D+ cupsizes, why you do not add four

I wanted to give a visual representation to the war on plus four. Many people do not understand what is wrong with adding four inches to your underbust measurement.  First I want to point out that bra sizing is very subjective.  It is highly individual and what works for one woman may not work for another.  One woman may add 2″ while another subtracts inches.  Remember to take the shape of your ribcage, amount of fat padding, muscle shape of your chest wall and lats into consideration.

The picture below is an old 32A bra next to my current 28H bra.  I at one time have worn both sizes (one before breast implants) and can tell you that the bands are very similar in fit.  I can still put the band of the 32A bra on and it is just as tight as the 28H bra.  The 32A bra measures 24″ flat and 29″ stretched as much as possible. The 28H bra measures 24″ flat and 28″ stretched.

Crazy right?  Those two bras, labeled with two different bandsizes measure exactly the same before stretching.  So I wanted to do some research on bra measurements while unstretched.  Due to the bad weather today I was limited in my shopping options.  So I took some Hanes bras to the dressing room and did some experimenting.  I had a 36 band bra hooked around my 36″ hips with out even really stretching it.  Some measuring shows that the bra actually stretches more than 36.  How is a person with a 32″ ribcage supposed to wear a 36 band bra that stretches more than 36 inches?

So I went to Bratabase to do a little bit of research. Just doing some looking I found some bras to show how stretchy bands can be.  First was a Very Sexy push up with gel curve in a 32D bra has a band that stretches to 34 inches!!  The 32B stretched to 33 inches. A Dream Angles push up in 32DD, stretching to 34 inches. A Body by Victoria in a 34DD, stretching to 38 inches. The Lined Perfect Coverage bra in 38D, stretches to 42.5 inches.  A Hanes bra in 38B stretching to 43 inches.

There seems to be a disconnect with sizing across the board.  A 34 or below in a C cup or less has a smaller band creating a tighter fit.  Ladies in these sizes seem to be able to comfortably wear a bra with a +4 fit and still get proper support.  A D cup and above or a 36 bandsize and above have much stretchier bands.  Why would a 36+ bandsize be more stretchy than a 34? More fabric means more to stretch.  Why is the bandsize on a D+ cup more stretchy than a C cup when you have a small bandsize?  Why does the woman who measures 34″ in the underbust get put into a 38 band bra that stretches to 38 inches?  None of these make any sense. Why there not be any standardization? Why must a woman fight through some much just to find a comfortable and properly fitted bra?

There is no 100% correct way to size.  A brand should not provide a blanket calculator that misleads their customers.  They should tell them how to fit themselves in a bra, what to look for in a good and bad fit, and provide them with images that show proper fit, not bad fit.  This really is not too much to ask. Take a look at Bra Stop’s fitting video, A Sophisticated Pair’s calculator and fit guide, and Butterfly Collection’s calculator and fit guide for ideas for where to start.


  1. There are so many reasons that bras can vary in sizing. First of all, to get any accurate data you’d need to be comparing the same bra in different sizes. That would at least go some way towards eliminating different brand’s sizing discrepancies. Secondly, data submitted from different users is self-reported and that obviously means that we have no idea how accurate the bratabase figures are.

    Thirdly there is the fact that measuring the stretched band on a flat table doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the measurement it will comfortably fit. For example there is the “underwire spring” to consider. You know how some bras have more rigid underwires than others? The design of the bra should take this into account. If you measure the width of the cup from one side of the wire to the other, a properly fitting wire will actually come up narrower than the infra-mammary fold where it’s supposed to sit. This is because the wire is designed to stretch around the breast. If you’re measuring the bra flat on the table, it’s difficult to know how much to stretch it. Depending on how you hold the bra as you measure, stretching it less might result in a smaller measurement for the back size. (As an aside, the cup width of unsprung underwires could look misleadingly small.)

    While the two bras you compare above do stretch to a similar size, it’s possible that the 32A bra has underwires with less spring than it was actually designed for, or indeed that the 28H bra has underwires that are too springy. When a company brings out a new bra or has to change suppliers, it’s not going to invest in re-drafting all its patterns so this is why sometimes a bra that is based on a previous style can fit totally differently from the original one. As a genreal point, this also means that unless they adjust the patterns for every single variant (be it hardware, fabric or detailing) it’s going to have an effect on the finished size and fit.

    Then there is another unknown, which is the pattern grading method used by the manufacturer. It would make sense to apply the same band sizing fit across the board, for example if a 28G fits roughly 28″ underbust then a 34A should fit roughly 34″ underbust. However, I don’t know how accurately different companies grade their patterns. When patterns are graded, they should take into account the stretch of the fabric but I don’t know if they all do! To increase a pattern from 34 to 36, or to decrease from 34 to 32, you would obviously need to make the band 2 inches smaller or larger. But if the back and wings have 50% stretch and the cradle is non stretch, then for every 1 inch added to the back, 1.5 inches would be added to the stretched measurement. Could this be why larger back sizes sometimes come up too big, especially in cheaper brands? (just a hypothesis)

    I think given the unreliability of the data, we can’t assume that manufacturers grade A-D cup bras differently than DD+ bras. Anyway, it doesn’t make any sense to add 4 to smaller cup bras, but not to larger cup ones – then a 34C would be exactly the same bra as a 30DD. The difficulty in comparing like with like is that it’s rare to see one bra which is made in both 28H and 32A!

    • I think you may have missed the entire point of the post. It’s not a be all, end all saying anyone needs to size a specific way, A-D or D+. It’s a visual representation to show how a D+ bra and an A-D bra be sized completely different. Which is exactly why a D+ bra needs to have their needs when sizing is considered and an A-D needs to have their owns needs considered.
      This post is an introduction post to show women how bras are so similar and different at the same time. It was just shared again to answer someone’s questions. Its to get women to think about bras and how each bra is different.
      Fabric stretch is talked about in a later post, I have not posted about wire stretch yet as there is no reliable data.

      • Zoggi

        I don’t think I have missed the point of the post, I understand what you are saying and I agree that some bras can be 4 inches smaller than the label size. It is true that people of different sizes have different needs, and some people will find that a bra that measures the same as their underbust measurement will be too small. The point I raised was that the data we have, plus anecdotal evidence, is not enough to demonstrate that smaller cup sized bras tend to have smaller bands as a general rule, in the way that the 32A bra above has the same fit in the band as the 28H. I’m saying that it does happen because brands size differently. The fact that bras in the same band but different cup sizes will measure smaller or larger than the label size can only happen if you’re comparing different brands or styles of bra, but it’s almost impossible to compare a 32A and 28H in the same bra because brands tend to specialise in one area. Supposing brand X makes a 32A bra that measures 28 inches. Brand Y makes a 28H bra that measures 28 inches. Yes, they both measure the same size, but if they both made bras in the full range of sizes, brand X’s 28H would measure 24 inches and brand Y’s 32A would measure 32 inches.
        I hope I didn’t offend you by my comment to your post, I’m not discounting everything you’ve said, just trying to raise some relevant points to the discussion.

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