Bra sizes usually consist of a number, indicating a band size around the woman's torso, and one or more alphabetical letters indicating the breast cup size. These sizing systems are typically used to label off-the-shelf bras and are not used for custom-made bras or bras built into other garments.
Bra size labeling systems vary from country to country while manufacturers do not adhere to international standards. Some manufacturers have been found to deliberately mis-state the band size. One study found that the label size was consistently different from the measured size. Bra cup sizes were invented in 1932 and band sizes became popular in the 1940s. Bra-fitting methods, originally conceived in the 1930s, are only accurate for up to about U.S. size 38D. Larger-breasted women cannot depend on them for accurate measurements. The instructions uniformly require the woman seeking to find a correctly fitting bra to already own one.
Furthermore, the shape, size, symmetry, and spacing of women's breasts vary considerably, especially if they have been augmented, are tubular shaped, or if they sag. As a result, more than 80% of women wear an incorrect bra size. Even professional bra fitters may disagree on the correct size for the same woman.
Measurement method origins
In October 1932, the S.H. Camp and Company correlated the size and pendulousness of a woman's breasts to letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, and D. Camp's advertising featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts in the February 1933 issue of Corset and Underwear Review. These procedures were only designed to help women with the then-standard sizes A through D up to a size 38 band size and were not intended to be used for larger-breasted women. In 1937, Warner began to feature cup sizing in its products. Other companies like the Model and Fay-Miss (renamed in 1935 as the Bali Brassiere Company) also began to offer A, B, C and D cups in the late 1930s. Catalog companies continued to use the designations Small, Medium and Large through the 1940s.:101 In the 1930s, Dunlop chemists were able to reliably transform rubber latex into elastic thread. After 1940, “whirlpool,” or concentric stitching was used to shape the cup structure of some designs. The man-made fibres were quickly adopted by the industry because of their easy-care properties. Since a brassiere must be laundered frequently, this was of great importance. In 1937, Warners added cup sizes (A, B, C and D) to their product line, and other manufacturers gradually followed, but Britain did not take up the American standard until the 1950s. The underwire was first added to a strapless bra in 1937 by André, a custom-bra firm. Maidenform introduced brassieres with seamless cups in 1933, but resisted using cup sizes for its products until 1949. The Sears Company finally applied cup sizes to bras in its catalog in the 1950s.:102
The band measurement system was created by U.S. bra manufacturers just after World War II when the supposed ideal American female hourglass figure measured 36"-24"-36" (91-61-91 cm). Some say to convince women that their measurements matched this ideal, manufacturers conceived of the idea of adding inches to the actual measurement so the woman's resulting measurement would be closer to the artificial ideal. However, this seems unlikely because the band size and the bust size are not the same measurement. It was the bust size measured over the largest part of the bust that determined the 36" "ideal", not simply the band size. Another reason stated for adding inches was the lack of stretchy fabrics when bra sizes were being developed. Since then, modern fabrics have meant changing measuring techniques.
The band size should be exactly as measured with no adding of artificial inches, except in the case of an odd number which should be rounded up to the next even number. What a woman measures directly under her bust is the size band she should try on, keeping in mind bra manufacturers' sizes vary, and styles may make a difference in fit, as well. Many sites give antiquated information on how to measure for a bra. It is no wonder most American women are wearing bras with bands that are too large and cups corresondingly the wrong shape. Many American women who wear a 34B bra should wear a 32C bra for a better fit. The cup volume is the same, but the shape and positioning of the cups is different. Because women's breast cup sizes are increasing, and some companies do not carry the larger cup sizes, there is a tendency of some stores to employ a policy of offering "sister sizes" in order to sell their limited inventory, rather than to fit the customer. Promoting "sister sizes" may be perpetuating the problem of women wearing band sizes too large with correspondingly wrong cup sizes.
The use of the cup sizing and band measurement systems has evolved over time and continues to change. When searching for a good fit, it is considered wise to get fitted by an experienced professional at a place where they offer the widest possible selection of bra sizes from a retailer.
Cup measurement origins
Parisienne Madaleine Gabeau received a U.S. patent on November 21, 1911 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", her design provided "that the edges of the material d may be carried close along the inner and under contours of the breasts, so as to preserve their form, I employ an outlining band of metal b which is bent to confirm to the lower curves of the breast."
In October 1932, the S.H. Camp and Company correlated the size and pendulousness of a woman's breasts to letters of the alphabet, A through D. Camp's advertising featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts in the February 1933 issue of Corset and Underwear Review.
Patents for underwire-type devices in bras were issued in 1931 and 1932, but was not widely adopted by manufacturers until after World War II when metal shortages eased. The man-made fibers were quickly adopted by the industry because of their easy-care properties. Since a brassiere must be laundered frequently, this was of great importance.
In 1937, Warner began to feature cup sizing in its products. Two other companies, Model and Fay-Miss, also began to offer A, B, C and D cups in the late 1930s. Catalog companies continued to use the designations Small, Medium and Large through the 1940s.:101
Band measurement origins
Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple eye and hook positions in the 1930s. Prior to the widespread use of bras, the undergarment of choice for Western women was a corset. To help women look more attractive and meet the perceived ideal female body shape, corset and girdle manufacturers used a calculation called hip spring.
Majority wear wrong size bra
The results of a number of reports, surveys and studies in different countries show that between 80% to 85% of women wear incorrectly fitted bras. In November 2005, Oprah Winfrey produced a show devoted to bras and bra sizes, during which she revealed research that eight out of ten women wear the wrong size bra.
In a study conducted in the United Kingdom of 103 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." This led women in the study to choose too large a cup size (by a mean of three sizes) and too small a band size (by a mean of four inches). Other studies found 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. 
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. Women cannot rely on labeled bra sizes to identify a bra that fits properly.
Manufacturers cut their bras differently, so, for example, two 34B bras from two companies won't fit the same woman, while the same woman can wear either a Mia 38H and a Panache 38FF. The main difference is in how cup sizes increase, by 2 cm or 1 inch (= 2.54 cm, see below). Some French manufacturers also increase cupsizes by 3 cm. In the United States, there is no formal standard defining the inch-based bra-size system. Unlike dress sizes, international manufacturers do not agree on a single standard.
British bras currently range from A to K cup size (with Bravissimo recently introducing an L-Cup), while most Americans can find bras with cup sizes ranging from A to G. Some brands (Goddess, Elila) go as high as N, a size roughly equal to a British JJ-Cup. Larger sizes are usually harder to find in retail outlets. As the cup size increases, the labeled cup size of different manufacturer's bras tend to vary more widely in actual volume. One study found that the label size was consistently different from the measured size.
Scientific studies show that the current system of bra sizing is quite inadequate. Even medical studies have attested to the difficulty of getting a correct fit. Research by plastic surgeons has suggested that bra size is meaningless because breast volume is not calculated accurately:
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.
Increasing size of breasts
In 2010 the most common bra size sold in the UK was 36D. In 2004, market research company Mintel reported that bust sizes in the United Kingdom had increased from 1998 to 2004 in younger as well as older consumers and that the shift was not limited to overweight women. while a more recent study showed that the most often sold bra size in the US in 2008 was 36D.
Researchers also said more women wear the correct - bigger - size now, spurred on by shows like BBC1's What Not To Wear and Channel 4's How To Look Good Naked. The growing size of women's bra sizes is not related to an increase in weight.
Bad bra-fit symptoms
If the straps dig into the woman's shoulder, leaving red marks or causing shoulder or neck pain, the bra band is not offering enough support. If breast tissue overflows the bottom of the bra, under the armpit, or over the top edge of the bra cup, the cup size is too small. Loose fabric in the bra cup indicates the cup size is too big. If the underwires poke the breast under the armpit or if the bra's center panel does not lie flat against the woman's sternum, the cup size is too small. If the band rides up in woman's torso in the back, the band size is too big. If it digs into the flesh, causing the flesh to spill over the edges of the band, the band is too small. If a woman has to continually adjust her bra or experiences general discomfort, the bra is a poor fit and the woman should get a new fitting. If the band feels tight this may be due to the cups being too small, instead of going up in bandsize a woman should try going up in cupsize. Similarly a band might feel too loose if the cup is too big. To test whether a bra band is too tight or too loose the bra should be turned so that the cups are in the back and then be closed in front.
In a practice known as "vanity sizing", different manufacturers have modified sizes so that a woman who once wore a size 12 dress can now wear a 10 or an 8. Depending on the brand, a size 8 dress can fit a woman with a bra band size ranging from 34 to 38 inches (86 to 97 cm). Even a single brand can offer the same size in different measurements. Alix and Kelley, a manufacturer based in Los Angeles, offers different size 8 measurements ranging from 35 to 38 inches (89 to 97 cm) in the bust. Because manufacturing standards vary widely, and due to unreliable bra size charts, conflicting bra measurement instructions, natural variations in a woman's anatomy, and bad advice or pressure from salespeople, finding a well-fitting bra is complicated. Tomima Edmark, president of HerRoom.com, says that "bra sizing is confusing and convoluted." Many women may have difficulty measuring themselves accurately because there is more than one way to measure their breasts.
Asymmetrical breasts common
The majority of women's breasts are normally asymmetric to a greater or lesser extent. Obtaining the correct size is complicated by the fact that up to 90 per cent of women's breasts are asymmetrical to some degree. Up to 25% of women's breasts display a persistent, visible breast asymmetry, which is defined as differing in size by at least one cup size. For about 5% to 10% women, their breasts are severely different, with the left breast being larger in 62% of cases. For these women, the asymmetry is sufficiently different that a surgeon would consider corrective surgery. Most surgeons will only perform an augmentation procedure to treat asymmetry if the woman's breasts differ by at least one cup size.
Obtaining the correct size is further complicated by the fact that the size and shape of a woman's breasts change during her menstrual cycle and can experience unusual or unexpectedly rapid growth in size due to pregnancy, weight gain or loss, or medical conditions including virginal breast hypertrophy. Even breathing can substantially alter the measurements.
Some women's breasts can change shape by as much as 10% per month."Breasts change shape quite consistently on a month-to-month basis, but they will individually change their volume by a different amount... Some girls will change less than 10% and other girls can change by as much as 20%." Would it be better not to wear a bra at all then? "...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" 
Model Katie Green was chosen from among 4,000 other girls as the new face for Wonderbra in 2011. She had severely asymmetrical breasts when she began modeling. Her right breast was a B cup and 2 inches (51 mm) and two cup sizes smaller than her left breast, a D cup. She was usually asked to fill her left bra with a silicon rubber prosthetic. In January 2001, she underwent a minimally invasive procedure known as platelet injection fat transfer which transferred fat cells from her thighs to her right breast.
Breast volume variation
There is considerable variation in a the volume, shape, size and spacing of a woman's breasts. However, the cup sizes invented in October 1932 by the S.H. Camp and Company and used today by manufacturers are arbitrary. The labels bear no fixed relationship to the actual size of a woman's breasts. The same woman may be able to comfortably wear a C cup bra made by one manufacturer and a D cup bra made by another.
Manufacturer Fruit of the Loom attempted to solve the problem of 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.
Bra retailers recommend several methods for measuring a woman's 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. Bra measurement is an art and a science.
Band measurement methods
Some band measurement methods require a woman to measure her torso immediately under her breasts and add either 4 inches (10 cm) or 5 inches (13 cm) to the measurement to obtain an even band size offered by manufacturers. These methods are suitable for women who wear an A, B, C, or D cup bra. Other current band measurement methods do not require adding to the measurement: the band size is simply the measured torso circumference in inches or (if that measurement is odd) 1 inch (2.5 cm) larger. Larger-breasted women will obtain less-accurate results and have a harder time finding a well-fitting bra. Another problem is that when measuring for band and cup size, manufacturers assume women already own a well-fitting bra, as they recommend that women begin measuring while wearing their best-fitting "unlined or lightly lined" bra. All methods require a flexible dressmaker's tape measure.
Some bra fitters recommend that if a woman's torso measurement is between sizes, that she choose the next larger size. Others recommend rounding to the nearest whole number. Variations of two methods are recommended, under the bust. and over the bust. Only women whose breasts are firm and perfectly shaped can measure without a bra. A third method requires the woman to measure below, above and across her breasts.
As the band size changes, the diameter of the underwire used in the cup may also change. The same underwire size is used in different cup sizes. For example, the same underwire is used in 34D, 36C, and 38B cup size brassieres.
Below the breasts
The method most often recommended requires the woman to measure in a horizontal line (parallel to the floor) around her torso, but under the bust. If the measurement is even, the wearer should add four inches to the number, and if the number is odd, five should be added. Another variation advises the wearer to add five to the number of inches, unless the number is 34 or greater, in which case only three should be added. However the accuracy of these measurements and the arbitrary addition of inches frequently fails to provide an accurate size, in part because the method was devised when bra design was in its infancy and does not work with modern, elasticated bras. Some modern sizing methods therefore use the torso measurement itself as the band size, without any addition (unless the torso measures an odd number of inches, in which case the size is the next even number up). The band size can be adjusted to a small degree using a series of hooks and eyes in the clasp.
Above the breasts
An alternative second method can be used to help confirm whether the measurement under the bust is accurate. The woman measures horizontally around the torso above the bust. This is supposed to produce the actual band size, unless the number is odd. Because band sizes are only manufactured in even numbers, the wearer must round up or down to the closest even number. However, this method may be less accurate because placing the measuring tape horizontally around the torso is more difficult. Women with very big breasts or who are overweight are likely to get inaccurate results. It also does not accommodate for breast or body shape nor different stretchiness in bra bands between manufacturers.
Cup measurement methods
The cup size can be determined by calculating the difference between the bust size and the band size. The bust size, bust line measure, or over-bust measure is the measurement around the women's torso over the fullest part of the breasts, with the crest of the breast halfway between the elbow and shoulder, usually over the nipples, ideally while standing straight with arms to the side and wearing a properly fitted bra. These are measured 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. However, since about 80% of women are already wearing the wrong size bra, depending on the woman wearing a well-fitting bra adds to the challenge of finding the correct bra size.
Cup sizes vary
Over the bust / band measurement difference and cup size  Difference (inches) 0 <1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Cupsize U.S. AA A B C D DD DDD/E/F DDDD/F/G G/H/J I/J/K J K L M N - - - Cupsize UK/Austr. A AA B C D DD E F FF G GG H HH J JJ K KK L
Surveys of bra sizes tend to be very dependent on the population studied and how it was obtained. For instance, one study reported that the most common size was 34B, followed by 34C, that 63% were size 34 and 39% cup size B. However, the survey sample was drawn from 103 Caucasian student volunteers at a Midwest U.S. university aged 18–25, and excluded pregnant and nursing women.
Bra maker Triumph conducted a survey in 2007 to determine the percentage of women wearing four cup sizes, and found that 57% of British women, more than any other country, need a D cup.
Triumph Survey Country D C B A UK 57% 18% 19% 6% Denmark 50% 19% 24% 7% Netherlands 36% 27% 29% 8% Belgium 28% 28% 35% 9% France 26% 29% 38% 7% Sweden 24% 30% 33% 14% Greece 23% 28% 40% 9% Switzerland 19% 24% 43% 14% Austria 11% 27% 51% 10% Italy 10% 21% 68% 1%
Measuring cup size without a bra
Women 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. Measure across the fullest part of the breast, usually across the nipple, to where the breast tissue stops at the breast bone. This measuring approach assumes that the woman's breasts are not so large or pendulous that they sag significantly, making measuring across the fullness of the breast impractical.
Conversion of the measurement to cup size is as follows:
Measuring cup size Measurement Cup size inch cm 7.0 17.8 A 7.5 19.1 A 8.0 20.3 B 8.5 21.6 B 9.0 22.9 C 9.5 24.1 C 10.0 25.4 D 10.5 26.7 D 11.0 27.9 DD
Cup volume relative to band size
Most women assume that a B cup on a 34 band is the same size as a B cup on a 36 band. In fact, bra cup size is relative to the band size, as the actual volume of a woman's breast changes with the dimension of her chest. The volume of a brassiere cup is the same for 30D, 32C, 34B, and 36A. These related bra sizes of the same cup volume are called sister sizes. It is sometimes possible that two adjacent sister sizes will both fit a woman, since the cup volume is the same, while the band size can be adjusted to a small degree by using the hook and eye fasteners in the bra clasp.
Obtaining best fit
Normally a perfect fit can only be achieved by being measured for and purchasing a custom-made bra, which takes into account the asymmetrical size and position of a woman's breasts on her chest. 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. However, even professional bra fitters in different countries including New Zealand and the United Kingdom produce inconsistent measurements of the same woman.
A 2004 study by Consumers Reports in New Zealand found that 80% of department store bra fittings resulted in a poor fit.However, because manufacturer's standards widely vary, women cannot rely on their own measurements to obtain a satisfactory fit. Some bra manufacturers and distributors state that trying on and learning to recognize a properly fitting bra is the best way to determine a correct bra size, much like shoes.
- When viewed from the side, the chest band should be horizontal, should not ride up the back, and should be firm but comfortable.
- Each cup's underwire at the front should lie flat against the sternum (not the breast), along the infra-mammary fold, and should not dig in to the chest or the breasts, rub or poke out at the front.
- The breasts should be enclosed by the cups and there should be a smooth line where the fabric at the top of the cup ends.
- The apex of the breast, the nipple, must be in the center of the cup.
- The breast should not bulge over the top or out the sides of the cups, even with a low-cut style such as the balconette bra.
- The straps of a correctly fitted bra should not dig into or slip off the shoulder
- The back of the bra should not ride up but should remain parallel to the floor.
- The breasts should be supported primarily by the band around the rib cage, rather than by the shoulder straps.
- The woman should be able to breathe and move easily without the bra slipping around.
Confirming bra fit
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 her breasts to fall into the bra, filling the cup naturally, and then fastening the bra on its loosest hook. When she stands up, she uses the opposite hand to place each breast gently into the cup (the scoop). She then runs her index finger along the inside top edge of the bra cup to make sure breast tissue doesn't spill over the edges.
English mechanical engineer and professor John Tyrer from Loughborough University tackled the problem of bra design after his wife returned disheartened from a shopping trip when she could not find anything to suit her needs. On assignment from the British government, he uncovered that 80% of women wear the wrong size of bra. This is because chest diameter and maximum breast diameter rather than the volume is measured, especially when the body is in motion. 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.". He says the A, B, C, D cup measurement system is flawed. "It's like measuring a motor car by the diameter of the gas cap." "The whole design is fundamentally flawed. It's an instrument of torture." Tyrer has developed a bra design with crossed straps in the back. These use the weight of one breast to lift the other using counterbalance. Standard designs constrict chest movement during breathing. One of the tools used in the development of Tyrer's design has been an projective differential shape body analyzer for 40,000 GBP.
Contrary to popular belief, breasts weigh up to ~1 kg and not ~0.2 .. 0.3 kg. The popular documentary TV show I Didn't Know That uncovered this information in a broadcast program. Tyrer said, "By measuring the diameter of the chest and breasts current measurements are supposed to tell you something about the size and volume of each breast, but in fact it doesn't". Bra companies remain reluctant to manufacture Tyrer's prototype, which is a front closing bra with more vertical orientation and adjustable cups.
Advertising and retail influence
Manufactuers' marketing and advertising often appeals to fashion and image over fit, comfort and function. Since about 1994, manufacturers have re-focused their advertising, moving from advertising functional brassieres that emphasize support and foundation, to selling lingerie that emphasize fashion while sacrificing basic fit and function, like linings under scratchy lace.
Women with larger breasts (size 42D or greater) can have an especially difficult time finding a correctly-sized bra because there is so little demand for large-sized bras and most stores do not keep them in stock. Women who need a large bra may be feel pressured to settle for a smaller size. Many salespeople are not trained in how to properly fit a bra, and when the customer can't find what they want, will sell the customer the next largest or smallest size. Some salespeople don't require the customer to remove her top and may use different methods to measure the woman. Elisabeth Squires, an author of a breast-health and bra guide, says "Most really good fitters will tell you this is an art, not a science."
International fitting standards
Bra labeling systems used around the world are at times misleading and confusing. Cup and band sizes vary around the world. In countries that have adopted the European EN 13402 dress-size standard, the torso is measured in centimetres and rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cm. Bra-fitting experts in the United Kingdom state that many women who buy off the rack without a professional assistance wear up to two sizes too small.
Approximate (band) size equivalents between various systems Under bust (cm) 58–62 63–67 68–72 73–77 78–82 83–87 88–92 93–97 98–102 103–107 108–112 113–117 118–122 123–127 128–132 133–137 138+ EU 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 105 110 115 120 125 130 135 140 FR, BE, ES 75 80 85 90 95 100 105 110 115 120 125 130 135 140 145 150 155 IT 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 US, UK (in) 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 AU, NZ 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 UK dress 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36
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 usually come in 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 2.54 cm. Band sizes are based upon the chest circumference of an A-Cup in that size. The difference between 2 band sizes is 2 inches or 5.08 cm, they usually start at 26.
Leading brands and manufacturers including Panache, Bestform, Freya, Curvy Kate, Bravissimo and Fantasie use the British standard band sizes 26-28-30-32-34-36-38-40-42-44, and so on. Cup sizes are designated by AA-A-B-C-D-DD-E-F-FF-G-GG-H-HH-J-JJ-K-KK-L.
However, some clothing retailers and mail order companies have their own house brands and use a custom sizing system. Marks and Spencers uses AA-A-B-C-D-DD-E-F-G-GG-H-J, leaving out FF and HH. As a result, their J-Cup is equal to a British standard H-cup. Evans and ASDA sell bras (ASDA as part of their George clothing range) whose sizing runs A-B-C-D-DD-E-F-G-H. Their H-Cup is roughly equal to a British standard G-cup.
Australia / New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand use a permutation of the British system. Cup sizes are the same, but Australia's bra band measurement system is based on dress sizing charts. However, this only works for women who are B or C cups. Dress sizes and cuts are calculated for B and C cups only, so basing the choice of band size upon dress size is not an accurate way to get the bra size. Depending upon a woman's build, a size 16 may wear a 16 C (UK 38 C), a 14 DD, 12 F or a 10 G (UK 32 G) underneath her dress, because all bra sizes are made for the same chest circumference of approx. 40 inches.
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. Some label bras beyond a C cup as D-DD-DDD-DDDD-E-EE-EEE-EEEE-F… and others label them D-DD-E-EE… Comparing the larger cup sizes between different manufacturers can be difficult.
In the United States, many bra manufacturers arbitrarily add four, five or even six inches to the band size, sometimes referred to as vanity sizing. The wearer mistakenly believes she is wearing a smaller sized bra band.
Continental Europe / Japan
Band size Underbust circumference Bust size Underbust size cm FR/BE/ES EU IT 58–62 75 60 0 63–67 80 65 1 I 68–72 85 70 2 II 73–77 90 75 3 III 78–82 95 80 4 IV, IIII 83–87 100 85 5 V 88–92 105 90 6 VI 93–97 110 95 7 VII 98–102 115 100 8 VIII 103–107 120 105 9 IX, VIIII 108–112 125 110 10 X Cup size Difference [cm] Cup 10–12 AA 12–14 A 14–16 B 16–18 C 18–20 D 20–22 E 22–24 F 24–26 G 26–28 H
In Continental Europe the torso is measured in centimetres and rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cm. Band sizes run 65-70-75-80…, increasing in steps of 5 cm, similar t the English double inch. A woman with a loosely measured underbust circumference of 78–82 cm should wear a band size 80.
The cup labels begin with ‘AA’ for an 11±1 cm difference between bust and underbust circumference, i.e. not between bust circumference and band size as in the English systems. They increase in steps of 2 cm, instead of 2.5 cm or 1 inch, and except for the initial cup size letters are neither doubled nor skipped. 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 13402 introduced in 2006, but was in use in many European countries before that date.
Japanese sizes are the same as European ones, but the cup usually precedes the bust designation, i.e ‘B75’ instead of ‘75B’.
France / Belgium / Spain
The French and Spanish system is a permutation of the Continental European sizing system. While cup sizes are the same, band sizes are not the rounded underbust circumference, but the nominal bust circumference for a B cup, that means it is exactly 15 cm larger than the European band size.
The Italian band size uses small consecutive integers instead of the underbust circumference rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cm. Since it starts with size 0 for European size 60, the conversion consists of a division by 5 and then a subtraction of 12. The size designations are often given in roman numerals.
Cup sizes have traditionally used a step size of 2.5 cm, which is close to the English inch of 2.54 cm, and featured some double letters for large cups, but in recent years some Italian manufacturers have switched over to the European 2-cm system.
Poor fit and health
The British Chiropractic Association warned that wearing the wrong bra size can lead to a number of problems, including back pain, restricted breathing, abrasions, breast pain and poor posture. Many of the health problems associated with bras are due to fitting problems. Finding a correct fit can be very difficult for many women which has affected sales. Medical studies have also attested to the difficulty of getting a correct fit. Scientific studies show that the current system of bra sizing is quite inadequate.
Larger-breasted women tend to wear bras that are too small, and conversely, smaller-breasted women bras that are too large. Larger women are more likely to have an incorrect bra fit. This is likely due to the measurement system designed for the A through D cup size. As breasts become larger, their shape and the distribution of the tissues within them changes, becoming ptotic and bulbous rather than conical. This makes measurements increasingly unreliable. The heavier a woman's build, the more difficult it is to obtain accurate measurements, as measuring tape sinks into the flesh more easily. Manufacturer's standard brassiere sizes do not take these inconsistencies into consideration.
Calculating cup volume and breast weight
The density of fatty tissue is more or less equal to 0.9 for all women. The volume of a woman's individual breasts can vary. Bra designers can give it the shape of a hemisphere or an hemi-spheroid by fitting it in a cup. If the bust is considered essentially a half-sphere, its volume V is determined by the following formula.
where D is the diameter of the sphere, and r is its radius.
where Db equals diameter of the hemi-spheroid's base and h equals the height of the spheroid. Other formulas can be derived as needed to design bras for differently shaped breasts. All of these formulas assume that breasts conform to a mathematical model.
Cups give a hemi sperical shape to breasts and underwires give shape to cups. So the curvature radius of the underwire is the key parameter to determine volume and weight of the breast. The same underwire are used for the cup of size 36A, 34B, 32C, 30D and etc... so those cup have the same volume. The reference number of underwire size are based on B cup bra , for exemple underwire size 32 is for 32B cup (and 34A, 30C...). An underwire size 30 with has a curvature diameter of 3 inch 5/6 ≈ 9.7 cm and this diameter increase of ⅓ inch ≈ 0.847 cm by size.
Underwire size Bra size Cup diameter  Volume of one cup Weight of both breasts 30 32A 30B 9.7 cm (3 in 5/6) 240 cc (0.51 US pt) 0.43 kg (0.95 lb) 32 34A 32B 30C 10.6 cm (4 in 1/6) 310 cc (0.66 US pt) 0.56 kg (1.2 lb) 34 36A 34B 32C 11.4 cm (4 in 1/2) 390 cc (0.82 US pt) 0.70 kg (1.5 lb) 36 36B 34C 32D 12.3 cm (4 in 5/6) 480 cc (1.0 US pt) 0.86 kg (1.9 lb) 38 36C 34D 32E 13.1 cm (5 in 1/6) 590 cc (1.2 US pt) 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) 40 38C 36D 38E 32F 14.0 cm (5 in 1/2) 710 cc (1.5 US pt) 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) 42 40C 38D 36E 34F 32G 14.8 cm (5 in 5/6) 850 cc (1.8 US pt) 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) 44 42C 40D 38E 36F 34G 15.7 cm (6 in 1/6) 1,000 cc (2.1 US pt) 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) 46 42D 40E 38F 36G 34H 16.5 cm (6 in 1/2) 1,180 cc (2.5 US pt) 2.1 kg (4.6 lb) 48 44D 42E 40F 38G 36H 17.4 cm (6 in 5/6) 1,370 cc (2.9 US pt) 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) 50 44E 42F 40G 38H 36I 18.2 cm (7 in 1/6) 1,580 cc (3.3 US pt) 2.8 kg (6.2 lb) 52 44F 42G 40H 38I 36J 19.0 cm (7 in 1/2) 1,810 cc (3.8 US pt) 3.3 kg (7.3 lb) 54 44G 42H 40I 38J 36K 19.9 cm (7 in 5/6) 2,060 cc (4.4 US pt) 3.7 kg (8.2 lb) 56 46G 44H 42I 40J 38K 20.7 cm (8 in 1/6) 2,340 cc (4.9 US pt) 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) 58 46H 44I 42J 40K 38L 21.6 cm (8 in 1/2) 2,640 cc (5.6 US pt) 4.8 kg (11 lb) 60 46I 44J 42K 40L 38M 22.4 cm (8 in 5/6) 3,000 cc (6.3 US pt) 5.3 kg (12 lb)
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- Bra Fitting Video Guide
- Bra Fit Video
- Bra and Cup Size Calculator
- How to measure breasts for exact bra size
- Cat's Bra Page
- Pregnancy Bra Fitting Guide
- WikiHow: How to measuring your bra size
- 32 D at Livejournal
- BustingOut at Livejournal
- How to measure Bra Size
- Busenfreundinnen, a German-language brafitting forum
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