How do I Find the Right Bra Size for Me?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Finding the right bra size is a challenge for every woman, and this is not so much because instructions for getting the right size are difficult. Instead, it’s usually due to the fact that there are many types of bras and not all brands in the same size will fit exactly the same. It can thus take some work and a few hours in a lingerie store or department store with a wide selection to come up with the best-fitting and most comfortable bras. Once women commit to this search and follow fit rules, they’re often able to find a good fit.

A woman trying on a bra.
A woman trying on a bra.

The basic rule for getting the appropriate size is to measure accurately. Women will want to wear a bra that isn’t extremely tight on the bust, and measure in two places. They need a tape measure to get the circumference of the band, of the area just below the breasts. The second measurement is of the fullest part of the chest, and this should be measured without pulling the tape too tight.

A few basic measurements are needed to measure for bra size.
A few basic measurements are needed to measure for bra size.

As most women know a brassiere is sized in two ways. In America this is by inch or bandwidth, and by cup. The difference between the two measurements helps to determine cup size. Except for AA bras, which are about half an inch greater than band, cup sizes are usually determined by inches. An A bra cup is about an inch greater than the band, B is two inches, C is three inches, D is four inches, and so on. A woman with measurements of 34 and 37 would be likely to search for a 34 C bra, for instance.

Measuring bra size requires using a tailor's measuring tape.
Measuring bra size requires using a tailor's measuring tape.

Ideally, the woman with these measurements would immediately find that bra in lots of different brands, but this isn’t always the case, and there are more things to keep in mind. Trying on is an important part of this process, and its suggested women grab a selection of bras of different brands in their supposed size. It’s also recommended they bring a tighter fitting knit shirt on this excursion to try over bras.

What should be looked for in fit includes that the bra feels comfortably snug on the first enclosure. Bras do stretch, and more life and use will be gotten out of one if it is appropriately snug without feeling too tight. If the bra is too loose, it will ride up, which minimizes support. Once the brassiere is on, women should lean over for about half a minute and allow the breasts to come fully into the cups.

Standing up, observe any signs of wrinkling in the cup, or the appearance that the cup is stretched. Underwire or the sides of bras should neatly fit around the breasts without being too big, or compressing them. If straps are digging into the shoulders, after being appropriately adjusted, this is another problem, because support is not being adequately provided by the band and the main structure of the garment. Any of these signs suggest this is not the right size or the right bra.

Should none of these signs be present, try the knit shirt on to get a sense of what the breasts look like, and where on the chest they’re located. The bra should give adequate support that puts nipple height at at least mid-arm. If it’s lower, support is not adequate. People may also want to pay attention to the shape of breasts, which may differ with various bras. Some create a rounder look, and others make the breasts appear more conical.

A few things will change total support of bras, even if they appear to fit well. Stretch cotton will not lift the breasts as high and front enclosures tend to minimize support. For women with larger breasts, a wider band is usually required, and there should be at least three hooks to support that band. Style of bra, like plunge bras, can also change amount of support.

One thing that has proven useful for many women is to attend fit clinics, often offered at department stores. Lingerie experts skillfully measure women and suggest which size seems most appropriate. Most lingerie specialty stores offer this service on a regular basis, but many department stores only offer it occasionally. Should it seem that it’s still impossible to find the right size with the directions above, look for a clinic or local lingerie shop that can assist with measuring and making suggestions on the bras or sizes most likely to fit well.

Avoid bras that are too tight on the bust.
Avoid bras that are too tight on the bust.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Greenweaver- I just wanted to add that stores like Jessica London sell plus size bras ranging in size from 30 8C tool 48 DDD.

They sell underwire, wireless microfiber and body shaping tanks.


Sneakers 41- I actually prefer wearing a strapless bra because I hate having to mess with bra straps.

It makes it very uncomfortable when your bra strap slides to the middle of your shoulder. I also like to wear a lace bra.

I wear a lace bra and when I'm wearing a blouse made of silk or when I wear a dress that's a little bit lower cut in the front.


Finding the right bra is difficult because there are many different options as well as sizes. Most women wear the wrong size.

A fitting clinic is an excellent way to determine which bra size is best. The bra strap across the middle of the back should be low enough to provide adequate support.

Also understanding the differences between the different types of bras also helps you select a more flattering fit.

For example an underwire bra is best suited for a woman that needs more support. A gel bra or a silicone bra is best for a woman with small breasts that wants to enhance her bosom.

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