Are Victoria’s Secret Bra Fittings Failing Women With Big Boobs?

There Are No Size Standards

Researchers and retailers acknowledge that the 80 percent number isn’t foolproof, but they often use it to illustrate a widespread problem: ill-fitting bras.

“We were actually encouraged to talk about that statistic,” said Carrie Gergely, who worked as a Victoria’s Secret bra fitter and store manager from 2003 to 2008. Ms. Gergely recognized that the size on the tag wasn’t the real issue. Knowing how to look for the right fit was.

How To Determine Your Cup Size

Measure around your naked breasts, at nipple level

Measure around your naked breasts, at nipple level. Keep the tape loose, almost loose enough for it to fall down. Now substract your underbust measurement from your band measurement.

US Vs. UK Sizing Differences

To determine your cup size, look at the table below. You’ll notice that your result will be different based on the country. Whether you’ll need your US, UK, or European size depends on the country of origin of your bra manufacturer.

The cup sizes remain the same up to a DD cup, after which the 2 size charts differ slightly. The UK system has double letters (DD, FF, GG) in-between single letters (D, E, F, G) although it skips a double E. The US system is more straightforward and essentially follows the alphabet.

Many popular manufacturers are based in the UK, which means they use UK Sizing. These manufacturers are Freya, Panache, Gossard, Curvy Kate, Fantasie, and Bravissimo.

Some popular manufacturers that use US Sizing include Wacoal, Victoria’s Secret, Cacique, Goddess, Maidenform, and Le Mystere.

I suggest you takenote of both your US and your UK size (and of course, don’t forget to specify which is which).

Band Minus Bust Difference US Cup Size UK Cup Size Euro Cup Size
Less Than 1″ AA AA AA
1″ A A A
2″ B B B
3″ C C C
4″ D D D
5″ DD or E DD E
6″ DDD or F E F
7″ G F G
8″ H FF H
9″ I G I
10″ J GG J
11″ K H K
12″ L HH L
13″ M J M
14″ N JJ M

Example: Let’s say your bust measures 38″, your underbust measures 29.5″, and your band size is 32″ . The difference is 6″, which corresponds to an F cup. Your size would therefore be a a 32F.

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Is it Worth It?

Only you can answer that. If you're perfectly happy in your current bras, there might not be a need to switch. What you wear is no one's business but your own!

But a lot of women find that the difference in the way their bodies feel and the way their clothes look is legitimately life changing. The first time I put on a bra that fit me, I gasped.

So what do you have to lose by trying it? And remember, if you change your bra size, no one but you needs to know. But if you're like me, you'll end up preaching the "braspel" to anyone who'll listen.

Are Victorias Secret bra sizes completely inaccurate simply because they dont carry a wide size variety?

To accommodate for their limited range of bra sizes, Andrea states, “They give sizes that I believe have bands that are too wide and cups that are too small. I think they do this because then they can basically sell bras within a certain range and not make too many different sizes.” Interestingly enough, Victoria’s Secret standards revealed that Andrea should be wearing a bra size 32B or 34B. However, when she visited a lingerie boutique, they found her to be a 28DD, a size that gives her much more support.

When we asked Jenny Altman – style, fashion, and bra expert – about the issues surrounding Victoria’s Secret sizing, she brought something called sister sizing to our attention. “Most women need to go down a band size and up a cup size for a good fit. BUT…since [Victoria’s Secret] doesn’t offer a huge assortment of sizes and still wants you to wear their product, they do a lot of ‘sister sizing’ (which is a size off in band/cup and is a close match but not a perfect match),” Altman explains. “As a result of Victoria’s Secret working as a ‘fitter’, I have seen so many women wearing band sizes 2-3 times larger than they should and a 2-3 times smaller cup size. So if a woman would be properly fit as a 32G (which they don’t sell) they would fit her in a 36DD (which they do sell).”

While Victorias Secret claims they follow industry guidelines, the company also states that they apply sexy sophistication to sizing standards

With these complaints in mind, I went right to the source and asked a Victoria’s Secret customer service representative, via the Live Chat feature on their website, to help me with sizing. In addition to being super evasive, they did not answer any of my questions. Mainly, I wanted to know why their technique differed from other companies’ and was told to either use their Bra Fit Tool or meet with a bra specialist in their store.

I also asked about the wording on the FAQ section of the Victoria’s Secret website. It reads, “Most brands, including Victoria’s Secret, follow industry guidelines; so your bra size—particularly, the Band size—should be consistent from one manufacturer to the next. Victoria’s Secret applies sexy sophistication to those sizing standards; so, our levels of padding and coverage may differ from other retailers.”

Victorias Secrets sizing is a bit outdated for todays consumer

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For a Victoria’s Secret associates, they are quickly trained on how to size up their consumer, (via Babe). Many shoppers will recall that they carry around a pink measuring tape and will always ask you if you would like to be fitted. The service is no charge, however many can find the pestering a bit annoying if you’re simply browsing the selection. 

If you do choose to receive the free sizing, the associate will start by measuring your chest and will then figure out your band size in inches. The tape will then be wrapped around the widest part of your chest to determine your cup size, and your cup size is decided based on your band size. Not amazingly scientific, but it does the job. The company also does a lot of sister sizing, so there are more chances that your store has at least one product you are looking for. 

The idea for adding four inches to your band size didn’t come from the lingerie giant, but rather it stemmed from the 1950s when brassieres’ were made of silk or satin and didn’t have much give. The extra inches allotted for some breathing room but probably isn’t needed today, according to Curvy Kate.

What is the shape and appearance like?

The demi cups are smaller than my other bras, but that’s one of the reasons this bra is such a good buy. The cups sit low under tops, meaning you can confidently wear this bra with various different necklines. 

On first glance, this bra comes in a wide and varied range of nudes. But when I delved a little deeper, I was disappointed to find that the majority of the nude shades were still geared towards lighter skin tones. In fact, only one of the nude shades is shown on a black model on their website. Hopefully Victoria’s Secret will expand its range of nudes across the entire collection in the future. 

Let Us Help You

Finding a bra that fits well is tricky. Staffers at Wirecutter, the review site owned by The New York Times, spoke with a variety of experts, including lingerie shop owners, professional bra fitters and even a biomechanics researcher, to try to make sense of it all. Here are some tips and tricks they’ve learned in reporting about different kinds of bras. — Anna Perling

  • Most of a bra’s support comes from the band, and as such, the band should be snug. You want a few fingers’ worth (half an inch or so) of room at the back. If you can stretch a band farther away from your body, try a smaller band size. Fit the bra initially on the loosest setting so that you can tighten the band as the material stretches over time.

  • The band should sit parallel to the floor and not ride up. You can raise your hands above your head to check for fit here. If the band rides up, it may be too big, and if it feels uncomfortably tight, it could be too small.

  • Straps should be reasonably snug, not digging in or falling off. You can adjust the length accordingly.

  • Wires should not float off your chest, sit on the breasts or dig into your sides. If they do, try a larger cup size.

  • For underwire bras, the gore (the center piece joining the two cups) should lie flat on the center of your chest. If it’s floating off your body, your bra may be too big or too small (you can look for other fit signs to determine whether to size up or down), or you may just need to try a different style or brand.

  • Cups should contain the breasts evenly, without creating spillage or cutting into your sides or the top part of your chest. Gaping means you may need a different cup size or a smaller band size. Baggy or wrinkled cups are a sign that a bra is too big. Spilling over the top and sides means a cup is too small.

  • To make sure everything is sitting in your bra correctly, Iris Clarke of Iris Lingerie in Brooklyn recommends that you use the “scoop and swoop” technique. Once you have a bra on, lift a breast with your hand from the side, situating it in the cup and above the underwire, and then tuck or smooth the top of your tissue into the cup to let it settle. It sounds weird, but it makes a difference — breasts are dead weight, so you need to nudge them where you want them.

  • Because a person’s breasts can be of unequal size, Ms. Clarke suggests fitting based on your larger breast so that you aren’t spilling out of a cup.

  • For extra-tricky fits, some stores and tailors offer simple alterations for bra straps, bands or cups. Fees vary, so we recommend requesting a quote (or two).

A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.

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