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Bra Fitting Formulas: Is the "War on Plus Four" the Answer?

There's been a really heated debate happening on Twitter today, and though I usually try to stay out of these (almost nothing good comes out internet debates), this is one case where I feel genuinely compelled to offer an alternative point of view.

If you've not yet heard of it, The War on Plus Four is the brainchild of Busts4Justice, a UK-based lingerie blog that achieved worldwide fame when they protested Marks & Spencer charging more for DD+ bras. The group won their fight in 2008, and Marks & Spencer now offers only one price for all sizes (and rightly so, might I add).

While I wasn't around for that campaign, I am here for their latest one... the #waronplusfour.

The core argument of the War on Plus Four seems to be that the traditional bra fitting formula (namely take your underbust measure and add four) fails the vast majority of women, so the preferred approach is to take your underbust measure and purchase bras with that same band number. So, for example, instead of wearing a 34 band as I do now, I'd wear a 30 band or, at most, a 32 band.

There's only one problem though, the last time I tried a 32 band, the bra didn't fit. At all.

I don't want to come across like I'm deriding the War on Plus Four campaign, because I'm not. Bra fitting is an intensely personal subject, and, as such, it stirs a lot of intensely personal emotions. And I firmly believe that the more education there is around bra fitting, the better, and that includes giving women alternative methods for thinking about their bras and their bra size.

However, my biggest concern with the War on Plus Four is that it seems to want to switch out one formula for yet another formula, and that's disconcerting to me. While there are hundreds (and more likely, thousands) of women for whom the +4 formula doesn't work, there are just as many (like myself) for whom it does.

Yet when I've brought up my personal experience to others bloggers I respect and admire, like Invest in Your Chest and Butterfly Collection, I've been regarded as a bit of a unicorn. And when I've mentioned this issue on Twitter, I've had people insist I have no idea what I'm talking about and must be wearing the wrong size (I'm not, by the way. I was refitted last month and I'm still a 34 band). More than anything, I think it's that outright denial that concerns me. If the +4 method doesn't work for everyone, why would the +0 method work for everyone? And why would that be so hard to believe?

Though I haven't seen anyone address it yet, one of the things I have noticed is that the War on Plus Four seems to fall along full-busted and not-full-busted lines. In other words, most of the issues I've heard around the +4 measurement are coming from women with D cup breasts and higher. I asked Linda the Bra Lady about this on Twitter, and she was kind enough to share some of her 25+ years of experience with me. Most of it seems to boil down to this: bigger boobs require a tighter back.

By Baby's Rules, another lingerie blogger (and one I wouldn't have discovered without this conversation) also revealed that muscular women and thinner women often have to add inches due to larger lats and less cushion over the ribs.

Finally, Alicia from PJLingerie, reminded us there are other factors to keep in mind, such as breast shape, density, and so on.

All this tells me that the solution to an inaccurate rule isn't to develop  another inaccurate rule. Or as Amaryllis (who really does need to start a blog of her own... she's just that awesome) says:

Which is completely and 100% true.

Instead of coming up with a new rule that still won't fit every woman, why not focus on bra fitting education? While I'm lucky enough to live close to BelleFleur Boutique (where I got my last bra fitting) tens of millions of women aren't within driving distance of a decent lingerie store. And for tens of millions more, even when they do happen to be near a lingerie boutique, luxury lingerie is outside the reach of their budget.

But if a woman knows how the band is supposed to fit and how the cups are supposed to fit and how the gore is supposed to fit and so forth and so on, it won't matter if they're far away from a boutique or if their bra size changes or what brand they buy from because then the core knowledge will be there. And it may not be a 100% perfect fit, but a 95% perfect one is a better than none at all.

If there isn't a lingerie boutique in your neighborhood, Linda's Bra Fit Calculator has gotten rave reviews from women of all sizes, and I also like that she has a special Bra FAQ page to address common issues.

What do you think of the War on Plus Four?

Photo Credit: Top image via

Article Tags :
Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

81 Comments on this post

  1. Kath says:

    I measure 35″ underbust and 41″ at fullest part. M&S say I need 36F, ‘what’smybrasize’ say 40B, Triumph say 40D, and Berlei say 36F. ????? Surely if I measure 35″ I would buy the next nearest even number of 36″? Why are they suggesting 40″ band size when i measure 36″? I thought that the band had to be a snug fit. Also, the cup sizes I have been advised vary from B to F!! I am large busted, so B certainly wouldn’t contain my boobs. What am I to do?

  2. Jenna says:

    Hello! I’ve recently realized that I need to update that I need to update my Bra collection as most of my tried and true are getting worn. So I’ve been doing research on bra sizing, and what size should be right for me. When I first looked it up when I was buying a Bra nearly 8 years ago now, every site said the same thing; take your bust measure meant and your band measurement and subtract. The band measurement is your band size and the difference is your cup. I went with it and it worked. But now I am hearing about this +4 method which doesn’t make any sense to me and is generally confusing. What gets worse is that some stores follow it, and other’s don’t. On every site I go to, they all vary. Some use +4, others don’t. So where it really needs to start is consistency in bra manufacturing. Because at one store you might need a 34B, and at another a 38B, which is simply confusing and can simultaneously be damaging to self esteem and mental health issues.

  3. Charlene Frances Dryman says:

    Also, when I measured the band of the 42D, I got a measurement of 32. My new bra of 46D measures 36. How strange.

  4. Charlene Frances Dryman says:

    I have been wondering myself. I measure 42 x 51. I ordered a 42 bra and there was no way that would fit around me. So, I ordered a 46D. It is snug, but fits good. The cup is a D which I think I need a little bigger, so I have to get a DD. Now, 42 to 46 just happens to be 4 ins bigger, so that worked for me. Why? I don’t know.

  5. WarOnPlus4HeckYeah says:

    I’d be curious to know what the real band length was on that 32 band you tried, that didn’t fit. You say you are a 30″ measurement (I assume) underbust. But if the 32 bra you tried was made, and still intending to be sold to women measuring with the +4 system, then it would really only have a band about 28″ long and that would still leave you 2 inches short.

    The trick is to abandon the +4 system and only buy bras that are made to be fitted without that system. It’s true that some women claim +4 doesn’t work and some say it does. Abandoning +4 would be better, but only if EVERYBODY switched to that system at the same time, including all the bra makers. Until they do, you have no guarantee that buying a “32” bra will really have a 32 inch band.

    Getting rid of +4 allows everybody to size according to what a woman actually measures around her body. I can’t see how that is not an improvement.

  6. Patrícia says:

    I have read the article and many of the post.
    Most people here (if not all) know what they are talking about, and they all bring valid points. I would like to say that I agree that:
    – education on what is a “perfect fit” should be the priority.
    – What band to choose is not only dependant on the ribcage measurement, but also on the person’s body constitution and tightness preference.
    – Calculators and bra fitters sometimes suggest sizes, based on those they have available – which usually leads to a size with the same cup volume, but larger band size. And this is wrong, of course.
    – It’s always necessary to try on a bra to see if it fits, even if it’s our usual size.

    However, a lot of confusion and opinions on the issue may obscure something obvious, that few people have commented on here. We can’t ‘blame’ all the variety on either lies and on personal preferences. More than a question of personal preference on how tight a band should be, which most likely would make a +/- 1 variation, many times the issue will be: “Which manufacturer are we talking about”, because:

    – Different manufacturers follow different sizing systems.

    And I felt the need to state this since it’s always necessary to take this into account if we want an ‘accurate starting point’, independently on our personal preference.

    (I’m not talking about the difference between european, US/UK, italian….)
    Different manufacturers, which size their bras in US/UK sizes, follow different sizing systems.
    Some follow the +4, some not.
    It’s not a matter of tricking women into a wrong size, or a matter of tightness preference. It’s just a sizing algorithm.

    Taking the example of a women with a 28” ribcage measurement. It’s expected that a good fitting bra would have a band measuring around 28” length. This length will vary depending on the elasticity of the bra, of course.
    Some manufacturers, to fit that ribcage measure will label the band as a 32 (+4 system), and others as a 28. They’ll both have the same length, and are intended for the same women, but they label them differently.
    Now, the size she chooses will depend on her tightness preference. If she likes the band more loose, for example, she may go up a band size. She will be a 28 in some brands (no +4), and a 32 in others (the ones with +4 system). If she wants the band more loose, she’ll be a 30 or a 34, again, for brands without/with the +4 system.

    I can say that I have contacted some manufactures about the system they use, and indeed, some say they use the +4 system, and others that say that the band is directly the ribcage measurement in inches.

    I would like to back this up with personal experience, but I can’t (yet), since where I live I don’t have easy access to these brands we are talking about. But I intend to take it to the test soon. But I belive that many of you may have been fitted in many different brands, and would be able to comment on this with specific examples.

    Again, trying the bra on and knowing what a good fit, well..feels, it’s vital. But it’s good to have an accurate starting point, and for those cases where women need to buy online, this is even more important. Disregarding the system each manufacture uses would lead to a big difference in sizing, a much bigger difference than any personal preference, inside a good fit, would lead.

  7. Evie says:

    +0 is a starting point. You aren’t adding four either – you’re adding 2 – and some women subtract two. Far more women will land in the right “ballpark” (within one band size) with +0 than with +4.

  8. Ashley says:

    I know a lot of people don’t like VS but I’m much happier with their bras than any other place, I have a bra from their that’s almost 15 years old and still supportive and beautiful, I want to throw it away out of principle but there’s no reason to. Anyways, they’ve ALWAYS fitted me at 34D and I have a 33″ underbust and 37″ inches plus boobs. Sometimes more “mature” bras don’t fit me in 34D. I think VS bras run a little small which is what I need, I think of myself as a small D or 34C and a half. I have a 32DD from there, it fits great on small days but I spill out when my boobs are at their fullest. The worst fitting bras for me that almost fit are 36C. I lived in Japan for a little bit and finding bras was real hard and I bought a 36C out of desperation and it’s the worst fitting bra I’ve ever owned. I do buy 34C in sports bras but that’s because I like a lot of support.

  9. Emma Parker says:

    Aside from our brand Playful Promises we also manufacture for some much better known high street stores in the UK what are called ‘private label’ products (ie we manufacture with their labels). From the rigorous fit process, on fit models, what I noticed matches what Linda in the article said – bigger boobs generally feel happier in bras with tighter backs. Most high street stores at least in the UK do +4 for smaller cup sizes BUT not for larger cups sizes. We essentially develop two bra patterns – one for 32-36A-D back and then one for 32-38DD+ backs.

    There will always be some people that don’t quite fit this way of developing bras – like someone with boobs that are particularly large for a small frame but not particularly a big cup size may feel better not in a +4 bra but on the whole this way of splitting sizing and pattern development works fairly well.

    So from where I am sitting it seems both ways of developing bras are correct and have their place.

    Emma (Playful Promises)

  10. Jans says:

    Weighing in just as a regular girl whose sole experience is in her own shopping trials and errors, I’ve never found the +4 system to work… my smallest it would have put me in a 36 band size (when i was 115lb soaking wet) and it currently wants me in a 38 band, which quite frankly, I could probably pull all the way up over my breasts into my armpits while still done up! Online lingerie store calculators are putting me in a 38C when my 34DD are fitting me quite well, and at 10lb lighter I actually move down into a 32….

  11. Rachel says:

    I definitely agree-not every method works for every shape. +1 is the best I can do, with a 27 in rib cage and 38-38.5 bust, but if they made 26HH/Is or Js (UK sizing) they’d probably fit me better, depending on cut. I usually wear a 28H/HH UK size. Everyone is built differently, so it really just depends.

    HOWEVER, I do feel I should point this out-I tried the bra calculator you linked to, and it said it couldn’t find my bra size. I believe it is convinced my breasts do not exist, which is definitely not the case. Lol. Perhaps it needs a reformulation? I see the size is available at her shop, but the calculator appears to be confused. I know it isn’t something you created, just pointing it out.

  12. Bonnie Malmat says:

    None of this would be a bit deal if manufacturers would STANDARDIZE their sizes. Then I could figure out my size in a store by trying on bras and seeing what fit best.

    Online shopping would be a dream after that, instead of the risk that it is. I’ll buy beautiful bras based on some site’s calculator for their bras, only to find that they don’t fit properly. It ends up being too expensive to ship them back and try again, so the bras go in the drawer to die.

    It’s too bad because there are pretty bras online – and what’s in most stores, frankly, sucks. I’d love pretty non-underwire bras, but good luck with that in the usual department stores.

    • Cora says:

      Hmmmm…when you say standardize their sizes, do you mean a 34C in every single brand fitting one single breast shape?

      While I do empathize with the desire for more standardization, I also see a downside to it. If every single bra brand only fit women with my type of bust profile, for example, lots of other women would be left out. The trial and error portion of bra fit is, well, trialsome, but it’s also necessary because brands are trying to address a variety of bust shapes, bust sizes, and fit concerns. I just tried a couple of bras from Panache, and they don’t work at all for me, but other people love that brand. A standardized fit would make those kinds of personal preferences impossible.

  13. Windie says:

    I appreciate this post a lot right now. While I know the “war on +4″s origin was one that wanted to get rid of calculators and emphasize fit education, I have seen rather dogmatic attitudes about what constitutes proper fit while reading about fitting online, or seeing how some react to those who claim to get a good fit by adding inches (and I admit that when my blog was young and I was just recently introduced to lingerie/fitting, I may have unwittingly perpetuated some of these attitudes myself). However, as my bust shrinks I find I need to add inches for a comfortable fit. Technically, I’m using +4 right now (26″ ribcage, often 30” bands). I know that the origin of War on Plus Four on Busts for Justice was completely reasonable, but in the hands of many, many people, some issues have risen. Thanks for addressing the topic.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for your comment, Windie. I agree, it’s the dogmatic attitude which is a problem. If +0 works best for someone, that’s awesome, and I’m so glad they’ve found a fit method that’s appropriate for their body. That’s a completely different thing from insisting that a single method works for every woman though, or worse yet, implying that certain types of bodies don’t exist or what some women are too stupid to know what feels good on their bodies. I haven’t seen these issues as much in the past few months, though, so I’m hoping the pendulum has swung in the other, more body positive, direction now.

  14. Evie says:

    It might have been useful to actually read the “War on plus four” manifesto on Busts 4 Justice. You would have seen this:
    “Q: Isn’t the War on Plus Four just replacing one arbitrary rule with another?

    A: No. The War on Plus Four isn’t a case of +0 vs +1. We want +4 calculators to be abolished and replaced with clear, visual guides to help women recognise their perfect fit. Where numbers are insisted on, we suggest a neutral +0 starting point, with high emphasis on using that as a base from which to find your perfect fit – be it +0, +2, +4 or even -1.”

    • Cora says:

      Hi Evie,

      That manifesto was published after this blog post. In the comments section, Beckie (the founder of Busts4Justice) actually says she intends to write a manifesto as a response to this article.


  15. sher says:

    If you’re buying a bra from a company that uses the plus 4/5 thing, of course taking away the 4 won’t fit. If the company doesn’t make their bands 4 inches smaller than the number it assigned to the band size, it’s obviously not going to work.

    • Evie says:

      You might think so, sher, but that’s false. Nearly every company gives “plus 4” info in their size chart, and these bras are (more or less) the same as those from companies that don’t. If +0 works for you in one brand, it’s a good starting point for finding a bra in another brand, regardless of what their size chart says.

  16. Caitlyn says:

    I’ve actually found that I have to decrease from my measurement for my band to fit properly so I’m 34DD rather than 36DD. Just goes to show you that it’s definitely different for everyone.

  17. Andrea says:

    I also am frustrated by companies telling all women to add inches. It may work for some but not all, and they should say so. And some like Playtex added more than 4. Even if you account for them still making bras for the add inches method, their suggestion for me was still wrong. The calc said I was 40B/C, but I have a couple Playtex bras 36DD that sort of fit but not the best. The band is barely bigger than I like (especially since it stretches). 40 would be way too big. Olga bra site calculator suggests I wear 38B/C. I’ve tried on their bras, closest to ‘right’ fit I’ve found with them is 36DD or 38D.

    My rib cage is 32″, 31.5″ if more snug, full bust is 40″ or 40.5″ (being a bit conservative). Linda’s online calc recommends 32H (I think in US). Butterfly Collection recommends (UK) 32GG on their calc, but 32G UK was suggested after I filled out a form for fitting help. Curves and Corsets site suggests 32G (I think UK). They may not be correct absolutely, I know measuring and calculators aren’t substitute for trying on. But I think those are closer to correct than most others. Also, part of the problem IS trying on bras. Many people like me, usually need to order online. Means waiting longer, if bra doesn’t fit needs to be returned/ exchanged which means you pay more shipping fees. Or you might try to resell the bra. If you live by specialty store, prices are higher than regular stores. Also some people tend to be shy about going there.

    I acknowledge that not everyone can be pleased everywhere or always. But it would be nice to have a little more variety and selection, at least in US. U’ve heard that Wonderbra UK goes up to about G cup, but US Wonderbra only goes up to D I think. Maybe they think bigger cups don’t ‘need’ enhancing but it would still be nice to have easier access to cute, pretty bras in a bigger size.

    Also I’m aware that bras aren’t the only garment/ clothing with limited sizes. It’s hard to find larger socks for women, like if your shoe size is 11 (again talking about US). My mom has that shoe size and most socks only fit up to shoe size 10. If she finds any for larger they tend to be wrong style or cut. She’s also tall so it’s hard to get pants right length- and if they’re long they might be too long. Department store JCPenney recently stopped carrying bigger size socks and a certain brand/ style of jeans in both tall and short. They also don’t have larger bra cups in stores; only online and usually not small bands.

    Anyway my point is that anyone outside the ‘norm’ is out of luck or has to work hard to find what they need. But most of the time, men have a wide variety of sizes and lengths like in pants. I don’t get that either.

  18. k8 says:

    Even with professional fitters, I have found that there’s little rhyme or reason to bra sizes. The fitters I have gone to for help have always put me in bras that are a cup size or two too small (I’m a full cup larger on one side, so maybe that’s the problem). Most bra size calculators put me at a 36B or A, which is absurd. My ribcage measures about 31 or 30 inches and my full chest circumference is about 37 inches. I find that most 34 bands dig into my arm pits in unpleasant ways and ride up my back, and 32s are a bit tight. I recently bought some 32 DDDs which are the closest a bra has ever come to fitting well, the only problem is that they dig into my back after a few hours, but I’m hoping they’ll just stretch out eventually. If I were wealthy, I’d get mine custom made, but until then…I have found that Chantelle makes bras that are pretty reliably well made and well sized, they just happen to cost about 80 bucks, so be prepared to shell out some dough.

  19. Norma says:

    What a great conversation to be having! Bottom line is we are unique and no one sizing rule is going to apply to all bodies.

    Also, thank you to Bybabysrules for mentioning the needs of muscular women! The effect on bra size is so often overlooked.

  20. Anonymouse says:

    I think the +0 method works best for heavier set women due to the flexibility of adipose tissue. I’m a tightlacer, and it’s quite well known that larger set women will see more significant reduction in their waists and are able to wear corsets more comfortably than thinner women.

  21. Melissa says:

    So I was excited about not adding 4 to the band size because it means a 38 B/C, the size I’ve always worn, is right rather than the 42AA I measured as before (only exists for mastectomy patients.) So maybe this system works but mostly for plus size women in general (I’m 5’10” and wear a US 1X, so at the thin end of plus.)

    I think the key to finding the right bra at the end of the day is using the measuring tape as a starting point and then trying on a range of sizes until one is perfect. I think all this hype about 80% of women wearing the wrong size bra has made the measuring tape a god. Every woman goes to get measured and figures even if the measuring tape dictates some ridiculous size (like 42AA) it must be right since we can’t trust ourselves anymore. Knowing what a good fit looks like renders that tape useless. Stop looking at sizes and keep trying until one fits.

  22. mfelia says:

    Hi I’m a member of polish brafitting community. I’ve given some thought to a “war on plus 4” issue and I’d like to share my conclusions with you.
    I see the problem from quite a different angle, as in Europe there’s no plus 4 method. American 30 and 32 are in Europe named 65 and 70, and these sizes according to traditional charts should fit women with approximately 65cm (25.6 inch) and 70 cm (27.6 inch) underbust.
    So, for us it appears that band 30 (65) was constructed to fit a 65 cm ribcage. And, in my opinion, it would be best if it actually did.
    A couple of years ago when our community started functioning we discovered that bands are too stretchy to give enough support when fitted according to charts. So we devised a method of lowering the band size in order to get the support we needed. For instance, a person with 28 inch ribcage was advised to try a 30 or 28 band for the start.
    However, no one has ever thought that this should be the right and only method to fit a band. That’s why we’ve tried to convince producers to construct tighter bras, whose bands would be more “real” (which means that 30 (65) is suitable for someone with 65cm ribcage, and 32 for someone 70cm). The result are products of polish companies such as Ewa Michalak, Comexim and Onlyher.
    British brands such as Panache and Freya have started to produce more “real” bands, as well. At least when compared to those from 4-5 years ago :)

    Now i”ve got almost exclusively 32 bands for my 29,1 inch ribcage. And I’m no exception as more and more women in our community settle for their “chart” band size.
    Whereas, according to +0 method my default band size is 28 (60cm), which is much too tight for me (even in excessively stretchy bras) and which I wouldn’t like to wear as it’s designed to fit someone with a smaller chest (a bra is not only a band! there are also cupa, and they should be set differently in different sizes!)
    Anyway, as I see it, what should be our goal are “real” bands that fit the measurements indicated in the +4 chart. “War on plus 4” should really be a “war on stretchy, unsupportive bands”

    After all, originally, the “plus four method” was not intended to make women wear too big bands. It was created to simplify cup naming. When you add 3 or 4 inches to your underbust measurement the difference between your bust and underbust is respectively 1,2,3 …. inches for A, B, C… cups. So a 32 band is really designed to fit a 28-29 inch frame, not 32 inch!

    Gosh.. this text came up lengthy… Sorry for that. I hope that at least it’s comprehensible.

  23. Ksenia says:

    Neither works for me, I have a small ribcage and wide dense protruding boobs (8 inches bust to ribcage).

    By +4, I would be a 34FF, by +0, I would be a 30G, by Linda’s calculator, I’m a 30H. I can’t wear a 34, last time I did it was so small I couldn’t fasten it, I can’t into my 36C anymore. The 30H size just has the lowest and flattest looking cups I’ve ever seen, not what I want in a bra.

  24. Chelsea says:

    Please excuse me if I’m repeating anyone, because there were far too many comments on this popular subject for me to read them all. :) If you wear a 34 B/C and you state that the plus for system works for you, then you lucked out. You are the winner of the sizing system. Lol. I too have a 30 inch underbust, but the plus four system doesn’t work for me at all. I’m curious to know your across the bust measurement. I have seen a lot of charts online that say add four to underbust and subtract the across measurements. Then they give the various cup sizes depending on what the difference is. My underbust is 30 inches, and I measure 36 inches across the largest part of my breasts. Many charts tell me to wear the same size as your 34 B, but they don’t fit at all. Then I was finally introduced to sister sizing. My band width was too loose on the 34 B, so I go down a band size and up a cup size. Because of how the measurements work, the cup is actually exactly the same at a 34B and a 32 C. I don’t think there is going to be a formula to fit everyone, but if everyone was educated about sister sizing it wouldn’t matter. You can use the plus four system just fine, as long as you are aware that if your band size isn’t fitting, you need to go up a cup size for every band size you go down, and you go down a cup size for every size you go up in the band. I hope this is helpful to those of you who, like me, struggled when the sizing experts were giving you bras that didn’t fit. :D

    • Chelsea says:

      Anothef important thing to remember is that you should ideally be wearing the bra on it’s loosest setting when you first buy it so that you can tighten it as it stretches over time. When wearing that 34 B that was prescribed to me it didn’t always fit terribly. It fit okay when I first bought it, but it would only fit on the tightest hook which means I couldn’t tighten it over time and it stopped fitting. 36 A, 34 B, 32 C, and 30 D will all have the exact same cup. Sister sizing is pretty useful to know. Just sayin’.

  25. Kelli says:

    Thank you for speaking up about this! Plus 4 exists because it works for a lot of people…even for larger busted women. I am a 34F in UK sizes / 34G in American even though my ribcage only measures 29.5 inches. I am repeatedly told by any bra fitter with actual training (i.e. not VS, where they measure over top of a good bit of breast tissue and pronounce me a 36) that my band has to be too big. But the reality is, with the exception of Freya, who are notorious for bands that run big, and ASOS, which tends to use really cheap, stretchy materials, I can’t even get a 32 fastened…and supposedly I’m a 30. I spent the entire day today in a 34F strapless that I didn’t have to readjust once, so clearly I am not wrong about my band size and it is supportive enough, even though I have a large bust. Also, I find Linda’s bra calculator laughable. It puts me in a 30K. I’m not sure if that is American or British, but either way it is way, way, way off. Also, according to her UK to US sizing conversions, a US K is actually larger than a UK K cup. As someone who wears funky, larger than DD sizes, I assure you that the opposite is true. I just wish women were better educated on how a bra should really fit. If you know that, you can find the right size without ever picking up a tape measure…though this is harder when your local department store doesn’t carry your size, or only has a handful of ill fitting styles in it. Perhaps this is why the large busted ladies get more militant about sizing advice…because they are the ones at home on the computer trying to figure out and order the correct bra size with nothing but a tape measure to go by.

  26. firefly says:

    I think this is right you just have to try them on until one fits. I wear a 28G and this fits perfectly but my actual rib cage measurement is 24inches but should i actually find a very rare 26 band bra although it does up fine it does tend to poke into my ribs and ache at the end of the day so 28 is better.

  27. Anne says:

    Thank you for writing this article! I was truly getting SO frustrated with trying to figure out WHY the bra calculators wanted me in 42 band when I only measure about 38in around. I am currently in a 36DDD and while the band fits like a charm, the cups are too small. A 38 is uncomfortably loose on me, so a 42 would certainly be huge.

    I am desperately trying to find a place where I can get good quality bras in a size that would fit me without spending a small fortune. Lane Bryant doesn’t make anything that would fit me because I’m no longer “plus sized” enough for them. That’s depressing.

  28. UpliftMaximizationTechnician says:

    I would prefer it if my clients let go of numbering and sizing systems entirely. The variables in fit from style to style, company to company….are…too numerous to list. It’s far too confusing for anyone who isn’t a fitter and who doesn’t have access to a very wide variety of brands. See my reply in Treacle’s Intimacy Atlanta Lingerie review where I merely scratch the surface of some of these variables.

    In my fittings, I often ask “what’s your body saying”? I can talk until I’m blue in the face about what the correct size should be, but ultimately, it’s my customer who has to wear the damned thing! So you’ll be sure I’ll be asking for that kind of feedback. A correct fit is all about how it feels. Sometimes, the “new feeling” of a new size can be pretty weird, if you’re used to the “old feeling”, and I am respectful of this. What one woman feels may be completely different from what another woman feels for a number of reasons.

    I often ask my clients what they do for a living. This is a significant part of choosing the right style and size. If she is a mom who is picking up and picking up AFTER several small children, I’m not putting her in a demi cup bra for every day, otherwise she’ll be likely be constantly stuffing her breast back into the cup. I work with EMT’s and nurses. They need strong bras with good coverage and a firm fit. I don’t want my nurse to be worrying about her bra riding up or injuring herself with popped wires while she’s giving me CPR! Women who are seated at desks need wires that don’t bite in the ribcage, and clearance in the arm so that they may reach forward to type at their computers. All my theater technician friends and ladies in construction wear extra supportive sport bras at work. I have a client who is a commercial pilot. She wears only supportive, comfortable, non wired soft cups when in the cockpit. Older women and senior citizens, those with mobility issues often require softer materials and more gently fit backs.

    Women with medical concerns, sternum placement, body fat percentage, etc…each thing is a different wild card that cannot be factored into one formula.

    I just wish women would focus less on “what size” and more “how it feels”.

    So my answer is, there is no simple equation to determining size. We are all different, beautiful and unique.

  29. June says:

    My apologies if this has been states above in the comments but something I wanted to point out. I think the shape of a women’s ribcage matters a lot when it comes to the difference between your underbust size and band size. For instance, my natural waist is larger than my underbust so my torso is the shape of a triangle more or less. While my underbust measures 29″ (so I should be between 28 and 30 bands), I HAVE TO go down to 28’s because 30’s are absolutely huge on me. I believe the problem is, is that because my midsection increases as I go down it’s hard to get a high enough measurement for my underbust.

    I imagine your case would be the opposite, possibly your ribs widen significantly from your underbust, hence, the reason you have to go up so much.

    However, I still would argue that using 0+ is probably the best starting point in terms of bra manufacturing. If you’re wearing 32’s or 34’s you’re squarely in the range that most bra manufacturers cater to. However, for those us of at with small backs (and that’s a big chunk of the population from the preliminary results of my underbust survey: ) are completely sized out with the current 4+ (or 5/6) methodology. Very, very few brands carry in the 28 band range or small. However, so far what I’ve seen in my survey is that many, many women need that range. Certainly, on an individual level some of us will need to go up or down but starting at 0+ is going to give a better first shot than 4+.

    Another thing I want to point out… offering smaller bands makes it easier to get a vague idea of cup size. If you start at your 0+ band size (and especially if you need to order all your bras online like I do) then at least you can check the cup size well using a bra extended, if if the band is too tight. However, if you’ve order a bra that is 4+ it can easily appear to have the cups fit when they are really too small (even one band size off can make cups appear to fit when they’re too small for me).

    I also think that part of the problem is how much spandex they’re putting into bras these day. The stretch in them in unbelievable and I question how that affect durability. It also makes sizing an issue because depending on how stretchy the band itself is (and what materials are used) the same cut of band can fit a different underbust entirely.

  30. I can honestly say I’ve never heard about the war on +4….Quite honestly, I’m bra size stupid, which makes me tend to agree with you here Treacle: Woman like myself NEED more education when it comes to bra sizing.

    I can tell you I’ve been fitted at Victoria’s Secret once or twice in the past and as soon as I went along with their guidelines, the bra I bought didn’t fit! Seriously, how does that work!?

    Now I tend to buy what feels right, but I would really love to know the science behind selecting the perfect bra as well.

  31. Karolina says:

    I don’t know if there’s anything left to say that hasn’t already been said in all of these comments, still thought I’d throw my thoughts in… I’m glad you posted this article. I don’t think there’s any right ‘formula’ for bra fitting and anywhere that offers a fitting service should be made to realise that – a tape measure isn’t the most accurate tool. I’ve been told by different places that my size is a 34A and others a 28DD – pretty clear disceprencies. It doesn’t help that there’s no standardisation in terms of size from bra to bra – I know certain brands have inches worth of difference just between different styles.

  32. Susan says:

    this has been an important topic for my daughter and myself for years because the current measuring technique doesn’t work for either of us. The problem I find is that each manufacturer has their own standard of measure. When I get fitted they bring me several bras in different brands and say let’s see which brand fits you. If you get a good fit stick with that brand. For years I couldn’t find a single bra that fit me. A fitting consisted of a clerk in the lingerie department bringing me a bra and say try this one. Sometimes they would bring me a large basket of various ones and say see if one of these fits. I had it with the lingerie departments. Then I heard you should be fitted once a year and now it’s twice a year. I found one bra that fit me last year and the next time I went in to get another one it fit completely different. So I had to go hunting all over again. I think the problem is with the manufacturers of lingerie. It doesn’t help that so many women have in plants that change the shape of the designers bras. Now they are all made for perfectly round boobs and not the normal shaped ones which is another topic. Because we’re all shaped differently. And yes AlexaFerrie, I do have the same problem. I finally tried some very expensive brands and they fit well but who has the money. Even companies like Wacoal don’t make all 36’s fit the same way. There must be a better way. If they came up a standard measurement procedure all the manufacturers would have to follow the same way. Then we would have garments that fit. It’s so chaotic right now I hate to shop for bras. Glad you brought this up. It’s nice to know we all have some sort of issues with this topic. My measurements haven’t change in the last few years and yet the size that I ‘m told I should be wearing doesn’t come any where near fitting me. They’re way too big.

  33. Catherine says:

    I’m going to go off on a complete tangent and whine about the language used. A war? really? Has anybody died? Are there some lethal side-effects to badly sized bras that no-one has told me about, or is it just that if you wear the wrong size it can look odd/wrong for current trends and be uncomfortable, cause some pain and end up with you smacking yourself in the eye when you go jogging?

    Also it’s all very well saying companies should just admit that they only do limited sizes, but the reality is that people get really stroppy about it, hence my million screen explanation including badly drawn graphs.

  34. AlexaFaie says:

    I find this a tough argument. Whilst its fine to say “oh just pick the size of your underbust and wear that size” this won’t work if the company you are buying from uses the old plus 4 rule. Because a 32 band will invariably be 28″ not 32″. So if you picked a 28 band because that’s what your underbust measurement actually is, it would actually give you a bra with a 24″ measurement. So the only way this would work is if the manufacturers make their bra bands the size they are numbered.

    Another thing I’ve found is that no matter what I get measured, I can only wear a 32 band. Over the past year or so I’ve increased in cup size from a 32C to a 32D and am now a 32DD. Now normally the rule is if you go up a cup you go down a band size, but the 30 is too tight. Often the bra fitters want to keep me in the same cup, but put me up a band size. But a 34 is always too loose even on the tightest fitting. Wherever I buy bras from I have to have a 32 band size and then I change the cup from there. I wore a 32 when my underbust was 27″ (tighter was uncomfortable on my ribs with no padding) and now my underbust is 30″ and yet the 34 band is too loose still.

    The thing I’m finding most annoying at the moment when it comes to purchasing bras is that most retailers seem to think that a 32DD is a huge size needing tons of support. Its not that big, I wear UK8 or UK10 tops and both fit fine. My bust measurement is 36″-37″ (depending on time of month). Not that big really. And yet the cups on the majority of 32DDs are far too big at the sides. My bust supports itself quite well and is more full in the middle than the sides. I also have a short torso. Many of the 32DD bras (as opposed to the 32Ds) are cut so high up under my arms that they are just uncomfortable. I tried an E cup and that’s even worse – far too wide. Can’t go down to a D, that’s too tight and I spill out. Its just that they are solid up too high – I need the cup to be lower and for the straps to be more central – a lot of the straps are too close to my shoulders and my underarms to be comfortable. I don’t need wide bands at the side. It hurts :( I have found that there is just the ONE style of bra (cup shape and so on) which fits me right. Balcony doesn’t work as that makes my boobs look like empty sacks on top LOL. Too much padding doesn’t work. I have to have a mild plunge style. With the underwires at centre front close together – any space in between is too much space. I now have 2 bras which fit me. And they don’t have any more of that style in my size left :( Most comfortable bra I’ve had for years and years and there were only 2 of them.
    Anyone else have this issue?

    • Little Bear says:

      Thanks Treacle for a very informative blog – I live in Northern Europe and just found your blog. As a naturally curvy girl, I am on the look out for good bras all the time… and they are quite scarce here nearby the polar circle…

      AlexaFaie, yes, I have the same issue!

      I am short, with a short torso, narrowish shoulders and back, but with an ample cup area – currently about UK size 32F. The “puppies” are sitting naturally tight together, there’s no flat space between them.

      No cleavage problems :-D but difficult to find a bra.

      Most bras look funny on me and feel like some medieval torture devices.

      The only bra type I find is suitable is this:
      – no padded or moulded cups, U-shaped wire (not the wide “smiley face” width),
      – classic full cup or mild plunge
      – shoulder straps centered
      – wider band at the sides or at least the fabric to offer support
      – bit between the cups needs to be narrow both horizontally and vertically
      – cup needs to be deep

      You know the French actually call the big cups “deep cups” – see, for you and me, we need more depth than width.

      And were to find such bras?

      Well, it seems like looking for the Holy Grail (as one male friend described my lingerie shopping). They used to make them, but now the market does not cater anymore for women with naturally big breasts, which earlier seemed to mean overweight elderly ladies (hence the idea of wide backs and wide wires and beige dentelle), now the big cups seem made for young women with wide shoulders and silicone breasts to be “put on show” (hence wide-set shoulder straps and wide bit in the middle and garish balconettes).

      There are some differences from one label to another. I have found that French bras have been the best for me – unfortunately, they do no make a lot of large cups and some labels have jumped on the “silicone bandwagon”.

      I’ll post the links to some bras which have been good for me, first one full cup, second plunge:

      Nice brands, but newer styles have not been as good for me and I need to get them from France and they do not come cheap. And as my cup size went up, there even less choice… In British bras, I think the only good fit was a Fauve bra many years ago. What is your view on Fantasie? Some “deep” girls like Marlies Deckers, a Dutch brand, but I have not tried on any of their bras.

    • Ashely says:

      Oh that’s so strange, I’m a 34D, 33″ underbust and 37″ bust (buy mostly VS, because they fit me the best, other companies rarely ever fit me right) but I love balconet bras and hate plunge bras. I was reading boob shape is just as important as size for buying bras. In fact, balconet bras are almost the only bra’s I buy. Also, I’ve always bought bras at VS and they have never used +4 when sizing me, I actually just read about it an hour ago for the first time. Makes sense why the more “mature” bras don’t fit me though, I’ve always tried them on but never bought one because they fit me so poorly. They clearly are using some strange system to size their bras that no one else is, or they just don’t care about shape or other women have a different idea of comfort than I do. (I feel like the only woman obsessed with sports bras and WANTING unlined with underwires!)

  35. Sundal says:

    p.s. just tried linda’s calculator and it’s spot on, that is the size i wear.

  36. Laura says:

    Bra sizes irritate me so much. I have a 26 inch ribcage, and I currently wear a 28FF, which is far too loose in the band, and that size is hard enough to find. Also, the misconception that a D is enormous makes educating people about correct bra sizes difficult.

    • Treacle says:

      A ton of full bust bloggers I know recommend Ewa Michalak, who’s able to custom make bras in your size. She’s gotten rave reviews for both her fit and her price –

    • Bybabysrules says:

      I am in the same situation, I also have a 26 inch ribcage. It makes things hard. I always looking for a tight 28 band. In addition to Ewa, I’m watching the Big Bra Bar which may do a 26 in their up coming season. There is talk of Panache doing a trial run in spring 2013. We will get our bras soon!

    • jess says:

      Are you wearing Freyas by chance? I’m a 27 ribcage and recently realized that Freya has ridiculously stretchy, longer bands. Curvy Kate has tighter bands, and EM can go smaller. I’ve found that EM’s 65/30 bands are almost perfect for me, as they tend to run tight in some styles.

      • UpliftMaximizationTechnician says:

        For those in the under 28 back category who love a firmer fit, it is possible to make the band smaller on some styles of bra.

        Remove the sections of the band on each side where the hook and eyes are attached. On the remaining part of the band, remove one half inch on each side. Generally, one half inch removed from each side = down one back size. Then reattach the sections with the hooks and eyes. Voila! You have a firmer back! Obviously, I would recommend this job to an accomplished seamstress. It should cost no more than 10-15$ per bra.

        A few important things:
        This technique works better on bands that are straight across at the back, or with a gentle increase of width along the band.

        Generally, altering a bra down more than one size may lead to less than favourable results.

        No, it may not be as perfect as a 26 back manufactured specifically for smaller sizes, but it does certainly allow the smaller sized client a better and longer lasting fit and more options. Back sizes and cup sizes are designed to work together, so be aware that when you change the back size in such a manner, it may affect the profile of the bra and where the wires sit. That being said, I have rarely encountered any difficulties doing this.

        I suggest to my petite clients who are in this position to take the 28 band, wear it on its tightest set of hooks (as opposed to the loosest) until the bra has broken in. After a few weeks or months, then take the band in to the true “26”.

        This technique can be used for all older and well loved bras, if the cup and wire are still in good condition, and you’re simply tired of a loosey goosey back, you may be able to extend the life of your bra for another few months to a year. But don’t rely on this alone, you DO need to replace your bras after a certain time, no matter what!

        • jess says:

          I definitely do this for my older bras to give them a bit more life! I also sometimes take in the gore a bit too, because I find that shortens the band while preventing the “shove out to the side” drawback of shortening just the back. But my breasts are incredibly close together, and this might not work for someone with wider set breasts.

  37. Just to be clear, I absolutely know that Plus Four works for some women (ribcage under 32 and cup difference up to 3 inches – you’re probably going to have to add inches) if you’re very athletic or have any number of skin issues, adding inches is necessary. However, it is the exception and not the norm.

    The biggest problem I have with the prolific promotion of Plus Four is that it allows manufacturers to make fewer band and cup combinations which lowers overheads then ‘advise’ women to add inches which gets them into a limited size range, thus increasing profits. This behaviour is not in the best interest of women and perpetuates the self-loathing that comes with terrible bra advice.

    Not one of the companies hailing Plus Four as the “expert fitting advice” (as Playtex puts it) has a caveat saying, if you are a busty woman you mustn’t add the inches to your band and chances are we can’t fit you because we stop at a D cup. No, they want your dollars, so they don’t tell you the whole story. I think this is as deceptive as cigarette companies not declaring the health dangers of smoking or junk food manufacturers not stating that too much saturated fat is bad for you. Wearing an ill-fitting bra can be as dangerous to your health so we deserve to be given accurate and complete information, especially from companies claiming to be experts.

    I am not in any way suggesting that one formula be completely replaced for another, I’m suggesting that bra manufacturers and stores need to start being honest with big busted women (and quite frankly these are the women who need the support most) and saying – We don’t carry your size, you need to find a place carrying 30H cups because shoving you in a 38D bra would be dangerous to your health.

    • Treacle says:

      Now that, I 100% agree with. If you don’t carry a woman’s size (Victoria’s Secret and SOMA, I’m looking at you, especially since you’re in every mall in America), don’t try to cram her in one you do have in the interests of making a sale. That doesn’t do anyone any favors because not only will that woman eventually learn she was wearing the wrong size bra, she’ll feel betrayed–and understandably so–when she does. There’s no shame in acknowledging that you specialize in a particular range of sizes, whether that’s A and below, B-D, or DD and above.

    • June says:

      Claire, once again you’ve read my mind. :)

      Like I said below, this is why I’d say for bra manufacturers it’s important to have the idea that 0+ is what is needed. Statistically there are going to be those of us who need tighter bands (like myself) or those of us who need looser bands (like you) then what the 0+ method calls for but starting at 0+ is going to give the best statistics for bra manufacturers to make size ranges appropriate for the female population.

  38. Zoggi says:

    I don’t think anyone is advocating that the +4 rule should be replaced with anything equally restrictive, although it would seem that way by the sheer number of people talking about how they don’t add anything to their measurement. All of the bloggers contributing to the “war on plus 4” and most of the readers are very knowledgeable about bra fitting, so we all know that replacing one rule with another would be unworkable, and nobody should be made to feel like they need to be “one true size” anyway.

    The problem with retailers who advise us to add four inches to our measurement is that many of them claim that the size on the label does not relate directly to the size of the band, insisting that a 34 band bra actually measures 30 inches and this is why we need to wear a larger size than our measurement. This is patently untrue. As a corsetiere I know that a 34 inch bra measures 34 inches! If you take a bra which has a non-stretch cradle and measure from side seam to side seam in inches, this would be roughly half the label size. Of course it’s tricky to measure on a cradleless bra or one which doesn’t have side seams. The total measurement of the band will be smaller because the powernet is designed to stretch. An interesting example would be one of my Mimi Holliday bras. I had to get a 28F instead of my usual 30E, but the cradle still measures exactly 14 inches across. It seems that the lightweight powernet is a little too stretchy for the size it had been cut to, meaning that it stretches up to 30 inches instead of 28.

    The idea of using your true measurement as a starting point rather than adding 4 inches has been around for a while, but the debate really got heated when Simply Yours attempted to defend their bra size calculator by claiming that a 30 inch bra actually measures 21 to 22 inches unstretched, or 25 to 26 inches stretched. We all got out our tape measures and emptied our knicker drawers, and proved that this is totally 100% untrue. You can read the conversation here:

    In conclusion, the war on plus four is not about getting retailers to use a different measuring formula or telling people to use their actual underbust measurement as their band size, it’s more about educating women about how a bra should fit, showing them that there is a huge range of sizes out there that you don’t usually see on the high street, and dispelling the myth that bras are labelled up with a number which is 4 inches larger than the size it measures. There is undoubtedly a direct link between the fact that most women wear a bra which is at least one back size too large, and the fact that the majority of bra fittings involve being measured in this way. Despite claims that any measuring formula is only a guide, the fact is that most women will just go with their measurements and not investigate whether a different size might better suit their needs – in other words, it’s more of a hindrance than a help.

    I’m really glad you made this post because you show that sometimes, build and body shape make a significant difference to what can be comfortable. I have the same underbust measurement as you, but if I wore a 34D rather than 30E, the cups wouldn’t be held securely because the tension of the band would not be sufficient to transfer the weight onto my back. Yes, the band is tight, but the cups also contain a lot of weight so it doesn’t *feel* tight. Decrease the weight in the cups and the band would be tight for no reason.

    • Treacle says:

      Thanks so much for this informative and insightful blog post, Zoggi. I especially enjoyed learning about the history of the war on bra fitting charts.

  39. Alicia says:

    This is such an interesting subject! According to the plus 4 method I should be a 34 back, but my actul rib measurement is 27, meaning that I SHOULD wear a 28 back, although I choose to wear a 30D for comfort. Sometimes I even wear a 32. For smaller boobs I believe that the band doesn’t need to be as tight, and in the case of myself a tight band if often painful.

    I think I remember reading that the plus 4 method was originally intoduced as vanity sizing-at the time having a curvy figure was the ideal.

    • Treacle says:

      I’m confused, Alicia? If your ribs are 27, then a 28-30 band sounds right if you’re using the +4 method…not a 34 (which is what I wear, and my underbust/rib measure is 30).

      • Alicia says:

        Sorry Treacle, I meant that according to playtex online calculator I am a 34 back, and cup size A. My general point was band sizing and whole plus 4 or plus 0 are totally different issues when it comes to smaller/larger sizes. There almost should be different measurement and sizing systems, as smaller and larger ribs and breasts need different things from a bra.

  40. TJ says:

    A friend who is a bra-design geek but not a professional fitter once told me that the+4 was related to the materials and cut that -used- to be standard. Vintage bands don’t generally have as much stretch as the bands on modern bras with their power mesh and such. The +4 was ease, just like jeans with a little lycra can be cut narrower than jeans without.
    A rule that consistently worked would be nice but I’m not holding my breath. What with sizing differences between manufacturers and the effect of cup shape on fit, the numbers and letters are just a place to start before taking it to the dressing room.

    • Treacle says:

      100% agree. If there is a rule, you’ve said it – “The numbers and letters are just a place to start before taking it to the dressing room.” Thanks for commenting.

  41. KathTea says:

    I have to say this is something that I have been almost always ignorant about most of my life because I tend to go braless or in sports bras but now that I am planning to model intimates more often, it’s really got me thinking.

  42. Daisy Rawson says:

    I have been a bra fitter for 5 years and in my experience the plus 4 rule is a joke. When you buy jeans, if you measured your waist you wouldn’t add on 4 inches, they would fall down?
    However, if you measure say 31, a 32 band may be still a little too tight for you so in that case I would advise a 34. But I definatley dont agree with whatever you measure and add on 4. I measure 27, if I added on the rule of ‘odd number add on 5’ then I’d be wearing a 32? I’m a 28 or a 30 depend on the make.
    Bra sizes are on a matrix. a 28dd/30d/32c are all the same size. We advise on clothes size.
    If you are a size 6-8 you are going to be in a 28-30 back and so on :-)
    Hope this makes sense! x

    • Treacle says:

      It’s interesting that you mention other kinds of clothing, because I actually do go up a size to accommodate my frame. My waist and bust is a medium, but my shoulders and hips aren’t, which means that I frequently do the equivalent of “adding inches” when I’m purchasing regular clothes.

    • Trish says:

      28DD/30D/32C are not the ‘same size’. What you mean is that the ladies’ chests would occupy the same volume of space, as you say, in a matrix. The linked website explains this. 28DD would have a smaller ribcage and larger boobs than a 32C, but the riibcage-boob combo of both ladies occupy the same volume of space.

  43. Ligeia says:

    Wow, I’ve never hear about this but it’s quite interesting. I’ve never questioned why I was a 34 if my back measures less and here I have the explanation ;) It’s the same for me than for you. Sometimes I bought a 32C instead of a 34B and it was kinda difficult to fit in, so I cannot imagine what a pain would be to try to enter in a 30 bra. So for me, the +4 method works :)

    • Treacle says:

      We’re in the same boat, Ligeia. The two times I tried on a 32 band, I felt like I was going to literally bust out of it. I don’t mean it was tighter than I’m used to, I mean the band was stretched like a rubber band about to snap. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I tried a 30…I might put someone’s eye out!

  44. Beckie says:

    Hi Treacle,

    I think the problem here may be people being confused by the hashtag (can’t blame a girl for a strappy tagline), but the campaign is really not about +0 vs +4.

    I do believe that the +4 doctrine hinders more women than it helps. With so many people in the wrong bra, it’s clear that we need to change the tools we give to women looking to find their perfect fit. However, the War on Plus Four does not believe that everyone must subscribe to a +0 doctrine either (hell – I’m a +1/-1 kinda girl, sometimes even +3 in some brands). What it wants is for calculators to be scrapped and replaced with a system focussed on education. Sure – I think in the interests of neutrality and simplicity people should start with +0, but with more emphasis on that being at the beginning of a journey (a journey that repeats with every new bra purchase), and that adding and subtracting inches is perfectly normal, totally personal, and utterly dependent on the quality of fit.

    So when we fight against bra calculators, it is not because we believe everyone is best in a +0 bra. Not true. It’s because we believe that automatically adding +4 (and I should add here that with Playtex we were fighting a +5/6, which would have failed almost everyone) just skews perception of what a ‘normal’ size is. And not just for the big boobed brigrade, which as a US 28J/30I I am a proud member – previously campaigners for small busts have joined alongside us to protest the technique too – as they also believe it is inadequate for their fitting needs.

    Playtex needed radical action because not only is their fit calculator wildly wrong (They had me in a 34C – a size I could get in to for about a month when I was 15 – their calculator doesn’t even make sense if you allow for decreases in cup relativity) but the advice and ‘bra makeovers’ shown on their site uphold terrible fits as good ones. Any woman looking for fit guidance would have no chance in hell of identifying anything near to a comfortable fit there. Each day on their Facebook, women complain of body issues and discomfort that could all be fixed with a better fit and Playtex do nothing. I feel pretty strongly that they should be more responsible with their self-proclaimed ‘fit experts’ title.

    So you see, the +0 vs +4 clouds the issue, and is not actually relevant. The War on Plus Four is war against the current dogma – which with 80% of women in the wrong bra is clearly inadequate. Education needs to happen, and companies need to step up and realise the impact their advice has on women’s quality of life. It doesn’t matter that +4 works for you, that +1 works for me, and that +2 might work for someone else. It’s about giving women the tools to work out what works for them .

    You’ve inspired me to spell this out in a manifesto. I still love my hashtag, but I’m all for clearer comms…

    B4J xx

    • Treacle says:

      Hi Beckie,

      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment and really spelling out the positions of the War on Plus Four. I can’t wait to read your manifesto!

      As I said to Cheryl up above and to you in a Facebook post (it just went up in the last half hour, so you probably haven’t seen it yet), I think part of my confusion comes in other people’s reactions to my statements like, “Well, plus four does work for some women.” When that kind of statement is met with derision, disbelief, or incredulity (as it has been every single time I’ve said it, even when using myself as an example), it’s hard not to see the War on Plus Four as a bid to replace one kind of dogma with another kind…one that still won’t fit every woman.

      It’s that dogmatic approach and dismissal I find unpleasant. And now I know that the War on Plus Four does too.

  45. Cheryl says:

    Hi Treacle, with all due respect I think you’re overweighting the ‘+0’ approach when it comes to the War on Plus Four. That’s not a part of it at all, in fact, as Beckie said: ‘To clarify #waronplusfour = strip away calculators + replace with fit education. That’s it.’

    To use the ‘+0’ is simply Beckie’s personal preference and I think that’s made clear in her posts. I hope this makes the campaign intentions more clear.

    Cheryl, ( x

    • Treacle says:

      Hi Cheryl!

      Thanks for stopping by. With equal respect (because you know I love you), I think part of the issue and the confusion for me is people’s reaction when I tell them that the +4 method works for some women.

      Instead of saying, “Oh, right on, glad you found a fit that works for you.” The more common reaction is to say, “Well your body’s weird.” or “I think you’re wrong. You look like a *insert wrong bra size here* to me.” or “That can’t possibly be right. Plus four doesn’t work for anyone.”

      If the War on Plus Four is not meant to be another dogma, then it shouldn’t be another dogma. And that means acknowledging that +4 is going to work for some women, +3 is going to work for some women, +0 is going to work for some women, and so on.

      • Cheryl says:

        :) Well yes, equally. I think the main issue here isn’t the ‘plus four method’ (although I find it hugely overrated to say the least) but with the ‘dogma’ that you can even find your bra size with a tape measure at all.

        Moreso, it’s the fact that this particular calculator said ‘Congratulations… your size is XX, now find your perfect bra!’ There was at no point any kind of indication that it might be a ‘starting point’ like Playtex were assuring us that it is. There needs to be explanation. Before any kind of ‘calculator’ comes in, women should know HOW to find their bra size, not be told it by entering some measurements in. x

  46. My personal issue with it is that it’s counterintuitive and makes the band number seems arbitrary. The formula definitely doesn’t work for me, popping out a band too big and a cup too small when trial and error has shown that my 27″ ribs and 32-33″ bust is a 30C, or even 30D in the UK, which I can fudge into a 32B until the band stretches.
    Anyway, being slightly deviated from the actual measurement makes more sense to me than being deviated from a number that doesn’t directly relate to anything.

    Not to mention it makes it hell trying to get people’s measurements, as a dressmaker. I ask for both a bust measurement (and/or underbust) and the bra size, and frequently just receive one, which raises more questions than it answers.

    I like that corsets and men’s clothing are both sized in a way that directly corresponds to the literal size of the garment, whereas women’s clothing, increasingly prey to vanity sizing, has a meaningless number system.

    • Treacle says:

      Always good to see a comment from a TLA columnist! It does sound like some standardization of bra sizing would be a good idea. Vanity sizing doesn’t do people any favors over the long term.

  47. jess says:

    I was one of those girls who walked around in a 34DD because a 32DD was too small in the cups and I didn’t know that larger cup sizes existed, or that the band riding up was actually a problem.

    My issue with the plus four convention is that by rounding up to higher bands (and smaller cups), it helps mask the actual market for small bands and large cups. In the States, it’s near impossible to find small band and large cups, because companies don’t feel that there is a market. Of course big box stores don’t have people asking for those combos if the combos don’t exist for people to try on! Specialty stores can carry those sizes (from brands across the pond), but if you well and truly think that you’re a 36B and that D+ is huuuuuge, then you’re not going to step foot in Those Places.

    If +0 becomes a thing in box stores, and they start carrying smaller bands/larger cups, everyone benefits. With a wider range to try on, people can suss out their real size, whether their ribcages need a +0 or a +5 sizing.

    Focusing on educating the customers is all well and good, but it won’t get us very far if the manufacturers don’t get on board. Ordering online is expensive, time consuming and still takes a lot of personal trial and error. I thought I was rather educated in the topic, but I’m always fine-tuning my fit.

    • Treacle says:

      I’m a B/C cup and I still order most of my bras online, not because my size is hard to find (it isn’t) but because the selection is US big box stores is abysmal, no matter your size. Unless you’re shopping from a store like Nordstrom (which has an amazing range, especially for a department store), I think women of every size are better off going to a boutique instead…if a boutique is a reasonable option, of course.

  48. bybabysrules says:

    It is definitely a hard issue to pick a side on. There are women on both sides of this, just like the recent posts about body image. And you are 100% right, if one rules does not work why should another one come into play? It shouldn’t. Bra fitting is very individual, with no one way being the right way.
    I posted today about why adding four does not work when you get into the D cupsize range. Something else I talked about is how bandsize matters on this. Bands below a 34 and with cups below a C tend to be cut smaller, making adding inches a requirement to get a good fit. These same bandsizes with a larger cup are cut larger and you may or may not need to add inches. It seems that all band sizes 36 and above no matter what cupsize are much more stretchy (I’m talking US bras here, I’m not sure on the UK brands). I posted a photo on twitter and in my blog post showing how a 28H bra measures the same unstretched in the band as a 32A. A great example of how there is no standardization across the size range. When there is no standardization across the sizing range, there is no way to have one sizing rule that will work for everyone.
    It is unfortunate that there are so many women that do not have access to a professional fitter. Many of us end up turning ourselves into as educated a fitter as we can be, myself included. For those that don’t want to do that there are online options for fitting. You can get a Skype fitting now through the Butterfly Collection. Any way it goes, not matter what body type you are, what bra size you need, or what styles you prefer, your bra fitting is individual. If women take anything out of this, I hope it is that they get a professional fitting, with whatever method works for them.

    • Treacle says:

      What a great comment. I love all the points you made here, from the facts about permutations in sizing to the reminder that, at the end of the day, bra fitting is truly individual.

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