One of the first steps in bra making is determining your size. Of course, if your ready-to-wear bras fit you well and they are all around the same size, this may be a simple process for you – just go with the size that usually fits. But if you are looking to buy or make new bras because you are uncomfortable in your current size, or you want to check your size, it can quickly become confusing with a multitude of different processes for calculating your size that yield a variety of size recommendations.
The only way you can truly know your bra size for sure is to try on the bras you like and find the size that fits you best. When you are shopping for bras, this is easy. You can try on all the bras to see what fits you best and then buy only the ones that fit. When you are sewing your own however, the process of making several bras to find your size can be daunting. And yet, there is no other way to find just the right fit.
So why can’t we just measure our bodies and determine our bra size? I think this graphic does the best job of explaining why this is the case.
Each figure above has the same underbust, full bust and high bust measurements. Yet, as you can see, each figure is different. The location of those measurements as well as the distribution of curves and volume is very different from one figure to the next, yet a measurement-based bra size calculation would say they all wear the same size. Clearly, that is not true.
I see the same thing when I fit students in my workshops. I have fit hundreds of students and it is not unusual to see two people with the same measurements wearing different bra sizes.
The bottom line is that circumference measurements do not tell us anything about the shapes and curves underneath the measuring tape and with bra making, it is those very shapes and curves that we are trying to fit, with little to negative ease to boot! You can see what I mean in the image below.
There simply is no single measurement-based method that can accurately determine every person’s bra size. Every body underneath the measuring tape is unique.
So what should you do? Well, given the bra sizing challenge, I recommend starting by making the largest ready to wear size that fits you well. If you have a 38DD and 38G bra in your drawer, start by making the 38G. After looking at the fitting data from hundreds of students in my workshops, I find this approach works well. (We actually just updated our sizing guidance page based on our recent analysis of all of our in-person fittings - stay tuned for the blog post about this update!).
If you need some help sorting through all of this, we are available to help you figure out what size to start with, just send us an email with your measurements and ready-to-wear size.
If you want to test multiple bra sizes before sewing a complete bra (always recommended), we have two posts on how to test bra size, a fast way and a more thorough way. Both involve some sewing but do not require making a complete bra and both will help you find a starting point for your next bra. The important thing is to just get started!
Happy bra making!