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If you’re a plus-sized person, it seems only sensible to assume that you need a plus-size bra. However, bra sizing works very differently to sizing for tops and dresses, and things aren’t quite that simple.

Many plus-sized people, of course, do wear plus-sized bras. But if you are on the smaller end of plus, you may not need to. Also, it’s possible to need a plus-size bra even if, for your outerwear wardrobe, you are on the larger end of straight sizing (such as a US 10 or 12).

What bra sizes are plus-sized?

It helps to start by explaining what the term ‘plus size’ means in the lingerie world. It refers solely to the band length, the numerical part of your band size, and has nothing to do with cup size. Although there is slight debate on where plus sizing starts for bras, it’s either a 38 or a 40 band depending on who you ask.

Related: Are Full Bust Bras and Plus Size Bras The Same Thing?

what is plus size bra

Charlotte Padded Bra | Charlotte High Waist Brief in Nude

Why a well-fitting bra band matters

The band of a bra is responsible for the majority of the support work. If you simply assume you’ll need a 38+ size because you wear plus-sized clothing, you may end up in a band size that’s actually too big.

A band that’s too loose won’t offer much lift and could lead to backache and slipping shoulder straps. It helps to educate yourself about how a bra band should fit, so you know what to check for.

Why isn’t it as simple as plus-sized clothing = plus-sized bras?

Reason 1: Bra sizing varies (rather a lot!)

The actual numbers on clothing sizes have no direct relation to your size, i.e. if you wear a size 20, that doesn’t mean that a particular part of your body or the garment measures 20″. That becomes especially clear when you remember that what the US calls a size 20, the UK calls a size 24 and Europe calls a size 52. They’re just arbitrary numbers.

Bra band sizes, on the other hand, are based on actual measurements, with a 40C bra, for example, intended for someone with a 40″ underbust. Well, or not. There is a lot of variation in how bra sizes are measured, with some brands still favouring a traditional ‘+4’ fitting method (in which someone with a 36″ underbust would add four to it to arrive at a bra band size of 40).

And that is one part of the problem. Some 40C bands will stretch up to 40″, others will only stretch up to 36″. There’s a whole lot of variation between different brands. More so, possibly, than with brands that make other types of clothing.

Reason 2: More things influence bra fit than just measurements

Lack of standardization is one reason, but even if all 40 bra bands measured exactly the same, that wouldn’t mean that everyone wearing one had the same underbust measurement.

That’s because finding a bra band size that fits involves more than just taking a measurement. A few things influence the band size you’ll need, such as your muscle-to-body-fat ratio and your bone structure.

Because of this, it’s not as simple as saying a US 16 equals a 40 band, an 18 a 42 band, and so on. Bra sizes and clothing sizes don’t align neatly like that. And at the point where straight and plus sizes meet, there’s some overlap. A smaller plus-sized person who prefers a tighter band or is simply wearing a brand that comes up small could get their best fit in a 36 or 34 band size. While a larger straight-sized person could be wearing a 38 or 40 because it’s what works best for them.

So do I need a plus-sized bra if I’m plus-sized?

Coming back to our original question, the answer is “not necessarily”. If you are on the cusp of straight and plus sizing with an underbust measurement in the region of 34-42″, you may or may not need a plus-size bra. The best way to find out is to get a professional bra fitting. Just remember that sizing varies between brands, so it’s perfectly possible to be a 36-band in one brand and a 40-band in another!

Related: Ask A Bra Fitter: What Are Bra Fittings Like?

what is the best bra for plus size

Charlotte Padded Bra | Charlotte High Waist Brief in Black

If you are between straight and plus sizing for outerwear, do you wear plus-sized bras? Why or why not?

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Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!

Featured image lingerie:
Marion Unlined Wire Bra | Marion Hipster in Tango Red
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Published by

Estelle Puleston

Estelle Puleston is the founder of, a blog dedicated to her love of lingerie. She works full-time as a copywriter and digital marketer for the lingerie and swimwear industry, and when she’s not doing that, she’s probably sewing or enjoying a good cup of tea.

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