Welcome to braradise!
A few years ago, I needed regular physical therapy because of back pain. Many ill-fitting bras later, I am pain-free today. The rather shaking truth is: I need bras in 26G.
When I ask someone what they think that size is, I hear, “teenage anorexic with soccerball boob implants.” When I google that size, I find fireplaces.
My figure is unspectacular. I am slim, my breasts are on the border between medium and large. One would estimate me perhaps at 34C. There is a chasm between our idea of bra sizes and reality. Bras are like that niche in the kitchen that you didn’t measure before you went to IKEA. You think you know its size. Until you try to put a cabinet in it. (Spoiler: It doesn’t fit).
The difference is that a kitchen cabinet creatively folded into the niche won’t give you a backache, headache, or posture problems. This begs the question: How is it possible to be so off base on a topic that can make or break your pain in everyday life? Where is all the information on this?
It’s here. This Bra Bible sheds light on the darkness of the underwear drawer. For you, when you come home after a long day and take off your bra before your shoes, is this page.
1.0.0 Why do women wear ill-fitting bras?
1.1.0 History of the bra
1.1.1 Lycra and outdated bra size charts
Our bra size designations with letters for cup size (originally only A, B, and C) originated in the 1930s in the USA. Spandex was not introduced until 1959. The size charts have never been adjusted. Today’s bras are much more stretchy than they were back then, which is why the size charts recommend underbust bands that are too wide. For a proper fit, most women need to choose their bra one to two sizes tighter than the chart suggests. This is a bra with a 55 underbust measurement. It will stretch to 62cm even under a light pull.
1.2.0 Bra size misconceptions
1.2.1 General problems of standardized sizes
There are over 3.5 billion women in this world and each of them is unique. There are about 250 bra sizes. Many women buy their bras not in lingerie stores, but in the lingerie department of larger clothing chains. There, often only 16 sizes are available, sometimes less.
This means that not every woman can buy a bra that fits. Especially in Germany, because of the few sizes that are widely available, it is unlikely that you will stumble across a bra size that actually fits in a store that does not specialize in lingerie. There are simply too few sizes for our different bodies. At the same time, however, an ill-fitting bra is like an ill-fitting shoe: harmful.
Bra sizes are based on the idea that bodies can be measured, categorized, and subjected to a fixed category. The system does not do justice to the diversity of bodies, nor to the fact that bodies are constantly changing. Some women’s breast size changes so much during their cycle that they need different bra sizes.
Not only our bodies, but bras themselves are subject to much greater size fluctuations than the labels suggest. The printed size serves as a rough guide at best. It is difficult to produce larger quantities of bras true to size. Even if the only difference between two bras is the fabric, it may require a different pattern. Even the color causes irregularities. Dark bras often run tighter and smaller than light ones.
It gets even stranger when you learn that the EU bra size standard (most bra brands with a big size spectrum are European) is a recommendation that manufacturers can follow, but don’t have to. One manufacturer’s 34B may not have much to do with another’s 34B.
In addition, while the measurements in the size charts are standardized, the measurement methods are not. Nowhere, for example, is it specified whether the measurement should be taken while inhaling or exhaling. However, this can shift the result by two sizes or more.
Last but not least, the idea that you could determine the volume of two approximately hemispherical breasts by taking two circumference measurements is pure mathematical nonsense.
1.2.2 Letter not equal to cup size
A great many women wear bras that do not fit. Some lingerie saleswomen report that during their several years of professional experience, not a single customer has come to the consultation with a bra that already fits.
A general misunderstanding about sizes contributes to this. The assumption that the letter of a bra size stands for the size of the breast is widespread but wrong. When women are asked about their bra size, they often give only the letter, for example, “I wear C cups.”
However, the letter of the bra size says something about the size of the breast only in combination with the length of the underbust band. A 70C is a completely different size than a 90C, which has a wider underbust band but also significantly larger cups.
In the first mass-produced bras, there were only sizes A, B, and C. These sizes hardly did justice to any woman. Gradually, the range of sizes grew and a naming system was needed. On a slim woman, 750ml of breast volume looks much bigger than on a bigger woman. Therefore, the grandiose idea was born to take into account the general stature of a woman. This created a wonderfully confusing sizing system, which to this day generates sales merely by requiring specially trained personnel to find the right size.
So how does it all work?
Theoretically, two measurements are needed: The bust circumference and the underbust circumference. With these two measurements, you can then derive the size using either a table or a formula. In practice, this system does not work due to the reasons mentioned before, better methods later.
In the tables, you can see that the same letter is always assigned to the same breast-underbust difference. If you subtract the respective underbust circumferences (70, 75, 80, 85, 90) from the average values of the A table column (83, 88, 93, 98, 103), you always get 13. 13cm difference between bust and underbust circumferences thus always correspond to an A cup.
Problems of this measurement method
This connection often leads to the erroneous conclusion that the letter would also always be assigned to the same breast size. This is wrong.
Although the circumference measurements are identical, the right body clearly has larger breasts than the left. Larger letters do mean larger differences between breast and underbust circumferences, but they do not automatically mean larger breasts. So A-cup is not equal to A-cup.
The left column of the graph shows how the sizing system treats breasts. Since the difference between breast and underbust circumference remains the same, all the breasts in the left column correspond to an A-cup.
In the right column, they are still the A-cups from the left with the same measurements. In reality, however, on larger cups, the breasts are usually grown on a larger area. So they have a lot of volume, which is not captured by a circumference measurement.
Let’s imagine that a woman’s chest would slowly shrink while her breasts would remain unchanged. For every five centimeters, she would need a bra with a band one size shorter, and at the same time, the letter of the cup would increase one step. So (with breasts staying the same size!) your size would change from 40C to 38D, 36DD, 34E, 32FF, 30G to maybe 28GG. That, by the way, is a perfectly realistic size that could fit a slender woman with bigger-sized breasts. Then, when her chest magically stretches back, she goes through everything again in reverse order.
As a counterpart to this example, let’s imagine a balloon in the shape of a woman. (Get your mind out of the gutter, this is science!) When it is inflated, the chest and rib cage grow evenly. If the balloon fit 32FF well in the first, relatively airless stage, it would now go through sizes 34FF, 36FF, 38FF, 40FF, and so on. The volume of the breasts would increase (just like the rest of the body) despite the letter remaining the same.
A 28DD has exactly the same size cups as a 34B.
Therefore, it does not make sense to specify only one letter.
If 34B and 36A have the same size cups and there are no more 34Bs in the store, can you just take a 36A? No. The length of the underbust band is important for the fit of a bra. It needs to fit well. Often, an underbust band that is one size too tight or too wide will make a bra completely inappropriate. But it’s still worth trying it on because the sizes are inconsistent as fuck.
1.2.3 Bra straps do not carry anything
The weight of the breast should not be lifted by the straps but supported from below by the underbust band. Properly fitted, the underbust band should support 80-90% of the breast weight. This is the only reason why strapless bras work. Ideally, the straps only prevent the bra from sliding down and shape the breast. Because the underbust band performs the support function, it is wider and firmer than the straps. To serve its purpose, the band must gently but firmly hug the ribcage while the breasts stretch the cups open.
An incorrect cup size can cause an inappropriate underbust band to go unrecognized. Many women wear cups that are too small in combination with an underbust band that is too wide. The too-long band is then not noticeable because it wraps around not only the ribcage but also part of the breasts. You can test whether a bra fits by trying it on with the cups turned onto the back and without straps. In this position, it must not slide down the body, otherwise, it will be too wide.
1.2.4 Putting on a bra incorrectly
There is another factor that often leads to the purchase of inappropriate bras. Most lingerie stores do not show how to properly put on a bra. However, this has a big impact on the fit. Many of us have unconsciously developed strategies to put on bras in such a way that fit problems are not immediately apparent.
Fit problems become apparent when you put them on correctly.
The very surest indication that a bra doesn’t fit is how you feel. Is it uncomfortable? Burn it.
1.2.5 Real vs. perceived bra size distribution
Essentially, only bra sizes from 34-36 and A-D are present in the media or lingerie departments. This creates the following classification in the mind of most people regarding breast sizes:
Flat = AA
Smallest quarter of all breasts = A
Rather small quarter of all breasts = B
Rather large quarter of all breasts = C
Largest quarter of all breasts = D
Anomaly of nature/ Breast enlargement = DD
However, this is incorrect for several reasons. First, a letter without a band length says nothing about the size of the breast. Second, this classification may be true if you look at what sizes are purchased (by women who believe in this classification themselves). However, bra fitters across stores agree that in reality, hardly any women wear fitted bras without advice. If all women wore properly fitted bras, the size distribution would be completely different. DD, for example, is not a large size on most underbust band lengths.
1.2.6 Average bra size
According to “Average Woman 2014” by the German Federal Statistical Office, the most common bra size is 36C. Apparently, buying habits were queried here without making sure whether the bras actually fit. 36C would fit a woman with a broad chest and rather small breasts, rather not the average combination.
A good place to go for bra advice in Germany is the online forum Busenfreundinnen.net. There you can find the following statement from one of the moderators:
“In our consultations, we recommend a 30 UBB [underbust band] extremely often, estimated at about 30% of all women. Combined, recommendations for 28s, 30s, and 32s UBBs account for nearly 70% of all consultations.freely translated by me
However, this is not a representation of the real distribution in the population because only the desperate and the suffering with Internet access show up here. At enamora.de, orders for 30 UBBs account for only about 5-10% of the total volume. This may be largely due to customer ignorance, but I think these numbers tend to be closer to the German average.
Furthermore, experience of UK lingerie sellers shows that the most commonly sold sizes in the UK are 32 DD/E/F. For many women with small breasts, the pressure of suffering is also not great enough to specifically look for 65 UBBs. They settle (even after advice here) for firm 32s and 30s.”
Bra size distribution in German bra-forum “Busenfreundinnen”
Obviously, a bra size advice forum is a rallying point for women who fall outside the standard commercial range. However, since there can be variations in all four directions, i.e. too big/too small cups and too big/too small underbust band, the values even out to some degree. Here are the statistics on the underbust size worn after consulting the said forum:
Bra Size Distribution Bra Band Project
Another interesting statistic could be found on “the bra band project”. This was a collection of pictures of women in perfectly fitted bras, sortable by size. This statistic ensured that the women had their bras fitted. The size distribution looked like this:
Size 34B also plays a special role. Due to mysterious circumstances, the rumor persists that this size is suitable for slender women with medium-sized breasts. Just the perfect size for a “normal figure”. But it fits women with a wide chest and small breasts. This figure is rare. Most supposed 75B women would need shorter underbust bands and larger cups. This woman fits 75B.
1.2.7 What bra sizes exist? What is the largest/smallest bra size?
In most stores you can find bras with band lengths between 34 and 40 and cups between A and D. However, this is only a fraction of the available sizes. The following sizes always refer to regularly available bras, not taking into account custom-made ones.
The smallest and the largest underbust band
In fact, the underbust band lengths start at 24 (can be bought for example at Bosom Galore) and go up to at least 56 (can be bought at Ewa Michalak).
The smallest and the largest cup
You can get the smallest cups at dainty lady, where they have bras in 28AAAA (60AAAA in European sizes). That’s five sizes smaller than a 32A! The largest cup is probably the 46K (105O) from Jeunique. K is the 15th letter in the European bra alphabet.
There are still quite a few bras that are labeled with higher letters because the companies use different sizing systems, because they are custom-made, or because the bra has a shorter underbust band. If two bras have the same size cups but different length underbust bands, the bra with the shorter band will always have the higher letter due to cross sizing. For example, there are 38MM (85T) bras from Ewa Michalak. But these are smaller in cup volume than the 46K (105O) cups from Jeunique.
Who wears bra sizes like this?
If this is your first time hearing about bra sizes with 24 underbust bands or MM cups, you’re probably wondering what business it is worth selling such extreme sizes for.
Since these are the smallest and largest bras, it is clear that the sizes mentioned are rare. However, they are nowhere near as crazy as you might imagine when you first hear them. Due to the fact that very many women mistakenly wear bras in 34B and surrounding sizes, we overestimate. The distances between sizes are much smaller than often assumed.
Many slim women should actually wear underbust bands under 32. We have confirmed this with our interactive bra size statistics. With short bands, due to the cross sizes, the letters get high automatically. So especially for young women whose chests are not yet fully grown, 50s bands are not out of the question.
And too small cups are one of the most common fittinh problems of all. So it may well be that an 36D wearer would be better off in 30FF bras.
1.2.8 What is the bra size for a woman with 90-60-90?
“What is the bra size for a woman who is 90-60-90?” This question from an Internet forum already shows that the questioner has a misunderstanding about bra sizes. The measurements 90-60-90 describe breast, waist, and hip circumference in centimeters. However, a bra size always consists of a second measurement in addition to the bust measurement: the underbust measurement. Without it, the bra size can only be determined to a very limited extent.
To do this, you can look in any size table and find all the fields where a 90 is written. (In this house we measure in cm like the civilized people we are.) As an example, let’s look at this table.
We find the 90 in the fields of sizes 36AA, 34B, 32D, 30E and 28FF. Women with these sizes would all have the same chest circumference, but very different bust and rib cage sizes.
The only thing they all have in common is that the chest and breasts together give a circumference of 90 centimeters. This could be a woman with an 80cm underbust and ten centimeters larger bust circumference in an 80AA. Or one with a 60cm underbust circumference and 30 centimeters larger bust circumference in a 60H. In other size charts, the corresponding sizes may differ slightly. However, the principle remains the same. There is every measurement several times in the size tables if they are wide enough.
Regardless of this fact, only two numbers can be used to make very poor statements about which bra would really fit a woman.
Suppose a woman with a chest circumference of 90cm and an underbust circumference of 70cm tries on a 70D (32D) bra. This should fit her according to the chart. It is possible that the bra does not fit well on her because it is loose or she would simply need a tighter bra because of her chest shape. Because of the cross sizes, she might then fit better in a 65E bra.
About Marilyn Monroe’s own bra size contradictory information can be found, various from 70D to 75B to 80C. Likely none of the fit properly.
1.3.0 Body normativity
Knowledge about suitable bras can hardly spread. Breasts are so sexualized in our society that they are taboo except to medical personnel or close confidants.
In addition, they are often a sensitive point of self-esteem. In bra fittings, professional bra fitting consultations, you hear women apologize for their breasts or speak disparagingly about their own bodies.
1.3.1 The female breast and evolution
The breast is given great importance in Western culture for the attractiveness of a woman. This is usually justified by biological effects. For example, it is often cited that women have permanently enlarged breasts, while this is the case with other primates only during the breastfeeding period. On this basis, it is often claimed that the previously important buttocks have disappeared from the eye level of men due to the upright gait and that the breasts have enlarged in order to imitate the buttocks. Even though it would fit well into the worldview of some men if breasts had developed especially “for them”, this theory is wrong.
Breasts as sexual attraction are socially constructed
In “Patterns of Sexual Behavior” by Ford and Beach, one can read that out of 190 cultures studied, only 13 ascribed sexual significance to the female breast. In Africa, for example, it was common for women to go out in public with their upper bodies unclothed. The role of the female breast as a key sexual stimulus is thus socially constructed.
For those who find it hard to imagine that people find a body part attractive only because of social norms, consider the example of lotus feet from ancient China. Small feet were considered so erotic there that young women had their feet mutilated in rows to make them marriageable. This was also justified with alleged biological reasons, such as that the awkward tripping steps (due to the pain) awakened the male protective instinct and thus increased the attractiveness of the woman.
1.3.2 Different treatment of male and female nudity
The female breast is a secondary sexual characteristic, just like a man’s beard. The fact that women have to cover their upper body in public and men do not is evidence that the female variant of sexual dimorphism is regarded as a deviation from the norm.
The artificial sexualization of the female breast goes so far that in some places breastfeeding women are expelled from restaurants. In addition to a negative relationship to sexuality and nudity, this value construct resonates with thoughts that view people as uncontrollably subject to your hormonal needs. The same construct produces absurd excesses, such as the attempt to ascribe complicity to abuse survivors through “provocative” clothing.
1.3.3 Letter phobia
Out of sheer fear of being somehow abnormal, many women neglect their sense of bra fit with thoughts like, “This bra fits fine. But it’s a D and I don’t have big breasts, so I’ll buy it one size smaller (even though it will be more uncomfortable)” or “My friend has bigger breasts than me and she wears a C, so I won’t even try anything above a B”. Within this framework, a phenomenon known as letter phobia emerges. When it comes to bra buying, most unconsciously take their cue from women who are misinformed on their part and the sparse range of sizes available. Because so few sizes are offered below 32 and above 36, and below A and above D, these sizes mistakenly seem rare.
Letter phobia manifests itself in a refusal to try on bras with high letters. The counterpart is number phobia with thoughts like “underbust bands under 34 are only for kids!” for short underbust bands. Letter phobia and number phobia prevent women from accidentally encountering bras that fit when trying them on.
Many women don’t know that these thoughts are factually incorrect. It also plays a role that many lingerie suppliers are uninformed or prefer to quickly forget all plans with the impending costs of resizing their assortment or hiring well-trained staff.
1.3.4 Ill-fitting bras in the media
It’s hard to spot inappropriate bras because they constantly surround us. Movies, series, and commercials show so many fit problems that they pass into people’s minds as the normal look of a bra when it’s on.
Who has noticed that Victoria’s Secret and Hunkemöller regularly use photos in their online stores where the models are clearly wearing cups that are too small and the overflowing fabric has simply been smoothed out with Photoshop?
Or, that in the laundry room scene on “The big bang Theory” in which Penny is seen wearing a bra, the edges of the cups cut into her chest and the underbust band slips toward her neck?
Example fit problems in popular TV series:
1.3.5. Uncomfortable bras are sexist toward yourself
So your bra is uncomfortable? Do you even internalize misogyny, sis? Internalized misogyny means that a woman internalizes sexist beliefs and hinders other women instead of helping them. This is understandable. There have always been slaves, they helped subjugate others for slightly better conditions. In a softer form, this happens today as well, for example in the form of self-promotion of “I am not like other girls,” which devalues other women in order to achieve a higher social standing in the more powerful group (men).
Just as we have internalized that everything feminine is inherently dumber than its male counterpart, many women feel victimized. We women have suffered silently in the background for millennia with no appreciation for our accomplishments. So another terribly uncomfortable piece of laundry fits nicely into our martyrdom. Most men have long outgrown these outdated notions, and hardly anyone will expect you to wear an uncomfortable bra. (If you do, snot in his food).
So why do you treat yourself so badly? This is about self-care. Do you willingly walk around in shoes that hurt your feet? (Okay, for the right shoes you can do that once in a while, but hopefully, it’s not a standard). Bras are uncomfortable if they don’t fit. They don’t have to be. Invest the time in yourself, find your perfect bra, and free yourself from the ghosts of sexist ideas that may yet prevent you from establishing the first colonies on Jupiter’s moons.
1.4.0 Supply in Germany
Sorry fellow oxygen breathers, I barely have any information on the situation outside of my home country but feel free to add info!
1.4.1 Existing bra size supply
Time and again, affected women demand that lingerie stores please expand their size range. So far, these calls have died in the wind. There are good reasons for this: There have already been attempts in which larger lingerie chains have included new sizes in their range on a trial basis. However, they were not bought.
The letter phobia prevents women from even trying on the new bras. They remain slow sellers and sales are discontinued again, with the stores’ footnote not to get involved in such nonsense again.
The wrong offer together with the wrong demand forms a vicious circle, which can only be broken with good advice and information on the subject of bras.
1.4.2 Cartel of bra information withholding
However, manufacturers’ interest in providing this information is limited. They are in a comfortable position because women who can’t find bras that fit will buy them anyway. So lingerie companies do not benefit from good advice as long as it is not available anywhere else.
It is a cartel of deliberate withholding of information. If they gave good advice, they would have to recommend sizes they don’t carry. Customers would start sourcing their bras from the UK, for example, where the size selection is better. In the long run, this would require an expensive change in production. Simply “adding to the assortment” or not advising at all is easier. At the same time, no one acts maliciously in this vicious circle. The sales assistants are often not sufficiently trained in bra fitting. The management has the safety of the company in mind and offers what is well-bought.
So far, there are only a few small, independent businesses that specialize in advice and good size selection. Customers who have discovered such a store usually remain loyal to it. Information via the Internet is also advancing all the time, so established stores will have to think about their strategy in the long term.
1.5.0 Risks due to ill-fitting bras
Ill-fitting bras are not trifles, but health risks. Especially from women with large breasts, one often hears that their bust size is to blame for their back pain. Much more often, however, an improperly fitting bra is the cause. Healthy breasts do not hurt at first. Pain can be caused, for example, by hormonal changes or jarring of the breasts, such as just before menstruation or when walking. That is why bras are a useful invention. Properly fitted, the underbust band (UBB) supports the breasts from below, holding them in place and reducing shock.
- Posture problems: incorrectly distributed breast weight leads to relieving postures that become a habit
- Headaches: an underbust band that is too wide distributes breast weight onto straps and pinches tissues in the shoulder area
- Skin irritation: Too wide UBB slips and irritates the skin
- Milk engorgement: Too small cups press on breast tissue and cause painful milk engorgement in breastfeeding women.
- Back, neck, and shoulder pain: If the UBB is too wide, the weight of the breast is distributed incorrectly over the shoulder area and pinches the tissue.
- Deformation of the breast: breast tissue migrates under the arms if the cups are worn too small over a long period of time.
1.5.2 Do bras give you saggy breasts?
Probably not. It is true that muscles slacken when they are not challenged. However, the female breast does not consist of muscles, but of fat and glandular tissue, which lies above the pectoral muscle. When heavily used, this tissue is not exercised, but tears. Therefore, it is more likely that a well-fitting bra does not cause the breast to sag, but on the contrary, prevents sagging.
However, it is difficult to make exact statements. Many of the women who have rarely worn bras all their lives have done without them because of small breasts. However, small breasts generally sag less quickly. Only a few women wear correctly fitting bras their whole lives. It is virtually impossible to reliably identify them. Thus, a fair comparison of the two groups is almost impossible.
One study that bra-less advocates like to cite is that of sports physician Jean-Denis Rouillon of the University of Franche-Comté. He observed that many of his female students were foregoing bras for reasons of comfort and freedom of movement during sports. He began measuring the bodies of some voluntary bra-avoiders and documenting the change over time. Indeed, on average, their breasts lifted a few millimeters over time. However, the methodology of this study is quite dubious. After all, it is not surprising that the bodies of female sports students tighten as their training progresses. So whether this change is due to not wearing bras is questionable.
1.5.3 Comparison between fitting and ill-fitting bra
A properly fitting bra also makes a world of difference visually. Here are comparison pictures of me in an ill-fitting 75C (34C) Noname bra and a 55J (26GG) plunge from Comexim that fit me perfectly.
2.0.0 Finding the perfect bra
2.1.0 How should a bra fit?
A properly fitting bra is hardly noticeable. It does not interfere with breathing, does not pique, does not chafe, does not squeeze, does not slide around on the body. You don’t have to stuff your chest back in every few minutes. With a well-fitting bra, the underwires follow the underbust crease exactly, and the underbust band sits firmly but gently, like a hug. With a fitted bra, you can chase the bus or run down the stairs without having to hold your breasts in place.
2.2.0 Determining bra size
2.2.1 Table and measuring tape
There are several ways to determine your own bra size. The best-known method with a a tape measure and table/formula is interestingly also the worst. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned here.
For this method, you measure two circumferences with a tape measure:
- The underbust circumference, around the chest just below the base of the breast.
- And the chest circumference, around the widest part of the breasts.
Now you have two values, the meaning of which you can either read from a bra size chart or insert into a bra size formula.
(underbust circumference in centimeters + 2.5) : 5 = number before the decimal point * 5 = width of the underbust band
(bust girth – underbust girth – 11) : 2 = rounded cup size
The result corresponds to the place of the corresponding letter in the alphabet.
A woman measures 62cm underbust circumference and 85cm bust circumference.
The formula would then look like this: (62 + 2.5) : 5= 12.9
Number before the decimal point = 12 12 * 5 = 60 Underbust measurement = 60
(85 – 62 – 11) : 2 = 6 6th letter = F
Cup size F
Or alternatively, find the measured values in a table.
So, according to the official formula, a woman with measurements 85 and 62 should wear bra size 60F.
However, this size will not necessarily fit the woman, because:
- A body cannot be described in terms of two measurements. Perhaps a woman’s particular breast shape requires a different size.
- The measurement is not standardized. Should she wear a bra during the measurement, and if so, what kind? Should she measure while inhaling or exhaling? That changes the values a lot.
- Bras turn out very differently.
- The charts and formulas historically often suggest underbust bands that are too wide and cups that are too small.
- Bra sizes are often incorrectly converted between different sizing systems.
- The charts are too limited, some women may find their measurements fall outside the charts.
Fortunately, there are some measures that can be taken to improve the results of this method. These are additional measurements.
The super tight underbust measurement
Here, the underbust girth is measured as tight as possible with empty lungs and without a bra. In doing so, the tape measure is stretched as tightly as if you were trying to tear it. The resulting measurement shows how compressible the chest is. This measurement, if measured correctly, will probably be at least 4cm smaller than the normal underbust measurement.
The super tight underbust measurement is often a good indication of the appropriate width of the underbust band. Of course, no one wants to constrict so tightly that they can’t breathe. Unlike the tape measure, however, bras are very stretchy. An underbust band should not be wider than this value when loose, otherwise, the underbust band will slip down when you exhale.
The chest circumference bent over in front
Women whose breasts are attached to a rather small area on the rib cage, but reach forward, often get too small values from the simple breast circumference measurement. Therefore, it is recommended to take another measurement by bending the upper body over in front and measuring the circumference of the freely hanging breasts. When doing this, the measuring tape should not deform the breast. Protruding nipples should not be measured as well.
Breast circumference while lying down
To do this, measure the circumference of the breasts, also without a bra, lying on your back. The breasts are allowed to fall wherever they want. Again, care should be taken not to deform the breasts with the measuring tape, as this will lead to incorrect measurement results. The other values obtained should also be entered into the formula/read from the table. This creates a range of sizes in which it is worthwhile to start the search for a bra.
2.2.2 The bra size systems
Getting straight to bra size by taking a few measurements would be far too easy. To keep things interesting, there is a whole range of sizing systems.
The European bra size system
This one is pretty straightforward. The underbust circumference in cm gets rounded to increments of five. This forms the first part of the size. The second part are the cup sizes. Those are 2cm apart and follow the alphabet, without any double letter shenanigans. Only exception are the multiple A-sizes like AA or AAA. Those are smaller than an A-cup and get smaller the more As there are.
In France, 15cm are always added to the underbust band size for mysterious reasons. A German 60F corresponds to a French 75F.
In Japan, the letter precedes the number, so 70B becomes B70.
The British bra size system
Of particular interest to us is the British size system. This is because the UK is one of the best sources of bras with a good size selection, along with Poland. But even beyond that, the British system offers some advantages. The use of double letters allows more sizes to be meaningfully designated, and British manufacturers generally adhere more closely to sizing guidelines.
A bra size in the British system consists of a value for the width of the underbust band in inches and a letter or double letter for the cup size. For example, it has the format 34DD. Important: the length in inches does not correspond to the underbust measurement! Instead, you can remember: 26 corresponds to the European 55, 28 corresponds to 60, 30 = 65, 32 = 70, 34 = 75, 36 = 80, 38 = 85, 40 = 90, 42 = 95, 44 = 100, and so on. Especially with the very long underbust bands, minimal differences in the fabric have such a strong effect that the sizes become technically very inaccurate. The only thing that helps is trying them on.
As in the European system, the letters are determined by the difference between the bust and underbust sizes. They follow the order AA, A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K, KK, L, LL, M, MM, and N. N is actually the largest cup you can get without a custom-made size. Why some letters and double letters are missing in the British size enumeration has been forgotten. The important thing is that the double letters are not intermediate sizes, but independent sizes. If they are missing, the range is incomplete.
There is one inch between each of the British letters. One inch is equal to about 2.5cm. There is only 2cm between European bra letters. F, both systems grow at different rates. AA, A, B, and C are slightly smaller in the British system than in the Continental. At D, both systems meet. From there on, the British system gets bigger and bigger. For example, the British E is larger than the European because in the British BH system, due to the double D, the E is the seventh size. But due to the inch-centimeter difference, the British E is also slightly larger than the European F. These inaccuracies get larger as the letters go up. As always, trying on helps.
The American bra sizing system
There is no single American system, as most bras with larger cups are imported from Europe. What many American bras have in common is a blatant letter phobia in the size designation. D and DD are often followed by absurd constructions with up to five Ds as well as double and triple Es, just to avoid having to cut higher letters of the alphabet.
2.2.3 Conversion of child/clothing sizes to bra sizes
Neither children’s sizes nor normal dress sizes can be converted into bra sizes. It is true that for the calculation of the size of normal tops, the chest circumference is also taken into account, but with a larger margin. Besides, to determine the bra size you need additional measurements that do not come from a dress size.
2.2.4 Bra size calculators
Online you can find a huge amount of bra-size calculators. Unfortunately, most of them are completely useless. If you search Google for the German term “BH-Größenrechner” (bra size calculator), all the results on the first page are bad without exception. Many give only table values as results, with all the methods inherent errors.
It is also bad that many calculators output error messages for true measurement values, implying that the values entered are impossible or wrong.
In such cases, it would be absolutely necessary to point out that there is a problem with the calculator or the offered quantities, but in no case with the woman concerned. English-language calculators, which can be found via the search term “bra size calculator”, perform similarly miserably.
Fortunately, there are exceptions. The online calculator on “A sophisticated pair” recommends very accurate sizes. With this size calculator, there are three settings for the preferred width of the underbust band. Here it is important to select the widest option “looser but still supportive”. The other two settings usually suggest underbust bands that are too tight. Very fat women can also choose the middle option in some cases, as their bodies are more compressible. Nevertheless, the results of a calculator for finding a suitable bra can always be understood only as a starting point, since neither the individual shape of the breast nor the differences between different bra models of the same size can be taken into account here. Another calculator that often provides useful results can be found at sizemapp.com.
2.2.5 Trying bras on properly
To tell if a bra fits correctly, you need to put it on properly.
1) Close the bra
You should be able to comfortably close new bras in the outermost hook, not the middle one, as you sometimes mistakenly hear. The band will wear out due to body heat and friction, so you should be able to tighten the bra afterward. On the other hand, if you gain weight, you will most likely need a different size anyway, especially cup.
2) Pull the cups into the breast crease
The underwires should lie exactly in the breast crease over the entire length, not on the breast and not even a few centimeters below or next to it. If they don’t, the bra doesn’t fit.
3) Slip the straps over
The strap length should definitely be checked at the time of purchase, but also regularly thereafter. Size fluctuations during the cycle can be countered by regulating the length of the straps.
4) Lifting the breasts into the cup
Bend over in front and let the breasts fall into the cups. Smooth the skin and tissue into the cups from the back. This step is important! If an inappropriate bra has been worn for a long time before, breast tissue often migrates under the armpits and shows up there as what is thought to be axillary fat. See also breast migration.
5) Place the straps on the shoulder bones.
This is probably unusual at first because it places the straps further out on the shoulders than many women are used to. However, it prevents straps from digging into the fabric at the nape of the neck. If you put a bra on correctly, it should stay in place all day without needing to be re-sorted. If it still slips or becomes uncomfortable, that’s also (surprise!) a sign of an improper bra.
Bra fit checklist:
- Does the gore tack the sternum?
- Can two fingers fit between the underbust band and the body?
- Are the cups wrinkle-free and filled out?
- Does the cup close smoothly with the breast?
- Do the straps rest gently on the shoulder bones?
Once the bra is on, it’s worth bouncing, raising your arms, sitting down, and leaning over in front. Does everything still stay in place? Good! If not, use it as ammunition for your trebuchet.
Last, it’s a good idea to put on a thin, light-colored top over the bra. This is a good way to assess the shape of the breasts. It’s also a good way to gauge if there are any seams or lace showing underneath, or if the color of the bra is showing through the fabric. Is everything okay with that? Congratulations!
The fastest way to find a suitable bra is with professional advice, ideally at a bra fitting. Since good advice is not easy to find, many women have no choice but to turn to the Internet for advice.
In German-speaking countries, there is an online counseling forum called Busenfreundinnen. There, after registering, you can fill out a questionnaire based on the fit of your current bra, add the results to two different size calculators, and link to users with similar measurements. Based on this information, one of the volunteers will recommend a starting size and promising models. For more complicated cases, there is also the possibility of consultation based on anonymous photos in the protected area of the forum.
An advantage of the forum is the huge collection of knowledge about bras. The forum is intended exclusively for women and follows a very strict netiquette, according to which statements of a body-normative nature, including compliments about the users’ bodies, are rejected. This is to ensure that every woman can navigate the forum free from fear of having her body judged.
Although the advice given on the Busenfreundinnen forum is of good quality, it does not come close to good live advice, since by its very nature the fit of a bra can be judged less well from photos and self-descriptions alone than from direct observation. Many department stores with lingerie departments employ female consultants. The quality of such consultations is mixed. The employees are seldom trained in lingerie fitting, but some have acquired a good overview through long professional experience or private further training. Some lingerie departments offer a wide variety of sizes. Only for relative marginal sizes such as 60 underbust bands or cups over H will you usually search in vain here.
The English-speaking forum Bratabase should also be mentioned here. It is primarily a collection of data about bras with measurements, experience reports, and a bra search engine. However, there is also a consultation section, which is publicly available for everyone to see.
An English-language Reddit community all about fitting bras. A low-threshold way to get advice on fit photos, also publicly viewable.
Another relatively unknown option is Skype fitting. This offer is available from the side of various lingerie manufacturers who sell mainly online. This option combines the advantages of location flexibility and a reasonably more realistic assessment of the fit of bras. However, like the classic trying-on at home, it also has the disadvantage that for this purpose a larger order of bras of different sizes and cuts should be placed in order to compare effectively.
The best way is a professional bra fitting in a specialized studio. Unlike lingerie departments, “real” bra fitters have dealt intensively with the perfect fit of bras and also have the necessary variety of sizes to be able to give real advice. Here you will also find the above-mentioned supposed “marginal sizes”.
Unfortunately, not every so-called bra fitting is a real consultation. Some offerers arouse for marketing reasons only this appearance. It looks good to be concerned about the health and well-being of the customers. Unfortunately, “real” bra fitting advice is time-consuming and expensive. If you want to offer something like this, you have to train your staff much more extensively and stock a much wider range of different sizes.
An inappropriate bra worn over a long period of time can have serious health consequences. Therefore, it is important to be able to recognize genuine advice.
Recognize good bra fitting
First, respect. A bra fitter will never try to minimize fit problems. If a customer explains that she is uncomfortable in a bra, she will look for alternatives.
Second, a bra fitter will explain. Why it needs to fit this way, why this bra will cause problems later, and how to put the bra on properly. The goal of a bra fitter is to help the customer help herself. Advice is also time-consuming and expensive for specialty stores, because not every woman who is advised also buys something. So there is great interest on their part in imparting knowledge.
Thirdly, a good bra fitter always admits when she cannot offer a suitable bra. In mock consultations, the bad habit is to advise customers only into the available assortment. Even though lingerie stores are usually much better equipped, it is impossible to have a bra in stock for every possible customer. A bra fitter stands by this and can give tips on where a further search is worthwhile.
How does a bra fitting work?
Once you’ve found a bra fitting studio, you ask for a consultation. Sometimes consultations have to be made in advance, but most of the time you can just come into the store during opening hours. The bra fitter shows the booth and inquires about wishes. What kind of bra do you want? Occasion, color, style?
In the cabin usually follows the measuring. Usually, the measurement is done without the top, only in the bra. Here the methods differ. Sometimes several measurements are taken, often bust and underbust circumference. Sometimes only the latter or neither of them. The fact that no measurement is taken does not mean that the consultation is bad because the measurements serve only as a rough starting point anyway, a very experienced bra fitter can assess a customer even without taking measurements.
Next, the bra fitter will bring one or more bras into the booth for a fitting. Unless otherwise agreed, she will always knock or ask permission before entering the fitting room. If this is the first time in a bra fitting studio, proper donning techniques will also be explained. The first bras brought in for a fitting probably won’t fit. This is perfectly normal. The bra fitter probably has certain models that serve as her reference points. Depending on how the bras fit, she can draw conclusions about the client’s breast shape and texture and choose better-fitting models.
The bra fitter will look at the bras she has put on and can often spot any fit problems immediately. If she detects no problems, she will ask if the customer finds the bra comfortable and if she likes it. If necessary, the search continues.
It is quite normal that it takes many attempts to find a really well-fitting bra, possibly only the last model fits. It is also normal that not all bras offered will be the same size. A good bra fitter knows her assortment and knows, for example, if certain models are smaller or larger. In a good consultation, the customer’s body is not commented on. No one has to be ashamed of their figure or breasts.
German startup Sugarshape offers the service “very-important-boobs-Box”. After filling out a questionnaire about breast characteristics and bra preferences, a box with different models is sent to the customer free of charge. She can try on everything at home, pay for what she wants to keep, and return the rest. Since the bras are selected by experts based on breast characteristics and measurements, it can be easier for beginners to get well-fitting bras this way. The size and cut selection is limited compared to larger online stores.
After we have established the criteria for a good bra fitting, a whole series of cases open up where the criteria just do not apply. Two very well-known examples are unfortunately Hunkemöller and Victoria’s Secret. For both companies, self-promotion as bra-fitting experts is firmly part of their marketing strategy. Hunkemöller carries bra sizes from 70-85 A-E, Victoria’s Secret 32-40 A-DDD. This range of sizes is not enough to sell many female customers a bra that fits.
At the same time, it is very rare for customers to be referred to other stores. Whether this is due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the consultants or to maximize profits, customers are only “advised” into the existing range. An impression of how seriously the correct fit of bras is taken by both companies can already be obtained from the online stores (as of 09.2019). Both offer poor size calculators and photos of models in poorly fitted bras.
Fit issues from the online stores of Hunkemöller & Victoria’s Secret:
1 Breast spills out of the side of the too-small cup
2 Gore is not between breasts but on top of them
3 Breast spills out of the side of the cup which is too small
4 Too wide underbust band slips up
5 Underwire does not lie in the breast fold, but on top of it
6 Too-small cup cuts in
7 Underwire lies on top of the breast instead of next to it
8 Breast bulges sideways due to too small cup
2.2.9 Recognizing ill-fitting bras
|Classic fit problems are not always immediately visible in the form of cutting cups or similar. The bra in the upper left image does not show any clear signs of poor fit at first glance.
|However, it does not do what it should. To the right, you can see how a well-fitting bra should actually lift the breasts. The underbust band of this bra is a bit too wide to provide any support from below.
|This bra has too small cups. You can see them only because it was put on properly. The cut fits the breast shape well. One or two cup sizes larger he would probably sit well.
These cups are actually not too big.
They wrinkle because they are not drawn to the breast. If the breasts were lifted correctly, more upper breast tissue would lie in the cup.
The underbust band is four or five sizes too wide.
|This underbust band is too wide. It doesn’t slip up much, but the vertical drape reveals that it’s not taut enough to provide any support. Since it only rests loosely on the chest, the breast doesn’t exert any pull on it in the front, so it barely slides up in the back.
This bra has too large cups. Especially for a sports bra, this is unfavorable, because the movement of the breast is so not sufficiently damped.
From diagonally below the folds in the cup, the place where the breast stops is visible. The underwires are almost four centimeters off.
2.2.10 Fooling yourself by dressing wrongly
1) Combine too-small cups with a too-wide underbust band.
The combination is so mean because the two fit problems hide each other’s most obvious signs. The breasts won’t swell over a too-small cup if the underbust band is wide enough that it doesn’t pull the cup up against the chest. At the same time, an underbust band that is too wide won’t slide up the back if it encompasses a good portion of the breasts along with the rib cage.
2) Orange in a jar
This fit problem is where a cup wrinkles even though it’s too small. The nasty thing is that most women draw the wrong conclusions from the wrinkles and choose an even smaller cup. Let’s imagine a woman’s breast as an orange and the corresponding bra as a narrow drinking glass. We can put the orange on top of the glass. However, it will not slide in and there will be a lot of air in the glass. However, this is not because the orange is too small. Rather, the shape of the glass and the shape of the orange do not fit together. This is also the case with many bras in small sizes. They remain empty, not because they are too big, but because they are too small for the breast.
3) Combine too-large cups with a too-tight underbust band
This problem often occurs when a woman has just learned that she has been wearing too wide underbust bands and too small cups for a long time. She can now easily go to the opposite extreme. This is not always noticeable, because these bras are nevertheless much more comfortable than those of the other wrong variant. However, such a bra can not develop its optimal support effect.
4) Regulate strap length extremely
By setting the straps very long or very short, people often try to conceal cups that are too small or too large or to replace the lack of support with an underbust band that is too wide. The length of the straps should be carefully regulated.
5) Push the fabric out of the cups
To prevent the breast from overflowing if the cups are too small, the breast tissue is pushed outwards towards the arms into the cup. In the process, part of the breast is pushed out of the bra under the underwire. Now the cup contains only half of the breast and the rest is squeezed out from under the underwire.
How to recognize the problems?
In a well-fitted bra, the gore, which is the middle part between the cups, lies flat against the breastbone. If the bar hangs in the air, this is a clear indication that the cups are too small.
Try the bra on without straps and with the cups turned to the back. If it slips down now, the underbust band is too wide. The underbust band should support 80-90% of the weight of the breast from below, the straps are mainly responsible for the shape of the breast. After prolonged wearing, a well-fitted bra leaves imprints on the skin. The imprint of the underwire should be exactly in the fold of the underbust.
2.2.11 Breast migration
People who wear inappropriate bras for a long time often do not even know how big their own breasts are. Wearing such bras often causes breast tissue to migrate under the armpits. Sometimes you will then hear a woman talk about her “underarm fat”. This is displaced breast tissue.
On the other hand, if you thoroughly tighten a properly fitted bra over a long period of time, so-called breast migration sometimes occurs. The tissue then slowly migrates back into the breast, so that the recently perfectly fitted bra becomes too small again. As a result, the breasts can become larger or firmer.
2.3.0 The role of fit
2.3.1 Comparison images bra fit
2.3.2 Relevant breast properties
|The required cup size depends on the volume of the breast. A small breast requires small cups, a large breast large.
|Circumference of the thorax
|The required width of the underbust band and its firmness depends on the circumference of the rib cage. A small chest needs a short underbust band, a large one needs another. However, the relationship is not proportional, as the texture of the body also changes. Very small underbust girths almost always have slim women. For these women, a band that is too tight can be uncomfortable. Women with very large underbust circumferences often need tighter underbust bands than their measurements suggest to ensure good support despite a softer body.
|Position of the base of the chest horizontally
|The base of the breast is the area on the rib cage where the breast is attached. The horizontal position of the breast base determines the distance between the breasts. This is important for choosing the right bar width and height. Women with small or no distance between the breasts can resort to cuts with overlapping underwires, such as those found in bras from Comexim or Ewa Michalak. Alternatively, plunge cuts with very low stays are a good choice, as the round shape of the breasts makes them wider at the bottom. Plunges with only one fabric band as a connection between cups, on the other hand, are suitable for wider spacing.
|Position of the base of the chest vertical
|The height of the base of the breast on the torso affects the width of the underbust band, as the torso narrows towards the waist. Therefore, women with low-set breasts often need short underbust bands. Furthermore, the vertical breast base position influences the strap length. Women with very high or very low set breasts should look for bras with fully adjustable straps. Thirdly, the height of the cup in the underarm area is important. If the breasts are set high, the underwires may prick the armpits if models cut high here.
|The shape of the base of the breast horizontal
|The width of the base of the breast is directly related to the width of the underwire required. The underwires should follow the underbust crease, the line where the bust and rib cage meet.
|The shape of the base of the breast vertical
|The height of the breast base is a measure of how high the breast tissue extends below the collarbones.
|Volume distribution of the breast horizontally
|The volume of the breast can be either inside, center, or outside.
|Volume distribution of the breast vertical
|The volume of the breast can be either bottom, even, or top. This is important for the edge of the cup (half cup, full cup, etc.)
|Volume distribution of the breast in depth
|The volume of the breast can either sit close to the rib cage or at some distance to it. A possible example of this is the difference between a standing and a hanging breast. If you lean over with a bare torso in front, you can determine whether the breast retains an approximately hemispherical shape (an indication of the need for wide underwires), or the volume of the breast sinks downward as if in a cloth bag (an indication of the need for narrow underwires).
|Most women do not have symmetrical breasts. If there is more than one cup size difference, it can be very difficult to find bras that fit. In this case, you should adjust the bra to the larger side. If you want, you can stuff the smaller side, there are special inserts for this purpose. Bravaria also makes bras for asymmetrical breasts.
2.4.0 Supply sources
2.4.1 Good Brafitting Studios
Where are good bra fitting studios in Germany? Luckily Anne-Louise from the blog “BH-Lounge” has created a wonderful map with good places to go. You find it here:
2.4.2 Good bra sources online
2.4.3 Beginner bras
Those who have just discovered that their old bras don’t fit and don’t live near a bra fitting studio may want to place a test order. It is recommended to narrow down the approximate size using one of the good size calculators. Then it’s best to order the same model in several adjacent sizes each. If you don’t have a starting point for fit yet, you can use the following models because they are readily available, fit many women well, and their fit provides good conclusions about breast characteristics.
|Panache Envy (unpadded Balconette)
|Panache Andorra (unpadded Full cup)
Freya Deco (padded Plunge)
|Fantasie Rebecca (Spacer Full cup)
2.4.4 Bras for…
|different skin colors
|very big breasts
|Ewa Michalak, Optifit
|very small breasts
|Dainty Lady (discontinued?), Aikyou
|very large rib cages
|Ewa Michalak, Glamorise
|very small rib cage
|Bosom Galore (discontinued?), Comexim
|narrow breast base
|wide breast base
|Your need not there?
|search at Bratabase
3.0.0 And then…
3.1.0 The perfect bra for any occasion
3.1.1 What bra color under white?
A bra can quickly show through unintentionally under a white top. White bras are also clearly visible. The most invisible are always bras that come as close as possible to the skin color of the wearer. Nubian Skin offers nude bras for different skin colors. If there is no bra in skin color at hand, sometimes a red bra works as well.
3.1.2 How do I get a slit between the breasts?
The ideal cleavage for many looks like this: A breast on the left, a breast on the right, and a slit in between. However, since breasts rarely grow like that, you have to help them along. And the best way to do that is with a bra.
Breast slit due to an ill-fitting bra
Just inappropriate bras, namely too small, make beautiful breast clefts. If the cups are clearly too small, so that the bar can not lie on the breastbone, the breasts are squeezed together. The obvious disadvantage is that the breasts are neither shaped, lifted nor held. The bust then quickly looks more like a shapeless mass than two approximately hemispherical breasts. This is not the purpose of a bra. It is unhealthy. And it can be done better.
Breast gap through a perfect bra
A fitted bra, whose cut fits well with the shape of the wearer’s breasts, gathers the breast tissue and pushes it together at the front. However, the bar lies flat against the breastbone and separates the breasts. If you can create a gap by pushing the breasts together with your hands, a good bra can do the same. In this case, you do not need push-up pads or other aids to achieve this effect. Push-up helps when you can’t push a crease together even with your hands.
However, despite Push-Up, there are women for whom it simply does not work. And these don’t even have to have small breasts, Even medium-sized very firm, or widely spaced breasts can make breast crease impossible. But there are more important things.
So what is a perfect cut?
It is important for the cleavage to have a low and narrow middle part of the bra, such as a plunge. A clip holding the straps together in the back or slightly shortening the straps can provide an extra push effect. The most important thing, however, is that the bra fits perfectly. The underwires must exactly follow the course of the underbust crease. Only then can it collect and push together the entire breast.
3.1.3 Can you wear a bra under a sports bra?
You can. You can also splint a broken leg with a wooden spoon and gaffatape. If you feel that the sports bra does not provide enough support, it is probably true and it does not fit.
3.1.4 different bras for different dress shapes
What is a plunge bra? There is a whole range of different bras for different occasions. Here is an overview:
|A balconette has a high bridge, open-top cups, and straps placed far out. The upper edge of the cup runs horizontally. This cut is good for wide shoulders, also for wide necklines, and soft breasts.
|A bra shirt is a type of undershirt with a bra built in. It’s handy when an undershirt over a bra would be distracting or too warm. Unfortunately, they are usually only offered in supposed standard sizes. These fit very few women well.
|A bodysuit is a piece of underwear that is cut like a swimsuit with a built-in bra. In some cases, it is made of very strong fabric and specially placed seams to achieve a figure-shaping effect.
|Bralettes have a simple cut with triangular cups. They provide little support and are intended to cover and decorate. Meanwhile, there are also bralettes with underwires, which are more comfortable to wear for larger breasts, because they provide more support.
|Bra without underwire
|Non-underwire bras are more comfortable but provide less support. They are suitable, for example, during pregnancy. Here, underwires increase the risk of milk retention.
|Bras are bras that leave the breast free. They often still have a certain support effect. They are usually rather not suitable for everyday use.
|The bullet bra was especially fashionable in the 1940s and 50s. The name (Bullet = English for projectile) refers to the “rocket-shaped” pointed breast that the bra forms. Bullet bras are popular among some lovers of vintage and rockabilly fashion. In addition, this bra shape is excellent for visually reducing breasts, better than, for example, minimizers.
|A bustier is a short top that covers only the breast region. When the breasts are still growing, finding suitable bras can be unnecessarily complicated. In this case, bustiers are an alternative with a light support effect. Unlike the bralette, which often has a classic bra closure, you simply pull a bustier over your head.
|The cage bra (also harness bra) gets its name from the fact that the decorative bands form a lattice structure that resembles a cage. Sometimes the term harness bra (chest harness bra) is also used. Originally inspired by the BDSM field.
|Relief bras are designed for women with particularly heavy breasts. They are supposed to better distribute the weight and prevent back pain due to the extra wide straps. For some unknown reason, the manufacturers of these support bras assume that women with heavy breasts automatically want to wear beige monstrosities. The good news is: support bras are unnecessary in most cases. Properly fitted bras support the breast weight from below via the underbust band. That’s why the straps don’t cut in.
|The full cup is a bra shape that completely covers the breast. It is well suited for women with very soft breasts.
|The half cup bra is a bra cut in which the upper part of the breast remains uncovered.
|Minimizers are bras that are supposed to make breasts appear smaller. However, this often only works to a limited extent. Most minimizers press the breasts flat against the body, so that they appear smaller when viewed from the side, but larger when viewed from the front. A better alternative are bras that shape the breast in a slightly conical shape, such as milder versions of the bullet bra.
|Multiways are bras whose straps can be worn in different ways, for example, crossed, racerback, halter, classic or strapless. This is convenient if you have a lot of different cut tops under which you should not see bra straps.
|The most striking feature of plunges is its low gore. This is great when breasts have little space in the middle and for deep necklines. However, the plunge does not offer much support, and especially soft breasts can sometimes slip out of the actual cup into the center.
|For women who have lost one or both breasts due to breast cancer treatment, for example, there are special epithesis bras into which prostheses can be inserted.
|Push-up bras are supposed to lift the breasts and push them together through inserted padding. Poorly fitted, however, these bras rather lead to the opposite and press the breasts flat.
|Sports bras are designed to protect the breast from damage during vigorous exercise. There are different load levels, but it is generally advisable to always choose the highest, especially for large breasts.
|A nursing bra has hinged cups so that a breastfeeding woman does not have to take off the whole bra every time.
|T-shirt bras are bras with smooth cup surfaces. Under thin tops so no seams can stand out. Many bras available in German stores are such copies. Common are molded T-shirt bras, where the foam shell is pressed into shape during manufacture. They have the disadvantage that they fit few breast shapes well. In addition, bras with multi-piece cups usually have better shaping and supporting effect.
|Strapless bras often have stiff cups and a tight underbust band coated with adhesive strips to prevent them from slipping. Since the underbust band should support the very largest part of the breast weight anyway, the lack of straps is in principle not a problem even for larger breasts.
3.2.0 Bra Hacks
To be able to use a bra as long as possible, there are a few simple tips to follow. The gentlest way is to hand wash with a little mild detergent in cold water. The elastic fibers are destroyed by heat. Do not wring out the bras under any circumstances. It is best to let them air-dry spread out on a towel.
If you don’t have time for hand washing, you can also wash bras in a laundry net or pillowcase in the delicate cycle of your washing machine. The laundry net or pillowcase is important because it protects the washing machine from damage caused by the bra’s underwires. For foam cups, be careful not to turn them inside out. Folding one cup into the other saves space, but leads to small tears in the foam. In the long term, these will cause the cup to lose its supportive effect.
Somewhat more unknown might be the advice not to wear the same bra on two consecutive days. If the bra gets a day off between its uses, the fibers can fully stretch back so that the support effect is maintained longer. Once the bra no longer provides its support, it should be replaced. For a bra that is worn frequently, this may be the case after as little as one year. The worn-out band can manifest itself by getting regular back pain after wearing a bra.
3.2.2 Bra accessories
|1) Bra extender 1
|There are two different products that are called bra extenders. With the first one, you could rather speak of an underbust band-lowering device. It is a band that hooks into the bra clasp and loops once around the waist. This makes the underbust band sit a little lower in the back, which is handy for garments with a low back neckline. The effect is rather limited with correctly fitted bras since the underbust band is often lower on the back than with unfitted bras anyway. Women whose underbust band at the back touches the shoulder blades have in most cases more from newly fitted bras than from an extender.
|2) Bra extender 2
|The second extender really lengthens the underbust band. It is a short piece of solid fabric that has hooks on one end and several rows of eyelets on the other. You can hook it between the two fastening ends of a bra. Extenders come in a variety of colors and hook/eyelet arrangements. Common closures are those with two or three eyelets arranged one above the other. Extenders are good for women with frequent weight fluctuations or for bras that are very firm and need to be “worn in” first.
|3) Bra shortener
|This useful helper consists of a clip that is attached to one side of the underbust band and a row of eyelets on the other side. Although the shortener is practical, of course, it does not perform miracles. About one underbust band size narrowing scope is in it.
|4) Inlay cushion
|Insertion pads for bras are used to compensate for asymmetries in breast size or as flexible push-up pads. They are available in foam or gel and even in waterproof material for bikinis or swimsuits.
|5) Replacement straps
|Multiway bras have straps to hook, which also sometimes get lost. For such matters, interchangeable straps are the right choice. They fit almost every multiway bra. Unfortunately, the selection of interchangeable straps made of fabric is still rare. But you can also relatively easily get straps, hooks, eyelets, and hooks themselves and sew replacement straps themselves.
|6) Shoulder pads
|These are plastic pads, which can be clamped under bra straps to prevent cutting into the shoulders. This is only useful for women with very heavy breasts. The straps of a properly fitted bra hold at most 10% of the weight of the breast, the actual support function is provided by the underbust band. So if the straps cut in even though you’re not carrying around several kilograms of breast, you’re better off with new bras than with strap pads.
|Under tops with a racer back, it often looks awkward when the bra straps are visible above the shoulder blades. If this bothers you, you can remedy the situation with a bra strap clip. The clip looks something like a plastic H with the ends bent inward. Also works with a paper clip.
|8) Textile adhesive tape
|If you want to prevent the bra from being seen when you have a plunging neckline, you can use textile tape. This double-sided adhesive tape adheres to the skin and fabrics and, when applied to the inside of the neckline, holds the clothing in place.
|9) Nipple pads
|If you are ever without a bra and do not want nipples to stand out, it is best to use this invention. The pads are provided with adhesive and are thus self-adhesive. The area of the nipple is left out of the adhesive. For some women, cross-adhesive patches work just as well.
|10) Adhesive bra
|These are available from single cups to the most covering version, which even simulates part of the underbust band with. The cups add little more than the nipple pads and offer no support. If anything, the models with an adhesive underbust band are worthwhile, as they at least provide some support. However, for those who definitely can’t or don’t want to wear a bra under their outfit, the cheaper and more supportive risk DIY variant “taping the breasts” is recommended.
3.2.3 Crafting/Sewing Instructions
Lace bralette without sewing
You can make a bralette yourself without sewing. To do this, you need a piece of fabric that does not fray, for example, jersey, and scissors. Then you just cut out the shape on the picture below:
The shape should be a little more than twice as long as the underbust circumference, yes, according to the stretchiness of the fabric. For a 70cm underbust circumference, this means about 150cm. The whole thing can now be put on like a vest or a backpack, just put both arms through the hole and knot the ends together at the front or back.
By wrapping it twice, you can create a little stronger hold. By knotting the cloth differently tight, you can vary the neckline.
Free bra pattern& sewing instructions
Sehr ausführliche Anleitungen für verschiedene gepaddete Bügel-BHs
- Jessica Tromp:
Ausführliche Anleitung für einen ungepaddeten Bügel-BH
- Afi Atelier:
Bügel-BH-Schnittmuster als kostenloses PDF zum Download
3.3.0 Further info
3.3.1 Bust-friendly clothing
For those who have problems finding well-fitting clothes due to large breasts, this is to help: There are companies that specialize in garments with cuts for women with large breasts. Here is an overview:
- Biubiu (Discontinued?)
- DD-Atelier (Discontinued?)
- Maxime (Discontinued?)
- Pepperberry (Discontinued?)
- Saint Bustier: (Discontinued?)
- Urkye: everyday wear for busty women, simple cheerful style, t-shirt 20€.
3.3.2 Online Bra Help:
- A bra that fits: An in-depth Reddit thread all about bras that fit
- Busenfreundinnen: A German online bra forum with lots of bra information and online advice with rict netiquette against body evaluation. Quasi-successor of the Polish sister forum Balkonetka.
- Bra Band Project (discontinued): This was originally an informative collection of pictures of women in properly fitted bras to combat prejudice about sizes. Sadly discontinued.
- Bra fitting Map: A collection of places to go for good bra fittings in Germany, created by my blog colleague from BH-log.
- Bratabase: An English-language bra forum with online advice, lots of scientific bra research, and model and brand information.
3.3.3 Bra blog recommendations
- Bra Lounge
- Not 75B
- Big cup little cup
- Thin and Curvy (discontinued, but still available)
- Boosaurus (discontinued, but still available)
- Bras I hate (discontinued, but still available)
3.3.4 Bra Fun Facts
- At Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University there is a course all about bras: “Intimate Apparel Specialism”.
- The city of underwear: Chendian Town (China) is home to 528 underwear producers. Together, they produce over 200 million pieces annually.
- Victoria’s Secret has been creating a jeweled “Fantasy bra” every year since 1996. The 2000 model received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive piece of lingerie of all time at $15 million.
- There is a spy bra to admire at the Berlin Spy Museum. There is a tiny camera on the bar.
- In 2017, an adhesive bra hit the headlines because it tore the skin off several women when it was removed.
4.1.0 Structure of the breast
Under the skin, there is a layer of fat. This envelops the fatty, glandular and connective tissue inside the breast. The glands are connected to the nipple. Below this lies the pectoral muscle, directly on the ribs.
- Fatty tissue
- Chest glands
- Pectoral muscle
- Chest interior
4.2.0 Growth phases
Breast development begins on average at the age of 11 and is completed at around 15, but the process can also continue until the mid-20s. It can be divided into five phases:
The breasts are flat, the nipple is only a very small bump.
Mammary glands and fatty tissue begin to form the breast.
The nipple turns dark in color.
The border of the nipple, the areola, forms its own elevation.
The border swells again, but in some women, it remains.
4.3.0 Is this normal?
4.3.1 Lump in the chest
It is normal for a woman’s breast to feel lumpy. The nodular structure that can be felt in the breast is the mammary glands. Sometimes it happens that some of them swell due to hormonal fluctuations. You can feel this from the outside as small lumps in the breast tissue. These glands can then be sensitive to pressure. Such swelling of the glands is not dangerous. Normally they disappear again on their own in the next cycle.
4.3.2 Sharp pain in the chest
Unlike ordinary growing pains, breast growth sometimes does not manifest itself in the breasts at all, but rather underneath, in the area of the rib cage or lungs. The sensation often resembles a cramping twinge, more reminiscent of pinched nerves than usual growing pains. Usually, the pain lasts for a few seconds and then disappears without a trace. Of course, if you don’t know where these feelings are coming from, it can seem scary. However, growing pains are harmless. They can also occur outside of classic growth, namely when, for example, the breast swells due to water retention during the menstrual cycle. The good news is that although it often feels nasty, it’s not dangerous and in most cases, it passes quickly.
4.3.3 Nipples point inward
This nipple shape is called puffy nipples or inverted nipples. The English term is “puffy nipples”. The cause is shortened milk ducts. If a woman has had puffy nipples since birth, it is neither bad nor dangerous. Only those who suddenly get puffy nipples, although they did not have them before, should go to the doctor. For some women, it can be a problem to breastfeed with inverted nipples. However, there are special pumps that can be used to “suck” the nipples out for breastfeeding. Some women with inverted nipples, who do not like this feature, have nipple piercings. The piercings permanently turn the nipples outward.
4.3.4 Breasts are of different sizes
Hardly any woman has two completely symmetrical breasts. In fact, no human being is completely symmetrical. Even very few ears or hands are exactly the same size or shape on both sides. During growth, the breasts often differ greatly, but in most cases, they become the same again later. However, there are adult women with breasts of different sizes. If a woman is visually bothered by her unequal-sized breasts, she can help with asymmetry inserts in her bra, which are a kind of flexible push-up cushions. If the difference is so great that “everything looks at you all the time”, or you get back pain due to the unevenly distributed weight, health insurance companies usually pay for an adjustment surgery.
4.3.5 Breasts fall outwards
If you take your breasts in your hand and move them, you will notice that they are not set in concrete on the chest, but are very mobile. That is why it is completely normal for them to follow gravity. In advertisements, you often see lying women whose breasts “stand”. This happens when women wear bras, have had breast surgeries, or have been retouched with Photoshop. When lying down, just about every woman’s breasts fall to the side.
In many women, the breasts also point outward when standing. What is this all about? During growth, it often happens that the outer parts of the breast gain volume first. The inner part then follows later. In the period in between, this breast shape is common. Some women keep the outward pointing breasts even after their breasts are fully grown. This breast shape is sometimes favored by inappropriate bras that push the breast tissue toward the armpits. If the breast is not deformed by the frequent wearing of an inappropriate bra, and the outward pointing is simply their natural shape, there is no need to worry.
A well-fitting bra will “collect” the breast tissue under the arms and push it forward and together without push-up, just by the clever cut. In such a bra, a breast shape that points outward is no longer visible to the wearer. When fitting bras to outward-facing breasts, the width of the bridge plays a special role. The bridge is the part at the front of the sternum that connects the cups. The fact that the breasts often flatten out towards the sternum is sometimes misunderstood as a large gap between the breasts. Therefore, a bra with a very wide bridge is mistakenly chosen. However, one has nothing to do with the other.
The best way to find out how wide an ideal bridge should be is to bend over in front without a bra and look at the gap between the breasts in this position. If it is very wide, you need a wide bar, if it is very narrow, a narrow bar.
4.4.0 Breast size
4.4.1 Is my breast size normal for my age?
And it doesn’t matter how big the breasts are. Look at how different people look. There are big and small, thick and thin, those with dark and those with light skin color, with curls or straight hair. In the same way, breasts differ in shape, color, size, firmness, volume distribution, position on the chest, symmetry, size, color, and shape of the nipples, and other characteristics. We all look different, and that’s a good thing. Anything else would be boring.
Just like appearance, each person’s growth is unique. For some girls, breasts start growing before the age of nine, for others, it doesn’t start until they are 20. Sometimes growth takes years, sometimes only a few months. It can happen evenly or in spurts, sometimes even with breaks of several years. There are also some diseases in which the breasts grow excessively or not at all, but these are very rare.
Until now, there were no statistics on the average growth of breasts by age group, so we made one ourselves. Many Braradise readers helped out and donated their data. Check out our statistics here, and donate yourself!
4.4.2 Can I influence the size of my breasts?
Apart from surgery- Hardly. The breast consists largely of fat and glands, which lie above the pectoral muscle. All three of these parts can be only slightly affected without surgery. One can fake larger breasts by using push-up bras. Posture also has a big effect on how the breasts look – stand in front of the mirror and compare your breasts with a straight and slouched posture. But now we are going to talk about the methods by which you can really change your breasts.
The pectoral muscle
You can train the pectoral muscle specifically, this lifts and tightens the chest, but you also lose fat. Generally, if you have a low overall body fat percentage, your chest will be smaller, and if you have a higher percentage, it will be larger. So whether a breast gets bigger by training the pectoral muscle or smaller instead varies greatly and is difficult to predict.
To change the fat percentage of one’s breasts, one could gain or lose weight to possibly get larger or smaller breasts. However, bodies are very unpredictable, and it can happen, for example, that you gain weight everywhere except your breasts. Or lose weight everywhere except in the breasts. And if you are already very thin or fat anyway, then, of course, you should not lose or gain weight.
The glandular portion usually grows due to hormonal changes such as during puberty or pregnancy, but also, for example, breastfeeding an adopted child without having been pregnant before. Some girls try to increase the size of their breasts by taking the pill. However, it is unclear whether this works. Most girls start taking the pill at an age when their breasts would grow anyway.
Which or if any of these parts can be influenced well is determined by genes. A good guide to which breast genes you have in you is the breasts of your relatives. This means not only your mother, sister, and grandmother on your mother’s side but also your grandmother on your father’s side, aunts, and cousins.
There is another, lesser-known factor that can affect the size and texture of breasts: what is known as breast migration. This is an effect that can (but does not have to) occur when a woman who has worn inappropriate bras for a long time changes to appropriate ones.
Since most women wear cups that are too small with underwires that are too narrow, the constant pressure can displace some of the breast tissue under the arms. This often manifests itself in the form of what is thought to be “arm fat.” To reverse this, you need two things: a suitable bra and the right tightening technique. This involves thoroughly tucking the tissue from the back and under the arms into the cup.
After some time, the tissue will move back into the breast. The breasts will not have grown, but will have changed their volume distribution on the chest. Nevertheless, the tissue migration is visually expressed in larger breasts and a narrower rib cage.
4.4.3 How big will my breasts be?
When the breasts start to grow, the excitement starts: What will they look like? How big will they be? Insanely surprising is certainly the finding that one cannot predict with certainty what the developed breast will look like. However, there are a number of clues by which a woman can at least estimate what she might expect.
The clearest clue is the breasts of blood relatives. Mother, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins. All these women can give clues. And also the family on the paternal side! For example, if you have only relatives with very large breasts, you have at least a good chance (though never certainty!) of getting some.
At the same time, there are also situations in which a woman suddenly deviates completely from the family’s average breast size.
In addition to genes, there are a number of other influencing factors, such as weight. If you generally have a little more on your ribs, this is usually reflected in your breast size. Weight can also play a role in other ways. If you are underweight during a phase in which the breasts should actually grow, you risk missing out on breast growth irretrievably.