Why we ditched the tape measure

Forget about the classic bra measuring system. A tape measure works for some, but it’s far from reliable. There’s an easier and more accurate way to work out your bra size. And no experts required.

Manufacturers developed the bra sizing system over 80 years ago, and body shapes – and our understanding of them – have changed a great deal since then. Also, it was never intended for larger cup sizes. The classic bra sizing system was designed for cup sizes A to D. We now have cups up to a K and the same rules don’t work at both ends of the scale.

You have to be wearing a bra in order to be measured, but you won’t get an accurate measurement if you are wearing the wrong size bra in the first place. If you are wearing a bra that emphasises or reduces the protrusion of your breasts, for example, you will get a different measurement. This is particularly the case for larger cup sizes.

The classic system also ignores the shape of the ribcage. If, for example, you have broad shoulders that taper to a small waist, you might end up with too large a cup size since the cup measurement won’t take your wider ribcage into account, attributing too much volume to the breasts.

“The classic bra size measuring system was designed for cup sizes A to D. We now have cups up to a K.

So if the classic measuring system doesn’t work, what’s the alternative? The good news is you don’t need to consult an ‘expert’ or leave the comfort and convenience of your own home to establish your correct size. You are the expert. All you need is your favourite bra and a mirror.

The most common fit issue is wearing a bra that’s too big in the band and too small in the cup. So here are a couple of quick tips using your bra…

1 If your band is riding up your back, it’s too big. Try going down a band size, eg from 36 to 34. If your straps are digging in to your shoulders it could also be a sign your back band isn’t snug enough.

2 If your breasts are spilling out of the top or sides of your cups they are too small. Try going up a cup size or two, eg from C to D or DD. If the centre front of your bra is pulling away from your body this could also mean the cups are too small.

For a more detailed checklist see our fit guide.

Jo Jeffery

Jo Jeffery is on a mission to spread the message that every body fits at Figleaves - through content and PR that celebrates inclusivity and diversity.