Canadian Band Stand

The last time the big 4 (North American bra companies) sat down to “standardize” sizing (and I use that term very loosely) was in the 1970’s, when the “average” bra size was determined to be 34B. Now it’s up to 36C, and climbing. The outcome of the meeting was that there should not be legislated standardization of bras. Everyone has done their own thing (“whatever works for them”) ever since. Here’s my “Canadian Band Stand” in other words, bands from my perspective.

One big issue I have is with calculating the band size. Every day I see women who are wearing band sizes at least one, sometimes 2 sizes too big, and cup sizes at least one cup size too small. But let me deal with, for now, with the band size. It’s a big issue.

Women are measured around the rib cage just under the breast at the “infra-mammary crease line” – that’s the line of demarcation between the chest and the breast. The less pretentious among us, just call it the rib cage (RC). You have to exhale all the air from your lungs; if you inhale – you will measure larger than you really are. Try it…EXHALE & measure, then INHALE & measure. The results will be about 3″ or more difference. You should exhale to measure. By the way, no one tells you to exhale while measuring, and no one tells you where to position your arms. Do you measure with your arms up in the air? Down at the sides? It’s hard to measure yourself in either position, so should you have someone else measure? No one makes that really clear, either.

Once you have the RC measurement, you need to do some basic math to get the band size. In the US, you have to add a number (a “magic” number?) to the RC in order to find your band size. Armed with my RC measurement of 32″, I’m going to do some online shopping for bras and let the manufacturers tell me what band size I should be. You have to hunt the sites for the fitting info, but it’s there.

Let’s go to each manufacturer

Playtex ( has you add 5 for the band size and round up to the nearest whole number. So I’d be 37 and round up to a 38 band. I’ve never worn a 38, so what am I doing wrong? I’ve been wearing a 36 band and it does fit. Honest!

WonderBra ( be the same, since they and Playtex are both owned by the Sara Lee company. They have a bra size calculator that’s kind of fun to use on their site. Hmm, it won’t let me enter half inches, but that’s ok, I entered 32, so I come out to a 38. Maybe I have been wearing the wrong size?

Surely, Victoria’s Secret ( would know for sure……they have a full-colour catalogue, so they must know, mustn’t they? Their website has a pop-up for figuring the band size. “Add 5 to this measurement to obtain your band size. For example, if your ribcage measurement is 29″ + (5) = 34″ band size. If the resulting band size is an odd number like 33″, you can usually go up to the next even band size (34″), but you may also want to go down to the next lower band size (32″).” So, let me get this straight….a 32″ RC would be 37, making it a 38 band, OR perhaps a 36 band. Big difference, especially if I am ordering on-line. But at least they give me a choice of two differing band sizes.

But hold on a minute! Fresh Pair, a retail outlet ( carrying a lot of different manufacturers, including Playtex and WonderBra, has you add 4″ if you are an even number and 5 if you are an odd number. They don’t say anything about those in between. So now, I am a 36 band! The incredible shrinking woman! I’m much happier with this band size.

Frishmans, who also sells WonderBra and Playtex at, has a different story. They tell me to determine the band size by adding 2-3” to the measurement, round up if you get an odd number. So I would be a 34 band size (if I add 2) and a 36 band if I add 3 and round up. Now I’m really happy! I’ve gone from 38, to 36 to 34, all without dieting or exercise!

Across the Pond

Maybe across the pond, they know what’s going on! In Europe, they use metric. We do here in Canada, too, for measuring fabric and speed limits and temperatures (at 30° it’s HOT outside!), but I swear, NO one knows what their weight is in kilos or what temperature the oven is unless it’s in Fahrenheit, so we’re pretty much dysfunctional in both systems. My RC is 32″ (that is 81.3 cm) and now, I’m going to travel around the world in search of the holy grail of band sizing.

In Britain, they still work in inches for bra sizing, so I add 4″ for an even and 5″ for an odd number, so I’m a 36. Not surprising. In France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, use the RC in centimetres and they add 15, then round down or up, so I’m a 95 (96.3 rounded down). International and Japanese, I’m an 80 (just the RC in centimetres, rounding down from 81.3)

Australia uses dress sizes to calculate bra size. Interesting. To find your Oz bra, just subtract 26 from your current American band size. So that makes me a 14 (or a 12, or 16, depending on which American company you use)

Italians are just plain different (!) and they assign single digit numbers to the centimetre measurements. I’d be a 3 (rounding down from 81.3)

Good grief! No wonder 8 out of 10 women say their bras don’t fit! That’s my Canadian band stand!

1 reply
  1. Anne Brown
    Anne Brown says:

    Soak wait a minute then. You are saying that one’s band size depending on what country you are ordering your bra from OR from what manufacturer one is purchasing their bra from?

    Thank you!


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