Dr. Kirby's Blog

Vanity Bra Sizing: How Popular Bra Retailers Are Misleading Women

bra sizing for women

A professional bra fitting is an important rite of passage. Whether you are in the market for a new bra following breast augmentation or are searching for something in your tried and true size, a visit to a mass-market lingerie store often comes with an overeager sales pitch and an awkward fitting session.

Do professional bra fittings really result in accurate sizing? Not always. News reports indicate that vanity bra sizing is becoming a big problem. Popular lingerie stores often tell women they need a larger cup size—even when their bust size has not changed.

Vanity Sizing Is Not New, But it is Getting Worse

The trend points toward bras labeled with smaller back measurements and larger cup sizes that encourage women to think they are thinner and bustier than they really are. I have seen evidence that bras bought at some of the more well-known lingerie retailers are often one or even two cup sizes larger than they were several years ago. For example, a woman who typically wears a 36A may be told that she is really a 34B, or even a 32C.

Adding to consumer confusion is that fact that bra companies have evolved toward vanity sizing over time, and individual woman’s breast and band sizes tend to vary through life as they gain or lose weight, become pregnant, or age. As a breast augmentation surgeon, I have the opportunity to ask many women their breast size and then measure them. More than ever, I am encountering women who have bras that do not match up to what would be their traditional bra size, based on ribcage and bust measurements.

A Bigger Bra for Smaller Breasts?

Professional bra fitters have also noticed this evolution in bra size labeling. A 34 band size may now measure a few inches larger than it did years ago, while cup size has decreased, causing women to need a larger cup size. Some women are delighted to feel that they are “thin” enough to wear a smaller band size, or busty enough to be a C instead of a B. Other women are simply confused as to why their traditional size no longer works for them.

Vanity bra sizing has been particularly disappointing for many breast reduction patients. Many women who have breast reduction surgery look forward to shopping for bras at mainstream lingerie stores instead of shops that specialize in bras for women with large busts. These patients often have multiple pounds of breast tissue removed, but when visiting popular bra stores, they still may not be able to find a bra that fits them properly, leading to bra-buying frustration and disappointment. Essentially, many big name lingerie stores are geared toward women with small-to-mid size breasts, and some women who have had a breast reduction may find that they are still outside of these stores’ available range.

How To Find a Bra that Fits Your Breasts

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to combat the suggested sizing and bra sizes offered by certain stores. However, being aware that vanity sizing exists and visiting multiple bra fitters can help you gather a truer understanding of your individual bra size.

To some degree, women need to ignore the size label of a given bra and instead look within a range of sizes to find the sweet spot where comfort and support meet for a perfect fit. What is the perfect fit?

Here are some signs your bra fits correctly, and tips for correcting fit:

  1. The band is completely horizontal around the rib cage and comfortably snug. A good test is to check whether the bra stays in place without the straps. If the band has a diagonal slant around your rib cage, you need a smaller band size. If it pinches, try a larger band size.
  2. The center front of the bra, between your breasts, should be snug against your breastbone. If there is space between the center front and your breastbone, you need a larger cup size to accommodate your breast tissue.
  3. With underwire cup bras, the underwire for both cups should sit firmly upon your rib cage and not trap any breast tissue under it. Be sure to check the sides of your breasts too. If the underwire is sitting on your breast tissue, you need a larger cup size.

You can also read our simple sizing tips to help you find a fit that works for you.

Learn more about comfortable, flattering bra options in my blog posts about choosing a well-fitting sports bra and finding a wireless bra that is attractive and comfortable.

Looking to Change Your Bra Size Permanently?

If you are unhappy with your current breast size or shape and would like to make a change, I can help you explore breast augmentation or breast reduction options.

Contact our office to schedule a personalized consultation where I can answer your questions and help you learn about the most effective ways to increase or decrease the size of your breasts.

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