Lingerie buying guide

Finding the right lingerie for your needs can be tricky which is why we’ve created a guide which offers hints and tips on things to consider and how to make sure you know your correct size. Most of our shops offer a fitting service; see our Lingerie Advice Service guide for more information

Measuring yourself for a bra

Buying lingerie can be a bit of a minefield and getting the correct size bra is the first and most important step in your journey; about 70% of women are wearing the wrong size and it can have a big impact on your health and confidence. It is also important to get measured regularly, especially as so many factors - such as weight gain/loss, pregnancy and monthly changes can affect breast size.

A bra size has two measurements; the underbust or band size (30, 32, 34) and the cup size (A, B, C). To find your size, grab a tape measure and a mirror - or better still, get a friend or family member to help you - and check your measurements against our bra size chart below.

1. To find your underbust size, measure around your chest just under the bust.

TIP: Make sure that the tape measure is level all the way round and pulled snugly to the body.

2. To find your cup size, measure around the fullest part of your bust.

TIP: You can measure yourself with or without a bra on, whichever is easiest for you. But make sure if you are wearing a bra it is either non-padded or very lightly padded.

Need a hand? If you would like advice or to be measured by an expert, our specialist Lingerie advisors in our shops will be happy to help. Remember that all bras fit a little differently and while we can guide you, it is not an exact science so don’t be disheartened if one doesn’t fit quite right; adjust the cup and underbust sizes and try a few on.

Please note that the size guide below refers to John Lewis
bras only 
as different brands do tend to vary in their sizing.

Take your underband measurement, then read across to find your cup measurement, which is listed under the correct cup size

Underband (cm) Bra Size Cup fitting (cm)
    AA A B C D DD E F
63 - 67 30 (65) 75 - 77 77 - 79 79 - 81 81 - 83 83 - 85      
68 - 72 32 (70) 80 - 82 82 - 84 84 - 86 86 - 88 88 - 90 90 - 92 92 - 94 94 - 96
73 - 77 34 (75) 85 - 87 87 - 89 89 - 91 91 - 93 93 - 95 95 -97 97 -99 99 -101
78 - 82 36 (80) 90 - 92 92 - 94 94 - 96 96 - 98 98 - 100 100 - 102 102 - 104 104 - 106
83 - 87 38 (85) 95 - 97 97 - 99 99 - 101 101 - 103 103 - 105 105 - 107 107 - 109 109 - 111
88 - 92 40 (90) 100 - 102 102 - 104 104 - 106 106 - 108 108 - 110 110 - 112 112 - 114 114 - 116
93 - 97 42 (95) 105 - 107 107 - 109 109 - 111 111 - 113 113 - 115 115 - 117 117 - 119 119 - 121
UK European US
32A 70A 32A
32B 70B 32B
32C 70C 32C
32D 70D 32D
32DD 70E 32DD/E
32E 70F 32DDD/F
32F 70G 32G
34A 75A 34A
34B 75B 34B
34C 75C 34C
34D 75D 34D
34DD 75E 34DD/E
34E 75F 34DDD/F
34F 75G 34G
36A 80A 36A
36B 80B 36B
36C 80C 36C
36D 80D 36D
36DD 80E 36DD/E
36E 80F 36DDD/F
36F 80G 36G
38A 85A 38A
38B 85B 38B
38C 85C 38C
38D 85D 38D
38DD 85DD 38DD/E
38E 85E 38DDD/F

How should a good bra fit?

  • The band should be level and sit smoothly around your body with a snug fit, but not too tight - you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers under the band
  • Your breasts should be held securely and comfortably within the cups
  • The straps need to be firm so they don’t slip off your shoulders, but not so tight that they make a mark - the band should be doing about 80% of the work and the straps only 20%

How does a bad bra fit?

You might know that something doesn’t feel right with your bra but can’t pinpoint the problem. Take a look at the common bra problems below or watch our video guide for tips on how to solve them. If you’d like expert advice, please speak to our Lingerie advisors.

 

 

Problem

The band rides up at the back

Why?

This is normally because the band is too big or the bra needs replacing

Solution

Try going down a back size (this may mean that your cup size should increase) or replacing your bra

Problem

The cups are wrinkling or sitting away from the bust.

Why?

This is normally because the cups are too large for the bust.

Solution

Reduce your cup size. This may mean you have to increase your band size, but always check that it fits snugly to the body.

Problem

My breasts are spilling out the front and sides of my bra

Why?

This happens when the bust is not held securely in the cups.

Solution

Try increasing your cup size. Make sure you also check the fit of the band and change it if you need to.

Problem

The straps are making my shoulders sore.

Why?

This happens when straps are overtightened  to increase support.

Solution

Get remeasured to check your bra size. As the band gives most of the support, the straps should just hold the cups, not pull them up.

Problem

The wires and front of the bra do not sit flush to my chest

Why?

This usually happens when the cup size is too small.

Solution

It is very important that the underwires fit flat to the chest around the breasts. Try increasing your cup size.

Problem

Pain or discomfort at the sides of the breasts.

Why?

This could be because the underwire is sitting on the breast tissue.

Solution

Get remeasured to check your bra size. It very important that if symptoms of breast pain persist that you consult your GP.

Shape and size

You can also take a look at our video guide to finding the right style for you

Balcony Bras

Balcony

The wires sit mid-way between the breasts and the straps are wide-set

Great for: Lift and a little bit of cleavage

Good for: Women with full, low-sitting, small or different size breasts

Full Cup Bras

Full Cup

The cups come up higher on the chest for full coverage and the straps are central

Great for: Support, coverage and everyday wear

Good for: Women with larger, full or low sitting breasts

T-Shirt Bras

T-Shirt

The cups are usually seam-free and lightly padded for smooth fit and shape

Great for: Support, everyday wear and a contoured shape under tight or clingy top

Good for: Women with low sitting or different size breasts, or who want a smooth silhouette

Plunge Bras

Plunge

The cups are angled, the centre gore sits low on the chest and the straps are wide set

Great for: Cleavage without the uplift and suitable for clothes with a plunging neckline

Good for: Women with low or firm breasts, or who want a cleavage without lift

Push Up Bra

Push up

The cups are angled and padded to push the bust upwards and inwards

Great for: Uplift and cleavage

Good for: Women with low sitting or small breasts, or who want a better cleavage

Longline

Longline

The cups are usually in a balcony style with wide set straps and the underband extends down on the torso

Great for: Uplift, support and the smoothing of the abdomen

Good for: Women who want lift and more support across the underband

Strapless Bra

Strapless

The cups are moulded for lift and support, are three-piece for larger bust sizes and the band is wider with grips

Great for: Uplift, support and suitable for strapless tops and dresses

Good for: Women who want shape and lift without visible straps

+DD

For those of you blessed with a bust that is a DD cup or larger, it’s very important to ensure the bras you wear provide you with the best support to keep you feeling comfortable and looking great. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to find a beautiful and well-fitting bra that complements your shape

While we have an array of stylish and supportive bras for a fuller bust, we have also compiled a bra briefing so you know exactly what you’re looking for in your underpinnings.

  • Straps are usually wider than in bras with smaller cups to reduce the pressure on the shoulders
  • Cups are three-piece ‘cut and sew’ or moulded for support and shape
  • Many DD+ bras have side supports or slings to prevent the breast from moving out to the side
  • Extra lining in the base of the cups for support
  • Wires are a stronger gauge for a more robust fit
  • The bands tend to be wider and with three rows of hook and eyes rather than two

 

Teen

Girls, shopping for your first bra is an important milestone in every woman’s life. All girls develop at different rates and will have their own wants and needs from their bras during their teens. You can follow our guide above for measuring yourself with the help of a friend or family member, or come into one of our shops and have a chat with our Lingerie advisors.

The experience of a bra fitting can feel daunting or even a little embarrassing at first, which is completely natural, but it’s important to remember that finding the right bra will make you feel much more confident. So, what are the key things you need to know about bras and fittings?

 

Bras and the developing bust

  • We like to recommend that you are measured for a bra as soon as your bust starts to develop. This is so you’re supported and confident from the very start
  • Soft bras without underwiring are best for you when you first start wearing bras. This is because it’s important to protect your developing breast tissue and let it grow naturally
  • As your bust grows, you may find you need a bit more support. Some bras have plastic or metal wiring in them but it’s important to get measured regularly as you grow
  • Cup sizes begin at size AA and we sell hundreds of sizes, so you never have to worry about not finding one that fits

Bra fittings

  • When you come for a bra fitting in one of our shops, you’ll be met and measured by a lady who is very experienced in fitting lots of women and young girls
  • You can bring a female family member or a friend in with you if you want to
  • You don’t have to take your top off if you don’t feel comfortable - our fitters can measure you over a T-shirt, vest or crop top if you’d prefer
  • The fitter will then tell you what size you are and get you a selection of bras that you might like
  • It’s important to remember that bras will fit differently and you will change shape as you grow, but we are always here to help and give you advice

Maternity and nursing

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Supporting your bust and body while your baby grows is the very first part of being a mum, but knowing what changes to make and when to make them can be confusing.

While many bras are now combined for maternity and nursing use, it may still be necessary for you to be measured more than once during your pregnancy. These bras are tailor-made for pregnancy and nursing with features including:

  • wider shoulder straps
  • easy-stretch sling shaped undercups that provide space for nursing pads
  • easy to open nursing clips at the top of the overcup that provide easy access for breastfeeding
  • a soft, elasticated and non-wired underband
  • cotton lining to sooth any irritation and regulate body temperature

 

A guide to when you might need to change your style of bra

Weeks 4 to 12

You may have already noticed that your breasts are larger, more tender, or that your bra doesn’t fit as well. Try to stop wearing underwires as soon as you find you’re pregnant as they can dig in to growing breasts and trap milk ducts, which can be painful. You can also begin to look for a maternity bra that is more supportive.

Weeks 13 to 29

Another fit during your second trimester will ensure that you’re wearing the right size as your rib cage expands to make room for the baby. This means that your entire bra size, cup and underband, could change dramatically and it is very important to get the right fit.

Weeks 30 to 38

Try to go for a final fitting at around 30 weeks. At this point, your rib cage will not expand much more than it is now and you might want to consider a super-soft bra at night for support.

 

Sports Bras

sports bra is an essential piece of your sportswear - reducing bounce and keeping you comfortable - and making sure you’re supported whatever you’re doing is a must. There are a number of styles to suit various shapes and sports, with moisture wicking fabric and compression panelling for comfort as well as fit.

Always try a sports bra in the same size as your regular bra and if it doesn’t seem quite right, move up or down a back and cup sizes accordingly - if in doubt, our professional fitters are on hand to help. The bust should be held comfortably and entirely in the cups without overspill or wrinkling and, as with your everyday bra, the underband should sit level all the way around.

Non wired styles are ideal if you don’t like wired bras when you’re exercising and contrary to what you might think, having a larger cup size doesn’t mean you can’t wear them. All sports bras are designed to support the delicate ligaments in the bust, however, some women prefer the additional security an underwired bra gives them.

Many sports bras also have inner slings to reduce bounce, side-to-side movement and added anchorage. If you want additional lift, choose a racer back style, which spreads the weight of the bust evenly across the back and shoulders.

 

Briefs

The right briefs worn with the right outfits will take inches off your hips and send your confidence skywards, but with a huge array of choices and styles available how do you choose? From bikini to hipster, read on for our guide on the various styles.

Bikini

Bikini

Sit low on the hip with a low front and narrow sides. They’re ideal if you wear low rise trousers or skirts or if you want a good fit with coverage.

Brazilian

Sit low on the hips with wider sides than the bikini and cut away detail on the rear. Choose these if you want less coverage on the bottom and a choice between a bikini and a thong.

Full brief

A classic style that sits high on the waist, has wide sides and a low leg line. Great if you want maximum coverage on the bottom and tummy.

High Leg

High Leg

Also known as a ‘French cut’, it sits high on the hips with narrow sides and a high leg line. Choose these if you want medium bottom and hip coverage with maximum tummy coverage.

Hipster

Hipster

Similar to the bikini but sits very low on the hips with wider sides. Ideal if you want the overall coverage of shorts with the higher leg line of a bikini.

Shorts

Shorts

Can sit low or high on the waist with wide sides and a low leg line with a straight cut. Perfect if you want maximum coverage on the bottom hips and upper thighs.

Thongs and strings

Thongs and strings

Can sit low or high on the waist with no bottom coverage and varying side and back widths. They provide minimal coverage on the rear and an invisible fit which ensure no visible panty line.

Shapewear

Think shapewear and what comes to mind? Big pants à la Bridget Jones and corsetry-inspired heavy duty waist cinchers? Although these are still popular amongst women the world over - even red carpet celebrities are fans - shapewear has evolved to become something much more versatile.

A selection of control levels is now available - from light for a simple smoothing effect, to medium for everyday wear and firm for those special occasions - and there’s a shapewear solution to target almost every area of the body and to suit every possible outfit.

Lingerie Technologist Marie O’Gorman’s shapewear tips:

  • “For extra hold, always look for a high elastane content, which holds, stretches comfortably and springs back into shape.”
  • “If you want to target a particular trouble spot, pick shapewear that has a control panel detail with higher elastane content or rigid lace.”
  • “Like sports bras, buy shapewear in your normal size for the best fit.”

For more shapewear advice, have a chat to one of our in shop Partners who will be happy to help.


Shapewear explained:

Torso

If you worry about your tummy and hips but want freedom on your lower half, they’re perfect for smooth lines from bust to hips.

Solution: bodies, camisoles

Waist and tummy

If you want to sculpt and shape your waist for 1950s glamour, they’re ideal for nipping in the core and wearing under dresses and separates.

Solution: cinchers, high waist briefs, normal briefs

Whole body

If you want a completely smooth silhouette with sweeping flawless lines. They’ll give you control from bust to knee, ideal for special occasions.

Solution: slips

Bottom and thighs

If you’re after complete control from waist to knee or everyday smoothing from a pair of briefs, they feature panelling on the bottom and thighs.

Solution: shorts, thigh length shorts, half slips

Legs

If you want a defined silhouette under skirts and dresses, they feature compression panelling on the bottom and hips, and some also have leg support.

Solution: half slips, tights, leggings

Thermal solutions

Thermal underwear is ideal for lounging or wearing discreetly under your everyday clothes and comes in a wide variety of  styles, from camisoles to leggings. If you’re looking for something more robust for a trip to the Alps, base layers are most appropriate and are made from high grade fabrics with advanced moisture wicking properties.