Insights From A Bra Designer: The Emotional Side Of Bra Sizes

Insights From A Bra Designer: The Emotional Side Of Bra Sizes

After decades as a bra designer, I’ve worked with a million different types of bra fabric, seen every bra trend from super-padded Wonderbras to barely-there bralettes, and measured more breast sizes and shapes than you can imagine.

And if there’s one phrase I’ve heard time and again, it’s “I’m a what?” when women are properly fitted for a bra. It can come as a huge shock to hear that you’re a D cup when you thought you were a B, or an A when you thought you were a C.

Why we’re so tied to our bra size

Part of why a new size can elicit such a strong emotional reaction is because bra sizes, especially cup sizes, are imbued with societal meaning. Starting at a young age, women unfairly get a slew of messages from the outside world about what their breasts say about them. Women are led to believe that the numbers associated with their breasts—being a 32AA or a 38C or a 36D—mean something fundamental about who they are.

What’s interesting—and what many women don’t realize—is that bra cup sizes are actually a ratio rather than a set size. For example, a C cup varies in volume depending on the band size, so a 36C is actually the same cup size as a 38B.

“After hundreds of conversations with women about their bras, I’m always surprised at how attached women are to their first bra size—even if it’s wrong,” says Heidi Zak, ThirdLove’s Co-Founder, “it’s a really emotional thing for many people.”

Clare Karunawardhane, Director of Design at ThirdLove, agrees: “I fitted a woman recently who had always worn a 34C. Turns out she was actually a 32E. When I told her, her jaw dropped,” she recalls. “It was like her whole world had shifted. So I reminded her that she still has the same gorgeous figure she had 30 seconds ago,” adding with a smile, “and that she went from a 34C to a 32E—a lot of people pay money for that kind of transformation.”

Despite band and cup measurements often being misunderstood, and the fact that many women wear the wrong bra size, a woman can start to identify with her size and all the associations it brings. It’s as if that number-letter combination becomes an indelible part of her personhood, like a birthdate or social security number, regardless of whether it feels good or not.

Focus on fit—not size

Rather than just churning out bras in set sizes, we’re working to support women in ways that make them feel great. Regardless of a woman’s size or shape, our goal at ThirdLove is to design bras that fit her impeccably, are uniquely comfortable, and make her feel her best. We consider our job done when the main emotion you associate with your bra—and its size—is joy.