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Bra Size Basics

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Overwhelmed by all the bra choices out there and not sure what it all means? When you need to start wearing a bra, it can be pretty intimidating trying to figure out what you need and what's best. Here are some bra-basic tips for you to follow.

Cups or no Cups?

There’s a time and place for everything, including cups in your bras. Usually, when a girl starts wearing a bra it's one of those simple sporty ones that comes in sizes like Small, Medium and Large. These simple, stretchy cotton bras are great if you're in the beginning stages of development. Eventually, though, you're probably gonna need something with cups. Cups give you more support and keep your boobs from flopping all over the place. So how do you know when you need a cup? Well, there's an old test that goes like this: if you take a pencil and put it under your boob - and it stays - then you need a cup. If the pencil falls then you're still good to go without them.

Bra SizeBra Size

Lingerie Lingo

If you don't get what all the letters and numbers mean on a bra, don't worry. It's not as complicated as it looks. The letters - like A, B, C, D - stand for cup sizes. The numbers - like 32, 34, 36, 38 – tell you the band size – that’s the part of the bra that goes around your torso. In other words, a 34A means that your boobs are an A cup and that your bra is 34 inches around. The best way to figure out what cup and size is right for you is to go and try some on. Salespeople at lingerie stores are usually extremely helpful – don’t be afraid to ask one for assistance! But if you’re dead-set on figuring out your bra/cup size yourself, we’ve got some tips on how to do just that.

Measuring Up

Believe it or not, at least 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. The most common mistake is wearing a band size that’s too big and/or a cup size that’s too small. Though the average bra size is a 36C, most females who wear this size should actually be wearing either a 34D, 34DD, 32DD or 32E bra. The TRUE average bra size is around 34DD.

Also know that cup sizes relate directly to band size. So a 34 band size, for example, is actually different in a B-cup bra and a C-cup bra. This is because, often, the bigger your boobs, the larger you are around your torso. Smaller boobs usually belong to girls with smaller frames.

Bra SizeBra Size

Another thing to remember is that your bra size changes as your weight changes throughout the different stages of your life. Losing or gaining a few pounds will usually mean you will need a new bra size. Some girls go for so long wearing one bra size that they don't even realize when it doesn't fit well anymore and feel uncomfortable! To find the perfect fit, here's how to find your true bra size.

Step 1: Measure Your Band Size

  • Run a tape measure all the way around your body just underneath your breasts and take a measurement in inches. Make sure the tape measure is straight and fairly snug. Your arms should be down. If this measurement is an odd number, round up to the nearest even number. This should be your band size. If your measurement is already an even number, you may find that this is your band size, or you may have to go up to the next size (that is, you may have to add 2 inches). So, if you measured 31 inches, your band size should be 32. If you measured 34 inches, your band size may be 34 or 36.

Step 2: Figure Out Your Cup Size

  • If you already wear a bra and think you need a new size, the best way to find your cup size is to use your current bra size as a starting point. The cups are sized relative to the band, so if you try a smaller band size but keep the same cup size, the cups would be too small. Instead, increase the cups by one size for every band that you go down. For example, if you’re current bra is a 34C and your underbust (see Step 1, above) measures 31 inches, then you probably need a 32D. On a 30-inch band, this would be a 30DD.
  • And remember: In the U.K., cup sizes are AA, A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ, K, KK.

Step 3: Try It On!

  • Even after you’ve measured yourself, you need to actually try some bras on to make sure you got the right size. Go to the store and try a few on! If you’re wondering what the right size bra should feel like, the correct band size is the smallest you can comfortably wear – tight enough to be supportive without cutting into your skin. You should be able to fit no more than a fist under the back of the bra. The right cup size is the biggest you can totally fill out without the fabric wrinkling and without there being any extra space in the cups. This goes for low-cut and push-up bras, too!

Shopping Tips

Here are some things to keep in mind while trying on bras. First off decide what look you want. Bras come in various styles, like push-up and full-coverage and sports. If you want something that is simple with lots of support, you don't want a push-up. If you're looking to appear a little bigger than you are, then you do want push-up. Whatever your style, just make sure it fits right.

Some easy things to watch out for - the top part of your chest should meet seemlessly with the part in your bra. In other words, you don't want the top part of your chest to appear flat and then you have these bulges where your bras starts. If you've got the bulges it usually means that your cup size is too small. A quick and painless check is to latch the hooks of your bra, lean over and allow yourself to fall into the cups. If your boobs are pouring out and over, you need to move a cup size.

You also don't want bulges on your back. If your bra is too small around or you've got it done up too tight, you'll be able to see it through the back of your shirt and your skin will appear puckered or bulgy. Your straps should also be loose and not dig into your shoulders.

Remember a new bra should fasten at the middle or last hook, cuz the material will stretch with wear. Eventually, you'll wanna fasten it at the first hook.

Do yourself a favor: When you head to the bra department, find the oldest salesperson around. We’re talkin' the older the better. Walk right past the young trendy girls - who haven't got a clue - and find someone is pushing retirement. She's the lady who knows how to properly fit a bra.

Stay away from patterns. Sure that green-and-purple-plaid number looks great on the hanger but it'll be hard to wear because it'll show through a lot of your clothes. If there is a patterned or brightly colored bra you like you're best off to remember it and try to find a similar bathing suit or something.

Bra Stats

  • The most popular bra colors (in order of popularity) on the US mainland are: black, white, then beige.
  • In Hawaii, the popularity of colors is beige, white, then black. Island women are strong believers in matching your under garments to your skin tones. Not a bad idea.
  • Marie Tucek patented the actual first “breast supporter” in 1893. It was very similar to the bras sold today, with pouches for the breasts to sit in.
  • The average American woman owns six bras. Out of those six, one of is a strapless bra.
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