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Bra size confusion

(16 Posts)
WaffleWiffle Sat 03-Jan-15 20:25:58

My Bra Intervention measurements are:

39 inch under breast
51 inch bent over around boobs hanging down

I am "squidgy of torso", as the webpage describes but I also have a pathological dislike of anything tight.

I am buying online (already seen the bra I want) and simply cannot afford to buy lots of different sizes.

Two questions:

1. If you have an odd number underbust measurement, do you count the number of inches difference from the actual measurement or from the size bra you have?

eg - If I go for 38" underbust, do I count the cup size as 12" (HH) bigger or 11" (H) bigger? Likewise for a 40" underbust - 10" or 11" difference?

2. Which sizes would you recommend I buy?

dementedpixie Sat 03-Jan-15 23:21:50

it's not an exact science so in reality you would really need to try all of the sizes to see which gives the best fit

dementedpixie Sat 03-Jan-15 23:25:17

although 38/51 would be 13" diff
39/51 is 12" diff

SillyBugger Sat 03-Jan-15 23:41:04

Go for 40 inch, definitely, it will be tight enough. Then I would go for 11" difference (as that's the difference between the band size and the actual boob size. Come back and update us though! I recently discovered I am a 28e, rather than the 32b I was wearing - I knew it wasn't right and wasn't very supportive, but I didn't realise I was so off with the sizing until someone on mn linked me to the proper way to measure. The difference in support is amazing, well worth the investment of a few new bras.

I wouldn't say a 40" will "definitely" be tight enough, in fact I would say a 38 is more likely. Once you get in to larger bands then they can stretch significantly more - so a 28" band might measure say 24" unstretched and 29" stretched whereas the same bra in a 38" might measure 34" unstretched but reach say 43" stretched simply because there is more band and therefore more elastic. In general I would say most women who are in between sizes and above about 32" size down in the band, and many women who are over about 38" have to go down an extra band size. That's just rough, everyone is different of course.

When you are in between sizes you should try all the possible combinations - so at 39/51 you would try a 38HH, 38J, 40H and 40HH.

I understand what you are saying about not liking things tight but the reality is that about 75% of the support in a bra has to come from the band - the straps basically hold the cups up and help with positioning rather than taking the weight. If you wear the band loose then the straps take up the strain. And the reality is, your boobs are probably pretty heavy. Wearing the band too loose means that all the extra weight is hanging from your neck, shoulders etc. Which can cause quite bad back and neck problems.

SillyBugger Sun 04-Jan-15 00:06:20

Good point challenged. I was going from my experience as I measured 28" exactly, and it's very, very snug! If I was 29" I'd definitely need a 30 band. I didn't think about the more elastic thing.

There's definitely less flex in the smaller bands - especially on a 28 where it can seem like by the time you take out the non stretchy wires and the non stretchy hook section there's about 6" of band left grin

WaffleWiffle Sun 04-Jan-15 21:59:49

Thank you for explaining StatisticallyChallenged, I understand what you mean now.

I just can't afford to buy 4 bras and return 3 when buying online, so had been looking at 40H. Going to a 38" will be a good idea as you explained - plus the choice of styles significantly increases in a 38". I still struggle to find the large cup sizes, I'll try 38J and maybe 38HH if costs allow.

(Feeling the need to justify my massive norks - just coming to the end of breastfeeding my fourth child. Desperate for some 'normal and sexy' bras rather than maternity or nursing bra that I mostly live in!)

Absolutely no need to defend or justify your boobs on these threads, and I'm really really sorry if I came across that way sad. It's really hard to give advice and try and be factual sometimes without possibly offending people i.e. trying to explain that big boobs are heavy, or larger ladies might need a smaller band than they measure, or really slender women might need a bigger one. I'd like to think that most of us who hang around on the intervention/bra threads are pretty non-judgemental. I think we've helped people in every possible size and shape.

To try and narrow down the right bras for you, have a look at your breasts and try to work out if they are:
-fuller on top or bottom
-close set or wide set (hwo big is the gap between them!)
-wide or narrow root (do they go round under your armpits quite far or are they planted up front
-tall or short roots - do you have breast tissue quite far up your body/towards your collar bone or is your boob tissue sort of compact vertically?
-any problems you tend to have with bra fits/certain styles

That will help me suggest some better bras for you, and I know where to find the big cup sizes and the bargains grin

WaffleWiffle Fri 09-Jan-15 17:40:44

Please don't worry StatisticallyChallenged, you are being super helpful.

OK. I decided to order this bra in a 40H from Simply Be. It's just been delivered and I am wearing it.

Back Size
It feels very, very tight around the band. I double checked my measurement to make sure and 39" is right. The bra laid flat measures only 31", is this right? Stretched it goes to about 40". It was difficult to fasten. I can fasten on the tightest but have fastened on loosest hooks yet it still feels too tight.

Cup Size
I almost gave up on the bra because it was difficult to fasten the band, but I'm glad I persevered. The cup size feels good but is not perfect.

Shoulder strap by the way is tightened about 10cm (4").


(1) The bone sits flat against my skin all the way round (including the middle, where they have previously lifted away) and sits nicely in the crease under my breast. But bone goes all the way into my armpit, is this right? Feels odd under my armpit. I don't feel that my breasts go that far around my back(when supported, they do flop that way when not in a bra) and that the bone should curve around about an inch further to the front on both sides.

Not sure if I explained that well? This might actually be more to do with me wearing the wrong size bra (and bras with no bones) for such a long time that I just need to get used to it.

(2) The bones dig in at the front when I bend forward. This is my most significant complaint with this bra.

(3) I have two folds of extra fabric on the cup. One fold under my arms and the other at the bottom of my cleavage. Strange to find these extra folds of fabric because I feel my breast fills the cup very well generally.

It's definitely not the right size. I feel like I want a bigger band size. But maybe I am just so used to wearing band sizes too large (or generally just the wrong bra size) that it is actually the case of me needing to get used to what a correctly fitted bra feels like.

I could put up with this one if the bones didn't dig into my rib cage when I bend down. So what size change would solve that?

OK. Band should be firm, but I'd normally expect a 40 to stretch a wee bit beyond that - most of my 30s will go to maybe 32ish to give room for fastening and, you know, breathing grin so I'd say this one runs small. But a band should be firm, and you should only fasten a new bra on the loosest hooks.

I'm not familiar with this brand, but it sounds like a not great bra for you. From what you are saying, I don't think the wire is properly following the shape of your breast on the outside edge of your body. Basically, I think the wire is too wide. Wire width isn't fixed, so not all bras in this size will have the same wire width - some will have narrower cups but more depth if that makes sense.

The fold at the bottom of your cleavage is because the cup shape is wrong - your boobs need more depth than the cup offers so they can't actually get in to the bottom of the bra. I think! Working blind but it sounds like what we call orange in a glass - literally imagine dropping an orange in a glass, you end up with space at the bottom cos it can't fit the whole way down even though the volume overall is big enough.

In absolute general terms, I also think plunges can be less comfortable for larger breasts. They weigh a lot, and even with a perfectly fitting band that puts a fair bit of pressure on the gore. A taller gore spreads the weight around more so it's over a bigger area and doesn't dig as much

I don't think this is a case of trying a different size - this particular bra isn't going to give you a good fit IMO.

Try to have a think about the questions I asked above and I'll see what I can think of for you to try.

WaffleWiffle Fri 09-Jan-15 18:39:50

I went for this bra because it was purple (actually, DH went for this bra when I offered him several options I was prepared to go for in my size!), rather than because it was a plunge.

So something a little more daring than your average white/black/nude. But practically thinking I need to wear it under clothes, so not too many ribbons and extra bits, if you see what I mean. Smooth lines under clothes.

OK, I assume I answer your questions in no bra rather than when supported in a bra? (I've just took it off and have red lines along the band line on my skin)

- Top/Bottom They feel full all over, top and bottom. The weight is more on the bottom. I've seen some breasts that have a 'tennis ball in a sock' look, mine aren't that. The width of each breast is the same top to bottom.

- Close/Wide In centre of cleavage breasts are 1" apart. Main bulbous part of breasts is about 6" apart and nipples sit 13" apart. Armpit to armpit is about 17" (hard to measure). Not sure if that is close set or wide set?

- Wide/Narrow I have to be honest and say it is difficult to pin point where breast tissue ends and fatty tissue begins under my arms. They are more on my front than around under my arms, especially when supported.

- Tall/Short Short. Breasts start lower than armpit height. Unsupported the nipple is 9" below this.

- Problems I have not worn a bra with a bone in for about 4 years. While I am mainly looking for everyday bras (rather than spending a fortune) I would like something bold rather than boring. I realise you get what you pay for, but rather not have the bone poking out of the material after two washes.

Finally - thank you so much for your help so far smile

Thankfully, bigger bras have got so much better than they used to be. I remember when I first went over an F, then a G, and the selection was fecking godawful. It's improved hugely - still a way to go, but it's getting there I think. And that means we don't have to live with beige bras grin

There is definitely an element of getting what you pay for with bras, and I would always chose a specialist bra manufacturer who specialises in d+ bras every single time. That doesn't mean spending a fortune as I find a lot of good deals, but rather getting a good bra reduced to a cheaper price, rather than just a cheap bra.

I think we might need to try a few more (sorry!) to try and narrow down your shape and fit, especially when you've not been wearing wires for a long time. It's a bit like trying to find jeans - if you're anything like me I take five hundred and seventy squillion in to the changing rooms to find one which fits!

Now, some good brands to try are Panache (who also make Cleo, sculptresse and Masquerade), anything by Eveden (who make Freya, Fantasie, Fauve and Elomi), Curvy Kate, and Bravissimo own brand. There is also the awesome Ewa Michalak in Poland who are FABULOUS at bigger bras BUT we need to narrow things down a lot more before thinking about them as the sizing is tricky

You'll find all of these brand (bar Ewa) on various websites but here's a few to get you going;

Leia Lingerie - retail arm of Eveden. here is their sale stuff that's available around your estimated size, and here is the full price stuff which comes in other colours. There is a nice purple one on the sale link...

MyCurvesandMe - the retail arm of Panache. here is their 40H selection, it's smaller than normal I think they might be restocking. The Panache Andorra is a bra I know a lot of people really like especially in bigger sizes. Brastop - linked to Curvy kate although they do sell other brands [[ link to their 40h selection. Lots of colour in Curvy Kate lines so if they work for you it will be a result. The Gia balconette is a lovely purple, as is the lola and there's a nice red jewel one too.

Bravissimo, the god of big cup bras (they have a fantastic fitting service]] - I think they are due to release a new range soon, their website looks a bit sparse too.. here is their 40H selection. The Alana is a good bra if it works as ever year they bring it out in lovely colours, and I've heard good things about the Calessi too.

Hopefully that gives you a start.

P.S. red lines are normal - just like you get from the top of socks and such like.

FATEdestiny Fri 09-Jan-15 20:29:24

Thank you!

Talk to be about types of bra. The three I like best are three different bra types: balconette, plunge, full cup.

Curvy Kate Jewel Balconette Bra Ruby/Spice
Elomi Betty Purple Plunge Bra
Fleur Burgundy Bra by Bravissimo

I don't really understand the difference in balconette, plunge and full cup bra types.

WaffleWiffle Fri 09-Jan-15 20:30:28

Oops, name change malfunction there!

Plunge: low cut in the centre (literally plunging!) and will often create cleavage although whether they do or not depends on the cup shape too.
Half cup: cut very straight across the bust, cups are overall quite low like this

Balconette and Balcony - this is where it gets a bit...muddled. There is no universally agreed upon description of where half cup becomes balconette becomes balcony! Most balconies or balconettes have a 3 (occasionally 4) part cup construction where you have one piece coming down from the shoulder and under the outside of the bust, a vertical seam down the centre, another piece on the lower inside, and then a top piece. like the Cleo marcie. They tend to lift you up and inwards because of the same piece of fabric running down and underneath. You will see different balconette designs though, like the maddie which is moulded so doesn't have the seam design I described. HOwever if you look at the shape at the top of the cups and the level of coverage it's kind of similar, and that the cups are higher than they are in the half cup.

Balconies are basically taller balconettes, but there isn't a clear end point. They tend to be taller at the outside of the cup so they give more of a v shaped neckline than balconettes even though the gore (the bit between the boobs) is the same height. balcony

Full cups are a different construction where there tends to be a horizontal seam going across the bra, and the piece coming down from the shoulder doesn't continue under the bust. this is a traditional full cup

The lines between these all are very blurred, and the names and shapes get seriously abused smile

In terms of what will suit you best, the bra world is your oyster at the moment. Balconettes and half cups are particularly good for people who are either very full on bottom or full on top as the open cup works well. Plunges it is a case of finding one which suits your breast shape, and full cups can be very comfortable but not as uplifting.

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