“Do you have any, uh, E’s, perchance?” you ask the girl.
“You mean DD?” she asks sweetly.
You thought you remembered seeing that E came after DD in the sizing world, but who are you to question the all-knowing salesgirl?
‘Uh, yes,” you reply. “I mean, no… whatever is a size up from DD.”
“Oh, that would be DDD. Same as F,” she chirps, rummaging around in the racks. “DD is the same as E.”
You wonder why they even call it E if everyone just says DD, but you obediently follow her and take the selection of bras that she hands you.
A few moments later in your searching, you happen upon a size E bra and wonder why it’s not labeled “E/DD,” but are too confused to ask by this point.

Yes, the world of bra sizes is a confusing place. Even helpful salesgirls can make things more confusing. But do not despair, fellow bra-seekers! The secret is simple. European/United Kingdom and United States sizing follow different systems after size D. The differences aren’t too great at first, but they magnify quickly to the point where you might be asking the Nordies salesgirl for an H (UK sizing) and she hands you a US H, which is the UK equivalent of a FF. (if they even carry these sizes)

Here’s the UK/US Size Conversion Chart to make things more clear: (taken from, which, by the way, I recommend both as a site for finding bras and for some (but not all) good info on the way bras should fit)

US ———— UK
I —————G
L —————HH

As you can see, this isn’t really a problem if you wear a D or smaller, but it can get really confusing trying to translate bra sizes between brands if you’re looking for a DD or above. The US doesn’t deal with double letters or so-called “half” sizes (although the difference between, for example, F and FF is a full cup size), choosing to tack on as many D’s as they can before finally giving up. U.S. brands have a problem with getting over that “D” threshold on their tags. One can understand asking for a “Double-Dee,” but what are you supposed to do when you get further up? “Yes, I’m a *counting on fingers* D-D-D-D-D” or “a Quintuple D” ….ridiculous. And yes, many U.S. brands do put “DDDD” instead of the simple “G” on their tags. To make things more confusing, the person used to U.K. brands will assume the DDDD is an F.

The best way to deal with this is to know your brands and sizing differences beforehand. It’s difficult to figure out the sizing system that all the different brands follow, but knowing a few of the main ones and realizing the differences in the tags is easy to do.

Also, knowing what brands stock bigger cup sizes/smaller back sizes is really helpful when scanning the bra section of the store. If you don’t see any of these or the salespeople don’t know these brands, then chances are you’re not going to find anything that works if you’re looking for a D-DD cup and above paired with a 32-34 band and below.

Good U.S. sized brands:
-Wacoal (and b.tempt’d)
-Lunaire (and Whimsy)

Good U.K. sized brands:
-Panache (and Cleo)

There are others, obviously, but these are the most well-known that I most often see good stores stock (and I’ve tried some of them [the ones that carry my size] myself). The sub-brands in parenthesis are the more “youthful” and/or “sexy” versions of the main brand. Often these brands will vary in how they fit somewhat from the main brand (for example, Cleo tends to run smaller than Panache).

I often feel like I should run an inventory of all the brands carried in shops around here. What bothers me the most is when stores carry a brand that has a very large range of cup sizes, but they only carry a few sizes in that range, and no small band/large cup combos. What’s the point then, really?