Last week, a debate about Simply Yours’ fitting advice video prompted a backlash from the boob blogging community. Why, we asked, when all of us were failed by the plus-four method and are now happily rehomed in bras that fit us perfectly, are companies – curve specialists no less – still promoting the plus-four method as the best way to get a perfect fit? The resounding cry from writers, customers, enthusiasts, retailers and specialists was that the practice has been outdated for years and no good can ever come from it. We took our argument to Simply Yours and eagerly awaited an answer.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Simply Yours for responding. It’s encouraging when a company engages with customer complaints, and I’m looking forward to getting this resolved for all of the curvy girls who love but are disappointed with the company. But having read it several times over, I’m afraid I’m still completely in the dark about why Simply Yours still use the method and promote it actively to their customers. They say that it is a complex issue (it is), but in automatically adding four they are adding more confusion than they are inches.
Here’s what it comes down to. I can think of no exceptions I know (and I’ve coerced, cajoled, and cheerleaded coachloads of women in to better fitting bras) of D+ women who have received a better fit from the plus-four method than they have working to the raw underbust measurement. I personally went from being a totally sedentary plus-foured 34E girl, constantly cursing my own body for being uncomfortable, unruly and cumbersome; to being a 28GG/30G girl who runs, swims and cycles as often as possible without ever thinking twice about whether her ample chest will get in the way.
The simple fact of the matter is that brands do vary and sizing is difficult. But nuances between brands don’t tend to vary by the 4-6 inches or 2/3 cup sizes difference commonly perpetuated by the method. And my two favourite brands – proudly decorating the Simply Yours banner (above) – both give the best support when worn at the raw underbust measurement. (Just discovered that our European sisters have to subtract ten cm from their underbust to get the equivalent of their raw size: more opportunity for confusion. The plus four method used there would result in a 20 cm band difference!)
So this this ‘complexity’ does not excuse the perpetuation of a practice that at a very obvious and basic level fails women and denies them the empowering and life enhancing (I’m not hyperbolising here – over a D cup this is true) impact a proper bra fitting can have on a woman’s life. Simply Yours defend themselves by stressing it’s just a guide for a good fit, and that nothing can replace a proper fitting. But their guide is directing customers the wrong way – that much is clear from the imperfect fit shown in the video – and a plus-four fit is not going to make a body-conscious woman any more confident about seeking out a proper fitting. And if she’s looking for a plus-four fitting anyway, she’s never going to know how to recognise it.
We firmly believe that Simply Yours would better serve their curvy customers by retracting the ‘plus-four’ video immediately, and replacing it with a better example using the raw underbust measurement instead. Bra fitting may still be difficult, and the raw underbust may still only be a guide, but at least – finally – it’s a guide in the right direction.
And all I can say to my fellow bloggers is this: you know what to do. Comment, blog, cajole. If Simply Yours won’t tell their customers the best possible advice to get the best possible fit, we’ll just have to shout louder than them….
We look forward to what Simply Yours do next…
Hi there, this is Charlotte from Simply Yours.
It’s great to see people so passionate about bra fitting.
We’d like to clarify something we’ve said all along.
In our video we suggest looking at the bra chart to find your back size as only a start point for your bra-fitting journey. Never at any point do we suggest that this is the size you should wear, without first checking for all of the signs that it fits correctly. If you spot any of the signs (such as back band riding up, for example) then we give the advice for how to correct the problems until you’ve got the fit just right. You’ll find that the chart does not feature anywhere on our website, but instead we offer troubleshooting advice and fitting tips: http://www.simplyyours.co.uk/shop/page?pageId=3100
In the video we check the fit of the bra size tried on after the measuring, found the cup size to be too small, and adjusted accordingly. Had the back band been riding up at this point, we would then have tried a smaller back size. This part of the process will be different for every woman until she finds that perfect fit.
As a company without a presence on the high street we had a few options for the start point for the fitting video:
a) We could take the ‘chuck out your tape measure’ approach, but as some women wear sizes that are so far removed from their true size, recommending trying on such a large number of bras is difficult for an online retailer without a changing room and an infinite number of bra sizes on hand to try. In an ideal world though, this is what we would do.
b) We could take the bra chart approach, which is still used by most bra manufacturers and retailers – but this (as you well know) does not suit everyone, particularly those with a large bust and a proportionally slimmer back who require more support from their back band.
c) We could take the ‘wear the bra back band number of your measurement in inches’ (for want of a better description) approach. But this also does not suit everyone. Although we do specialise in bigger cup sizes, we do not exclusively offer big sizes. Our bras start at an A cup (57 styles on the site at the moment.) We also offer selected bras in back sizes from 50 to 58. And although some ‘big cup small back’ bra companies are now designing their bras according to this model, most still do not.
Rightly or wrongly, we plumped for b) but always made it clear that this does not give your definitive bra back size, but rather a place to begin and assess the fit from there.
We were aiming for a ‘start to finish’ fitting process on the video, but as the process is different for all women, perhaps a troubleshooting video would make more sense. We deeply respect the work of Busts 4 Justice and the fab bra bloggers out there, and as a result we are now looking at creating a troubleshooting video as an alternative approach to fitting. We will let you know when it is on the site!
At Simply Yours we are friends of the curvy girl, and, we hope, Busts 4 Justice, and it is of the utmost importance to us to help women (curvy and not-so curvy) to get their bra size right.
Hi Charlotte, thank you for getting in touch.
We totally understand that you’re advising remotely and that this can be difficult. But by starting at the plus-four in that video, it does send a message that that is a good starting point for everyone. If there was a message saying that this doesn’t work adequately for above a D cup, then it might be okay – but actually you use a curvy model and fit her in a bra that several people (pros included) have thought from sight was the wrong size. Arguably the strap isn’t riding up in the video – she is still after all – but the bra is sitting low on her ribs – a classic plus-four result.
We often help girls troubleshoot remotely and are actually not anti-tape measure fundamentalists: while we love the experience of being fitted without one, when working things out for ourselves from scratch we need the tape measures and cup-size charts. We regard this very differently to the plus four method, because we know what it feels like when plus-four lets us down.
So we would welcome a troubleshooting video – there is lots to learn from the way Freya and Bravissimo help women with this. But if you’re inexperienced, have worked from a plus-four base, and are shopping remotely, it’s quite hard to troubleshoot yourself down three backsizes and up three cupsizes. It would be fantastic if you would also consider tackling fitting properly, with an additional guide that helps women learn the too-little known fact that actually over a D, when you start with the raw underbust measurement, the troubleshooting journey to the perfect fit doesn’t have to be so daunting. In fact, more often than not you find yourself starting from the right place.
Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with,
“We could take the ‘wear the bra back band number of your measurement in inches’ (for want of a better description) approach…[but] …although some ‘big cup small back’ bra companies are now designing their bras according to this model, most still do not.”
This is simply not the case.
My underbust measurement is 29 inches and I wear a 30 inch band. This is not unique to a small group of brands who have devised their own sizing system, this is standard. I wear bras from specialist brands and the high street, and all of them without exception fit closer to the actual measurement than the “add 4” method would suggest. In some very rare cases I might need to go up to a 32, but these bras are vastly outnumbered by the instances in which I need a 28. Even if all the brands that make bras in my size used a different system of sizing, then a 34B bra would have the same band size as my 30Es, but they don’t – it’s still 4 inches bigger.
Some companies have been trying to defend their use of the “add 4” method by claiming that high street brands have begun using a “new sizing” where the back band is more generous and doesn’t require the addition of any inches. However, nobody has changed their sizing over the last 5 years. It’s nothing new, it’s just that now we are challenging the outdated measuring system that is causing our bras to be fitted incorrectly! I believe it was What Katie Did who first began to look down on the idea of “new sizing” after I raised the issue with Katie but of course they design faux vintage lingerie so they are able to say that they use the same sizing as original 1950s bras. Simply Yours, like most other retailers, do not sell vintage style bras. They sell the same brands as high street retailers, and their sizing is consistant with the brands I would regard as true to size, in other words, you don’t have to add 4 inches.
The only people claiming that there has been a recent change in sizing are those defending the outdated system that has been letting us down for years. The problem is that each side of the debate is claiming that their system is the industry standard!
Charlotte, we all agree that measuring is only a starting point, and that every woman is different. However, you stating this in your blog (to try and justify adding 4 inches) is a downright fallacy:
“On an average 34 back size bra the underband will measure 25-26.5in (that’s 64-68cm) flat depending on the fabrics used (and how much they stretch when worn). That’s around 4in smaller than the body measurement of a size 34 lady, whose ribcage measures 29.5” (75cm). A 30 back band would measure around 54/56cm or 21/22in and would have to stretch at least 8in to make the body measurement. As you can see from the two examples, this bra has to stretch much more to meet the actual body measurement of 29.5in. This extra stretch puts a lot of extra pressure on your bra- ”
This is just a lie. A 34 band does not measure 25 inches flat. It just doesn’t – full stop. My bras range from Freya, Panache, Fantasie, Elle Macpherson, Ewa Michalak, DimitySO, Rigby and Peller, Bravissimo brand, Anita, Fayreform, Elomi, Triump, Lovable, etc – all different brands from different countries – and they ALL measure around 30-31 inches flat, and 34-35 inches stretched. It’s the same with a 30 band back, too. After measuring a friend’s bras last night, I can see her 30 bands measure around 25-26 unstretched, and 29-31 stretched.
Regarding your comment – “And although some ‘big cup small back’ bra companies are now designing their bras according to this model, most still do not.” It’s not a new model — it’s how all bras should be worn (as a starting point). It’s not about ‘some big cup small back’ bra companies are doing it. EVERY bra I’ve tried has been roughly around the same as my underbust measurement. I have tried on numerous bras from all sorts of companies who stock a cup size I can wear, and the result is always the same. I need a 34 across the board, as I measure 34 inches and a 38 like you suggest is very large on me. Many of my friends measure 36 and 38 underbust and also need a bra the same as their underbust measurement. It’s not about ‘big cup small back’ companies! My back isn’t particularly small, nor is the back of my 36 and 38 friends small, yet we ALL need a band that is the same as our underbust measurement.
I was wearing a 32D for years, based on the +4 rule…..I was then remeasured by Leia and put into a 30E which straight away was an improvement. The band started holding my boobs in a better place and there was less pressure on my shoulders. I then started looking into bra fitting and attempted to re-fit myself. I then became a 28F and suddenly my whole body shape seemed to change. My boobs sat higher, my shoulders were more relaxed, the dents/marks vanished and I felt confident again after having droopy looking boobs from ill fitting bra’s. The band, although tight @ first, settled down and gave me all the uplift I’d previously been trying to get from tightening my straps. The +4 rule doesn’t work. If you have an odd back measurement, round it up by an inch and use that as your starting band, instead of adding 4/5 inches!? PERSONALLY, I find the best way of bra fitting is of course to try the bra’s on and find the size that feel most natural – you shouldn’t have strap dents, you shouldn’t be able to get more than 1 finger under the band of your bra, the wire should sit as flat as possible against your ribcage, the underwire should not be under your arm (this would suggest your cup size is wrong) and most importantly you should be comfy!
The +4 rule does not give you any support from the band, and it’s outdated and the reason so many women are in ill-fitting bra’s and are in constant pain. I measure 26.5 around my ribcage/back so I have no choice but to wear a 28 backed bra, currently 28E/F so I still cannot find a bra that fits me as it should. Once you know your correct back size, everything else is fairly simple. Of course different companies will give you slightly different fits & you may find you need to upsize/downsize with different makes, I wear M&S 28F bra’s, yet I also have various other brand 30E bra’s that feel exactly the same fit as the M&S. Find your initial size(s) then just experiment. Its so simple!
“A 30 back band would measure around 54/56cm or 21/22in and would have to stretch at least 8in to make the body measurement.”
I just got out my tape measure and did a quick survey of a few bras in my drawer. These are all new or only worn a few times, so they are not worn out.
brand band size unstretched stretched
Freya 28 23.5 30
wonderbra 30 23.5 31
Debenhams 30 24 30.5
Freya 30 25.5 30
Ewa Michalak 30 20.5 28.5
Fantasie 30 24 32
Miss Mandalay 30 23 30
Fayreform 30 23 31.5
Sexy Panties and
Naughty Knickers 30 24.5 31
Curvy Kate 30 24 31
As you can see, I have given examples from a variety of brands, and only one of them (Ewa Michalak) does not stretch comfortably up to the stated size. Of course, the unstretched measurement varies a lot depending on the stretch of the fabric. There is also a noticeable variation between brands, but nothing that would serve as an explanation for adding 4 to 5 inches.
You don’t have to take my word for it, visit http://bratabase.com
It’s not very clear because the columns are not lined up, but the average unstretched measurement for all 10 bras labelled as 30 was 23.5 inches, and the average streched measurement was 30.5 inches. When the anomalous bra (ewa michalak) is taken away, those averages change to 24 and 31 inches.
Obviously, these are just the bras in my drawer, so it’s not very scientific, but you get the gist. It’s not something that’s a particular quirk of a minority of brands, it’s universal. The assertion that a typical 30 inch band will measure 21-22 inches unstretched, is simply not true.
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The “plus 4-5 inches” rule definitely does not work for me! I was wearing a very ill-fitting 36DD for years in high school based off this method. I had back pain and could find *nothing* that was comfortable or seemed to fit well, until, after doing my own research and with the help of fitters, I finally found my true size (30G when I had a 28.5in underbust, 28GG currently with a 27in underbust). I’m practically swimming in a bra when it’s a 32 band!
I have several friends who ascribe to the “add 4-5 inch” rule and can’t understand why their bras are so ill-fitting, but are so hung up on the stigma of cup sizes D+ (because anything above a D is HUGE in their minds) that they can’t imagine trying a 28DD instead of their horribly-fitting 34B. I think there are a lot of myths/misconceptions surrounding bras, fittings, and sizes that bra companies should work to end, not perpetuate!
Thanks for the great post.
Just a word from the continent regarding the sentence
“Just discovered that our European sisters have to subtract ten cm from their underbust to get the equivalent of their raw size: more opportunity for confusion. The plus four method used there would result in a 20 cm band difference!”
Basically we have the same problem. We do not add anything since we our sizing system differes from the British one in two aspects: First, we do not measure in inches but in centimeters and second, our bandsizes name this exact measurement. For example:
The circumference of my ribcage is 83cm, so I am supposed to wear a 85-band (=UK-size 38) or maybe a 80/36.
A 85 band should be right for measurements between 83 and 88,
a 80-band for measurements between 78 and 82 and so forth.
But while you could just stop adding 4, we have actually actively to go down a few sizes and substract centimeters, which is in deed much more confusing.
While in theory I am supposed to wear a band 80 or 85, in reality I’m between 75/34 and 70/32 in order to support my bust properly. (Size 34H/32HH)
This means, I’m to substract 10cm – would I measure in inches I could just take the value and go shopping.
There are – of course – exceptions but they are extraordinarily rare. One example is the 36G Freya Supernova I own. I also tried on 34GG and could not find a big difference there, so I went for the larger band size.
Thanks for your post and all your great work.
Kind regards from Germany.
Thanks so much for your comment! It’s so confusing: how much easier would if be if we all worked to raw measurements? I hate that we have to learn (the hard way) for ourselves how to get a decent fit. We are lucky in that we can just pick up our raw sizes, but to learn that’s what we need when they’re pointing us in the wrong direction is impossible! And I’m so happy groups like busenfreundinnen.net are springing up in Europe to help raise awareness. Eventually we will get there! x
The whole plus-4 situation is similar for women who need a very small cup size, such as AA, A or petite B cup. For us, the plus-four method doesn’t work either. The smaller you go, the more of a difference an inch makes… so for the most part I encourage petite small-busted ladies to round the band measurement to the nearest inch, up or down. Then: if you rounded to an odd number take the next even size up. If you rounded down to an even number, that’s your band size. It should also be said that you can have your bras taken in if they never quite fit in the band — some women really are a perfect 33 or 35.
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