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How To Measure Yourself

There are lots of "bra fit formulas" floating around the internet but it is important to understand that the formula is only a general trend not an exact science. The truth is bra sizes are not standardized and one company's 36D might be another company's 34B, that being said, neither are women's bodies; one woman's 36D might be another woman's 34B. The key to great fit is understanding the signs of fit and taking a chance on new sizes once in a while.

The best way to figure out your size is to be fit by a certified bra fitter at a specialty shop or boutique with a full range of sizes. Lots of women cram themselves into the biggest bra at their local bargain store and call it "fit". If you can't get to a certified fitter, take the time to read our common questions about bra fit below.

If you do choose to use a formula here is the one we recommend. Measure carefully.

Step 1

While wearing your best fitting non padded bra measure tightly around your rib cage just beneath your bust line. Add 3 to 5 inches to this number to determine your approximate band size.

Step 2

Double check your band measurement by bringing the tape measure tightly around your ribcage just above your bustline. This second measurement should be the same as your calculated band size from step 1.

Step 3

Measure loosely around the fullest part of your bust or where the fullest part of your bust should be (usually lined up with the nipple about halfway between your shoulder and your elbow). Subtract your band size from this number. Generally, each inch of difference equals one cup size:

Cup Size Inches Of Difference
AA 0-.5"
A .5-1"
B 1-2"
C 2-3"
D 3-4"

After the A,B,C,D things get a little tricky. Some companies offer D, DD, DDD only, some equate the DD with an E and still others offer DD and E as separate sizes.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of rounding and estimating involved and every brand has their own standards.

The cup size is always in proportion to the band size (A 32D has the same size underwire -ie cup size- as a 34C or 36B). If you measure yourself as a 34G you might also try a 32GG or a 36H for the same amount of underwire.

Cup size is actually the combination of the width of the underwire and the depth of the cup. Some bras like some breasts are wide but not deep or deep but narrow and there are different designs for different shapes of breast. This is why some styles fit some sizes that other styles may not.

Read our brand descriptions or consult our figure type charts to see what styles might work for you and understand that even a different style from the same company might have a different fit.

Bra Fit: Breaking the Mold

At least 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, even with major retailers offering "bra fittings". Why aren't more women finding the right size? The "Generic Bra Fit Formulas" aren't going to work for everyone, they should be thought of as a good place to start, an educated guess not as a hard-and-fast rule. Women need to actually try on different sizes and styles to find the one that works best for them. Another major problem is the lack of options. Most chain retailers offer 10 or 20 basic sizes in maybe two or three styles. Those bras may be great for the 10 or 20 people that actually fit those sizes, but what about the rest of us?

A lot of women don't even know they are wearing the wrong size. The problem ultimately boils down to a lack of information and a lack of standards. Very few women recognize the signs of a bad fit. Most simply assume that underwire will always hurt, that straps will always dig and that bands will always ride up; the most common signs of a poor fit. We let ourselves live with unnecessary discomfort because we don't know what questions to ask.

These problems are only compounded for women who don't fit the "Traditional" size ranges and those women are more likely to avoid the in-store shopping experience all together. Everyone should get to have that "Pretty Woman" shopping experience especially when it comes to intimate apparel. Every woman deserves the chance to feel good about her body and herself. Something as simple as a bra that fits properly can change a woman completely, giving her the presence and confidence to move through the world successfully. 

So much has changed for the women of this generation and yet this new awareness of self has been slow-approaching. There were so many things my mother didn't tell me. In fact, our mothers had very little to tell because they themselves did not know. There were very few options for quality basics and very little consumer feedback to the manufacturers. Things have really changed in the past few decades and the women's lingerie industry has been making enormous strides in design and development. National Media has taken note with a surge of information on the art and etiquette of lingerie. Now that information is coming home thanks to local boutiques like à la mode.

Common Bra Myths Revealed:

  • A B cup is always a B cup; a D cup is always a D cup: The cup size is actually proportionate to the band size, when you go down in band size you should increase the cup size and vice versa, so a 38B is the same amount of cup as a 34D.
  • Underwire is always uncomfortable: The underwire is designed to give support but if worn in the wrong place it can be very painful. The answer is not always.
  • Lace is itchy: Many women have been burned by discount fabrics but quality lace should feel soft and comfortable. When it comes to lace you get what you pay for, look for reputable brands and natural fibers with just a little bit of stretch.
  • They don't make anything (pretty) in my size: Major Bra Brands like Chantelle and Le Mystere design fashionable bras for a variety of sizes (up to an H cup) and the UK's Eveden Corporation makes bras up to a JJ cup and bands from 28-56. Other quality bra makers are following suit, expanding their size ranges every season.

Common Bra Fit Questions:

What's so great about wearing a bra?

A good bra is a woman's hardest working piece of clothing. Most women wear a bra every waking moment of everyday! Why wouldn't you spend the time and money to make it a good one?

A lot of women wear a lot of bad, cheap, worn-out, ill-fitting bras because they just don't know any better. But a high-quality bra in the correct size can help protect sensitive breast tissue from the unmistakable effects of time and gravity.

Seamed bras provide the most shape by distributing the weight of the breast through two or three seams, but a quality smooth cup with supportive (non-elastic) fabric can also give lift and control.

It is important not to over compress the breast tissue or force it into a bad fit because this will constrict blood flow and cause the tissue to loose density and firmness further adding to time and gravity.

Why is it so important to get fitted for a bra rather than just guessing?

8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size and its no mystery why. With most chain stores carrying few sizes, most women don't even have access to the options or the information they need.

Women have so many misconceptions about breasts and bras especially on how a bra should really fit. Contrary to popular belief; a properly fitted bra can be both comfortable and supportive, not to mention stylish and fun.

How do you know if you are wearing the right size?

The ultimate judge of bra fit should be you. The bra should feel comfortable to your taste and be matched to your activity level and lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you understand the way bra fit can be determined.

A properly fitted bra should feel snug around the ribcage, anchored to the body just below the shoulder blades.

The band should be level front to back and should not ride up or dig.

The shoulder straps should be secure but comfortable as most of the support should come from the band.

The cup should be filled but not overflowing.

The underwire should encircle the breast, resting firmly against the ribcage and the center of the bra should be between the breasts.

The underwire should never rest on top of sensitive breast tissue and should stay in place when your arms are raised.

When should you get re-fitted?

You should get a new bra fitting if you make any changes to your weight or lifestyle, if you start or stop exercising, gain or lose as little as five pounds or if you become pregnant, start or stop nursing.

Even if no major changes occur it can be very helpful to have a professional check the fit as your breasts will to continue to change throughout your lifetime. Why not recheck the fit whenever you replace your old bras? It's important to know when to replace a worn-out bra, before it starts looking like Swiss cheese. The elasticity of the band will decrease with time and wear so if the back begins to ride up or you feel the bra is no longer secure and supportive; time to get a new one!

Am I weird? Is there something "wrong" with my breasts?

Women are quick to blame their breasts for the failings of a bad bra or the confusions caused by a lack of healthy information about natural breasts. So here are some quick facts that might help.

Natural breasts are uneven; sometimes the difference is imperceptible and other times quite pronounced. You should fit a bra to the larger breast and make any needed adjustments to the smaller side.

Breast tissue can be smooth or lumpy, both conditions are completely normal. It is important to become familiar with your natural texture so that differences can be noted and addressed. With 80-90% of women wearing the wrong bra size it has become a common belief that all bras are painful and uncomfortable, but with the right fit this is completely untrue.

Many women suffer back pain, shoulder pain and headaches from the weight of improperly supported breasts. Many women develop "cup denial" because they are afraid or embarrassed to ask for or try on a different size.

Breasts come in all different sizes and shapes as unique as the women they belong to. One style does not fit all! Another reason to work with an expert who can find the right combination of style and function.

Why now?

With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with some form of breast cancer during their lifetime, learning about our breasts sooner rather than later is of the utmost importance. Understanding the natural changes in our breasts can help us detect any unnatural developments as early as possible. For more information on breast health check out the expert advice at www.healthywomen.org.

Get a Professional Bra Fitting

Our highly trained bra fitters and knowledgeable sales staff have served the bra sizing needs of Maryland, Virginia and greater Washington, DC area women since 2004. Our  Boutique was designed by women, for women as a unique and welcoming place to shop for intimate apparel, romantic gifts and the perfect fitting bra.

We understand that bra shopping can be overwhelming and intimidating, but at a la mode we listen to our clients and guide them to the styles and items that fit their bodies and their lives. Each of our fitters has completed at least one bra fitting certification program and most have multiple certifications in specialty areas such as nursing bras, large cup sizes, post-mastectomy bras and prostheses.

Let us help you find your perfect fit.