How to figure out your actual bra size, according to experts
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Finding a bra can be difficult. Actually, to rephrase: Finding a bra that fits you well in a style you also like can be difficult. There are so many variables to account for: band length, cup size and shape, strap length, width, and position, not to mention changing bodies, curves, time of the month, time of the year, occasions, fabric, underwires, lace, and on and on. Plus, with countless styles and silhouettes, it can be hard to know what feels right until you’re wearing it.
That said, most bra wearers have a size they selected some time back, and unless they've experienced some major body change like pregnancy or weight loss or gain, they've stuck with it. But that might not be the best call, especially if you find yourself frustrated by straps that fall from your shoulders, or uncomfortable from too-tight bands or wires that dig in. "The most common mistake made when choosing bras is that women buy too big of a band size and too small of a cup," Christina Faraj Savarese of The Bra Fit Expert in New York explains.
To help you find the right fit, we tapped advice from bra fit professionals and researched where you can get a free bra fitting, in-person or virtually.
How a bra should fit
Many of us are unaware of what to look for when trying to find the right bra—and it doesn't help that bra sizes vary by brand, Lacey Odoms of Lace of Love in New Orleans says, noting that sizes, like most clothing, aren't standardized across retailers. Not only that, but many popular places to buy lingerie have limited offerings. "Most big-box retailers carry around five to seven cup sizes per band [size]," says Courtney Killpack of Bra Fittings by Court. "In the bra world, there's more than 16 cup sizes in every band size. These stores don't carry all of the sizes in the world because they want to keep their profit margins higher." In others words, the size you've been wearing forever may not be the size that suits your body best.
So how should your bra fit? It all starts with the band, Lacey says. "The band size is the most important, as 80% to 90% of the support should come from the band," she explains. "The cup size is based on the band size and is pointless without knowing your band size." This is because the cup size can vary based on what length band it's attached to. "In pattern making, the cup size is created to be proportionate to the band size, which is why a 34H should not be the same as 44H," Lacey explains. "The 44H band should be stronger and its cups bigger."
The band should feel snug when secured on the first row of hooks and shouldn't be able to be pulled out more than two inches from your body, explains Lacey. As your bra loosens over time, you can move it to the tighter settings. As for cup fit, your breast flesh should be completely contained in the cups without any gapping or spillage, and the center piece between the cups should fit flush with your sternum. Finally, no more than two fingers should fit under the straps (often the easiest fit issue to remedy, as most are adjustable).
How to measure bra size
Measuring yourself at home is a good place to start when determining your correct bra size. You'll need to take two circumferences: one around your rib cage where the band will sit and one around your breasts at the fullest point. Pull the tape snuggly when taking the ribcage measurement, says Laura Burke of Fit by Burke in New York—this number will be your band size. If you get an odd number, round up one, as bands come in even increments, Lacey suggests. Have a looser touch with the tape when going around the bust. To find your cup size, subtract your band size from your bust size. Each inch correlates to a letter for the cup. For example, if your rib cage measures 32 and your bust is 35, the 3-inch difference would indicate a C cup.
All of that said, with all the variations in bra style and brand sizing, your at-home math is just a starting point. The very best way to find bras that fit you and feel great is to get a professional fitting.
Where to get a free bra fitting
1. Victoria’s Secret
Your local mall is almost guaranteed to have a Victoria’s Secret, making it a convenient option for an in-person bra fitting. Each time you enter a store location an employee greets you, and you can ask them for a fitting. Then you’ll go to a fitting room and be measured either while wearing your current bra or over your shirt, depending on your comfort level. The employee will take the same measurements as described above, but the difference is, this person is a trained pro who has measured a lot of people for bras.
The other perk of an in-person fitting is that you get to try bras on before buying. But if you're shopping online, Victoria's Secret also offers a handy guide on how to measure yourself at home along with a "Perfect Fit Calculator" to determine which bras will fit your bust. On the site, you can also see the offerings available for purchase, which most likely will be more expansive than what's in stock at your local store (and anything you buy online can be returned or exchanged at the store). There's also a customer service number you can call to speak with a "Bra Fit Specialist" if you're running into trouble.
The bras from Aerie are fan favorites for their soft fabrics, neutral colors, and consistent and inclusive sizing. Like at Victoria’s Secret, an employee in-store can help you find your size by measuring and then comparing your numbers to find the right cup size. It isn’t as easy to find someone in shops where American Eagle and Aerie are combined, but there is usually someone working in the Aerie section that can help you.
A bra-related perk of shopping Aerie online is you have access to a wider range of styles and sizes than are sold in stores—and, like Victoria's Secret, anything you buy from the site can be returned in person or for free in the mail.
Nordstrom provides a range of bra-fitting options. At its 400-plus locations across the country, employees will help measure and size you and suggest certain styles. If you aren't comfortable going in person or if there's no store near you, Nordstrom offers virtual fittings. The online fitting is a 30-minute session with a certified bra fitter who helps you interpret your measurements and then curates a selection of bras for you based on your size, style, and activity levels.
You can also watch a brief video on Nordstrom's website explaining how your bra should fit. On the same "Bra Fit Guide" page, you'll find a detailed step-by-step description of how to measure for both your band and cup sizes.
When we tested Cuup bras, Reviewed's health and fitness editor, Sara Hendricks, took the company’s online quiz to find her bra size. Though the quiz asks various questions about comfort, past bra sizes, and the shape of your breasts, Sara got a different result each time she completed it. Thankfully, Cuup also has chat and video options for you to find your correct bra size with a “fit therapist.” To get the most out of the quiz and virtual fitting, make sure you have a measuring tape and wear your most comfortable unpadded bra. Psst: If you live in New York City, you can get a fitting in person at its New York headquarters.
At ThirdLove, you'll find the Fitting Room, which is a virtual bra-size measuring tool. "Once you finish, not only will you get a bra size that truly fits, but you’ll receive expertly curated recommendations for new styles to make shopping even easier," ThirdLove explains.
In addition to a much more expansive size range than you'll find at many retailers, ThirdLove offers half cup sizes for those who have breasts that fall between, say a B and a C—so if you’ve had a hard time finding the right fit in the past, these unique cup sizes might be your golden ticket to comfort. Also, the site suggests specific styles that may suit your anatomy better, too—the quiz asks things about how close-set your breasts are, so it can direct you to bras with closer or farther-apart cups, for example.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.