Bra Size & Bra Styles - How to measure bra sizes?

Before I entered the world of lingerie, I never really paid too much attention to my boobs. I knew they were there (at the time I was pretty busty so there was no avoiding that one), I knew there was a purpose for them and without a doubt I knew that I utterly despised bra shopping. Don't get me wrong, I loved looking at pretty bras and knickers but that's about as far as it went. I could never really fathom what my actual bra size was despite being measured and trying on countless shapes and sizes - I think we've all been there at some point in our lives. Quite frankly at the time (I was mid teens by this point) I thought that the double boob look was excellent (*cringe*) because I thought it made my cleavage look spectacular! The more padding the better - not that I needed it at all. I was constantly being reminded by people (particularly by my male friends) that I had a rather large chest and looking back at some old photos I just want to shout at my teenage self.


The day I got a job at an independant lingerie boutique was the day it all changed. First things first, I got measured - an ample 36F for anyone who's curious (I was shocked to say the least, I thought I was a generous double D). I then spent a good half hour being handed various shapes and sizes until the perfect shape and fit was found. Funnily enough it was a Freya 3/4 cup bra with no padding?! I immediately loved it. It was gorgeous and gave me such a natural shape, when I put my top on over it I could have sworn I'd lost about 5lbs (seriously). I couldn't believe how much difference a good fitting bra could make and I started falling in love with lingerie. 


What I learnt from the beginning was what a good fit should look like:




Below are 5 keys points to remember when looking for the perfect fitting bra so you are left comfortable, confident and supported.


1) The underwires should clear the breast tissue

The underwires shouldn't be digging into the sides, nor should you be bulging over the top (ie: double boob). At the same time, there shouldn't be any empty space either. If you're bulging, you need to go up a cup size and if you feel as though your bra is the equivalent of a packet of walkers (more air, less filling) then try going down a cup size.

2) The band should feel firm, but not restrictive

You need the back to be firm in order to get the maximum support. Generally the rule of thumb on a new bra is to start on the loosest hook. This is so as the bra slackens with age and use, that way you still have 2 other hooks to fall back on. It shouldn't feel so tight that it's digging into your skin, if this is the case try a bigger band size. The same goes if you immediately go straight to the tightest hook, try a smaller band size - you don't want the band to be riding up your back making your girls at the front droop. 

3) The centre of the bra should fit snugly against your breast bone

The centre gore should sit flat and not pull away from your body, if it does, try going up a cup size. However some women who have closer set breasts may struggle with this, if that is the case for you, try a different style and get as close to perfect as you can. 

4)  The back and front of the band should be at the same height and even.

Take a look at yourself sideways on in a mirror. If the band is going up your back and your boobs are going south, try a smaller band size (if the cup fits, remember to go up in the cup). If the band is too tight, go up a back size and down in the cup.

5) Your straps should not be digging in 

Generally we say, an inch of play (stretch room) at the top of your straps is good. You don't want your straps to be digging in and leaving huge dents in your shoulder. At the same time, nor do we want them to be so loose that they are slipping down (never a good look even if the straps are pretty!). 

EXAMPLE A - Too big




This is a great example provided by our lovely Knicker Locker model, Zoe, of how to tell if your bra is too big. You can see the cups are visibly gaping and the fabric is wrinkled all over. The hook is already on the tightest and the band is beginning to ride up Zoe's back. Zoe is wearing a 36F in this picture and would need to go down in the back size and the cup to get a better fit.

EXAMPLE B - Too small



Here Zoe is wearing a 32C, a lot better in the back as she is now on the loosest hook comfortably. This means the support will last for a longer period of time as she'll still have 2 more hooks to fall back on after the bra slackens with age and wear. The cups however are a different story. You can see the center gore is no where near touching Zoe's breast bone and the cups are digging in giving her the dreaded double boob. Because the back size fits well but the cup does not, Zoe will have to go up in the cup.

EXAMPLE C - Perfect fit


This is Zoe wearing her actual size (32E). You can clearly see the difference it makes compared to the larger and smaller sizes. The band is sitting square on Zoe's back and she is on the loosest hook, the center gore is sitting flat on her breast bone and the cups are sitting smoothly over Zoe's breasts. This is an excellent example of what a good fitting bra should look like. 


As you can see, the right size really does make a lot difference to the appearance of your breasts. Imagine what a difference to your outfit wearing the right size could make?




Now, I am fully aware that for some ladies, wearing a bra is not for them which is perfectly okay! There isn't actually any link between bra wear and breast sagging so personally I say if you want to go free, be free! However for myself I wear bras because after a lot of weight loss and lack of funds for a surgical uplift, I do want to keep mine from appearing droopy, I also like the appearance they give me under various outfits and being able to change the shape with different styles of bra, but here are some other reasons why I think bras are great:

  • They take some of the weight off your shoulders and back and reduce bounce - goodbye back ache!
  • They can help improve your posture
  • Wearing the correct size will improve body image and in turn, self confidence
  • They lift your breasts off your ribcage
  • They can change the natural projection of your breasts 
  • They can make your breasts appear bigger or smaller by either maximising or minimizing cleavage




There are quite a number of different bra styles out there and really it's down to personal preference as to what we go for. I myself am no longer a fan of padding and generally only wear a T-shirt bra if I have to for outfit purposes, but I am now a fan of the balconette style. Not that I have anything against padding, I just really enjoy the comfort of the soft lace and the natural looking shape they tend to give me. On that note - many people can get confused by the different terminologies for each style of bra but fear not, below is a list of examples of the most popular styles so in future, you know what you're looking for:




The Elomi Lyndsey Full Cup Bra


This style of bra generally is the one that provides the most coverage and support, something you can probably gather from the name. The centre gore of the bra is usually a lot higher than on other styles and the straps are set closer together, this is also helpful if you have narrow or sloping shoulders which will help avoid slipping straps. This style is great for a lot of breast shapes, particularly for ladies with a larger bust. 




The Freya POPART Balcony Bra


This bra style leaves bit more of the top of the breasts exposed but not too much! This style is quite often mistaken for the 'half cup' bra (shown below) purely because of what we imagine when we think of the name. This style tends to lift and separate your breasts, great for those of us who have slightly shallower breasts and aren't quite as full at the top. Unlike the full cup bra however, this style usually has wider set straps, something you may want to consider if you have narrow or sloping shoulders (see above).




The Huit Plein Les Yeux Half Cup Bra

The reason why I say this bra style usually gets mistaken for the balconette is because of the way the cups look as though they have been cut straight across the chest. This style has even wider set straps than the full cup or balconette and has vertical seams on the cup which help to lift and center your breasts. This style of bra is good for low cut tops and helps create a natural cleavage without the help of padding, although some half cup styles do have some padding if you like that extra lift. 




The Freya Deco Vibe Padded Plunge Bra

The clue is in the name here really, the style of the bra is cut a lot lower than the previous ones above and the cup shape looks more like a tear drop than rounded. This style is good for those who like an extra bit of va va vooooom to their cleavage and is perfect for wearing under plunging necklines. You may find some padded plunge bras have built in padding whilst some others will have removable pads so you can choose your level of 'oomph'!




The B.Tempt'd B Sultry Longline Bra

This style is actually one of my favourites, I think it's because it's like you can fit more 'pretty' into one bra. The bra itself has a wider band underneath that can be few inches long below the ribcage. It's a good one if you like a real sense of stability (thanks to the wider band) however if you are quite short in the body you may find they can be a bit uncomfortable. 




The B.Tempt'd Faithfully Yours Strapless Bra

I find these are sometimes the most obscure to fit. This is because they are usually a lot firmer on the back which is why a lot of the time you may find you have to play around with the sizing a bit as to not feel constricted. This is not to say it shouldn't be firm though, as there are no straps, the band is where your bust will get all of it's support from. Thanks to advancements in the fashion industry, strapless bras can be lacey, moulded, short or longline, you name it, you can probably find it. A majority of strapless bras also come with a set of straps which can allow you to wear your bra in other ways such as crisscross or one shoulder, handy for party dresses.

Take a lot at our bra style guide for more shapes and styles!


CUP SIZES - What do they actually mean?


Why are we so scared of hearing any letter above a D? Over the period of my lingerie fitting years I have witnessed many looks of disbelief or gasps of horror when anything above a D cup was mentioned. I will admit, when I myself heard the letter F I inwardly freaked out a bit. My point here is, there is no longer any reason to fret over letters. For starters, the average size claimed by bra fitters has grown (quite literally!) from a C cup to and E cup over the past 20 years. 

This is something I really like to stress to people.. When you've fitted bras for a long time, you begin to learn how to determine somebodies bra size purely by just looking at them. Impossible I hear you say? Well I have tried and tested this on many of my friends just to prove my point and whilst almost all of them didn't believe me, as soon as I got that particular size on them, they took it back. The reason I used to do that with them is because they had the "letter fear". Cup size is irrelevant unless it is matched up with a specific band number!

I mentioned earlier if your bra was fitting nicely in the cup, but felt really loose on the back you would need to go down in the back and then up in the cup. The below bra sizes are the same in volume of the cup, just different letters because of the band number, therefore identical letters do not represent the same size.

For example

You try on a 38C, it's nice in the cup however you're already on the tightest hook, so you would then try on a 36D, still too loose? Try a 34E and so on so forth... 

So really, when you think of it like that the letter isn't actually that much of a big deal. 

Remember, the tape measure is only an estimate of your size and a majority of the time, particularly for fuller busted ladies, it just doesn't work. The best way to establish your size is to look in the mirror, look at where the faults are and adjust them accordingly. (Remember, don't freak out if you have to go up or even down in the cup, you'll appreciate how much the correct size looks soooo much better!)

You can also use our handy bra size calculator to work out your size based on a few quick questions about how your current bra looks at feels!

 Designate some time to nail down your size and your future self will thank you forever.




Because of our Nations growing busts, many lingerie companies have adapted and begun to make bras for the bigger sizes without having to compromise on the look, because why should we have to? Just because you have bigger breasts doesn't mean you should have to miss out on all the gorgeousness that you see in the smaller sizes. Here at Knicker Locker we are no exception. I've gathered together a few of my most favourite bras for the bigger busted ladies to keep you feeling good whilst still getting the best support!



Fantasies Amelie is available in this gorgeous navy blue and pretty purple colour way. Sprinkled with Swiss designed embroidery and delicate bows for and ultra feminine look and feel.

Available in sizes 34E - 38FF.



Elomi are renowned for creating beautiful bras for fuller figured ladies and this bra is no exception. With bold raspberry stretch lace and multi coloured fabric you'll feel pretty in pink in this number. It also sports a lower front for a flattering neck line.

Available in sizes  36F - 40FF



The Betty padded balcony bra is designed with a stunning burlesque theme on soft satin fabric. Brilliant for a natural looking rounded shape. It also has heart shaped strap adjusters for that extra bit of glam!

Available in sizes 32E - 34G



Bright red actually goes invisible under white garment better than white does! Don't believe me? Try it!




Below I have added a list of links to our handy tools and guides to help you find the perfect size and style for you so you can get on with the best bit - shopping!




As I have mentioned before, I used to hate bra shopping. Lack of confidence and knowledge of the subject were the two main factors that put me off. But knowing your size and learning what suits you and makes you feel good really does help. It can get confusing out there in the world of lingerie especially when there is just so much available now. But wouldn't we rather have more choice than not enough? At Knicker Locker we have plenty to choose from, sizes from a 32A all the way to a 42H, whether you want to plunge and push on a big night out, or go sweat it out at a spin class in your new sports bra. Don't be afraid to try new things, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much your underwear drawer can achieve.





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Comments (2) -

Thank you for sharing your personal journey and insights into finding the perfect bra fit. It's amazing how a job at an independent lingerie boutique completely changed your perspective on lingerie and the importance of a good-fitting bra. Many of us can relate to the struggles of bra shopping and not fully understanding our true size.

Thanks on you article i now know what size cup i am. This helped me a lot to find the right size of bra which now gives me confidence and with the bras from rose and thorne i am so much comfortable.

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