Finding your right bra size

Ever since I started fitting bras, I've been perplexed by the old measuring system of adding four or five inches onto the under-band to get your size and the more women I fitted, and the more bras I designed I began to question and research why we used a system that was obviously not working for so many women.

With Vanjo set to be re-leased this coming month, there will of course be a section on sizing, on how to find your correct size. As we know a 32D in one brand fits differently to another 32D, with there being no set standardisation in sizing. Team this with different brands using different measuring charts, you can see why us ladies are filled with frustration of the simply task of buying lingerie.

Whilst Vanjo might have a different measuring system to some companies (one company I worked for used a 1950s size chart much to my confusion). Slowly I have seen other companies rid of the old sizing system to a newer sizing way.

So whilst I'm not advocating that my system is the best, I'm hoping that by explaining my measuring system and why getting fitted for a bra it can be confusing I'm hoping that the information you take from this can help you with your own bra no matter where you buy your bras from.

There use to be a couple things that riled me about lingerie design, one being I couldn't often find my correct size (hence why I started Vanjo), and two being that ‘fitters’ measure me and tried to put me in my wrong size.

When I first started working as a designer for high street stores (ah hum eighteen years ago!) I questioned why, when we measured a lady we added four or even five inches to her rib cage to get her size, we don’t do this when we want a pair of jeans – why do we for bras? With no answer apart from, oh that’s how everyone does it, I began to look for the reason why.

When bras first started out, you needed to add around a women’s ribcage as the fabric had no stretch and it was a comfort issue. We’ve moved on with fabric considerably to the point where you can a laser-cut seam bra, yet we haven’t all moved on the system of measuring. 

getting fitted for a bra

It's a vicious circle really - with so many companies still sticking with the old way of measuring, women aren't being offered their correct band size (a woman measuring 28 inch will be offered a 32 inch bra) so as they are not being offered their correct size, they can't buy their correct size therefore there is no demand for those sizes, and if there is no demand then retailers won't bother to stock those sizes and only sell what they currently selling. And the circle begins.

Currently we are in a system where some retailers/brands measure (and fit) to what you measure and some still stand by the old system of adding four or five (if you measure an odd number) inches onto your size. No wonder you can come away with the wrong size. If you're going into store make sure that the fitter is fitting you not just measuring you. If you tried a pair of trousers on and they were too big you'd try a size down wouldn't you?  Your best size bra is the one that fits you. So if you tried a 34C on and the band rode up the back you'd try a 32D on (a 32C would be a whole cup size smaller). The key is to try and arm yourself with as much information as possible about what's a good fit.

Now like all things where there is a system, it may not work for everyone, so far with my personal experience when fitting a bra if the lady measured above a 36FF, the sizing sometimes didn't always ring true. But it was a great starting point to then look at what size they needed. Also below a B cup I found it more personal preference of how a woman wanted to wear her bra, as the less breast size and volume (so weight) you have, the less you have to support, so you may not want your bra to hold your ribcage snugly. 

Speaking from having been an array of sizes, (I was a 32DD/30E pre children, hit 32FF at the biggest of my pregnancy, went to a 30D afterwards then settled into a 30DD) and whilst being a 30D (measuring 30 inches around rib cage and 34 inches around fullest part of my boobs) I found that in some brands I could easily wear 32C.

 

SO what bra size am I?

If you want to start to work out your size in Vanjo lingerie measure around your ribcage – this will indicate your band size, so if you measure a 32, you will wear a 32 inch back.

Then measure around your fullest part of your breast either in a soft bra or crop top, and then subtract the band size measurement from the bust measurement and determine your cup size as follows: (for example if you measure a 32 band and measure 37 inches around the fullest part of your breast. Then the difference is 5 inches so that would give you a DD cup, a 32DD would be your size.

 

  • . less than 1 inch = AA cup

  • . 1 inch = A cup

  • . 2 inches = B cup

  • . 3 inches = C cup

  • . 4 inches = D cup

  • . 5 inches = DD cup

  • . 6 inches = E cup (US DDD)

  • . 7 inches = F cup (US DDDD)

  • . 8 inches = FF cup

So how are the cup sizes worked out? (the technical bit)

Well when a bra get graded from one size to the next 5cm is added in total around the body, so the projection of the cup increases by 2.5cm (approx 1 inch, this is why this method starts to wavier above a FF cup as 2.5cm is not exactly 1 inch). So a 32DD pair of boobs are projecting out further (by approx 1 inch) than a 32D pair of boobs. So your cup size is related to how it is graded. 

 

CHECKING A BRA SIZE 

When a bra get designed and made, a designer will measure the sample against a spec sheet, on that spec sheet is an under-band stretch, and it has to past a certain stretch, therefore measuring 32 around your under-band , a 32 bra depending on the brand/make will fit, yes it may feel tight, but like your trusty pair of jeans that stretch with wear, so will your bra.

If the old style of measuring is working for you, and you're happy with the fit of your bra by all means keep following that way. But if you're not happy with the fit of your bra, you're always adjusting it, or want to throw it off the moment you get home; then try the method of what you measure under-band is what bra size you wear. For whatever reason we are prepared to accept that in some shops we could be say a size 10 or a size 12 but few people are wanting to budge on their bra size.

To show how ludicrous the old system of measuring can be. I put my measurements into bra calculators for them to tell me my size. I measure (approx) under-band 31 inches, over bust 35 inches, I usually aim to wear, depending on the brand a 30DD/30E because i like the band to be tight,  or would wear a 32D/32DD if the band is too tight aka can’t breathe level!

So on:

http://www.whatsmybrasize.co.uk/ -  It’s states I’m a 36AA

http://www.calculator.net/bra-size-calculator.html - It states I’m a 36D

Which is a bit mind blowing really. Now there are some bra sites which get my bra size right, and some which mainly give me a 36D, but I've only shown a couple of sites which are not linked to being able to purchase lingerie from. The idea is not show brands that may or may not get it right, it's not about calling anyone out, this is about being more aware of your own body and bra size and what works for you. Don't worry if your cup size seems to go up, a well fitting bra will alter your silhouette and make you look slimmer, feel more comfortable and make clothes fit better.

It shocks me that on websites such as the above they tell you that wearing the right size bra is important, and sadly some shops don't get it much better either. So whether you are online shopping or store shopping, try on your new size and just check out how it feels. If you don't like how it feels, you've lost nothing in trying something new. But if it changes your world. Your welcome!

Vanjo lingerie will be out in late September.

Van Journal: Starting sewing and fits

 

If you bought (or remember) the soft bra from Vanjo the first time round, you'll be pleased to know that it's coming back but with a slight alteration to the pattern to ensure a better fit and support.

Vanjo Soft bra 

Vanjo Soft bra 

Drafting out the patterns is one of my favourite things to do as it's the start of bringing a design from your mind into reality. Having worked with different designers I've noticed that lingerie designing usually falls into two camps; one where the design is drafted out exactly how it will be, and the other where the final design is designed until the pattern is right. I fall into the latter category. 

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Using the right fabric

I don't like to design the final piece (fabric wise) until I know that the pattern is exactly how I want it, there are a couple of reasons for this:

1. It uses up any old fabric.

2. It allows me to keep a track of each sample I made, I don't have to work out which is the first or second sample if they are in different fabrics.

3. It keep me excited to keep designing, I like to make the same thing over and over in the same fabric when it's not 100% right, as when I reach the final piece I'll be bored of making it.

So if i'm making a sample out of cotton jersey which is one of my favourite fabrics to work with, I'll make sure that the fabric content is exact to my final piece (usually 95/5 : 95% cotton, 5% elastane) and the stretch is the same and go from there. Then each time I fit the garment and re-make the it I change up the fabric, that way it seems like I'm designing more than I actually am and sometimes I come across colour combinations or trim ideas I probably wouldn't have thought of if I was just designing on paper.

At this I'm 80% certain of the designs and shapes, and although I have so many I want to do, I'm editing it down to the strongest few. 

"The Van Journal is all about starting Vanjo again and a honest look behind the scenes of how I'm going about starting the label again". 

Designing the correct bra size for your lingerie brand

I got asked a few weeks ago, whether there are any standard measurements that you can use as a starting point when starting to design, so you achieve the correct bra size.

Unfortunately there are no standard bra size charts, each company does their own bra fitting and designs patterns for their own customer.

However I can give you some insight on measurements from different companies I've worked with and where some companies start.

I have worked with a company (2014) that had their own bra size chart where they begin each bra sample with the underband of a 34B measuring at 64cm andeach wing measuring 16cm and the bra cups with cradle measuring 32cm. 

When I design a pattern for my brand (aimed at women with smaller backs and a bigger bust size, so my measurements may be different from high street brands). I start with a pattern/bra that I'm happy with the fit then I use that as pattern block and with every design I use that pattern and alter that, to fit the new style.  Usually then, only a few bra measurements alter, depending on the fabrics or how much the design has altered.

 

Lingerie Specification sheets

Below are actually specification sheets from when I designed for UK high street stores, The first one is from Topshop (2001) and the second is from River Island (2003), originally they were presented with designs that were from the same pattern (different design), and due to how they do their bra fitting on their fitting models, they altered the fit therefore altered the measurements such as on the wing, the underband and also the centre front.

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

 

There are no correct or standard measurements for lingerie, and even different companies have different size charts and grade differently (the UK brands grade underbands on 5cm and the French brands grade underbands on 4cm); so even if you start at the same measurements by the time you reach 4 sizes bigger or smaller then each brand measurement will be different. The best thing you can do is stay consistent to your own brand, each bra fits each woman differently so what is favourable by one person may not to be so in another, so build your brand with your core customer in mind.

*For those who need advice on How to fill in a Specification sheet then the book "how to spec a bra and brief" is available to download or buy as a book. Also there are downloadable spec sheet that you can use as a template.