January 24, 2013

What's Your Size Range?

Many women find a bra they like that fits well and believe that's their size in every bra. There's a myriad of reasons this isn't the entire truth because behind each label there are different factors that comprise the make up of each bra.

It stands to reason most brands would have one or more designers responsible for each season's styles and the ongoing core or "continuity" lines, you know the ones available usually in Black, White and a "Skin-tone" year after year. The total fabric content also likely differs depending on whether it's made from lace, nylon, sheer mesh, lightly-padded for shape and security, the list goes on, really. Each material will grant a different level of flexibility and some remain rather firm.

I think it's quite important to be properly measured for the likeliest size that will fit and work with it. After that it's basically up to finding the nuances of your appropriate size in each brand. Sometimes a band will be far too snug for comfort and so you can size-up the band. Other times a cup may be too big with very clear signs of wrinkling. Or, the underwire may poke at your sides so you can try a cup larger to see if that helps alleviate the issue (so long as it fits right everywhere else!).

Online Bra Size Calculators!

Measure in Inches
Linda's Online (aka Linda The Bra Lady)

Measure in Centimeters
Elektroniczny Bra-Fitter

Measure either Cm or In
Butterfly Collection

A Sophisticated Pair

It's really just a starting point. The only real way to find out if a bra will fit you is to try it on. Here are some examples of variation through the same brand.

I'm a huge Cleo fan. The colors, the patterns, the fit! I believe (after blooming early) taking about fifteen years to find the right size has me longing to make up for lost -and very necessary- wardrobe time. Give me the bright purples and neon greens any day! I found much of the 2010 through 2012 seasons to run either TTS or they may appear so and tend to stretch out rather quick. Most notably I purchased the Eleanor in Red one band smaller and a cup size larger, 28gg, because I anticipated it would stretch somewhat given a bit of time. So I added an extender and wore this cherry tomato red pieced-cup bra with a lovely almost picnic-basket like embroidery a few times over the course of a summer week. Usually after a wash and dry a bra's elastic snaps back into place somewhat making it more snug. After only a few wears I had to leave the extender in my drawer because it was already perfect on the first set of hooks. I was shocked and definitely in awe. So I figured from thereon if the shape fits it was best to buy smaller bands so my new bras would have more life. As it turns out I would go on to purchase several more Cleo's in this size such as the Bonnie and the ever popular Lucy in many colors.

left to right: SS11 Cleo "Bonnie", SS10 Cleo "Eleanor", SS12 Cleo "Lucy" (all 28GG)

Migrating Tissue?
When one size seems to work a majority of the time there can still be size variations. As mentioned in an earlier post on my first proper fitting I'd originally been fitted into 30FF's. After wearing proper sizes for about 8-12 months I noticed the need for a slightly larger cup. I wondered why because my weight rarely fluctuates outside a few back-and-forth pounds and never enough to significantly alter the fit of my clothing. So after all the years spent wearing ill-fitting and unsupportive boob hammocks the extra tissue had over time kind of floated away from the front bust into the underarm and toward the back but now had been brought forward where it should be. Claire at Butterfly Collection has a great blog post with examples.

Even in my new found 30G I still found variation depending on different brands and styles. As of current time writing this I fit and constantly wear a 30FF in Fantasie moulded cup styles as the 30G is still a bit too roomy leaving little air pockets inside the cup. Fantasie's Ava from their core line is one of my favorite bras and the first one I ever wore all day without feeling like I was wearing a bra. It's that comfy! Otherwise I tend to fit well into the 30G cut-and-sew Fantasies as well as Freyas which makes sense as they are sister brands and often design shapes are identical across both lines. That said, I own just a couple of these in Freya since I'm less a fan of the overall pointed shape they give me personally. Not to be confused the similarly named AW12 Freya Ada is perfect in 30G and I loved the pattern so much I made an exception for it. Going back two seasons the Cleo Sasha (AW11) technically fit in both a 30G and 30GG but the 30GG felt more secure. In comparison the cups are ever so slightly higher and more supportive and I feel better about bending over/moving about. However just as with the previous 28-band Cleo's this band stretched out quickly and it now wears on the final hook, sometimes second-hook when a bit of room is required (luckily I was able to snag it in the smaller 28H via Bratabase and the shape is consistent).

left to right: Fantasie "Ava" 30FF, AW12 Freya "Ada" 30G, AW11 Cleo "Sasha" 30GG

Bump It Up
Most of the above mentions are of unlined cut-n-sew types with the exception of Ava. Not everyone will find themselves in the following situation but most of the time I tend to need one cup size larger in lightly padded styles. It feels like there is just a tiny bit less room in there with more than just the outer defining fabric. And so it's usually a 30GG for me in padded bras like Cleo's Juna. A shape from the core line it's one that started long before her as she is well known today. Available in Black, Ivory and "Nude" shades Juna seasonally wears different patterns and shades such as the current AW12 Darcy with patriotic red, white and blue leafy heart print and the purple tartan AW10 Sadie below. The purple Sadie however was not available past a G-cup. Here is another exception made and purchased in the same volume however in a 32G, worn immediately on the final hooks and will eventually need altering to shorten the band. Braless in Brasil has a good post on altering or shortening bra bands. When I purchased Juna and her colorful sisters Sadie in Orange, Darcy, and Rihanna I was still anticipating their bands to stretch out fast in a 30 and so bought the size down all in 28H's. They work well for my shape and I have a matching bra extender for each to get more wear in the long run. The only 30G bra I've found to work appropriately in a padded style so far has been Cleo's SS12 Arianna which ran 28-38 D-G and I tried the 32FF and 32G but they were both too big in the band and the 32G was definitely too big overall!

left to right: SS12 Cleo "Arianna" 30G, Cleo "Juna" 28H, AW10 Cleo "Sadie" 32G

For those curious, The earliest incarnation of Juna I've found was from just before my introduction to Panache and their Masquerade line: SS10's Inca.
Being measured on average for a 30G is just the starting point as witnessed above. All of these bras are worn on a regular basis and all have their own slight variation on fit and shape although on the same body.

Do you find yourself varying between brands or even in the same line? Please share below in the comments!


  1. Thank you for including our calculator in your amazing post! What size you need will always vary with the manufacturer and style of the bra, so it is helpful to think of a size range or cluster instead. I also love how you broke down the different bras you've tried and how those sizes varied. Excellent post!

    1. Your comments are appreciated so much and your calculator rocks! I've got even more upcoming posts on size variation. It's amazing how the slightest difference can alter one woman's shape yet remain the same for other ladies. The lovely Treacle (aka www.TheLingerieAddict.com) tweeted a response that her size rarely varies. I believe it's helpful for women to know we're all in the same boat!

  2. Anonymous05:54

    Excellent post, and great pix! I love seeing some of the vintage colors and styles, just in case I run across them on ebay or bratabase or something.