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 of bra sizes mean and how this all came to be. We'll also explain how to measure bra size for a better fit.

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 size 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, bra band 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.

Generally speaking, your bra band should also fit snugly on the loosest hook at first wear. This allows you to adjust the bra to the tightest hook as it inevitably stretches out with wear and washing.

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. Wrap the measuring tape 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, always make sure that you are measuring your bra size according to the brand's guidelines. Different companies may measure band and cup size 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. To measure your bust, or cup size, wrap a tape measure around the fullest part of your bust. Then you will subtract your band measurement from your bust measurement to determine your cup size. The inch difference determines your cup size, as demonstrated in the bra size chart below.

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.

Here is a bra size chart to show you where to take your bust measurement and to show how the cup size gets larger measurement.

bra letter cup size chart

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

What Are the Bra Sizes in Order?

This image shows all of Glamorise's bra sizes in order.

Bra sizes in Order Chart

What is the Largest Bra Size?

The standard largest cup size in the United States is an N cup. That's not to say that some women don't have larger bust sizes than this, but that is usually the largest bra size you will find in specialty stores. At Glamorise, we carry a wide bra size range from 30B to 58K.

European Sizes

The bra industry doesn't have standardized sizing so your bra size is different from country to country. So what if you're on holiday in Germany and want to buy some lingerie?

Are the bra sizes the same? Nope. European bra sizes (not the United Kingdom), also use letters but not the double letters like DD. Their cup 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 band 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 bra size. Knowing how to measure bra size is important for ensuring your bras always fit properly.

    Wearing the wrong bra size can cause many problems, and an ill fitting bra will never provide the support you need. Your bra band can't support you if it's too big, and cups that are too small only cause problems. If you need a refresher on how to measure your bust, check out our Bra Fit Guide.

    It's also important to note that not every bra style will work for every breast shape. If you have wide set breasts, you might prefer a style that pulls your bust together, versus a bra that provides encapsulation and separation of the bust.

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

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