/ Shopping

Will bra retailers finally measure up?

Woman doing up bra

Come on ladies, admit it – you’ve got at least one poorly-fitting bra in your drawer that you wish you hadn’t wasted your money on. Now it’s time to, ahem, get it off your chest and start expecting a better bra-fitting service.

In February our researchers went shopping to get fitted for an everyday bra – and the results were depressing.

Admittedly, this test went beyond the usual call of duty for our researchers, and it would be easy to see it as a laughing matter, but our research really brought it home that buying a bra is serious business.

We found that fewer than one in three bra fitting services measured up and a quarter of fittings were so bad that our experts gave them a zero score. This provided a pretty similar picture to the one we found back in 2004, and I have to admit that, as the lead researcher, I had little confidence things would change.

But I’m hoping that I’ll get to utter those rare words: ‘I was wrong’, because scientists and retailers have now got together to set up the Bra Retailers Association on the back of our findings.

Its laudable aim is for retailers to work together to make the marketplace less confusing for consumers, and ultimately, it wants to create a national bra fitting standard and quality mark.

So will it all be a storm in a D-cup? I hope not because, quips aside, this is a genuine issue. Poor-fitting bras lead to health problems as well as discomfort, not to mention confusion. Some of the sizing we saw in our research was completely baffling – one researcher was sold bras that ranged across seven sizes from a 34DD to a 40D.

It’s great to hear that industry is working together to get it right, so I’m keen to see whether this new association will create a better bra-buying experience. How does your bra-buying experience measure up with our research – time to get it off your chest here. [/bad bra puns]


I have been having problems purchasing bras for more than 50 years (since the days when you could only get A,B andC cup fittings). The advent of the wider range of cup fittings, although it has helped, in some ways has made the choice more confusing. I currently have bras which more or less fit which range in size from 34J to 36G. A lot depends on the manufacturer but also on the style. Sometimes I get a bra which fits well and feels comfortable but does nothing for my shape. Why do manufacturers make bras for large bosomed ladies in very flimsy material?

I have, in the past, used a bra fitter and have also followed the directions shown in articles about choosing the right size of bra but the results have never been satisfactory.

I have some sympathy with bra manufacturers and bra fitters because we women are all so different, not just physically but in our expectations. My sister and I, for example, are physically similar but I like my bra to be very close fitting and wired whereas she prefers hers loosely fitting and unwired. It would be useful if the sizings were uniform throughout the industry so that you could go into a shop pick your size and style and only have to concern yourself with the appearance and material of the bra. I’ not sure that’s ever going to be possible

phoebe says:
20 November 2010

For probably far too many years I didn’t really wear bras to a great extent but the years have began to catch up & gravity has added its evil to the mix resulting in problems & discomfort never encountered before! I decided that a ‘bra fitting/measuring service’ might be a good option, so headed to M & S for what might be a life changing experience. After all, M & S has been the backbone of lingerie for my generation since …….well, we won’t go into that!
The girl who eventually assessed my ‘size’ was very pleasant – apparently she did not require to use a tape measure as a visual assessment would suffice. I was emphatically informed of my correct size (somewhat different to the one I’d assumed I was for too many years to admit to!).
Confident that I had finally been properly measured and sussed out, I proceeded to spend a considerable sum in M & S on bras of my delegated size and then trotted off to La Senza and spent an equivalent sum of the same (supposedly correct) sized **** hammocks – hopefully the site won’t deem these words to be ‘offensive’!!
OK, now comes the sad part – the bras purchased from M & S in the size recommended by their fitter are very far from comfortable – the ones from La Senza in that size are possibly a more comfortable fit.
As said in the previous comment – why on earth can the sizing not show some consistensy??
How many of us spend £30 on a **** hammock that still isn’t the right size and just sits in the back of our undie drawer as it will never be worn?
I have a handful of ‘Teddies’ supposedly in the correct size – they are far too short in body length and ride up constantly when worn – BUT they cost a fortune!
Why are we constantly splashing out on stuff to simply fill our ‘undie drawer’ – the retailers seem to have got us ladies over a barrel!

Sophie Gilbert says:
21 November 2010

My mother taught me how to put on a bra (it’s important to know how to) and she came with me to the shop when it was time for me to buy my first one (not just because she was holding the purse strings!). The lady at the shop took the two measurements you need to take (on and just below the breasts) properly with a measuring tape, and gave me a few bras to try on to see how they fitted. Some were one size down on the measurements, some the “right” measurements size and some one size up. When I tried them on the lady showed me again the correct way to put the bra on, and we found a bra that fitted me without difficulty.

Not knowing how to put on a bra, not knowing how to measure ourselves and not getting any help from some shop assistants is unfortunately not the only problem we have. In the same way as one brand’s size 10 trousers will really be a size 12 and vice versa, one brand’s 34B will really be a 36A and so on, sometimes much more wildly differing than this. My advice is to stick to one or two brands that you have found do fit. I’ve given up on M&S myself for example but find that La Senza is perfect.

I have a lot of sympathy for women with very small or very large bosoms. Not a lot is done for them. Specialised shops do exist (there is one in Edinburgh for example), but of course they are few and far between.

As far as price is concerned, shop around, and shop when there are sales on or special offers. I know it is much more difficult to find your size then, but you can come across a real treat from time to time.

Like many women I discovered when I was first properly fitted that I was wearing distinctly the wrong size bra. I have recently visited Bravissimo for the first time and found their fitting service excellent.
With regard to the range in size/fit I think of it much like clothes… I know my general size and that’s the one I try on but dependant on style and cut of the garment I may need/prefer to go up or down a size. On this basis, armed with the size diagnosis from a professional fitting I also order bras online – this way a wider range is available to me and I can try them on in the comfort of my own home. I have had good shopping experiences with Figleaves and BraStop – both also have good returns policies so I sometimes order an item in more than one size to make sure I get the right fit.
I overall think the bra buying experience is improving but I share the concerns re poorly trained fitters as uncovered by the survey and hope the new association moves towards consistent improvement in fitting advice.

I once went bra shopping with the wife.
Shop 1 – spoke about the importance of having a correctly fitted bra, pointed out all the negatives of just choosing one off the peg, etc, then the health benefits of being measured.
The wife bought two of the “correct” size after being measured.

Passing another underwear shop, we “popped in” and spent another 45 minutes there, whilst the assistant once again went through the patter of the importance of being measured.
After another measuring, that revealed a different sized bra was required once again, we bought another two bras.

Both shops measured differently, sold two different sizes of product.

Ladies, faced with this type of marketing/measuring con trick and products that are a given label size but totally different when compared between different suppliers, you really have no chance whatsoever.
The same can be said about children’s shoes (clarkes v other makes) – clothing (“They are wide fitting!” – utter rubbish, a 32 waist should be standard across the range/brands)
One thing I have noticed in all of this, the cost to the customer always seems to fall on the side of being more expensive!

Rachel says:
25 September 2011

I’m 15 weeks pregnant and, having outgrown my usual 32D bras which I was measured for 2 years ago, I went to Mothercare to be fitted for a maternity bra. I was measured by a very young girl over the top of my badly fitting bra and a top, and was informed that I’m a 34C. I expressed my surprise at this and she explained the difference by saying that perhaps their sizes are different to the shop where I was previously fitted, and that because I’ve gone up a back size that may be why I’ve gone down a cup size. Unfortunately I trusted that she was right, at least regarding Mothercare bras, and bought 5 bras. All of them are too small and will need to be returned, and I still don’t know what my size is.

Good luck getting them changed – Mothercare is notoriously difficult when it comes to refunds. I’ve also found their customer service pretty appalling, and their products can be very overpriced. I found good old M&S helpful when I was pregnant, but unfortunately it does depend on who you get measuring you!

Shirley Hecker says:
16 July 2012

I would like to know why we have to have strtchy staps on our bras.Everytime I lean over half my breast fall out.I feal like I have cantalopes instead of breast.,they are just a round mass on the front of me.The bras come up in the back & down goes your breast.I have tried every brand on the market but they all do the same.Plus we have wire under our breast diggind into our body’s.I’m so sick of looking like this I feel like just throwing all my bras away & just let them fall,and believe me that would not be a pretty sight! HELP! We need the old fashion bra.Know streatchy straps & know wire underneath.