August 31, 2015

Let's talk about boobs! Well, bras. Boobs in bras.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Cake Wrecks when I saw a link to a old post on her other blog, Epbot, called Everything You Never Knew You Needed To Know About Bras. If that's not an intriguing post title for someone who owns breasts, I don't know what is. So away I clicked.

WELL. To say that this is an informative blog post would be seriously and severely underselling it. Ladies: you probably want to go read it. And then you probably want to read through several of the links she provides. And then read the comments on those links. I spent probably a good hour going down a wormhole of bra and bra-fit related information.

The basic gist is this: we have all heard how, like, all women on earth are wearing the wrong bra size. I too had heard this, so a few years ago I dutifully went to Nordstrom and got a bra fitting. I was told there what I had been told before: I'm about a 34C. Occasionally those get tight around the ribs so I would bump up to a 36B since that is a "sister size" to 34C, although those never seemed to work very well for me.

One of the most interesting things I read while in this bra-sizing wormhole, though, was how a huge swath of (American) women are told they are between a 34B-36C, because that's more or less the "vanity size" that bra manufacturers (coughcoughVictoriasSecretcough) and women's clothing manufacturers have decided are the best "sounding" sizes. Except that most women do not fall into those sizes at all.

I had a general understanding that a C cup was not an actual size in and of itself: that the size of a C cup on a 30" band was not the same volume as the size of a C cup on a 38" band. (Since "sister sizes" are one cup difference / one band size difference, it made sense: if I could fit equally into a 34C and a 36B, it meant a B cup on a 36" band was close in size to a C cup on a 34" band.) What I didn't realize was HOW DIFFERENT the cup sizes were in relation to the band size they came with. Here is a handy visual from the Epbot post that helps to explain it:

Turns out the size of the cup you should be wearing is quite simple math: it's the difference in inches between the circumference of your ribs vs the circumference of your boobs. If your ribs are 34" around, and your boobs are 35" around, you are a 34A. If your ribs are a 34" and your boobs are a 36", you're a 34B, etc.

The trick is in how you do these measurements, though. The actual way to measure your boob circumference, very nicely described here, is... well, unattractive and sobering. I can see why they don't do it in the Nordstrom fitting room. Basically you lean over so your back is parallel to the floor, with no bra or anything else on, and let your breasts hang all natural and... well, pendulous. Then you measure them in their droopy, pendulous state. It it not awesome. But it does give you the actual full circumference, as opposed to the circumference when you are upright, while they are already smooshed against your body and mushing into your armpits.

Because! That is what is happening, apparently! Do you have that smush of armpit fat that pops out of tank tops? Back fat around your bra band? That means your actual breast tissue is being pushed around because your cup size is not large enough to contain it. I KNOW. OUR POOR BOOBS, you guys.

Anyway, I am doing a half-assed job of explaining this, and I really just cannot recommend enough that you go read Jen's post and follow any of the many links she provides which look interesting to you in particular.

But back to my boobs. I found all of this fascinating, but figured that I was not actually dramatically mis-sized with my bras, because I don't have things popping out or gapping all over the place, and plus I'd been fitted already. But I took my measurements myself, and popped them into the bra size calculator anyway, for funsies.

You guys. According to that, I am not a 34C. I am a 32DD.

After my initial reaction of immediately dismissing this, because HAHA DD HAVE YOU SEEN ME, I am not a DD, I started thinking about it.

I am fitted into 34Cs most frequently. I used to be a 34B but was seriously popping out of those cups, so was upgraded to a C. Except sometimes those are too tight, so I would get a 36 to be able to close them.

The actual measurement of my ribs is 33". Wearing a 36" to fit means that I was not fitting my ribs; I was fitting my ribs PLUS THE BOOBS that were not contained in my cup. That is... terrible.

I sent this link to a few of my girlfriends, who were equally fascinated/skeptical. Then we had a few drinks the other night and I forced them to go self-measure themselves and figure out their "new" bra size. All of us were hilariously off on our bra size, if the calculator was right. Which I mean, how could it be right? DD?? ME?? We figured there was only one way to find out... so we made plans to go to a real bra shop this weekend to try on All The Sizes.

Yesterday, that's what we did. We learned that the self-measuring + online size calculator gave us a far more accurate size than we were each wearing, but that it's still nowhere near foolproof, because just like every other freaking article of clothing, bra sizes vary insanely between not just manufacturers, but even between styles in the same line. I tried on some 32DDs where I thought my ribs might break due to how tight they were, and some 34Ds that were so loose I could fit my entire fist under the band and still have room. But bottom line, I am not a 34C. I really am a 32DD or a 34D, depending on who makes the bra.

It really, REALLY helps to go to a real store with people who actually know what they're doing - if you are local to Northern Virginia, I cannot recommend Belle Mode Intimates highly enough. They are Won.Der.Ful. Super patient, super knowledgeable about the various fits of different bras from different manufacturers, and yet super non-pushy about getting you to buy anything. (All three of us did buy bras, because how can you not when you finally try one on in the correct size?! But it was not at all due to feeling pressured from a sales associate, which is amazing considering the amount of work they put into bringing you bras until you get one with the right fit.)

So. That was a lot of info about bras and boobs, and there is far more on the Epbot post. Go learn about bras! And let me know if you do a self-measurement and find you're way off, to make me feel better.


  1. Fascinating! And now I am about five seconds away from closing my office door and attempting to measure myself at work because I want to find out how wrong my size is too!

  2. Dude, I have recently learned that I am a 34DD, and my boob-life has been VASTLY improved since that realization and the appropriate purchases that came with it. :)


  3. I haven't tried any on, but I definitely got a different measurement than what I've been wearing! Must buy some new bras!

  4. I read this awhile back! And keep meaning to go get fitted! And feel very daunted because I think most stores won't carry my size! And haven't done it! Grahhhhh.

  5. While I was slightly embarrassed to learn my true size (or sizes), it's made things infinitely better. I loved that store. So glad we did this!

  6. Okay, my brain is spinning now (math does that to me) but I see that I need to do this 5-part measuring stuff. Having a store recommendation makes me wish I still lived in NoVA.