Australia’s Lingerie Blog for Women D Cup and Up

Myth No.1 – For your bra size use a tape measure

Bra Tape Measure

“A tape measure cannot measure volume, so it is essential that anyone advising women on wearing the correct fitting bra learns how to assess and fit without a tape measure”. Lindsey Brown

A tape measure is useful for measuring lengths, widths and even circular objects, but using a tape to measure a breast simply doesn’t make sense.

Mystery shopping, global research, listening, fitting schools and everything else we could find to educate us on bra fitting was our life before opening Brava Lingerie.

The fitting schools we attended were run by the major suppliers and they all taught bra fitting using a tape measure and even in the classroom environment it was very rarely accurate. Measuring the bust using a tape measure was like measuring a jug of milk with a ruler!

In no time we knew that employing a tape measure to find a woman’s bra size just didn’t add up. There are so many variations, including breast firmness, nipple positioning, whether they are inhaling or exhaling, menstrual cycle, the broadness of their back and a plethora of other factors.

There are a few reasons why bra fitters may still use tape measures:

  • Because they don’t have the conviction to fit by sight
  • They believe it gives the customer more confidence, whether it works or not
  • It’s what they’ve always done

A confident, experienced bra fitter can look at a woman and nearly always know her bra size. We ask our customers what bra size they have already been wearing to give us a starting point. Quite often, we then fit the size we think she is because once she understands how comfortable and supportive the right bra can feel, the actual cup size becomes less of an issue.

CASE STUDY – We road tested the measure guides on various websites to find out how accurate they are. The result was horrifying; no wonder so many women are in the wrong size bra!

Rachel and myself are both bra fitters and are 10F, in some bras Rachel will fit into a 10FF. The results from six international and reputable websites are below:

Rachel 14C, 14C, 14C, 14B, 14D, 14G

Maxine 10C, 12A, 12A, 10C, 10D, 12F

Not even close. It doesn’t make sense, does it? We are both a size 10 band, so why are they calculated so differently? I can’t really answer that, but maybe it’s got something to do with…rounding off to an even number… adding 5 inches… subtracting the band size from the cup size… and the complexities go on. You have got to be kidding! The sites suggest using these measurements as a guide, but my God, how can being told I am a 12A be any kind of guide?

Anyone who looks at Rachel and me together would never guess we are the same bra size. Rachel is 13 years younger and hasn’t had children, so she is a lot fuller and looks bigger than I do. I’m over 40, I breastfed my child and I run long distances. It seems reasonable that our bodies, and our needs, are different enough for us to suit very different styles of bra. There are so many factors that determine which bra size and style will suit you. If you use these ‘bra calculators’ you will need to go down one or two band sizes and up 3-4 cup sizes to be anywhere close to your true size.

Lin is 10GG and sometimes wears a 8H. Similar sites came up with 14E, 12B, 12C, 8DD, 14F & 12D.

None of this suprises us now and just last week a lovely woman entered our store wearing a 20D bra…we fitted her into a 12JJ bra. It was as if she had lost 10kg because her bust was lifted which showed off her long torso, she looked amazing and walked out smiling broadly with a confidence she had never felt in her whole adult life.

I read on another blog recently a woman who said “the bra fitter didn’t fit me correctly because she didn’t use a tape measure”. My advice to this woman is the next time you walk into a bra shop and the fitter does not use a tape measure, take that as a sign of experience.

One of a handful of people worldwide to have a Masters Research Degree in Bra Design and Manufacture plus a MA in Contour Design and Manufacture ~ Distinction, Lindsey Brown runs bra fitting courses in the UK and teaches to fit by eye, without a tape measure. She says The body is elastic, whereas a tape measure is static. A tape measure cannot measure volume, so it is essential that anyone advising women on wearing the correct fitting bra learns how to assess and fit without a tape measure“. Bravo to Lindsay!

Our preference is always to fit the individual but for those of you who cannot visit us and are trying to determine your size to buy online, we urge you to use the website fitting guides rather than the tape measurements or bra calculators or you could try the Brava bra fitting guide and if you are still struggling please contact us and we will try to help you.

5 Responses to "Myth No.1 – For your bra size use a tape measure"


  1. Mrs Slocombe says:

    My last bra fitting was more than 20 years ago when I had the pleasure of meeting ‘Mrs Slocombe’. She bristled and looked down her nose at me as she recommended a bra my nonna would reject. ‘Íts thé only one for you madam’, she said, making me feel like an elephant. Havent been fitted since then, Ive bought off the rack and looked OK but a bit saggy and not really comfortable. But I wasnt going through that again.

    I dont know if the ‘Mrs Slocombs’ still exist but I didnt meet any at Brava. I was greeted with a smile, no one was weilding a tape measure like a weapon and I loved the feeling in that shop. The first bra the fitter asked me to try on fitted perfectly, it was comfortable, uplifing and much prettier than the hidous things I have now thrown out. I reckon those girls know your size at 100 paces. Thank you Maria for taking me to Prahran, its a little oasis and the other shops in that area are just lovely. New bra, new dress, new woman.

    • The Bra Fitter says:

      ‘Are you being served’ yes I remember Mrs Slocombe well, but I imagine many of our customers under 40 will wonder who you are referring to. Bras and bodies have changed since then and so have our techniques. Thanks for the compliment but we don’t always get it right first go but because our fitters fit by eye they come pretty close. Yep the close by shops are lovely and you can also get a good coffee down the road at Spoonful.

  2. Sophie says:

    Thank you for the clarification. I wasnt suprised by the no-tape-measure method at Brava because I returned last year from London where I worked for 3 years and experienced the fit-by-eye method there. I have now visited Brava twice, the first time I needed a strapless bra for the spring racing season and the very first one I tried was perfect, in fact it is a great bra to wear with straps too.

    Then the scariest of all shopping expeditions was when I needed swimwear, I did put it off for a while but had to face up to it or not go on holiday (who could not go to the Whitsundays)!! With great guidance from the staff member at Brava I found a really flattering tankini and bikini that fitted my 14G frame amazingly well. I tried quite a few, some I would never have tried without the fitters recommendation and was pleasantly surprised by how supportive they are and how well designed for fuller busts.

    For me, the value of the product knowledge and the expert fitting of the staff there makes a trip to Prahran worthwhile and so far both visits have even been fun. Thank you for all your effort.

  3. Jen says:

    Never will I trust a tape measure carrying bra fitter again. I had a pretty ugly experience in a department store recently but thought I was just unlucky, but your research has confirmed what I sort of expected. We are all soooo different and our bodies are not made up of lengths and widths.

    I’ll vist Brava for the first time in the next month or so because I have heard from a number of colleagues that I can expect to meet real experts there – as well as discover a range of bras never before seen in Melbourne.

    Thank you for the information, really intereasting.

    • The Bra Fitter says:

      We look forward to seeing you Jen, but just to clarify a bra fitter carrying a tape measure could be a very good fitter, she could use the tape measure due to store policy or simply habit. But sounds like this wasnt the case for you which is a shame as it turns many women off getting another fitting. The point we are trying to make is that if your fitter does not use a tape measure its because she probably has the ability to fit by eye which is more effective.


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