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The War On Plus Four – How To Find Your REAL Bra Size

The ‘war on plus four’ seems to be everywhere you look in the lingerie world right now. No matter what lingerie site or blog you visit, you’ll find someone giving their opinion on the traditional ‘plus four’ bra sizing method – that is to say, measuring your ribcage in inches, right under the bust, and then adding 4 inches to find your band size. Well, or 5 if you’ve got an uneven number to start with!yellow lace trimmed white cotton underwear set

Used Since the Year .

This is the bra-sizing method that almost everyone has used for years, decades even. You might get a bit more personalised service in a high-class boutique, but in a lingerie chain store the assistants were most likely trained to use this method. I remember reading bra size-measurement instructions in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour too, always using this method.

And, I have to say, it has always worked for me. So what is all this sudden fuss about? Well, with a staggering 90% or so women wearing the wrong bra size (the figure varies, depending on which survey you’re reading – but it’s always a huge number!) it seems like women, and boutiques, are finally saying ‘enough is enough’.

Badly Fitting Bras – BAD news

A badly fitting bra won’t just make you look bad, it can also lead to back pain and, some studies suggest, even breast cancer. Yet when everyone is telling you how to measure your bra size using the ‘plus four’ method, and shop fitting services are exactly the same, if you’re wearing the wrong bra size you might not find out until it’s too late.

When it comes to providing an alternative to the plus four method, opinions are divided. There are those who say that plus two is right, and many that say you shouldn’t be adding anything at all (i.e. if your ribcage is 30 inches round, you’re a 30 band size) but if the plus four method works for some and not for others, why would another method be any better?

As I mentioned, adding four inches works perfectly for me – I have a 26″ rib cage and believe me, a 26-inch band size is not only near-impossible to get hold of, it’s way too small! A 30 fits perfectly most of the time, and a 32 occasionally. In fact, I even own one 34-band bra that’s a perfect fit.

What’s the Answer to Poorly Fitting Bras?

So how do you really measure your bra size? Unfortunately, the truth might not be what you want to hear – you need to experiment! From speaking with other people who are either for or against the traditional plus-four method, it seems that it tends to work for smaller band or dress sizes, but it’s when you get to the plus sizes (UK 16 or above) that things start to get tricky.

Curvier ladies tend to have bigger busts, and a large cup size needs an extra-tight band to offer adequate support. It’s here that adding 4 inches can leave you with a band that’s too loose. Plus, when you try on a tighter band size you usually find you also have to go up a cup size (e.g. if a 36D is too loose in the band, try a 34DD on next) so by wearing a band size that’s too loose, you’re probably wearing a cup size that’s too small as well – a recipe for the dreaded ‘four boob’ syndrome as well as other bra disasters, such as straps that constantly fall off the shoulders and just generally not looking as great as you could be.

yellow bra in shiny satinNo, the truth of bra size measuring is that you need to try the item on, and probably in a few different sizes, and use your judgement to see what works best. Don’t be afraid to pick out a band or cup size that’s much different to what you’d normally go for – when you get the perfect size, you’ll be amazed at the difference in comfort, support and how your figure looks under clothing. You’ll be amazed you never found this bra size before!

It’s also important to note that you’re likely to be a different bra size with different brands. Much as we’d love them to, unfortunately not all brands stick to exactly the same sizing information and whilst you may be a 34B with one brand, you could be a 32C or a 36A with another.

So be sure to try bras on before you buy! By all means buy online, but check the returns policy and make sure you’re able to exchange for a different size if possible. When buying custom-made garments, don’t just tell the designer your ‘bra size’, tell her your exact under- and over-bust measurements too so that she can make a bra that fits to your body shape perfectly.

I hope you’ve found this guide useful. I’d love to hear from others on whether the plus four method works for you?
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  1. Thanks for bringing this up. I am one that doesn’t add 4″ because if I try on a 40DD (which is actually +5″), which is what that method says I should be, I can pull the band so far away from my ribcage that I fall out the bottom. If you add 4″, and it’s snug enough for you, great… but for a good many women who don’t know how a bra should fit in the first place, all it does is shove them into bras that are too big in the band, and way too small in the cup. I now wear a 34HH, and have no back problems and my clothes fit so much better.

    1. I’ve found the same from talking to people – often the smaller your frame, the better a +4 band size works whereas a larger frame can get away with a more ‘snug’ band because there’s more cushioning between the bra and the ribcage so less chance to feel discomfort.

  2. As a lingerie boutique owner, I have not been using the plus four measurement. 99.9% of the time I have gotten the bra sizes right with actual band measurement subtracted from bust measurment (band/bust method). When I’ve tried the plus four method on my own measurements as a test, I found that the size given to me was actually a “sister size” from the actual measured size I got, and sometimes, depending on the sister size band, the brand, and the cut of the bra, the plus four size would work for me. The one thing I have learned, however, is that bra manufacturers do not have one set pattern for each cup/band size (or style for that matter), so I make sure to do a profile on my customers of the brand, type, and size that fits them comfortably.

    1. Yes, I’m actually writing a piece right now about why so many women are wearing the wrong bra size and this is a problem a lot of people I spoke to mentioned – that all manufacturers have their own pattern so one brand’s 34 band or B cup can be different to another brand’s 34 or B!

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