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Elisabeth Dale Headshot

Your Bra Size Matters Less Than You Think

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The Jockey Company introduced a "revolutionary" new bra sizing system a few weeks ago. Why? Because experts agree that some 80 percent of women wear the wrong size bra. This is thought to be due, in part, to the inadequacy of the current antiquated measuring tape method of determining bra size. But does it even matter? What if women wear the "wrong" size bra for all the "right" reasons?

Jockey sent me their new Fit Kit and gave me the opportunity to try one of their bras, free of charge. I had nothing to lose and every woman's dream to gain: a new and well-fitting bra. The kit turned out to be a set of 10 different sized plastic cups plus a measuring tape. I was instructed to use the tape to measure under my bust and determine my band size. Then I placed one of the "volumetric" cups over my boob and settled on the number that fit me best. In Jockey's system I was now a 06/32, rather than my familiar 34D (or DD, depending on the bra brand and style).

I chose one of Jockey's t-shirt bras that went well with my casual jeans and t-shirt wardrobe. My complimentary bra arrived about a week later, and I couldn't wait to try it on. It looked well made, with fashionable decor on the straps. It fit. The front of the bra lay flat against my breastbone; there was no overflow from too small, or wrinkling from too big, cups. The wires weren't pinching on breast flesh. The band was snug and didn't ride up or down. It met all the rigorous fit rules presented on my blog and in my book. Yet it was all "wrong" for me.

The bra pushed my boobs apart, moving them more toward my armpits. This made my shirt fabric stretch across a hollow center. The height of the band came too far up under my armpits. (A not uncommon issue for short-waisted torsos.) The width of the underwire was uncomfortable, and put pressure on the thin skin of my more mature breasts.

But that's me. Another woman measuring into the size 06/32 Jockey might adore this bra and find it suits her perfectly. How is that possible? The answer isn't found in Jockey's new sizing system. It can be due to other factors outside a woman's bra, and her control.

Age. Breast tissue changes as you age, not just in pregnancy and childbirth. Lingerie brands promote best bra fit on younger women. If models have children, they fall into the Victoria's Secret top one percent body types: long legs and lean torsos. I have three grown kids, just went through menopause and my boobs grew in the process (go figure). My 23-year-old daughter and I have different fit issues and lingerie tastes, due to this age gap.

Income. The Jockey bra costs $60, which is about three times the price of bras found on sale at Target and Wal-Mart. Women with larger breasts (above a D) have greater problems with fit and spend more on their bras. Fuller-busted women fall outside Victoria Secret's DD and under range, making their search for available and affordable bras more difficult.

Lifestyle. One bra does not rule us all. I prefer underwire and lace bras, with little padding. I'm not a big fan of molded cups, although I wear them. Other women have their own distinct bra likes and dislikes. Personal preferences extend to fashions worn over foundations. And not all bras work under every outfit.

Body Type and/or Height. I'm athletic in some places and not others. The Jockey band felt too tight on me, probably because I work out with weights and have more muscle in my back and under my arms. My boobs may be farther apart, or rest higher, or lower, on my chest than on another woman's front. Then there's my height; I'm only 5'5" (and shrinking with age) so this bra will not fit the same on someone taller or with a different body build.

Toss into this mix that no two breasts are alike (even on the same woman), and it's easy to see the challenges of fitting and manufacturing bras. Some bra brands now focus on either end of the wide spectrum of AAA to N cups, and 28 to 58 bands. Still women struggle to find their "right" support.

Maybe for 80 percent of women, size is just an arbitrary starting point. It's not the best measure of bra fit.

What's your view? Have you had any bra fitting issues that were based on factors outside your bra? How do you define your perfect bra fit?

This post originally appeared on Breast Briefs at Lingerie Briefs.