We’re all familiar with the numbers and letters on our bra, but have you ever wondered what they mean? Is a 38D the same in Europe as it is in the United States? 

Let’s take a look at what the numbers and letters mean and how this all came to be.

What Are The Meanings of the Letters and Numbers On My Bra?

A brief history of bras.

Bras have come a long way. For hundreds of years, women didn’t wear bras. Instead, they wore corsets that pushed the breasts up and together.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a corset was divided into two pieces with the upper half held by straps, and the lower half cinching the waist. 

In 1907 American Vogue first used the term brassiere, referring to the upper half of the split corset, and in 1914 the first “modern” bra was invented by Mary Phelps Jacob. Her patented design used two silk handkerchiefs and silk ribbons. 

In the 1920s the bandeau style bra rose to fashion, and in the 1930s the first cup sizing system was used. 

Adjustable straps, padded cups, and the popular hook-and-eye closure were also invented in the 1930s. Since then bras have evolved with not only the fashions of each decade but also with advancements in technology. 

Band Size Is Shown in the Bra Size as a Number

Your bra’s band size is the numbers that are printed on the bra tag. The numbers on the tag like 36, 38, and 40, tell you what the band size is. 

The band is the part of the bra that wraps around your rib cage. In most American stores the bands usually range from 28 to 56. The most commonly produced sizes are 32-42. 

In the United States, the sizes are all even numbers. If you happen to measure as a 35 or 39 it’s recommended that you round up to the next even number. 

How is your bra band size determined

How is your band size determined?

To figure out what your bra band size is you need a soft tape measure. Measure around your chest, just underneath your arms and around the top of your bust. Round your measurement to the next nearest even number. This is your Glamorise band size. 

For a perfect fit, make sure that you are measuring according to the brand’s guidelines. Different companies may measure in different ways. 

Cup Size Is Shown in the Bra Size as a Letter

Your cup size is the letter or letters next to your band size. For example, if your bra size is a 40DD, your cup size is DD. In the United States cup sizes range from A to N. 

The cup sizes get larger as the letters go up in the alphabet. Size D is bigger than A, and H is bigger than D. Sizes are as follows: AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, DD, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N.  

bra letter cup size chart


Cup sizes are a way of labeling the volume that each cup holds. This changes depending on the band size. For example, a 34D isn’t the same volume as a 38D. This is because the cup size is relative to the band size. 


European Sizes

The bra industry doesn’t have standardized sizing so it’s different from country to country. So what if you’re on holiday in Germany and want to buy some lingerie.

Are the sizes the same? Nope. European sizes (not the United Kingdom), also use letters but not the double letters like DD. Their sizes are A, B, C, D, E, F, G...etc. Their band sizes are in centimeters, not inches, so a 32DD would be a 70E. 

Other differences are:

  • France and Spain-use centimeters but sizes go by 5s. For example, 80, 85, 90. 
  • Italy-numbers their bands on a 1, 2, 3 system. For example, 1=32, 2=34, etc. For cup sizes, they use A, B, C, D, E, & F. 
  • Australia & New Zealand-band sizes start at 8 and go by 2s. An 8 is equal to 30.

The importance of size

Now that you understand a bit more about what the sizes mean, we encourage you to make sure that you’re wearing the correct size. 

Your bra band can’t support you like it’s supposed to if it’s too big, and cups that are too small only cause problems. If you need a refresher on how to measure yourself, check out our Bra Fit Guide.  

Once you have your measurements plug them into our Bra Size Calculator to see what size is best for you. Then, treat yourself to something nice. You deserve it!



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