What the hell is your bra size?

I feel rather vindicated about some of the troubles women have with clothes. I mean seriously. At my least athletic/curviest, I was a solid 36 C cup heading toward a D cup… I thought. Now I’m a solid 32 B cup heading toward an A cup… I thought. But apparently, that’s not the whole story. The whole story is… I don’t even really have words for the convoluted complication that is the bra sizing system.

Everyone tells you to take a soft tape measure and measure your band size. (Who the hell has a “soft tape measure” anyway? I only have one because I sew sometimes.) Then, you should take the tape measure and put it over your nipples, but not make it too snug. What? What’s snug? Should you be inhaling or exhaling? Does “snug” mean “if it’s a cold room, your nipples will be smushed”? Or do you leave room for the nipples (how many times can I say this in one post)? I don’t even know, and I’ve been making shirts for myself for like six months now. I don’t even dare make a bra. Which reminds me, I got to thinking about this because of A Very Purple Person’s post today about making bras. According to the bra calculator that she mentioned, my cup size is HUGE! At a 28-31 inch band size (depending on if I’m exhaling or inhaling) and a 33-36 apex bust size (apex = over the nipples, again whether I’m exhaling or inhaling), and a moderately snug band, I should be an E! An E? Oh, and that’s with not a lot of room for said nipples. It’s really hard to tell if you’re giving them enough room. Hm. But even so, I was optimistic with a B, especially recently.

So what gives?

That’s not the whole story either, actually. I’ve been measured at Victoria’s Secret at a 32 C. Bras at 36 A would also, apparently, work, but it’s too wide and not, erm, forward enough. So they would fit and I could breathe, but they’d be… uncomfortable in certain dimensions.

Then there’s another manual bra-sizing method that has you adding 4-5 inches to your band measurement. (Four if even, five if odd. Sort of like a really arbitrary cootie catcher. But for boobs.) They tell you to exhale on the band measurement, but no instructions on the cup measurement. Does that actually matter, since it’s the band that will be expanding when you breathe? So many questions, and I’m not even that concerned about a properly fitting bra. I’m really just curious, and it’s already giving me a headache.

Ok. So. If I’m… exhaling for both measurements (with moderate room for nipples, they’re only slightly squished), then I get an A? Because according to that method, I should add five to my 29 measurement to get 34, and my bust is… wait. Actually, with that method I get a negative measurement! 29 + 5 > 33! Great, I have inverted boobs according to this chart. My favorite. Note: They do have a “bra size calculator” as well, but no matter what measurements I put in, nothing appeared. YMMV.

If I inhale on the bust and exhale on the band (which kind of makes sense to me… because you want maximum room for the girls and maximum stretch on the ribs, right?) then I get a B. Unless (you knew there was an “unless” by now, right?) I add room for my nipples, OR choose a slightly  more snug band. Which is still perfectly comfy, by the way, I just went for as loose on the ribs and as tight on the boobs as I could reasonably get, to avoid exaggerating my bosoms. It’s an inch either way. But for the sake of argument, let’s say 28 inches of band. That’s an even number, so I’d only add 4.

Oh, look, now I’m a D. How helpful.

There’s a lot at play here, including “vanity sizing,” which as far as I know just makes things smaller (but then again, who wants smaller breasts?), as well as the increasing height and weight of women in America. Maybe bra sizes just haven’t caught up? I have no idea. As an added bonus, Wikepedia sayeth that bra sizes were invented in the 1930s. So, you know, kind of out of date.

But when multiple (perhaps erroneous) sources say that 8 out of 10 women wear the wrong size bra, it gets me to thinking. I really don’t like it when my bra doesn’t fit. It just feels weird. Maybe instead of “panties in a wad” I should start saying “wrong size bra.” That sort of thing. I wouldn’t mind knowing what bra size I am. Too bad there seems to be no definitive answer. And I don’t have the money to go playing around with this shit.

In conclusion, all I know is the following:

  • I know that 36 A is uncomfortable and makes me look like a prepubescent boy
  • I know that 36 C sometimes gaps
  • I know that anything B leaves marks on my ribs
  • I know that *NOT* wearing a bra is ONLY acceptable in my hippie-dippie mountain town (I’ve gotten told off more than once in Las Vegas visiting my parents) and is also quite uncomfortable if anything remotely aerobic happens.
  • I know that a “small” in sports bras from Target pinches and gives me skin rolls. Sometimes. Depending on the brand. But a “medium” is sometimes too large.

I give up. This is actually really a compelling reason for me to make my own bras and to hell with “sizing.” The only plus I can think of about this is that I’ve never been able to make a good self-drafted bustier, because I always make the boob cups too wide and not, erm, forward, enough. This whole quagmire of stupid makes me feel a little better about how often I do that.

Have you found a solution to your bra dilemma? Help a girl out: What the hell is your bra size?


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