Your Bra Size Matters Less Than You Think

By Elisabeth Dale

The Jockey Company introduced a “revolutionary” new bra sizing system a few weeks ago. Why? Because experts agree that 80 percent of women wear the wrong size bra. This is thought to be due, in part, to the inadequacy of the current antiquated measuring tape method of determining bra size. But does it even matter? What if women wear the “wrong” size bra for all the “right” reasons?

Jockey sent me their new Fit Kit and gave me the opportunity to try one of their bras, free of charge. I had nothing to lose and every woman’s dream to gain: a new and well-fitting bra. The kit turned out to be a set of 10 different size plastic cups plus a measuring tape. I was instructed to use the tape to measure under my bust and determine my band size. Then I placed one of the “volumetric” cups over my boob and settled on the number that fit me best. In Jockey’s system I was now a 06/32, rather than my familiar 34D (or DD, depending on the bra brand and style).

I chose one of Jockey’s t-shirt bras that went well with my casual jeans and t-shirt wardrobe. My complimentary bra arrived about a week later, and I couldn’t wait to try it on. It looked well made, with fashionable decor on the straps. It fit. The front of the bra lay flat against my breastbone; there was no overflow from too small, or wrinkling from too big, cups. The wires weren’t pinching on breast flesh. The band was snug and didn’t ride up or down. It met all the rigorous fit rules presented on my blog and in my book. Yet it was all “wrong” for me.

The bra pushed my boobs apart, moving them more toward my armpits. This made my shirt fabric stretch across a hollow center. The height of the band came too far up under my armpits. (A not uncommon issue for short-waisted torsos.) The width of the underwire was uncomfortable, and put pressure on the thin skin of my more mature breasts.

Breast size differences on Lingerie Briefs

But that’s me. Another woman measuring into the size 06/32 Jockey might adore this bra and find it suits her perfectly. How is that possible? The answer isn’t found in Jockey’s new sizing system. It can be due to other factors outside a woman’s bra, and her control.

Age. Breast tissue changes as you age, not just in pregnancy and childbirth. Lingerie brands promote best bra fit on younger women. If models have children, they fall into the Victoria’s Secret top one percent body types: long legs and lean torsos. I have three grown kids, just went through menopause and my boobs grew in the process (go figure). My 23-year old daughter and I have different fit issues and lingerie tastes, due to this age gap.

Income. The Jockey bra costs $60, which is about three times the price of bras found on sale at Target and Wal-Mart.  Women with larger breasts (above a D) have greater problems with fit and spend more on their bras. Fuller-busted women fall outside Victoria Secret’s DD and under range, making their search for available and affordable bras more difficult.

Lifestyle. One bra does not rule us all. I prefer underwire and lace bras, with little padding. I’m not a big fan of molded cups, although I wear them. Other women have their own distinct bra likes and dislikes. Personal preferences extend to fashions worn over foundations. And not all bras work under every outfit.

Body Type and/or Height. I’m athletic in some places and not others. The Jockey band felt too tight on me, probably because I work out with weights and have more muscle in my back and under my arms. My boobs may be farther apart, or rest higher, or lower, on my chest than on another woman’s front. Then there’s my height; I’m only 5’5” (and shrinking with age) so this bra will not fit the same on someone taller or with a different body build.


Toss into this mix that no two breasts are alike (even on the same woman), and it’s easy to see the challenges of fitting and manufacturing bras. Some bra brands now focus on either end of the wide spectrum of AAA to N cups, and 28 to 58 bands. Still women struggle to find their “right” support.

Maybe for 80% of women, size is just an arbitrary starting point. It’s not the only measure of bra fit.

What’s your view? Have you had any bra fitting issues that were based on factors outside your bra? How do you define your perfect bra fit?

8 Discussion to this post

  1. E.M. says:

    I’ve never actually been able to find a bra that fits comfortably (I’ve spent the last 10+ years looking). The main problem comes from this: I’m small framed and*extremely* short-torso’d, with a narrow chest and enormous and (thanks to a genetic condition) mega-heavy boobs. The “size” “they” say I should get is a 34H (or thereabouts, although that’s never really fit either), but every single one that I’ve tried on has always had the underwire wrap so far around me that it’s stabbing into the back of my shoulder blades, resulting in very pointy (cone) boobs that not only are splayed so far apart that they look like eyestalks on the lookout for predators, but also boobs that are squished into my armpits so much that I couldn’t even put my arms down. I kid you not: attempting to zip my own pants resulted in massive bruises on my breasts. The only underwire “size” that has actually been comfortable for me was the underwire out of a 34DDD bra, but, as you can imagine, there was nowhere near enough room in the cups (quadra-boobs, anyone?). For some reason, all the different varieties of bras I’ve tried on seem to be made with the idea that the bigger your cup size is, the wider the underwire has to be. I don’t need a wider underwire, I just need *deeper* (much deeper) cups.
    So this gets even better. Remember the “heavy” issue that I mentioned? Well, they say that most of the support from your bra should come from your band, but by the time that I find a band that’s tight enough to keep my boobs where they belong, it’s so tight that it literally cuts holes in my skin (not to mention that the back will have gone up so far in the back that I might as well be wearing a halter bra, and the seams keeping the straps attached were breaking). I can’t for the life of me figure this one out. Some people have suggested that I opt for like a minimizer bra (or along those lines) on the ground of the compression resulting in more support, but, due to the same genetic issue that makes ’em heavy, any sort of compression results in massive pain and irritation. I even tried going up to a 36 band size to see if, for some odd reason, that might help things, but the minute that I switched up sizes, my breasts wouldn’t stay in the bottom of the bra (wound up getting under the band).
    Combine this all with very narrow shoulders that not only slope really far downward (like a deep frown), but also significantly inward (imagine trying to hug someone with just your shoulders), and life just becomes impossible. The suggestion has been made that I opt for the bras where you can cross the straps over in the back to make an X, but I have a really wide neck and the straps always wind up cutting into it.

    And another issue: I have fairly thick “man arms”, so any bra that offers enough coverage to actually keep all of my boobs in my bra comes up so high in the armpit that it tries to saw my arm off. I’ve tried ones that were cut differently, and they worked while standing still in the fitting room, but then I took two steps and it was insta-quad-boob (or armpit boob).
    So yeah, body shapes play a LOT into bra sizes and fits, but it seems like no manufacturer takes into consideration variances aside from the “typical” ones.
    At this point, I’ve pretty much given up hope that there’s a bra that actually fits properly, but it would be exceedingly nice to a) not have to spend forever trying to wrangle myself into my bra in the morning, and b) not have to spend 80% of the following day fighting with it. If any of you all have ideas or suggestions… I’d love to hear them

    • Ellen Lewis says:

      I am not sure what your budget is, but have you tried Goddess at the lower end and Elomi in the mid tier? For deep cups, the best I have ever found is Empreinte. Pricey, but worth it. Another great bra for your size is Prima Donna. Have you tried Elila?

      • E.M. says:

        Thanks for the suggestions. I just got through looking at them online and I think I may have found a few things worth noting as possible solutions the next time that I head out on a hunting expedition. /// One thing that I’ve also noticed, though, is that it seems to be increasingly difficult to find a seamless, laceless bra cup in my size range (Seamed cups and lace cause massive skin irritation), and flat out impossible to find said seamless laceless cups in a heavily-lined/padded variety. I’ve tried the “petals” things to prevent…. “interesting” cold environment issues, if you catch my drift, but they also caused a variety of uncomfortable irritation issues. /// Anyhow, like I said, thanks again.

  2. Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife) says:

    Thank you, Carol. You’re so right that many women become discouraged when a bra doesn’t fit them, and instead put the blame on their own bodies. Thanks for the service you provide at your store. Education is definitely the key!

  3. Carol Gill says:

    Great article. I’ve had an intimate apparel store for twenty years. I explain to gals where the parts of the bra should be on their body. We explain that every manufacturer, every style and every fabric fits a little bit differently. It’s important to know that and not be discouraged when trying on bras. I have some women who can wear as many as three different sizes depending on those issues. And finally, someone is talking about the changing body. Women need to feel comfortable in their bodies.

  4. Jeannie Emory says:

    Ellen, once again you explained it perfectly. In my bra fitting salon we may try 12 dfferent bras on each client to determine the most flattering and comfortable ones for them. There is no “one perfect bra or size” for any woman!

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