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Tomima Talks: Is your cup size D or larger?

If your bra’s cup size is larger than a D, you’ve probably happened upon this annoying fact; your cup size is a different letter (or letters) depending on the brand of the bra you are looking at.  For example, a DDD cup size can also be called an E or an F depending on who makes the bra. So, unlike women in cup sizes A through D, a larger cup-sized woman can’t just look for her cup size on a bra’s tag and know it’s her size.  Nope! She must also know what that brand is calling her cup size.  So, how did this happen?

Cup Sizing Genesis

First, we need to remember that ready-to-wear bras first arrived on the market back in the 1930s. Cup sizing originally was simply “small”, “medium” and “full size.” Then Warner (today known as Warnaco) came along with the ABC Alphabet bras a few years later – A for “small youthful busts, B for “average busts, C for “heavy busts,” and D for “very heavy busts.” These letters were not related to breast volume or band size, but rather only to how pendulous a woman’s breasts were.  Women today wearing bra size 34D or a 38D would both have been given the same “D” bra size to wear back then. The DD cup was the largest cup size until 1985. The slang term “double D’s” thus came into existence to describe a voluptuous woman.

Multi Bra Cup Schema

It was in the 1990s that cup sizes larger than DD were finally invented and marketed. And, they were being manufactured in different countries who had their own ideas about sizing. It is during this time that the alphabet lettering for cup sizes started to become confusing.  USA lingerie companies simply added on another “D” to each cup size that increased a woman’s breast circumference by 1 inch. So, D to DD to DDD… Over in Europe, where they use the metric system, the bra makers decided to simply continue the alphabet sequence and move up a letter each time the bust circumference increased by 2 cm. So, C to D to E to F…  In the UK, where many of the largest cup sizes are made today, their cup sizing is not only unconventional but sort of mystical. I reached out to several of our UK manufacturers and no one knows who or how their cup size sequence came about – D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG…  My speculation is that they started with USA sizing – D, DD – then took a page from Europe – E, F – then, realizing their population has larger breast volume than other countries in Europe, concluded they should double up on letters to keep their cup sizing from sounding too enormous – F, FF, G, GG, H, HH…  But again, no one really knows.

Cup Sizing Comparison

Below is a chart to show you the current cup sizing environment today. The bit of good news is that over the last 20 years there has been an industry-wide acceptance of all these cup sizes, but also, they all have become relational with one another. Before, it was sort of the “Wild, Wild Breast West” with a woman finding one bra brand that fit, yet unable to recreate the same size and fit in another brand. But thanks to influential retailers and many customers demanding that brands fall in line and have systematic sizing across brands, bra manufacturers started comparing competitive products for sizing. Today the lion’s share of bra brands have similar cup sizing. You just need to know what sizing convention they are using. I also know this to be true because we fit test every bra we offer for sale. In recent years my team and I are finding fewer and fewer bras with an off fit for the size. And of course, when we do, I post a “Tomima’s Tip” on the bra style so you’ll know how to adjust your bra size to get the correct fit. There are still bra features such as arched center panels, wide-set cups, balconette styles that cause bras to fit differently, but cup volume today is now pretty standardized.

Below are the most common bra cup sizing conventions. I’ve lined them up so that you can pick your column to see all the sizing out there in your cup size. Though I don’t offer bras made in Japan & South Korea, nor bras made for Cacique on behalf of Lane Bryant, I’ve included them as additional examples of other countries and brands having their own unique sizing conventions.

Universal Cup Sizing™ (UCS®)

Coming into the lingerie industry over 20 years ago and learning about all these different cup sizes, I knew I needed to figure out a way to help larger cup-sized women find their size so they would be able to find all bra options available to them even bra-sized swimwear.  Universal Cup Sizing™ (UCS®) is what I ultimately came up with. It’s copyrighted and trademarked so you won’t find it anywhere else.  But, it’s an elegant solution to the problem. Now, women larger than a D cup size don’t need to know how a brand cup-sizes their bras.  All she needs to know is her UCS® and she’ll quickly find her correct size every time at She can also search for her UCS ® and see every bra style made in a size that will fit her.  If you look at the bottom row in the chart above, you’ll see my UCS® sizing.  Look at the D3 column.  If you know you’re a 36DDD in Bali, your UCS® is 36D3.  Now, you don’t need to know that Chantelle bras call your size a 36F.  You don’t need to know that Freya calls your size a 36E.  All you need to do is look for 36 and D3 in our size drop-down and that’s your size!  You can also enter “36D3” in our search window and see everything we offer in all your sizes. No other site can give you these results. If you want to quickly find out your UCS®, click here. And, here’s a short video on the subject, as well.

Some Final Thoughts…

While writing this talk, I thought of a few fun facts I was hoping to slide in. Alas, they have been relegated to my final thoughts.

The word “bra” was officially added to the English Dictionary in 1939.

On average 4.4 ounces (130cc) of breast volume increase equals a one cup size increase when the band size is 28 to 38. Larger band sizes require about 5 ounces (150cc) of breast volume increase to equal a one cup size increase. FYI, one stick of butter is 4 ounces.


Tomima Founder & CEO

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