Myth No.1 - For your bra size use a tape measure

A tape measure is useful for measuring lengths, widths and even circular objects, but using a tape to measure a breast simply doesn't make sense.

Mystery shopping, global research, listening, fitting schools and everything else we could find to educate us on bra fitting was our life before opening Brava Lingerie.

The fitting schools we attended were run by the major suppliers and they all taught bra fitting using a tape measure and even in the classroom environment it was very rarely accurate. Measuring the bust using a tape measure was like measuring a jug of milk with a ruler!

In no time we knew that employing a tape measure to find a woman's bra size just didn't add up. There are so many variations, including breast firmness, nipple positioning, whether they are inhaling or exhaling, menstrual cycle, the broadness of their back and a plethora of other factors.

There are a few reasons why bra fitters may still use tape measures:

  • Because they don't have the conviction to fit by sight.
  • They believe it gives the customer more confidence, regardless of whether it works or not.
  • It's what they've always done, so it's what they feel they always must do.
Using a tape measure for bra sizing

A confident, experienced bra fitter can look at a woman and nearly always know her bra size. We ask our customers what bra size they have already been wearing to give us a starting point. Quite often, we then fit the size we think she is because once she understands how comfortable and supportive the right bra can feel, the actual cup size becomes less of an issue.


We road tested the measure guides on various websites to find out how accurate they are. The result was horrifying; no wonder so many women are in the wrong size bra!

Rachel and myself are both bra fitters and are 10F, in some bras Rachel will fit into a 10FF. The results from six international and reputable websites are below:

Rachel 14C, 14C, 14C, 14B, 14D, 14G 
Maxine 10C, 12A, 12A, 10C, 10D, 12F

Not even close. It doesn't make sense, does it? We are both a size 10 band, so why are they calculated so differently? I can't really answer that, but maybe it's got something to do with...rounding off to an even number... adding 5 inches... subtracting the band size from the cup size... and the complexities go on. You have got to be kidding! The sites suggest using these measurements as a guide, but my God, how can being told I am a 12A be any kind of guide?

Anyone who looks at Rachel and I together would never guess we are the same bra size. Rachel is 13 years younger and hasn't had children, so she is a lot fuller and looks bigger than I do. I'm over 40, I breastfed my child and I run long distances. It seems reasonable that our bodies, and our needs, are different enough for us to suit very different styles of bra. There are so many factors that determine which bra size and style will suit you. If you use these 'bra calculators' you will need to go down one or two band sizes and up 3-4 cup sizes to be anywhere close to your true size.

Lin is 10GG and sometimes wears a 8H, but various online bra size calculators came up with 14E, 12B, 12C, 8DD, 14F & 12D.

None of this surprises us now and just last week a lovely woman entered our store wearing a 20D bra...we fitted her into a 12JJ bra. It was as if she had lost 10kg because her bust was lifted which showed off her long torso, she looked amazing and walked out smiling broadly with a confidence she had never felt in her whole adult life.

I read on another blog recently a woman who said "the bra fitter didn't fit me correctly because she didn't use a tape measure". My advice to this woman is the next time you walk into a bra shop and the fitter does not use a tape measure, take that as a sign of experience.

One of a small handful of people worldwide to have a Masters Research Degree in Bra Design and Manufacture (and an MA in Contour Design and Manufacture) is Lindsey Brown. Lindsey runs bra fitting courses in the UK and teaches to fit by eye, without a tape measure. She says "The body is elastic, whereas a tape measure is static. A tape measure cannot measure volume, so it is essential that anyone advising women on wearing the correct fitting bra learns how to assess and fit without a tape measure". Bravo to Lindsay!

Our preference is always to fit the individual so we invite you to visit a Brava store for a fitting. If you're unable to visit us, you can try our Virtual Fitter service from the comfort of your home, wherever in the world that may be!