My bra size revelation (the perils of +4!)

For my entire bra-wearing life, from the age of 9 or 10, I wore a 34 back. My mum put me straight in a 34A, then a 34C by the age of 12, a 34DD at 13, then a 34F at 14, and I carried wearing a 34F/FF from then on. That is, until about a bit over a year ago, when my breasts decided to start growing again, to the point where they were barely in the cups anymore. Despite it being clear that I needed to go up about 3-4 cupsizes to perhaps a 34H, I put this off. The main reason? The +4/5 method.

Pre fitting WM

As long as I remember, I was told that to find your bra size, you take your underbust, add 4 if even, 5 if odd, and then count the difference to find your cupsize. Taking my standing measurements of 29/39, this gave me…a 34E. One cupsize smaller than the 34Fs I was already cramming myself into. The sad thing? I didn’t once think that these calculations could be wrong. That’s how everyone tells you to do it – how could it be? What I did know was that I had empty space in the bottom of the cup (which I now know actually happens when there is too much breast to get into the cup), but despite the fact that I was falling everywhere, I honestly thought this meant that perhaps the cup was too big! So, confused, I kept wearing my 34Fs (to the right, my way-too-small bra with vest top combination at download – argh!) for another 6 months, until my mum couldn’t stand it anymore and practically dragged me out to hunt for anything over a G cup.

What we did find was a small bra boutique, where I was put into a 34J, then a 32J, which was declared to be my size. My mind was blown. I’d gone from thinking I might need a 36GG, to wearing a 32J, and that was life changing. I immediately went searching for more bras and information on fitting, discovering a plethora of amazing blogs and shops, giving me the knowledge I have today. What became clear was that the life changing bras I had been fitted into…did not fit. The central gores pulled away and sat on my fairly close-set breasts. The bands still rode up. The straps gave me red marks. Through trial and error, I found my size to be more along the lines of 28K/30JJ.

Face WM

And that brings me to now, and why I’m writing this at all. For as long as I can remember, I have hated my breasts. I have loathed how hard it is to find bras and clothes, how they make me look bigger all over, the attention they get, how impossible it is to find something for summer without 4 inches of cleavage on show. But getting fitted changed that. It hasn’t changed how hard it is to find bras – that’s gotten much harder! And finding clothes can still be quite hard, especially considering how high up soft-cup bras tend to be cut. But it still turned my worldview upside down. Finally, clothes hung nicely. If anything, somehow my breasts look smaller. I realised that I have a small ribcage, that I am smaller all over than I thought. I realised that for all this time, my breasts have not been the problem – they are not “freakishly big”, and there is nothing wrong with them. The fact of the matter is that I was failed, as many other women were and are, by bad bra fitting methods.

The reason I’m writing this is that today I was talking to a friend about big boobs, and I commented that I love mine and my body (it was relevant, I swear!). That’s when I realised: I would have never said that a year ago. Over the past few months, from a combination of bra fitting and body positive blogs, I have gone from absolutely loathing, to absolutely loving my breasts and my body, and that is a truly amazing thing. That is the reason I have this blog, and the reason I spam my facebook with stuff like this! If I can make just one person feel in any way good about their body, if I can help one person to find their size, I’ll have done some good. So, that’s why I’m here – let the blogging commence 😉

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Founder and main author of Bras and Body Image. Anna is a lingerie lover, feminist and maths student based in the UK, who hopes to someday cuddle every cat in the world.

19 thoughts on “My bra size revelation (the perils of +4!)

  1. Wow, your story is so similar to mine! I shoved myself into 36DD’s for years in my teens because I didn’t know bras were made bigger than a DD (and my mom told me they weren’t)! It was revolutionary to discover that cups above DD and bands below 32 existed, and now I’m much happier in a 28GG-H. :)
    Anyway, I just discovered your blog and wanted to say hi!

    • It’s a really bad situation, isn’t it? Vastly the huge lack of knowledge, argh! I never thought I could be below a 34 band, and I never paid attention to it! So many stick thin women I know are wearing 34Bs that I’m sure need more like a 26F or so – a size that is barely manufactured. It’s heartbreaking, and education is definitely needed, as a fitting bra is certainly a wonderful thing.
      I fear I’m rambling – thank you for stopping by, and hello to you too :)

      • Imagine discovering your real size in late 30′ ? I went from 34dd to 32h. I wish I had this knowlege and bras when I was in my teens, I did hate my boobs too.

        • The ignorance is just so bad, and the consequences it has on body image are just heartbreaking. And I understand the age thing, as well – my over-50 mum has been in a 34B for her entire life, at most wore a 34C. I recently re-fitted her to a 32E, and from pictures I’m sure she used to be more around a 30GG! It is truly mind boggling! I’m glad you got fitted in the end at least, so many people live hating their breasts for their entire lives. Thank you for commenting :)

  2. I was the same way with 36 bands! I was convinced that was my band size and I just had to increase/decrease the cups from there. I have no clue how those things even remotely supported me considering that I weighed 20lbs less than I do now and currently I wear a 28HH/J!

  3. The bra fitting revelation – a perfect example. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about bra fitting. It really can help a lot of women to find a better way to accepting themselves :)

    worked for me too, although I’m on the smaller end of the scale. Was a nice revelation that there are bras that aren’t too big for me *lol*

    btw, love your blog :)

    • Thank you :)
      And I know, the impact it can have on someone’s self-esteem is huge! And I’m glad you got properly fitted, too – another failure of adding inches is how it out-sizes those on the smaller end of the scale, which can be just as damaging.

  4. Great story and I’m really thrilled for you and your new found boob acceptance! It’s funny really that there are so many blogs appearing about this now – girls who have had health and body-image issues solved by a good bra seem to be so passionate about it!!!! Look forward to reading more. x

  5. I need help! I’m a 28k from Canada and I can’t find anything on the internet to buy. Please direct me to some web sites I can purchase a bra in my size.

    • Hi Alison, a good company I know of in Canada is Butterfly Collection. The owner, Claire, is very helpful and offers Skype fittings, so their customer service is very good if you do buy with them. A good US-based company is Breakout Bras, who seem to have free shipping to Canada. Both of these only seem to have the Panache Tango in a 28K…Another option is HerRoom, who have one Curvy Kate bra. When you get to a 28K (assuming you’re using UK sizing) bras get limited – it’s incredibly annoying that so many bras go up to a K in all but a 28 band! Panache and Curvy Kate are two brands that definitely go to a UK 28K, others tend to stop at a 28J.

      If you’re willing to buy outside of Canada/the US, Brastop (UK based) stocks a lot of past season styles at sale prices, and has a much better selection than the above stores. The problem once you get above a 28J is that you will mostly only be able to find Curvy Kate, Panache and Flirtelle (cheaper, more basic version of CK). These all tend to have fairly wide wires, so if you have narrow breasts you may not get along with them. Finally, you could try Ewa Michalak (Poland based, but fairly cheap), who will custom make any of their PL styles (and possibly some of their other styles) in a 28K. EM have very narrow wires, so you may end up with them if you find CK and Panache too wide.

      Anna x

      • Oo thank you. I will try them and let you know how I do. Yes, sized UK is 28k… I looked it up and found out that I’m the size Dolly Parton is… I gasp. Thanks again and Happy Holidays.

  6. Pingback: Saturday Spotlight: Bras and Body Image | A Sophisticated Pair

  7. Recently I had a bra revelation too.. I’ve been wearing 36B all my life and I come home with chest aching from the underwires and feeling that something’s not right. Imagine my surprise when I turned out to be a 30F/32E. I bought the new sized bras online and I almost wept when I put it on. Finally a bra that makes me feel good about my breasts and image! I love reading about your story because I felt the same emotions when properly fitted. :)

  8. With a ribcage of 26.5 in and bustline of 30 in, the +4 method does actually work for me. The difference is, in what I do, is when figuring out the cup, I don’t include the +4 (in which I’d have a negative cup). I only use the +4 for figuring out my band size.

    I wear a 32C. 34B also works for me. I tried a 30D, but armpit fat. I have to wear 32D in Victoria’s secret though since they quite have an odd sizing.

    I think body composition has a lot to do with it. There isn’t much to “squeeze” in my ribcage as my upperbody is a lot leaner than my lower half

  9. Hello Anna, just to give you and all the ladies a man’s prospective. My ex wife went through all kinds of issues finding bra’s. I watched her in her obsession to find 32 did cups and she went through 200 different ones over a month of looking only finding one good fitting bra.

    The bad thing was after a day it lost support because it was not well made. I never could get her to listen as it was. She was one to wear a bra 24 hours a day never listening when I told her it wasn’t healthy to do that. Never have I known a woman like that who believed her breaststroke would droop if she didn’t. I also tried to tell her the method you are mentioning isn’t working. Personally I’m a large breast lover of DD or bigger and for those hating what they have with no medical reason you need to know that firmer isn’t always better. That is mostly the image give by other women. I don’t like rocks for breasts and really don’t like that such emphasis is put on the support part over comfort. That is part of issues later is tight bra’s and also what really makes things so much harder when it comes to finding a bra.

    Our bodies were not designed to be compacted all the time and yes ladies men know this too for their shorts. It would be so much simpler if you stopped worrying what other women think and wear for comfort. Your men will appreciate you more for loving your body than fighting a war finding bra’s or worse breast reduced because you were made to feel it is too much.

    Too many have issues as it is worrying about men looking too much along with other psychological issues involving their size. The biggest thing is don’t let your size drive your decisions due to image. Be comfortable and stop thinking men all want super firm breasts. You will find that opens many options you were passing. The other thing is don’t buy bra’s that make you seem much bigger than you are, that really pisses men off no matter if they show it or not. Fake is fake. The man who doesn’t love the real you isn’t worth it. Like I told my ex boobs don’t make the woman, it’s the woman who makes the boobs. Real is always best and comfort makes real so much better in the long run.

    I hope this is a help to all of you. Breasts are only beautiful when the woman understands she is the one who makes them beautiful. Not some archaic beliefs others have. Live long and never stop being comfortable ladies.

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