The company developed the system over eight years, during which they scanned and measured the breasts and torsos of women.
Bra sizes are usually expressed as scales, with a number of systems being in use around the world. The scales take into account the band length and the cup size. From the wearer's point of view, the main measures that are taken into account, in determining the best bra fit for the wearer, are the measures of the wearer around the torso below the breasts and over the breasts, which defines the band length.
For convenience, because of the impracticality of measuring a woman's breast size, the volume of the bra cup is based on the difference between these two measures.
Determining the correct bra size is the process manufacturers engage in to design and manufacture bras that correctly fit a majority of women, and for individual women, the process of identifying a correctly fitting bra. Bra cup sizes were invented in and band sizes became popular in the s. The shape, size, position, symmetry, spacing, firmness, and amount of sagging of individual women's breasts vary considerably. Manufacturers' bra size labeling systems vary from country to country because no international standards exist.
Even within a single country, one study found that the bra label size was consistently different from the measured size. On 21 November , Parisienne Madeleine Gabeau received a United States patent for a brassiere with soft cups and a metal band that supported and separated the breasts. To avoid the prevailing fashion that created a single "monobosom" [ citation needed ] , her design provided: The term "cup" was not used to describe bras until  when two patents were filed.
In October , the S. Camp and Company were the first to measure cup size by the letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, and D, although the letters represented how pendulous the breasts were and not their volume. Camp's advertising in the February issue of Corset and Underwear Review featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts.
Cup sizes A through D were not intended to be used for larger-breasted women. Before long, these cup sizes got nicknames: Catalog companies continued to use the designations Small, Medium, and Large through the s. The Sears Company finally applied cup sizes to bras in its catalog in the s. Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple hook and eye closures in the s. Prior to the widespread use of bras, the undergarment of choice for Western women was a corset.
The band measurement system was created by U. The underwire was first added to a strapless bra in by André, a custom-bra firm. In the s, Dunlop chemists were able to reliably transform rubber latex into elastic thread. After , "whirlpool", or concentric stitching, was used to shape the cup structure of some designs. Since a brassiere must be laundered frequently, easy-care fabric was in great demand. For best results, the breasts should be measured twice: In November , Oprah Winfrey produced a show devoted to bras and bra sizes, during which she talked about research that eight out of ten women wear the wrong size bra.
Studies have revealed that the most common mistake made by women when selecting a bra was to choose too large a back band and too small a cup, for example, 38C instead of 34E, or 34B instead of 30D.
The heavier a person's build, the more difficult it is to obtain accurate measurements, as measuring tape sinks into the flesh more easily.
In a study conducted in the United Kingdom of women seeking mammoplasty , researchers found a strong link between obesity and inaccurate back measurement. They concluded that " obesity , breast hypertrophy , fashion and bra-fitting practices combine to make those women who most need supportive bras the least likely to get accurately fitted bras. One issue that complicates finding a correctly fitting bra is that band and cup sizes are not standardized, but vary considerably from one manufacturer to another, resulting in sizes that only provide an approximate fit.
Manufacturers cut their bras differently, so, for example, two 34B bras from two companies may not fit the same person. Larger sizes are usually harder to find in retail outlets. As the cup size increases, the labeled cup size of different manufacturers' bras tend to vary more widely in actual volume.
Even medical studies have attested to the difficulty of getting a correct fit. The current popular system of determining bra size is inaccurate so often as to be useless. Add to this the many different styles of bras and the lack of standardization between brands, and one can see why finding a comfortable, well-fitting bra is more a matter of educated guesswork, trial, and error than of precise measurements.
The use of the cup sizing and band measurement systems has evolved over time and continues to change. Experts recommend that women get fitted by an experienced person  at a retailer offering the widest possible selection of bra sizes and brands. If the straps dig into the shoulder, leaving red marks or causing shoulder or neck pain, the bra band is not offering enough support. If it digs into the flesh, causing the flesh to spill over the edges of the band, the band is too small.
Similarly a band might feel too loose if the cup is too big. It is possible to test whether a bra band is too tight or too loose by reversing the bra on her torso so that the cups are at the back and then check for fit and comfort. Generally, if the wearer must continually adjust the bra or experiences general discomfort, the bra is a poor fit and she should get a new fitting. Bra experts recommend that women, especially those whose cup sizes are D or larger, get a professional bra fitting from the lingerie department of a clothing store or a specialty lingerie store.
There is significant heterogeneity in breast shape, density, and volume. As such, current methods of bra fitting may be insufficient for this range of chest morphology. A correctly fitting bra should meet the following criteria: One method to confirm that the bra is the best fit has been nicknamed the Swoop and Scoop.
After identifying a well-fitting bra, the woman bends forward the swoop , allowing their breasts to fall into the bra, filling the cup naturally, and then fastening the bra on the outermost set of hooks. Experts suggest that women choose a bra band that fits well on the outermost hooks. A bra is one of the most complicated articles of clothing to make. A typical bra design has between 20 and 48 parts, including the band, hooks, cups, lining, and straps.
Major retailers place orders from manufacturers in batches of 10, Orders of this size require a large-scale operation to manage the cutting, sewing and packing required. Constructing a properly fitting brassiere is difficult. Adelle Kirk, formerly a manager at the global Kurt Salmon management consulting firm that specializes in the apparel and retail businesses, said that making bras is complex:.
Bras are one of the most complex pieces of apparel. There are lots of different styles, and each style has a dozen different sizes, and within that there are a lot of colors. Furthermore, there is a lot of product engineering. You've got hooks, you've got straps, there are usually two parts to every cup, and each requires a heavy amount of sewing.
It is very component intensive. Obtaining the correct size is further complicated by the fact that the size and shape of women's breasts change, if they experience menstrual cycles , during the cycle  and can experience unusual or unexpectedly rapid growth in size due to pregnancy, weight gain or loss, or medical conditions.
In fact there are very few advantages in wearing existing bras. Having a bra that's generally supportive would have significant improvement particularly in terms of stopping them going south The skin is what gives the breasts their support" . In , the most common bra size sold in the UK was 36D. Researchers ruled out increases in population weight as the explanation  and suggested it was instead likely due to more women wearing the correct, larger size.
Bra retailers recommend several methods for measuring band and cup size. These are based on two primary methods, either under the bust or over the bust, and sometimes both. Calculating the correct bra band size is complicated by a variety of factors. For the woman with a large cup size and a between band size, they may find their cup size is not available in local stores so may have to shop online where most large cup sizes are readily available on certain sites.
Others recommend rounding to the nearest whole number. A measuring tape is pulled around the torso at the inframammary fold. The tape is then pulled tight while remaining horizontal and parallel to the floor. The measurement in inches is then rounded to the nearest even number for the band size. If the measurement is even, 4 is added to calculate the band size. If it is odd, 5 is added. Currently, many large U. A sizing chart or calculator then uses this measurement to determine the band size.
A measuring tape is pulled around the torso under the armpit and above the bust. Because band sizes are most commonly manufactured in even numbers, the wearer must round to the closest even number. Bra-wearers can calculate their cup size by finding the difference between their bust size and their band size. The measurements are made in the same units as the band size, either inches or centimetres.
The cup size is calculated by subtracting the band size from the over-the-bust measurement. Cup sizes vary from one country to another. The larger the cup size, the bigger the variation. Surveys of bra sizes tend to be very dependent on the population studied and how it was obtained.
For instance, one U. However, the survey sample was drawn from Caucasian student volunteers at a Midwest U. Bra-wearers who have difficulty calculating a correct cup size may be able to find a correct fit using a method adopted by plastic surgeons.
Using a flexible tape measure, position the tape at the outside of the chest, under the arm, where the breast tissue begins. Conversion of the measurement to cup size is shown in the "Measuring cup size" table. This principle means that bras of differing band size can have the same volume. For example, the cup volume is the same for 30D, 32C, 34B, and 36A. These related bra sizes of the same cup volume are called sister sizes. A study by White and Scurr University of Portsmouth compared method that adds 4 to the band size over-the-bust method used in many United Kingdom lingerie shops with and compared that to measurements obtained using a professional method.
The study measured 45 women using the traditional selection method that adds 4 to the band size over-the-bust method. Women tried bras on until they obtained the best fit based on professional bra fitting criteria. When women wear bras with too big a band, breast support is reduced. Too small a cup size may cause skin irritation.
They noted that "ill-fitting bras and insufficient breast support can lead to the development of musculoskeletal pain and inhibit women participating in physical activity.
In , researchers published research on world-wide breast size. They gathered breast data by gathering , individual breast size measurements in different countries. Only data from women in the age group 28 to 30 years.
They found that women born in the United States have much bigger breasts than women in any other country. Their average bra cup size, when converted to the European measurement system, is substantially larger than "F". The mean cup size of women of Canadian origin is "E" according to the EU bra size. Their average breast size is "D".
Women born in Africa and Asia, especially those born in East Asian countries, have the smallest breast volumes. Asian women were found to have an average "A" cup size or even smaller.
Bra-labeling systems used around the world are at times misleading and confusing. Cup and band sizes vary around the world. Bra-fitting experts in the United Kingdom state that many women who buy off the rack without professional assistance wear up to two sizes too small.
Manufacturer Fruit of the Loom attempted to solve the problem of finding a well-fitting bra for asymmetrical breasts by introducing Pick Your Perfect Bra, which allow women to choose a bra with two different cup sizes, although it is only available in A through D cup sizes.
There are several sizing systems in different countries. Most use the chest circumferences measurement system and lettered cup sizes, but there are some significant differences.
Many bras available come in only 36 sizes. The UK uses the inch-system, this means that the difference in chest circumference between the cup sizes is always one inch, or 2.
Leading brands and manufacturers including Panache, Bestform, Gossard, Freya, Curvy Kate , Bravissimo and Fantasie, which use the British standard band sizes , and so on.
However, some clothing retailers and mail order companies have their own house brands and use a custom sizing system. As a result, their J-Cup is equal to a British standard H-cup. Their H-Cup is roughly equal to a British standard G-cup.
Cup labelling methods and sizing schemes are inconsistent and there is great variability between brands. This has introduced further sizing scheme confusion that is poorly understood even by specialist retailers. Bra-sizing in the United States is very similar to the United Kingdom.
Band sizes use the same designation in inches and the cups also increase by 1-inch-steps. However, some manufacturers use conflicting sizing methods. D1, D2, D3, D4, D In , underwear maker Jockey International offered a new way to measure bra and cup size.
It introduced a system with ten cup sizes per band size that are numbered and not lettered, designated as , etc. The company developed the system over eight years, during which they scanned and measured the breasts and torsos of women.
Researchers also tracked the women's use of their bras at home. In very large cup sizes this causes smaller cups than their English counterparts. This system has been standardized in the European dress size standard EN introduced in , but was in use in many European countries before that date.
They increase in steps of 2. Japanese sizes are the same as Korean ones, but the cup labels begin with "AA" for a 7. The French and Spanish system is a permutation of the Continental European sizing system. Since it starts with size 0 for European size 60, the conversion consists of a division by 5 and then a subtraction of The size designations are often given in Roman numerals.
Cup sizes have traditionally used a step size of 2. Manufacturers' marketing and advertising often appeals to fashion and image over fit, comfort, and function. English mechanical engineer and professor John Tyrer from Loughborough University has devised a solution to problematic bra fit by re-engineering bra design Loughborough University.
He started investigating the problem of bra design while on assignment from the British government after his wife returned disheartened from an unsuccessful shopping trip. He theorised that this widespread practice of purchasing the wrong size was due to the measurement system recommended by bra manufacturers. This sizing system employs a combination of maximum chest diameter under bust and maximum bust diameter bust rather than the actual breast volume which is to be accommodated by the bra.
According to Tyrer, "to get the most supportive and fitted bra it's infinitely better if you know the volume of the breast and the size of the back. It's an instrument of torture. The average breast weighs about 0. If a cup is a hemisphere, its volume V is given by the following formula: If you measured 33 inches, your band size is Wrap the measuring tape somewhat loosely around the fullest part of your chest at nipple level.
Subtract your band size from your bust measurement and refer to chart. So how can you tell if a particular style fits? Bend forward at the waist, then slip on the bra and hook it. This ensures your breasts are completely in the cups. The back of the bra should be level with the front. Make sure the bra is not too loose. You should be able to slide only one finger underneath the band. First, tighten the band, then shorten the straps. Put on a close-fitting shirt over the bra. If the cups pucker or your breasts bulge, you're not wearing the correct size.
Look at yourself sideways in a mirror. Your breasts should sit midway between your shoulders and elbows. If not, you need a more supportive and better-fitting bra. If you need to go down a cup size for fit, go up one band size, and vice versa. For example, if a 34C is too big for you, move to a 36B. Choose a bra that fits perfectly when secured on the outermost hook.
As the bra loosens over time, make the band taut by moving toward the tightest hook. Now that you've found your correct bra size, it's time to go shopping! Below are some of our favorite places to pick up a pretty bra, in person and online.
How To Measure Bra Size. Did you know that most women wear the wrong bra size without realizing it? In addition, many are unaware of the different types of bras which are made to fit your body perfectly no matter what you wear. While the band on your bra may be comfortable to you, the cup size . Our bras are returnable/exchangeable within 30 days, as long as the tags are still attached and the bra unworn and unwashed. For U.S. orders, return and exchange shipping is free. Subtract your band size from your bust size, and use the difference to find your cup size on the bra size chart below. BRA SIZE CHART Size Chart: Exact sizing and fit may vary by brand.