Bra size: What's really in a number?

Are you one of the thousands of women who have had a professional bra fitting only to discover your true cup size is larger than what you had been wearing for years? If so, you are not alone - this is very common in the bra fitting world, and is more often greeted by women with despair rather than glee.  Whilst mixed feelings are usually expected, we often hear outright denial¦  œI can't possibly be an F cup!

Research by the world's leading lingerie brands has shown that DD cup is the new C. Theories for the overflowing cups are abundant, but can mostly be attributed to modern health and beauty trends, and changes in hormonal levels. However a large part can also be attributed to the growing number of women who are being expertly fitted for a bra, rather than continuing to buy the same bra size for years. In the US, lingerie retailers have referred to this as ˜the Oprah effect' - when Oprah dedicated a show in 2005 to bra fittings, the number of women seeking bra fittings soared.

So before you get your knickers in a knot over the numbers on your bra label, consider this:

  • Although your cup size may need to increase, your back size will usually go down. This means you're smaller in stature than you thought (win!). It's not unusual for a woman to come in to Brava wearing size 14D and to walk out wearing 10F.
  • Many women are surprised to find that they have been wearing the wrong cup size for years, only to be pleasantly surprised by the comfort and shape offered by the correct size. Most have been wearing a back size too loose, with a cup size too small.
  • As a society, we are uneducated about lingerie sizing with the majority of quality lingerie manufacturers being in Europe. Many Australians grapple with the idea of a DD cup-sized woman being a walking cleavage, but in fact DD cup is a very regular size.
  • There's no standard for international bra sizes, so the size you wear in one brand could be completely different to the size you wear in another. Rather than being hung up on the size, think about how the bra feels and whether the style suits your shape.
  • Traditional bra fitting methods using a tape measure are a waste of time! This system was invented in the 1930s and only included A-D cups. There's even an urban legend that men refined the original cup sizing system by using mannequins with different size balloons attached!
  • You don't need to wear a granny bra to achieve both fashion and fit - there are many lingerie manufacturers who create luxurious, fashionable, and feminine bra styles in A-K cup sizes.
If you've never had a professional bra fitting, there is an 80% chance you're wearing the wrong size. Besides creating a fabulous lift and a shapely silhouette, the right bra size can also reveal a smaller waist and even relieve back or neck pain.

With every bra you try on:

  • Move around to determine comfort
  • Try your top on for shape
  • Tell your fitter how the bra feels to you (their experience will allow them to suggest other suitable styles and brands)
  • Don't buy it if it's uncomfortable, or you're not sure!
Remember that we women are made in delightfully different shapes and sizes, and the number on your bra label doesn't define you! Your lingerie is your secret weapon¦ the right fit supports you, builds your self-esteem, and makes you feel empowered.  So don't live in bra denial, get a professional bra fitting and embrace your shape in comfort.

Read our Bra Fitting Guide for more advice and troubleshooting tips.

And if you're in Melbourne, visit us in Prahran or the Melbourne CBD to be expertly fitted by one of our team.
Have you recently been professionally fitted? Tell us about your experience¦ By Lin Windram.