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).
Step 2: Measure around your bra band (tightly) and make a note of the number in inches.
Step 3: Measure around your lady lumps (not so tight this time!) make a note of the number.
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:
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!