Four Ways of Measuring

How exactly do you measure to determine a bra size? There are four ways of measuring that I know of and each one has its merits and pitfalls. Let’s go through them one by one.
Method 1 – Rib Cage and Full Bust
This is the method used by bra fitters in retail stores everywhere. In fact, almost every website tells you to use this method to determine your bra size. Take your rib cage measurement directly under the bust. Add 4 or 5″ (some websites say to add 6″) to determine your band size. So if my rib cage measures to an even number such as 32″, I would add 4″ to obtain a band size of 36. Or according to some websites adding 6″ would result in my band size being 38. If my rib cage is an odd number such as 33, I would add 5″ for a band size of 38. 

Then, measure the full bust – that is the fullest part of the bustwithout compressing the breast tissue. Let’s say that is 40″. I then subtract the band size from the full bust measurement and I should come up with my cup size. So 36 from 40 is 4″. Each cup size is equal to 1″ so A=1″, B=2″, C=3″ and D=4″. If my band size is 36, then I would be a D cup. However if I used my band size as being 38, then my cup size would be B. So you can see where this method has a big downfall.

Understand that these measurements do not always tell the whole story. if a woman has a very small rib cage or a very wide back, these measurements will skew the bra size to appear larger or smaller than they actually are. 


Method 2 – High Bust and Full Bust

This is the method recommend in my bra patterns where someone has only a tape measure and a mirror (and not their Fairy Bra Mother!) at their disposal. This method of determining bra size works very well for most women I use the High Bust Measurement (above the bust but still under the arms), and add NOTHING to determine the band size. After measuring over 10,000 women, I still find I am far more accurate measuring the high bust rather than the rib cage. I simply round up or down the high bust measurement to the nearest even number.  So in my case, I measure 36″ on the high bust, so my band size would be 36. A 35.5” high bust measurement would also indicate a 36 band.
I still measure the full bust, but I subtract the high bust from the full bust, with 1” of difference equaling A cup, B cup is 2”, 3” is C cup and so on. My full bust is 40″ so my bra size would be 36D with this method.
But once again, there are always some for whom the measurements don’t tell the full story. if a woman has a very small rib cage or an athletic build, the high bust measurement can be skewed a little. 

Method 3 – Bottom Cup Depth

I have a third way of measuring – in fact, it is a very accurate and sure-fire way of measuring, but the downside is that you have to have a bra that already fits to do this. First measure the high bust to determine the band size. Remember that is over the bust, but under the arms. 
This method for sizing uses the Bottom Cup Depth. The Bottom Cup Depth determines the overall volume of the bra cup. No other measurement is as important as this one. This is the distance from the bra bust point to the bra wire line measured on the true vertical. You must wear a well-fitting bra in order to take this measurement.
In a perfect world, the bottom cup depth on your bra should measure the same as the bottom cup depth on your naked breast, but it often doesn’t – because of the breast density and degree of flaccidity.The nipple will drift downward as the breast loses its self-supporting ability, which means that even if your bra size does not change over the years, your BCD will still decrease as you age. Nothing stops gravity.  So it is imperative to wear a bra that fits (not a foam lined bra, or a sports bra either). The bra is actually placing the nipple in the ideal location.
The Bottom Cup Depth (BCD) increases by 1/4” (6 mm) per size in not only my patterns and other commercial bra patterns, but as an industry standard.
Using the chart below, find the BCD in inches that corresponds to your own Bottom Cup Depth (measuring the bra from the nipple to the wire line directly below it. On each line, you will find the Pin-up Girls bra pattern sizes that correspond with that BCD. Just use the band size along the line that equals your high bust measurement. For me, that is 4″ BCD and 36″ high bust, so 36D
BC depth
Bra Sizes that use this BCD
Do not be discouraged if your ready-to-wear bra size and your bra pattern size are not the same. If the Bottom Cup depth is the same, the cup will fit the same way.
If you are using another bra pattern other than mine (and really…how could you?), check the BCD on your ready-to-wear bra against the pattern that you have. Make sure you are measuring between the seam lines, and not to the outer cutting line of the pattern.  If the Bottom Cup Depth of the bra pattern is the same as yours, you are in business!
Method 4 – Sample Bras
The fourth and final method is the method I use in all my classes. This is the most accurate method of measuring but it is only used by custom bra-makers and of course bra-making teachers (myself included). I have a set of sample bras in every BCD size. Once you get used to guesstimating the size of the breasts, you can quickly put a woman in a bra size that fits. My rule is to use the bra size that fits the best with the least alteration.
So there you have it – four ways of measuring to determine bra size. Which method do you use and have you tried these others? I want to hear from you!
81 replies
  1. J
    J says:

    I’m not sure BCD works for people like me with tuberous breast shape.
    BCD 4″
    Bust Circ 50-51″
    Underbust 42″

    I am definitely *not* able to fit into a *B* cup, as the chart above would indicate.
    Other attributes include breast tissue that runs from just under my collarbone, fairly firm tissue that will shove a bra up, instead of just “molding” to shape, and a mildly defined pec underneath my breast tissue.
    I am not interested in surgical augmentation to “fix” my “issue”.

    Been on this journey for literally decades. lol. Any pointers would be welcome.

    :/ Maybe a bullet bra? I’d really like something for support that doesn’t just mash my boobs flat against my chest.

  2. Diana Jo
    Diana Jo says:

    I recently bought both the Classic and Shelley from you. I confused on the BCD measurement. My upperbust measures 42, underbust/ribcage 41.5, full bust 48”.

    In the directions for the pattern you say to “following the curve of the breast to the breast point”. Here you say “ from the bra bust point to the bra wire line measured on the true vertical.” To me that suggests not using the curve.

    My best fitting bra (which isn’t great because manufacturers just don’t make what I need, unless I spend $100) gives me a BCD of 4”… which does not have a 42 band size in the Classic. And your Craftsy class doesn’t show measuring the BCD. 🙁

    In other bra patterns I’ve made (stretchy knits) my cup size ends up closer to an F, which makes me pause and wonder if I’ve measured the BCD correctly at all. Especially with the difference between either of my bust measurements (upper/lower) and full bust which suggests a 6” difference. I’d appreciate some input before I start burning through materials not easily or inexpensively sourced in the US.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      The BCD should be measured along the curve of the breast. I wasn’t totally clear about the true vertical – I meant straight up from the floor – not on an angle as it would if you were following a seamline on a diagonal bra for example. Sorry about the confusion! I suggest starting with your RTW size (which is larger than your measured BCD suggests) and sewing a sample using wash away thread in the bobbin. This allows you to easily remove the stitches if you have to cut a smaller size.

  3. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    I’m confused. My measurements: BCD 5.25, HB 40, RC 37, FB 45.75. The chart provided above for my BCD of 5.25 does not offer a HB of 40. According to the chart my choices are 38F or 42E. My best fitting RM bra is a Lilyette 36DDD with the wire removed worn on the last possible hook/eye option. Which size would you recommend 38F or 42E?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Since your rib cage is 37, the band size I recommend is the 38. As for the cup size, I use the BCD measurement for all my patterns. If you are buying any of my patterns, all the sizes are in one envelope. You simply use the BCD cup for 5.25 and cut the band for that cup size to the 38 Rib Cage length. Easy peasey. if you are using an older pattern that used cup and band sizes, I would recommend the 38F.

  4. May
    May says:

    I am having trouble figuring out what band size I should choose. My BCD is 5.75, bust 45-46 inches (depends on bra), 33 under bust but 42-43 high bust. I am a bit fleshy but have a good deal of back and shoulder muscle. I have breast tissue near my collar bone, so that may be part of it. I typically wear a RTW 34H-I (US size). I am not a 42 or 44 band, my boobs would just fall out! But I’m not sure I’d be a 34 band in your patterns. Any recommendations for band sizing?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Your band size is determined by your rib cage (underbust) measurement. So if your underbust is 33, I would choose a band length of 34, since a bra has adjustable hook and eye in the back, you can tighten it up if you feel it is too loose. If you make it the 32 size, I think you will find the band too tight.

  5. Eleanor
    Eleanor says:

    How do you measure the ABC cup size if you have large, pendulous breasts that hand down below the lower band?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      That’s why we measure wearing the best fitting bra you have. measure to the most projected point of the breast, then mark that as the apex. The distance from the apex to the wire line is the BCD (Bottom Cup Depth)

  6. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    Hi Beverly, we ultimately agree on this thing, but with stretch fabric the fabric NEEDS to be shorter than the body part it covers. With big breasts, brafitters say the band needs to fit so firmly, you can slip two fingers in between the band and your back and that’s it. Even powernet still has a lot of stretch, so I might as well subtract 2 rather than add 4, as I already do. From my experience, that’s the right size, unless your patterns are so different from RTW that +4 will be tight enough. From my experience, that’s unfortunately not the case.

    If you want further information on the topic, take a look on what lingerie blogs have to say about “plus four”. Again, your patterns may have been adjusted for a tight fit, but I made one in the past, and my underbust measurement WITHOUT 4 has created the same semi-snug fit I get from RTW bras.

  7. Anne Brown
    Anne Brown says:

    So, if one uses the 4th method, suing the BCD measurement…AND…if as you say, your measurement was 4”…AND your high bust measurement is 36”, then how did you come to D from the char?


  8. Shirley
    Shirley says:

    is there another area of the breast that you can measure the BCD? (Side wire to apex perhaps?) I have tuberous breast with most of the tissue constricted in the bottom quadrant of the breast. If I measure my BCD using the above method I get 1.25″ however from making test cups 3.75-4.0 seams more likely which is 10 sizes bigger

  9. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    I just got the ruby pattern and made a test cup using broadcloth. My final product will be out of foam. My BCD measurement is 5.0, but it seems a bit small when I put it up against my breast. So I made 5.25 in broadcloth which is a better-perfect fit. I’m afraid if I go that size, it will be too big because of the stretch of foam. Can you please advise. Size 5.0 is a tad to small in broadcloth, but if there is a bit of stretch, then it might fit. Any advice?


    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Broadcloth has no stretch and foam does. if you make the same size in foam as you do broadcloth, the cup will be too large. I advise making the size 5.0 in foam if you are covering it with stretch fabric and 5.25 if covering the foam with non-stretch fabric or lace

  10. Nadiya
    Nadiya says:

    has no sense to me: If I make a draft, why do I measure over the bust to determine my bend size? that supposed to sit under the bust? it will never be accurate. or why order 4 inches? for someone with 50″ back 4″ are 8 % of the length, for someone with 28″ – it’s over 14 % added to the length. if we subtract the length of eyes and hooks the gap will only increase. why not to use actual under-bust measurements, subtract length of the hooks, subtract width of the front (distance of wire to wire) and use the starchiness of the fabric to calculate how much of it to use for the bend? why to measure over, if it never sit there? nightmare to draft

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      This way of measuring has NOTHING to do with drafting a bra. It is for sizing ready to wear. if you draft your own bra, you take 10 measurements, one of which is for the high bust and one is the rib cage, as well as 8 others.

      • Anna
        Anna says:

        Isn’t a bra or bra pattern, at this time, based on the Patternmaking contour bodice? The measurements are all the bodice dart locations and the breast measurements, correct? Why not just say so? It’s straight forward and honest. If someone wants to take the time to make an accurate fitting bra, the correct way is best. And if they don’t, they will still come to bra-makers like you.

        I guess industry lingerie companies don’t do it because then women will continuously search for the right fit. Designers or entrepreneurs don’t because they fear being replaced. But they won’t be…

  11. Sara
    Sara says:

    Hi Beverly,

    I’m currently breastfeeding, which makes it hard to measure correctly (but even harder to find good bras to wear!) I want to make some bras for now but also some for when I’m done breastfeeding. What would be the best material to make up sample cups? (I can’t get my hands on a bunch of duoplex where I live.)

    Thank you!

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Choose a fabric that is low-stretch or no-stretch. Some women who are desperate for fabric will even use woven fabrics. If you can’t find anything else and do use cotton woven (like quilters cotton) be sure to cut the DoGS on the bias grain of the fabric.

  12. Jane Ramsey
    Jane Ramsey says:

    Hi Beverley,
    I have the Shelley yellow pattern. I made my first Shelley a few years ago, size 36E. Best fit I’d ever had, but I used two way stretch Lycra for the cups and band after the first one I made using powernet for the back wouldn’t fasten. However I’ve lost weight, over 40lb since the first bras. I’ve also struggled to find RTW bras that fit well. I live in France, large cups are difficult to find. I bought a 36F (UK size) last summer but the band is too loose.
    I’ve lost 10lb since last summer.
    I discovered BoB sizing and in BoB, RTW I measure a 32H
    So tonight, I’m still unsure what size I should make. According to the pattern, I measure my high/over bust (37″) my full bust (41″, no bra) that gives a 36E? The 36Es I made offer zero support now and my breasts sink under the wire.
    I measure 44″ leaning (no bra) I measure (snug not tight) 32″ underbust.

    I made a 32H, it was too tight, I used a 34G band with 32H cups and this seems to be OK. The BCD is 5″. If I measure my breast, on the skin, from root to nipple, I get 5.25″, making me think I’ve chosen a reasonable cup size.

    My question is what size Ruby pattern should I consider? (I still have approx 10-14lb weight to lose and it will happen.)

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      The Ruby and the other jewels (Sapphire, Amethyst etc) are sized by the BCD, so you would use a 5.25 or a 5.0 cup size and pair that with the appropriate rib cage size. All the cups will fit all the bands – that’s the beauty of my Universal Fit System. All of the sizes are in one envelope, so there are no more multiple packages of size ranges to buy. Just one pattern and you have all sizes!

  13. Roni
    Roni says:

    HI Beverly,
    I have a BCD of 4.25, my underbust is 32 inches, full bust is 42 and high bust is 38 inches. According to full bust and high bust, I’d be a 38D, but according to BCD I could be a 34E, which sounds much closer to the RTW bras I’m already wearing (and am quite comfortable in, although not perfect…). I do notice I’ve got a bit of the Omega shape you describe. I am short, but have an athletic build – broad shoulders and a somewhat narrow waist.
    I’m not sure if I should get the pink or yellow Shelly pattern. Is it better to go for a larger cup size with smaller band or get the smaller cup size? What will be easier to alter, should I need to make alterations?
    Do you offer an envelope with both my sizes in it?


    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      I would get the yellow pattern – it covers BCD sizes 3.75 to 6.25. The band is easy to adjust. Then make up the 34E pattern (4.25 BCD) and lengthen the band 2″ (the rib cage on the 34E is only 30″) That should give you the combination of the right cup size and the right band size.

  14. Karey
    Karey says:

    I never had a bra that fit well until I went to a specialist bra shop in the UK and was fitted for 30F. My BCD is 4.25. My above bust is very broad, narrowing rapidly to my full bust (39″) and even more to my below bust. As a result my above bust (33″-35″) underestimates my cup size while my below bust (28″-29″) overestimates my cup size. I wore AU36D for years because it was the smallest band in my cup size, but the bands were loose even new.
    When I looked up converters I couldn’t find US size equivalent to UK30F, and am not sure how that relates to your sizing anyway. I’ve finally got RTW that fit but want to make my own as they are expensive imports.
    The advice about sizing here just leaves me confused.

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      You sound like you are an Omega. That means the root of the breast is smaller than the width of the breast at the fullest part. You will need to make a bra to test the fit, then make the adjustments to turn it into an Omega shape just for you. A 4.25 BCD would put you into a 30F in our sizing too but then you would further customize it by doing an Omega alteration. I have a blog post on that here called Alpha to Omega.

  15. Sid
    Sid says:

    I am not sure why you recommend women use their high bust measurement to figure out their band size…. 80% of women have breast tissue up their and your bands measurement should not contain any breast tissue….I think according to this I would be a 32A/AA or something like that….but my ribbcage measures 25″ very tight, 27″ firm and 28″ loosely measured while my high bust measures about 31″ and my Full Bust measures about 32″. So in reality I wear about a 28DD, sometimes a 30D with a reduced band or very firm band.
    Why not just have your customers measure their actual rib cage/under bust directly under the breasts? This number is equivalent to the band size they need. In my experience the under bust measurement is the same as the band size about 90% of the time. Women with less breast tissue, more muscular torsos, or very sensitive torsos sometimes go up 1 band size when using this method. A women with a snug rib measurements of 24″ inches WILL be most comfortable in a 24 or 26 band with a 28 band riding up their back.
    I wish you would offer this method of measuring for your customers. While I do like the idea of BCD measuring, I think that band is highly inaccurate and results in a too loose band 85% of the time. Unless ofcourse your bands measure about a size smaller than most OTR bras do. Generally speaking a 30 band measures about 26″ flat and stretches to the appropriate 30″. Which is where I think they get the “add 4 inches” method for band sizing. Ofcourse it’s ridiculous now because our bra materials are ridiculously stretchy, so adding the 4″ to a 28″ rib measurement results in a 32 band which ofcourse would result in being far too loose and offering no support. A band MUST stretch around the torso in order to support it, it can’t just wrap around like a t-shirt.
    I am really curious to see what the flat and stretched measurements are of your bands in order to some how support the under bust by using the high bust method to figure out the band size.

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      You must be buying European bra brands, where the rib cage size IS the band size. That’s not the case in North America, where the rib cage measurement PLUS 4″ equals the band size. Therefore a 28 band in European sizes is really a 32 in NA sizing. It is FAR more accurate to take the high bust measurement and not involve the rib cage at all, when making that first bra.

      • Sid
        Sid says:

        No I live in the United States. North American and the United States are the most prone for bra fitters and women to be wearing an ill fitting bra. According to that I should be wearing a 32 band but your 32 band is big enough to wrap around my full bust… so no. Bras are made of 90% elastics. They stretch incredibly. In Europe, their system is built with the Plus 4 method built in to it. It makes no sense to take the highbust measurement for band…..your band does not sit there, it includes breast tissue. How can you can a snug firm fit from something that wraps loosely around your body? I really like you BCD measurement, but the fact of the matter is is that you are selling women bands that are not going to support their breasts. A size 32 band averages about 26-28 inches laying flat unstretched. But when you stretch that band is stretches to 31″-33″. This stretched band is what is going to support you, if you just wrapped a band around your body without stretching it, it will support nothing. Unless ofcourse you decide to make bras out of a material that will not stretch at all. Then yes, the plus 4 method is the one to follow.

        • Beverly Johnson
          Beverly Johnson says:

          Actually, my bands are NOT 90% elastic. half of my bands are non-stretch (the front half). The back half is made of power net which has 40% stretch at most. My 32″ band stretches to 31-133″ when stretched and measures as you say 26-28″ laid flat. The BCD system uses the BCD measurement to determine the CUP that fits them (so the cup is independent of the band) then they use whichever band measurement fits them to their level of tightness. The band in any case is the easiest part of the bra to alter. Getting the cup to fit is much more important.

          • Lydia
            Lydia says:

            Hi Beverly, I’m not sure whether you understood Sid, or even tried to do so. A 32 band is designed for a 28 back, but will already measure 28 laid flat. That means, with stretch materials, the band will be too big for the wearer. Another example: With my almost 90cms underbust, bra calculators always put me in 85 band sizes, but I’ve never worn that size because even 75 bands ride up on me. My most comfortable bra has a 70 back.

            Nadiya has asked whether the back size shouldnt be determined by bra minus bridge minus stretch amount. You said no, but that’s obviously the way to go. A well-fitting bra will inevitably be shorter in length than its wearer’s underbust circumference.

            I think the recommendation you should be making here is to measure the bridge and band pieces on the pattern, and then adjust the back according to preferences and fabric choices. Different wearers will have different requirements for fit, and bigger breasts need a tighter band. I think that is a much better advice than the arbitrary “add 4”.

          • Beverly Johnson
            Beverly Johnson says:

            I hate to disagree with you, but the “measuring the band laid flat” only works if the stretch fabric chosen matches in its stretch properties exactly as the original, and also the amount of fabric allotted to the band (most bras have part of the frame on the back band piece). To measure the band and follow that without considering the other two factors, is just as arbitrary to the “add four” system. If you read my preferred method, I use and promote measuring the rib cage and using that with a pattern that calls for power net or firm stretch fabric. Obviously, I use our power net to create my patterns, so I use that stretch factor when designing my patterns.

  16. R
    R says:

    This may be an obvious question, but do I wear one of my existing bra’s when I measure? And if so, does the fit of that bra affect the accuracy of my measuring?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      Yes, wear a bra hopefully one without padding and not a sports bra as those will definityely affect the measuring. Just so you know I just released the Ruby bra, which is based on measuring the BCD way, rather than cup sizes.

  17. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Thank you, Beverly, for such a clearly written article on measuring for bra size. You are a gifted teacher!

  18. Elena
    Elena says:

    I have read all the posts above but still have some uncertainty. My measurements: HB 36, FB 42-44 (every time it is different but always within these figures), rib case 35, BCD 4.
    HB/FB method gives me the 30-38 E-H pattern
    BCD method yields in the 36 AAA-D
    As far as I understand my measurements fall somewhere between two patterns.
    Which do I prefer?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      I almost always go with the BCD but I find it hard to believe you are only a 4.0 BCD. Did you measure with a seamed bra on…one that fits?

      • Elena
        Elena says:

        I made measurements several times – with a seamed bra that fits and without any, that is to say, “live”. 4.0 BCD is ok. At first, I didn’t understand why my FB figures are so different. If I measure on the band I get 42. If I measure a little bit above the band but on the “fatty underarm cushions” I see 44. I suppose 42 is better. Am I right?

          • Elena
            Elena says:

            As soon as I choose and buy a pattern I will definitely try sewing the bra.

            So, having HB 36 and BCD 4 I should buy 30-38 AAA-D (pink) Shelley Full Band Bra Pattern.
            Am I right? I live far-far away abroad. Delivery of the pattern is time and money consuming. I wouldn’t like to end up making a mistake.

          • Beverly Johnson
            Beverly Johnson says:

            BCD of 4 and a HB of 36 puts you in a 36D, so the PINK pattern for sure!

  19. Judith
    Judith says:

    Hi Beverly,
    So far I have made 9 of your bras for my daughters and myself. We love them. I made a 42C for daughter A. Daughter B tried it on; the cups were fine but the band was 2 1/4″ too long. I adjusted the original pattern and the new bra fit perfectly. So well in fact that daughter B wants more. Is there a way to calculate what size bra I actually made for daughter B?

    • Beverly V. Johnson
      Beverly V. Johnson says:

      I would measure the band size you made against the patterns in the envelope. I think it would be close to the 40 band size.
      However if you are looking to make the “whole pattern”, there is no pattern in her size in that pattern range BLUE.
      You made a cup with a 4.25 BCD and a 42-2 = 40 band size. There is no pattern for that combination in the BLUE range.
      You should just shorten the band for daughter B and use the same cups as A. Then you won’t have to buy another pattern!

  20. genise
    genise says:

    I am having a difficulty with the BCD method. I put on my Elomi el4010/cah (38H) bra and took the measurements. From my nipple to the underwire of the bra it is 4.5 inches and my over bust is 41 and my under bust (rib cage) is 38 so I am not sure which way to go since my size is not in your chart above. Your assistance is greatly needed. This will be my first bra.

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      This bra has a raised cross cup seamline so taking the BCD will not be accurate. The brand also uses a different method of measuring the size for the band. If your rib cage is 38, you will need a 42 band size in my patterns. When you say “over bust of 41, do you mean the high bust or the full bust is 41”? If you buy the 38H in my patterns, the band will be too short.

      • Genise
        Genise says:

        I meant the high bust. Would the cup size be the same as yours and how does that translate to the underwire? Thanks again for your assistance.

        • Genise
          Genise says:

          I forgot to mention the 38H mentioned in the original post is the US sizing of the Elomi el4010/cah.

        GENISE HEARD says:

        I am revisiting this, sadly a year later, but better late then never. Since this is the best fitting bra that I have what do you suggest that I do to determine the right pattern to purchase. As mentioned in my previous post the 41 is the high bust.

        • Beverly Johnson
          Beverly Johnson says:

          Actually you can measure your current bra from the apex (nipple area) straight down to the wire line. That is the Bottom Cup Depth and the size I would try first.

          • Genise
            Genise says:

            Good afternoon, life has thrown me some curve balls in the last year so once again I am trying to do this. I am interested in the Shelly bra. My BCD changed by a 1/4″ and whent down to 4.25 age and gravity, and I now wear a 40F in the Primadonna and Elomi lines (UK sizing) so which Size Shelly bra pattern should I purchase?

            Also since Sweet Cups Bra Making supplies is closing, do you have another USA distributor?

            Many thanks

  21. Lori
    Lori says:

    Hi Beverly, I’m still having trouble determining the best bra size. My measurements are: HB 32″ FB 37.5″ Underbust 30″, BCD 5.25″. I have a small ribcage and the breast tissue comes up fairly high on my chest. The HB/FB method gives me a 32E. The BCD method gives me the option of a 30H or a 34G. I currently have RTW bras by Fantasie and Panache which are 30G but the center doesn’t sit flat against my breastbone and the straps dig into my shoulders (I have those deep grooves you’ve referred to). I wear the band on the tightest hook, but feel like it should be tighter to be supportive enough to take the weight off the straps. Also the wires reach almost to my back! I was hoping to make a bra that actually fits. Am I a hopeless case?

    • Beverly Johnson
      Beverly Johnson says:

      It is possible that your RTW bras do not fit if they still do not reach back to the wall. But I use the BCD to gauge the size as I find it most accurate. So a 30H or 34G (even though in RTW it doesn’t fit well) is a place to start. You also sound like you might be an Omega shape breast. That’s one where the wire is a small size but the breast is larger. You have to shrink the cup at the wire line only to fit into the appropriate frame size. I wrote a blog post on it called Alpha to Omega. Just click the link to read it. Good luck!

      • Lori
        Lori says:

        Revelation! Your Omega blog was exactly me. Now I understand why I can’t find RTW bras that fit! I guess I’ll just have to dive into making my own. A comfortable, supportive bra may not be just a dream after all. Thank you so much!

  22. Michele
    Michele says:

    I’m taking your Craftsy class and I’m just curious if you have any guidelines or tips on body shape that may make a woman fall into that category of women that the high bust-full bust measurement technique doesn’t work for?

    I wouldn’t consider myself as having a small rib cage per se or athletic build, but my RTW size and the pattern size I’m measuring based on high bust-full bust measurements are widely different. My RTW size is 34G but I measure 38B using high bust-full bust. Thoughts?

  23. Claire
    Claire says:

    Having broad shoulders and less than full breasts (thanks to the babies!) methods 1 and 2 have just not worked for me at all! I know we disregard our ready to wear sizes, but I only have to glance at the pieces of the bra patterns I have to know that I am NOT an A cup. Having measured using method 3, I’ve come out at 38E and have more confidence that this is a good starting place. I’m now going to continue watching your Craftsy course and hopefully come out the other end with a beautifully fitting bra! So excited!

  24. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    The duoplex in the kit is not very stretchy, not nearly stretchy enough for panties. You could, however use a bit of it as a front panel, just to get the colour and fabric into the panties as trim.

  25. Corina Kostreba
    Corina Kostreba says:

    Hi Beverly; I have your Craftsy pinup pattern. This posting was very informative as I too have side tissue that refused to get with the program and spills out over the sides. You mentioned that with the proper bra it could be trained back into place, so this gives me hope. Also wondering if there is enough fabric in the kit for me to make a panty or should just order more of your fabric??

  26. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    No it is not hopeless but your best bet would be the use the Bottom Cup Depth method of measuring. That will allow you to see how large the actual breast is (in volume, so to speak) apart from the band size. Once you find the equivalent cup that fits, we can easily make the band larger as needed. Don't give up on this – I am certain we can get you into the right pattern!
    It may take a bit of customizing but the results will be well worth the effort!

  27. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    I have found that European bra manufacturers differ greatly from their American counterparts, so that's why you can subtract and we have to add. That's why it is frustrating to buy bras, as a customer is almost always on their own, unless they have a good bra shop nearby that has trained fitters.That's why we sew our own – to customize the fit!

  28. LissaB
    LissaB says:

    I've wanted to take your first Craftsy class for a long time, but none of the pattern sizes sold on your site will fit. I'm a very large woman and always have a hard time finding bras to fit me. My underbust is about 55-56", so if I add 4-6" to that, I don't even think they make bras that big. Another issue is measuring the full bust. Since there is a lot of "side fluff", that measurement is hard to get and isn't really a good indicator of how big my breasts are. The "fluff" goes all the way around the side into the back, so the measurement ends being around 65". Some of that can be scooped into a cup, but not all of it, so I'm not sure how to find out my proper size. I currently buy 54C or 54D, which has pretty limited options and none have underwires. I buy front-close bras because it's impossible to reach around back to close a bra. Is it hopeless? Do I just stick with ready made bras?

  29. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    The breast tissue should ideally be inside the bra cup, and sometimes it takes a few months to re-direct it in there even with a correctly fitting bra. What did you measure using the BCD method. I suspect you will be the 30E and perhaps without any more info on my part, that would be the place to start. I don't use DD (that is E in my patterns)

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Hi fairy bra mother,
    I have your pattern, and I have ordered a kit I love the colour Fuchsia pink . and would love to have a go. I am not what you call competent at sewing person .
    I have searched for a bra to fit for years.
    I have breast feeding tissue under each arm which in it's day gave milk.I am now 62 years so my breast tissue is limp almost fluid.
    When you talk about getting all the tissue into the bra where does this put me. I am a small framed person and I seem to be around a 30 E or DD ,when I mesured your way I came out at a 32 C, but it is not a fit I have to much tissue.
    Is it better to have the extra breast feeding tissue outside the bra or in. the 30 E seems to fit better( Freya ) but the top cups are loose, whilst standing but if I bend over the breast tissue fits into the bra cup. Hence what I said about fluid tissue.I am sure you have come across women like me but I am not sure what to do. the kit I ordered was for 30 E. Help please

  31. Gavanna patterns/ Tina olsson
    Gavanna patterns/ Tina olsson says:

    Hello Beverly! I found this very interesting! I have been a bra seller for 4 years in total, in a big department store and a smaller chain, and as you point out we use method number 1. But I have never come across the advice to ADD width from your ribcage or under-bust measure. this is unheard of in my business, we REDUCE it! I find that a bra usually fits excellent if between 10 and 15 cm is taken off. That is 4-6 inches. (And we follow every single customer into the fitting room and look at them wearing the bra, and a customer usually tries on 4-10 bras to get a good fit, so I have seen a lot of bras! )
    Now, this measuring method do have some negative effects too. The bra band will fit very tight around the body, often causing quite bit of flesh sort of "oozing out," mostly in the back. The customer has to be convinced that this is not a problem with the bra size, but her amount of time spent in the gym 🙂
    There is also a limited number of producers that make a sufficient number of sizes, especially the ones most needed, with a small band ( sizes 30 and 32) with large enough cups ( let's say DD-G) so I sometimes ended up not having the size the customer actually needed.
    So all in all, a less serious seller, with a limited number of models, types and shapes, (as in a small chain selling only their own brand ) may end up not being totally honest with the customer.

    But I live in Sweden, and my bra selling all took place in Stockholm, and habits can be different in other countries? I have actually never asked for bra- advice anywhere else so this is just from my limited horizon.

    But apart from that little surprise I find your instructions absolutely clear and correct, so keep on the good work!
    I have myself only just started to try to make bras, and it's an exciting new area to say the least!
    Best regards, Tina

  32. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    Great question! Measure from the seamline between thee cup and the wire. If there is no seamline there (as in a partial band bra) then measure from the topstitching along the inside edge of the wire to determine the BCD

  33. scooter
    scooter says:

    Ha! Ditto here, and I suspect similar stories for a lot of women in our size range. Though my sizes by the first two methods are 32AA and 30A, there's no way I could wear them–I quad-boob out of a 30B, and a 32 band rides up my (28") back, but my breast tissue's spread all over my torso, with wide and tall roots. I make a 30C and reduce bottom cup depth…and now I'm going to need to look up how much I reduced it, because I'm curious if it aligns with Beverly's table. 🙂

  34. Jeannie H
    Jeannie H says:

    This is very helpful information. The BCD may be the thing that helps me zero in on my correct size. Method #1 is a total disaster for me. It isn't even in the ballpark. Method #2 gets me in the ballpark, but it isn't exact.

    You mention using sample bras to access starting size in your classes. Do you ever rent these sample bras out? This would be very helpful for those of us who cannot attend a class.

    I made a couple of tester cups for the PU Girls Classic bra, and from a bra kit I cut the one that seemed right. Before I could sew it up I lost a large amount of weight. I am going to have to start over with sizing. I sure hope that I am still in the size range of patterns I purchased. If not I guess I buy new patterns for the Classic and the Shelley (which is the actual style I intend to use once I have a well fitting pattern).

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post Beverly! Method 1 is a disaster for me – yields a 38F. Method 2 HB and FB yields a 34J, which is too big.
    Method 3 BCD is closest, yielding a 34G (which is too small cup, too big band for me). In the Shelley pattern I adapted the 32H to fit by widening the bottom of the band about 1" total, and moving strap attachment downward, which effectively decreased upper cup volume a bit… yielding a pretty decent fit. Omega shape issues 🙂 The Shelley bra is a truly great one! I wish you offered them in PDF format to save us on shipping costs!

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Terrific addition to bra fitting. I always found it suspicious that a 3 dimensional object was determined with 2 measurements. Seems impossible. I also think that measurements should include a consideration for breast width. I suppose that is covered with wire widths. Thanks so much for article. Look forward to the Craftsy class!

  37. Lyndle
    Lyndle says:

    Great article! Tomorrow night I'll have to try them all. Unfortunately at the moment the best fitting bra i have is a (thin) foam one with no seams, but I'd really like to be able to sew one and get it to fit. I must do it! I have both your craftsy class and a pattern of yours I win last year on Erin's giveaway, so no excuses!

  38. SewingZoe
    SewingZoe says:

    Beverly, this is a brilliant post, very helpful to all of us. Thank you. I can't wait to see your next class on Craftsy and after that the next one and the next one… ect.

  39. katherine h
    katherine h says:

    This is the first time I have seen the bottom cup depth method. It puts me at 34AAA. Method 1 & 2 put me at 34B. I find 34B wires to be the best fit but there will always be too much volume in the cup for me….guess that is why I sew my own!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] beeinflussen, nach der eure Größe für das entsprechende Schnittmuster bestimmt werden soll. HIER findet ihr übrigens unterschiedliche Messmethoden, um die Größe zu bestimmen. Und noch etwas: Es […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *