Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home

Bra fitting is such a controversial and misunderstood topic. An astounding amount of companies use the +4/+5 method (when you add 4 or 5 inches to your ribcage measurement to find your band size) and this technique is quite frankly medieval.

This will only give you a very rough idea of what size you should be wearing. Different brands use different sizing. I can wear a variety of sizes depending on the bra shape, style and brand, however I know which size I average at by getting fitted at Bravissimo and using sites like Brastop and Freyalingerie.com.

Please keep this in mind when measuring yourself at home: nothing beats a professional fitting and if you check out my High Street Fitting Challenge Blog, you will see the stores that I recommend and those I definitely do not recommend! From my previous research of bra fitting in high street shops you can see the huge differences that you can experience from place to place. Even my research into Online Fitting Guides proves that you can be better off fitting yourself from home!

I have used the old method of using a tape measure in the following as it is the only way you can really measure yourself without a professional to help. This is something I have been hesitant about doing as I do not want to affiliate myself with the ‘tape measure’ method in any way, but I have been asked so many times the best place to go get fitted and so many women are simply unable to travel to a decent store. This is to me a ‘lesser of two evils’ approach as I have had such bad results from many of the high street fitting stores.

WARNING: This method is highly flawed, but potentially a hell of a lot better than going to some bog-standard, poorly-trained fitting room assistant on the high street! Harsh but true. I have ‘converted’ many friends now with my pesky home-fittings and dragging them to Bravissimo, but all of them have ended up thanking me in the end. Hopefully I can reach a wider audience via the medium of a blog, but please be aware:

It is very difficult (no – impossible!) to measure volume with a straight line (aka the tape measure).

Your shape will mean the size you get from this will only be a starting point. The only way to really know is to TRY ON. I ALWAYS try bras on before buying. WITHOUT FAIL.

Check out my pictures for an idea of how to fit, but one of the best ways to see is via a fitting video, as, once again, it is hard to tell volume in a 2D webpage. Some of the best don’t deal with number or measurements at all but attempt to re-educate people what a correct-fitting bra should look and fee like. One of the best ones I have found is the Brastop Video:

 

To ensure all your breast tissue is being encased in your new bra, make sure you know exactly how to put a bra on correctly.

Ok, all that said… here is my DIY online fitting guide:

Step 1: Put on your bra which fits you the best (according to the above video if you want some pointers). I am using the Freya ‘Nadia’ (avaliable on Brastop.com).

1x1.trans Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home Invest In Your Chest

Step 2: Measure around your bra band (tightly) and make a note of the number in inches.

1x1.trans Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home Invest In Your Chest

Step 3: Measure around your lady lumps (not so tight this time!) make a note of the number.

1x1.trans Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home Invest In Your Chest

Step 4: Do a ridiculous calculation.

Ok. here is where we get super controversial. In order to go along with what Bravissimo measured me as… as opposed to various other online calculators (they all differ!) I advise you to take your ‘band’ calculation and take that as your starting point of your band size. In the past we have been told to +5 inches to your band, however this is simply the world’s most awful method and completely unnecessary as it was a method used when bras were made of rigid material. The introduction of better manufacture and elastic means that this is no longer necessary. If you are an in-between size I would recommend trying the size down (just to see!) and then try the size up. You are probably more likely to go one up but the key to bra fitting is trial and error!!

Here is a table so you can quickly work out your start-off size. The numbers down the left hand size are the ribcage measurements, the ones along the top are the difference in inches between that and the bust measurement. Sorry I only went up to 40, but my lack of excel skills meant it was taking forever! But you get the idea:

1x1.trans Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home Invest In Your Chest

I will go through this method with you. My ribcage measures about 27/28 inches and my chest measures about 37. According to this table, therefore, I should wear a 28FF/G. It is only approximate I know, but definately an improvement on the 34C that M&S measured me as! Therefore I recommend that you find your size on the chart above and if you are buying online order a few sizes above and below for both the cup and band sizes, then simply return the ones that dont fit perfectly! The more you try on the more aware you will become of what is perfect for you. When you know, bra buying will get easier and easier!

Step 5: Complete a check list. This is probably the most important step. Educating yourself of what a correct fitting bra should look like will help you choose which bras to keep and which to return, as well as realising that you may in fact be amongst the 90% of women wearing the wrong size bra.

Your bra should be snug around your ribcage. You should feel comfortable yet supported, and should be able to fit two fingers comfortably under the band and the wires should not dig in anywhere yet be flat against your ribcage. There should be absolutely no breast spilling out under the arm pits!

Your back band should be completely horizontal the whole way round no matter how much you move. It should stay in the same place, therefore holding your boobs in place! You should ALWAYS fit your bra on the loosest hook when fitting. Your band my feel tight at first and takes some getting used to, but you may already be able to feel how much better it feels to have a correct fitting bra. You will be able to jump and run for the bus with much-reduced discomfort! Your clothes will look infinitely better and your confidence will sky-rocket.

Your cups should fully encase your breasts. There should be no over/under spill and no ‘double boob’ going on. If in doubt, try the next cup size up!

I hope this is helpful to those of you unable to get to a decent fitting place. I cannot stress enough how this is an imprecise art and should only be used if you are unable to be professionally fitted, and should be considered a very approximate calculation. TRIAL AND ERROR is your friend, not only of sizes, but brands, shapes etc. You may be best in a plunge or a balconette, or perhaps if buying a plunge you may need to adjust from your ‘usual’ size.

Once you have found a size you think is right, double check the checklist on the Bravissimo website. Good luck ladies!

1x1.trans Bra Fitting Guide: Measure Yourself at Home Invest In Your Chest
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38 Comments

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  4. Thank you for this fantastic blog. Really well-informed and helpful. Your fitting advice is very usedful but like you I would really recommend that women are fitted by proper fitters – Joh Lewis and Bravissimo come to mind. Your Marks & Spencer experience made me laugh, I had a similar experience recently because I was on the hunt for cheaper bras. – they told me I was 36DD – in fact I am 30GG, big difference! I didn’t buy anything from them, again. Like you I love Freya etc. but they are a little bit expensive.

    I do have a question I hope you can help me with – like you my breasts are wide-set and many bras make me look even wider – since I am short-waisted and only 5 feet 3 inches tall this can make me look squat and wide and makes clothes hard to fit. Do you have any recommendations fro bras that give good support and shape and give a less wide shape from the front? Thanks

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  6. Do you exhale or inhale when you measure over the bust? I find that that affects the measurement by an inch or so in my 28ff/g size :)

    thanks!

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  8. I am a bra fitter in Debenhams and I would just like to point out that measuring around the bust is not always accurate as everyone is a different shape. The best thing to do is to get fitted by a professional as they can advise you not just on the right size, but also the right style of bra for your shape and thus the best support. I have had so many customers come to me from Marks and Spencers as well complaining about their service and bra fitting methods, I would not recommend getting fitted there!

    • Hi, thanks for your comment! You’re absolutely right, nothing beats a professional fitting, but it’s also good for women to have an idea of what to look for or a starting point for fitting themselves from home if visiting a specialist isn’t an option for one reason or another. x

  9. thankyou for this! I have been wondering for YEARS why my most-comfortable bra size (found for me at life-changing Bravissimo) differed so much from what the add-5-inches calculators had to say. I had just been putting it down to having quite wide boobs at the sides – but the idea of better manufacturing methods makes so much sense! Genius! That chart is ace – and as accurate as a size chart can be. I’m another one who preaches the benefits of a regular fitting…but I will be emailing the link to this to my shyer friends. Thanks again!

    • Thanks, Soph! So glad it has worked well for you. I think it’s important to get fitted about once every six months but also to keep tabs on your fit yourself in between these times – which is when these kind of methods can be helpful. Thanks for your comment and for letting people know about bra fitting! x

  10. Hi Cheryl,

    I just tried this method and OMFG. I’m usually a 38E and now, it appears that I may actually be a 36H/34HH. DIES!!!

    PS: Do you know what the sizing is like for the CK daily boost bra? Can’t seem to find the reviews anywhere and I can only order it online. TIA!

  11. I am very confused now. What’s my bra size if my band measurement is 65 cm and my bust measurement is 88cm?

    • You should probably be a 26FF but it’s a very rare size, I think it can only be found in ewa michalak.
      However, a 28F might work.

    • It would seem you have the same problem as me which is that your back size is smaller than the band size made by most lingerie companies. You need to measure yourself in inches, but 65cm = 25.6″ and 88cm = 34.6″, so your size is 26F/FF. As there are so few 26 band bras out there, I think you will probably have to start off by trying a 28E/F.

  12. I love this. I have been a 42F for about a year and have recently felt my fit was out. Not by much, but a little. I ordered a bunch of the same bra thinking I might be a 40G or thereabouts. I popped the 40G on today and it was great. The 42F rode up a bit and wasn’t quite getting my boobies in. The 42G was too big (in the band) and the 40F was really wrong. I have just come online to check sizing and while a bra calculator just told me I am a 44DD (just SO wrong) I see from your chart here that I am hitting the right zone for my 40inch back and 49.5 inch boobs. You are pretty clear that the chart may not be 100%, but certainly – for me today – it’s bang on. Thank you!! x.

  13. Can I join? I live in the states and I haven’t been able to find ANYWHERE to find a proper fitting!! I “thought” I was a 34D and all of my girlfriends who have “big boobs” think mine are “small” and that I surely must be a “C”. I did find one retailer here in my area who carries Fantasie, Freya, Panache, Chantelle, and Le Mystere. I thought surely they would be able to fit me properly. I was fit into a 34DD. FAIL!!! I started Googling how to fit myself and stumbled accross your blog. Based on your measurements I’m a 30F/32E. I ordered some bras online from an American retailer Barenecessities.com. They carry a great range of the European brands and in the smaller bands. I was so excited and ordered about a dozen bras! When they came I narrowed it down to a few I liked and while the fit was so much better, they were still snug and I had side spill. I knew I needed to go a size up, but I didn’t know if it was in the band or cup. The “fit line” at Bare Necessities was so helpful. Now I know that I’m a 30FF in Freya and a 32F in Pananche for sure. I currently have 2 wonderfully fitting bras and 2 more on their way to me. I feel like a changed woman!!! Thanks Cheryl for this blog! Oh, and BTW… I just took my friend to get fitted (who thinks I look like a “C”)… I helped fit her myself. She’s a 34G Chantelle or a 32FF Freya. She thought she was a 38D! We were laughing in the fitting room “A ‘C’ must be flat!” LOL!!

  14. wow i’ve been wearing a 32E or 34DD but measured myself using this and it came up with 30F bit of a difference ill give them a try next time I go bra shopping

  15. So I measure 27 under and 34-35 over. I’m wearing a 28 E Freya deco and it’s actually a little big (I was on the middle hook when I bought it, now I’m on the tightest) and I constantly have to pull my breasts back into the bra, as I have a gap at the top on my smaller size and I feel like I’m falling out the bottom. I’m wider set and fuller on bottom, however I’m also 16 so I’m fairly perky. My biggest question is why my underwires dig in so much (the left little bruises at the center gore when I first got this bra) and yet the band feels like it could be smaller. Any suggestions on styles as well would be nice, I’m considering a Cleo Alexa or Ellie or maybe a Panache Juna as I’ve heard they may be better for my shape. Thanks so much for any help :)

    • It sounds like you have similar shape to me. I don’t get on with the Deco either as the band runs notoriously large. You mentioned that you like the look of the Ellie and Juna, both of which I would recommend highly! Have you tried soft cups bras? I recommend Freya’s soft cups much more than the Deco if your shape really is like mine. I’ve reviewed the Beau recently and absolutely loved it. It’s currently in the sale on the Leia Lingerie website. Feel free to get in touch any time with questions about fit for your size and shape and I’ll try my best to help x

      • Thanks so much :) I’m not sure if we are a similar shape or not, however if we are that would help as I could just buy the bras the you review that fit well (*giggle* that’d be nice). I haven’t even tried soft cups bras, because every time I’ve tried a lovely lacey thing, it fit on the bottom but pulls down across my less full top, leaving the top horribley empty. I’ll have to give freya’s a try though especially since we may be a similar shape and you’ve had good luck with them. Do you have issues with the underwire on the Deco?

  16. Hiya I was wondering if you could help me, I’m having such an issue with getting a bra to fit.
    Normally I wear a 30 DD, but I’m getting mega double boob and armpit fat with a back band that offers no support at all. The biggest and most unattractive problem is what can only be described as fat cleavage where my fat below my bra looks like an extension of my cleavage cos it’s being squished together. I’m quite skinny so it’s really bizzare.
    I got fed up of this and went to Bravissimo, I was so so excited cos I though finally all my shoulder pain and unsightly bulges would disappear. However the girl who fitted me told me that I was a 28DD even though I had a rediculous amount of overspill. She said ‘we only really cater to people with massive boobs, if you want a nice shape stick a chicken fillet in there’.
    My measurements are 27 underbust and 35/36 over…
    I went and bought a 28FF from Debenhams, which was perfect apart from the central gore left me with quite bad bruising. So I don’t know what to do, feels like nothing is right for my shape. I bought a 28F Cleo by Panache, the cups are wrinkled but the central gore is about an inch away from my chest :( how can it be too big and small at the same time ?!
    Sorry for the essay but I’m just so desperate, if you could help me that would be fantastic x

  17. I’ve just tried your method and after years of wearing a 36/D (which I was measured for) and according to this I’m a 34/F. I’ve never been comfortable wearing my “usual” size bras, but always thought it was right as it’s what I was told.

    I’m going to get re-measured after this and then go bra shopping. Thank you so much!

  18. Just recently used this method to fit both myself and my girlfriend- I thought I was a 34DD, but I may actually be a 32DD or 32E… my girlfriend, on the other hand, was in the worst fitting bra I’ve ever seen in my life. A 40C… she’s a 34FF. She’s never been fitted before, and she didn’t believe me when I told her, but tomorrow her first bra in (approximately) the right size will arrive in the mail, and she’s so excited she’s been checking for it every day. Having the right size bra really is a wonderful experience! Even if it’s not 100% perfect, it can’t be worse than the old ones!

  19. Wow! Thank you – I think I finally know why my bras never fit well. I have to go down a band size or two. Now if i could just find a bra-selling h&m nearby to get some bras I can actually afford, I’ll be all set.

    If you can solve the second mystery of why bras are so ridiculously expensive, you may reach deity status.

  20. I work at a lingerie shop in the states, and I have to add this: each bra is different. Now if you add 3 to 5 inches to a Wacoal rib cage size you might be ok. This is true for Jezabel too. I add 1 to 3 inches to the rib cage measurement. I am measuring my bras (after stretching the elastic as far as it can go) and I can see that if it says 38″, sometimes the width around *is* actually 38″. But sometimes it is 35″!It really depends on the manufacturer. “add 5 inches” was done religiously for years. So take the damn measureing tape shopping with you. Measure your rib cage, and measure the bra’s rib cage. If you are a 35 and the bra stretches, don’t buy it. New bra manufacturers are changing measuring. Another easy way to figure cup size is to use your fingers: if your breast measurement is one inch over your rib cage size, it’s one finger, or a, 2inches, 2fingers, or b, 3 inches, 3 fingers, or c, etc. etc. etc.

  21. Why does the U.S. suck so much with bra sizes?
    In most stores the band sizes don’t go any lower than 32 unless it’s a preteen bra. I can only order bras online and only from the U.K.
    What would you suggest for measurements of 26″ band and 33″ bust? (Round shape) I’m guessing I’d have to go with a 28?

  22. Hello! I’m wondering if this chart that you made is for UK or US bra sizes?? Thanks!

  23. I would like to point out that if you measure your bust with a bra already on the measurement you get will not be accurate. If your bra does not fit properly then your boobs are most likely being squished into an unnatural position, making the measurement smaller than it should be. Bust measurement should be taken without a bra or shirt on bent over at a 90degree angle, a second measurement should be taken standing up straight, and possibly a third measurement taken laying down (if you have larger breasts). The average of these two (or three) measurements will be the most accurate.

  24. That add 4/5 to the band size rule really is awful. Plus it would make me have to go seek out a 40AA somewhere, and that sounds truly terrifying.

  25. Thank you for this blog.
    I thought I was the only one that keeps getting the wrong size in bras! I was wearing a 36A many years ago until my aunt asked me what size I was. When I told her she said that was rubbish and explained this exact method to me. I measured 34B afterwards and felt comfy for the first time since I got boobs. It all changed again after having my son. Even nearly 2yrs on I am loathe to admit that I’ve changed size for fear of going back to an A! I have used the method again and I am really surprised that I measure 36C! I can’t wait to get to the shops and try some on. Thank you for giving me some confidence to go back and buy some new bras. I don’t feel the same panic that I won’t fit into my size, and that I CAN try on other sizes.
    Thank you again and sorry for the essay.
    Lou

  26. Hi, Thanks for putting up this info. I wonder if you can help me? When I lived in the UK, I would be measured periodically by M&S and John Lewis, and they used the “add 4/5 inches method”, so I was always a 34B/C, depending on weight gain/loss (always goes from my boobs first). I then moved to Australia, and started ordering from M&S online, and continued to use their size chart, and was apparently a 36B, as I’d gained some weight. However, my boobs always seem to sit in a puddle at the bottom of my bra (thought this was due to age/breastfeeding). I always order padded, underwired bras, and I always wore them on the tightest strap (even when I was measured by the assistants), and I know this to be wrong. I have just measured myself, and I am 31″ around the ribcage and 34.5″ across the fullest part of the bust. I was wearing a non-padded underwired 34C which was lurking in my drawer. Based on your chart, I seem to be a 32C?. I’m shocked. I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra for 25 years. I just wanted to check with you what bra you think I should order, as I have to pay to return them if they don’t fit. Thanks in advance

  27. As a skinny 52kg teenager I was told I was a 36b by M+S, 20 years later I find I am a 32g (same measurements as all the extra 10kg since then is on my abdomen). I am now in Australia as well and have given up on just about every brand here so I still shop either at M+S online or get discontinued bras from EBay UK which I can sell here on Ebay at a profit if they don’t fit. Waiting patiently for 2 figleaves bras from EBay at the moment.

  28. Clever clever clever – thank you.

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