Pinning down band size

There are many things that can influence what bra band sizes you should wear, and varies from differences on the manufacturer’s end to simply nailing down what sizes and styles work best with your body. Getting the right fit can get complicated, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is all about getting the right bras to suit you, not squashing yourself into bras that “should” fit. If you are having bra troubles, never direct your frustrations at your own body, but rather on these brands that don’t seem able to build a bra for your shape! We are all very unique and so are our breasts, so finding the right bra can take a bit of trial and error, but somewhere out there, someone makes a bra for you. Whether your ribcage measures 24″ or 50″, your cup size AAA to a P, someone’s got a bra for you. And if you don’t fit into those parameters, you can get them custom made. Whether you are a mother looking for cute nursing bras and lingerie, have asymmetrical breasts, have breast implants, or are transgender, old or young, someone’s got a bra for you.

That being said, there are many things that can affect band size, as well as cup size. It doesn’t help that some big differences can occur even between bra models from the same company – and even between different fashion colors of the exact same bra model from the same company! To these ends, I strongly recommend either trying the bra on in person if possible, or read up on the bra. Blogs and bra reviews (posted either on a blog or on the selling website itself) are often a good source of information, as is Bratabase. Different people may have different fit experiences, so the most beneficial reviews are often from those that have very similar shapes or needs to yours. However, those with needs/shape the complete opposite of yours can also be quite handy, as whatever works for them may not be the same for you, and what fit horribly on them can be a good match for you!

Today is just about band sizes though, as (in my opinion) cup sizes and cup shapes are much more complex to work with. 😛 You may choose to vary band sizes between brands and for other needs. Often those who fluctuate band sizes by brand just use the number numbers closest to their ribcage measurement – ie someone who measures a 35″ ribcage will often use 34 and 36 as their working band sizes. Keep in mind though, that usually when you select a different band size you also need to select a different cup size – a 38DD is NOT the same cup volume as a 36DD. The 36DD is actually in a completely different sister sizing system. If you go from a 38DD and try on the 36DD, you might think: Wow, this is really tight! Too tight, in fact. Clearly this is the wrong size… so I’ll stick with the 38DD. – That’s not how it works! That 36DD is not only tighter in the band, but it’s also an entire cup size too small. Too many people correctly figure out that their bands are loose, but neglect to add a cup size when they go down in the band. Similarly, if you go up in the band, you should decrease the cup size. Now, to make sister sizing more complicated: just because a certain row of bras on that chart all contain the same cup volume, it doesn’t mean that you can casually swap between wearing a 26K and a 50C. It’s the same cup volume, yes, but that 26K is made for a much smaller woman than the 50C is made for. Victoria’s Secret is often guilty of doing slightly less extreme versions of this – Oh, we don’t have a 34DDD in stock? Well, try this 38D on instead. For some people, that 38D might actually be their ideal size in Victoria’s Secret – but sister sizing should be used more to suit the needs of your body and accommodate overly stretchy or tight bands. You shouldn’t make do with a sister size just because they don’t have something closer to your ideal size. In this example, the person’s ideal and true size for the bra is 34DDD, so that 38D is NOT going to be a fun fit. In fact, it can cause the bra to wear out more quickly, and a myriad of problems on the wearer – anything from back, neck, and shoulder pain, to just a lack of support during work or daily activities. Yes, even if it looked okay in the dressing room. The best use of the sister sizing system is to make adjustments to what your base measurements suggest as your best fit. Take, for example, going up a band size because you have medical situations that cause a more snug band to physically painful, or going down in band size because you have a squishy back/ribcage and large breasts, thereby needing extra firm support. When bra shopping, here’s a few common reasons for choosing a different band size from your base measurements…

Some possible reasons for going up in band size (and down in cup size):

  • You used to wear a bra with a band too large for your body (extremely common!!) and are worried the band will feel TOO tight initially and/or want to work your way down to a smaller band
  • You researched or tried on the bra, and the band seems to run tight
  • You tried on a smaller size and had various issues with gore width, underwire height, strap distance, etc (sometimes size changes can help, other times it’s just not the right bra for you)
  • You have small, close-set breasts and need to add inches to the band size to get the cups to fit around you properly
  • You have a bony back or ribcage, and tight bands are painful
  • You have a muscular build
  • You have medical reasons for not wanting or needing a firmer band

And on the flip side, a few possible reasons for going down in the band (and up in the cups):

  • You’ve been wearing the wrong size and want to change that!
  • You researched or tried on the bra, and the band runs very loose OR is said to stretch out quickly (Remember, when you first purchase a bra you want it to be supportive and well fitted on the LOOSEST hook, and upgrade to the tighter ones only after the bra gets older and starts to stretch out)
  • You tried on a bigger band size, and had various problems with underwire height, underwire width, strap distance, gore distance, gore height, etc (sometimes size issues, sometimes the bra just isn’t a good fit for you)
  • You have larger, wider breasts and need to take down inches in the band to get the right fit
  • You have a squishier back or ribcage (can be from fat, skin, anything), and need a tighter band to have the best support
  • You have a larger cup size, and need a firm band to get the proper support
  • Looser bands give you pain and/or cause the straps to dig in too much

These are just some starting points to consider. In the end, it’s your body and your choice. If it fits well, and feels good, go for it! It’s important to wear whatever feels most comfortable for you. To wrap up, I’d like to link to some fantastic posts that continue the band size discussion..
Braless in Brazil has a very in depth post about band sizing and factors that can influence them.
The Butterfly Collection talks about about both ladies who may need to add inches to their band size and women who may benefit from subtracting inches. (I’d like to note here that plush sized brand Elomi often has very firm bands, so subtracting may be less likely in that brand.)
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust discusses how sometimes even in a technically well fitted bra, problems can still arise.
XL Hourglass discusses the effects her ill fitting bras were giving her. She also has a lovely post showing how much the size and shape of the band can affect the often dreaded back fat.
The Lingerie Addict discusses the +0 vs +4 bra fitting methods, and draws some insightful conclusions.


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