The Truth About Cup Sizes

I don't know where it began. I don't know who started it. Was it in America? Probably. But there is something that has been weighing on my chest (no pun intended) and I need to get it off. A D-cup isn't really that big.

You heard me. In my years as a bra fitter, studying lingerie and generally as a bra wearer, the most common misconception I've heard about bra sizes is that a D cup is indicative of some real jugs when, in reality, it's definitely not.

This is problematic for a lot of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • It creates stigma around larger cup sizes- I've had many a woman who I've fitted into a G cup for example exclaim that there's no way because that's ENORMOUS when in reality it's probably what most people think of when you say DDs

  • It makes women who correctly wear a D cup or larger feel insecure about the fact that they don't look the way they've been told they're supposed to with that cup size

  • It makes it harder for women to gage what their cup size should be- if you see the image of a "DD" you're likely going to assume that could never be you which is probably a contributing factor as to why so many women in this country are in bras that are too small

  • It completely ignores the concept of the underband and creates the illusion that these measurements aren't as important as each other when in reality the underband measurement is SUPER important.

So, how do cup sizes actually work?

Well, the cup size is determined based initially on the underband measurement (this is the measurement of your ribcage right below your boobs) and is actually just a scale for the difference between that underband measurement and the measurement around the fullest area of your bust (usually around where the nipple sits). This measurement can be different between countries, companies, and styles which is why you might have one bra in a different cup size to another despite the band being the same- but a general sense of the way it works is as follows:

  • Bust 0 inches bigger than underband measurement- AA cup

  • Bust 1 inch bigger than underband measurement- A cup

  • 2 inches- B cup

  • 3 inches- C cup

  • 4 inches- D cup

  • Etc...

Now this sounds a lot but, if you think of them as two circular measurements, adding an inch to the circumference of a circle doesn't change it as much as you'd expect- it doesn't mean that your boobs sit out an inch from your ribs.

This can also be inaccurate based on the shape of your breasts which is why I would always recommend finding your size initially this way but then trying on bras to fit them properly and sizing up or down depending on need- I'll do another blog post about fitting a bra.

What does a D cup actually look like? This depends entirely on the band size. For example, a 28D would have a bust measurement (using the above example) of 32 inches while a 32D would have a bust measurement of 36 inches- it sounds proportionally similar but the reality is that they would have very different visuals. this is also how we end up with sister sizes- if someone is a 28D but needs to wear a 30 bra because of availability then they would need to reduce the cup size as the band increases, meaning that she would then wear a 30C or a 32B. Taking this into account you can understand the difference between a 28D and a 32D since the 28D would be a whole two cup sizes smaller if they were wearing the same band. On the other end of the scale, if a 32D were to somehow squeeze herself into a 28, she would be wearing a 28E.

In other words there is no set proportion for a D cup or any other cup in regards to visual breast mass- it all varies depending on other elements, so next time a petite girl says she is a D cup, maybe miss her with the "no you're not, your boobs are small" because, actually, she probably is.

So that's it. There are petite girls out there with smaller boobs who are F cups and there are girls out there with much larger seeming breasts who wear a C. Once you get a better idea of the visuals of each size like many of my bra fitting peers you can start accurately guessing cup sizes based on someone's frame but otherwise I can pretty much guarantee nothing looks like what you think it does. If all of this made sense to you then amazing, if not then go forth and be confused- just stop telling the girl with small boobs who claims she's a D that she's lying. She probably had a hard time believing it herself.

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