Lately it seems all I can read about on lingerie blogs is the so-called ‘war on plus four’ – well, that and 50 Shades of Grey! So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, traditionally you were supposed to find your band size (that’s the number part of your bra size) by measuring under your ribcage, and then adding a 4 if it was even and a 5 if it was odd.
No matter where you looked – online bra calculators, women’s magazines, even bra-fitting ‘specialists’ in your local La Senza or Marks & Spencer – this was the method used, no questions asked.
Bras Get Stretchy
But then something happened… Lycra, wonderful Lycra, was invented. Actually, it was developed over half a century ago – by the 80s over half of all women’s lingerie had evolved to use Lycra for a perfectly contoured fit!
Bra measuring however did not keep up with bra manufacture. We’d gotten so used to the formulaic ribcage + four = bra size method, that it was crazy to suggest anything else might work.
Before Lycra, fabrics had less ability to ‘move’ with the body – there was less stretch and bra bands needed to be a little bit loose or you wouldn’t have been able to move around in them comfortably all day!
Modern bras on the other hand, can actually expand and contract with your body, so there’s no longer that need to wear a loose band. In fact, with pretty much all of the support in a bra coming from the band, you don’t want it loose at all!
Time for a Change?
So now we have Lycra we can change the bra sizing system, right? Well, not exactly. For starters, every woman has had ‘plus four’ drilled into her since she was a petite AA cup in her teens and most of them are reluctant to change, or simply don’t realise they’re wearing the wrong size.
Then there’s the problem of what to change it to; now that bra bands should be tighter, should we be adding just 2 inches instead? Nothing?
The problem is that ‘plus four’ still works for a lot of women. Lycra or no Lycra, this is the method they grew up with, and well, if the shoe bra fits…
So while for some girls adding a 2 instead of a 4 might work perfectly, for others they’ll end up worse off, not better. It makes sense really – if one formula works for some women but not others, why would replacing it with another formula magically solve the problem?
Your Real Bra Size
Well this is all well and good, I hear you say, but how do I measure my bra size now? Well, based on the discussions I’ve seen going on over at The Lingerie Addict, a few factors come into play:
Skinnier girls tend to need a looser band, because it’s going around your hard ribcage rather than anything soft and squishy, so stick to ‘plus four’. If you’ve got a fuller figure, use your actual under-bust measurement.
That said, skinny girls are not always flat chested, and full-figured is not the same as full-busted! The bigger your cup size the more support you’re going to need and as I mentioned, this comes from the band (no, not the straps – unless you want them seriously digging in!) so you’ll need it tighter. If you’re a DD or above, try adding a 2 or nothing at all.
Trial And Error
Of course, this is just a guide. Once you’ve got this measurement, get out there, pick some sexy bras off the shelf and try them on! If it’s not quite right, take it up or down a band size as needed and experiment until you’ve found a bra that fits you perfectly.
As lingerie blogger Invest in Your Chest points out, poor old ‘plus four’ can be a good starting point, but don’t take it as the Holy Grail of bra size fitting!
Susannah Perez is a total fashionista who can’t resist a gorgeous bra – a well fitting one that is! Occasionally she’ll put down her nail varnish and write a blog for 7Lingerie, online retailers of super sexy underwear!