Lingerie Buying Guide
Finding the right bra, knickers or shapewear can be tricky. We’ve put together a guide offering hints and tips to help you find lingerie that looks and feels great and fits you perfectly.
How to measure yourself
In general, your clothing size in tops roughly equates to your band size, though there can be exceptions - if for example, you have a very large bust. If you wear a size 10 top, start by trying a size 30 back.
The best way to determine cup size is to assess the fit of the bra you’re currently wearing and see whether it's too big or too small. You can use the table below as a guide to working out your correct cup size
Using the bra you’re currently wearing, you should be able to tell if you need to go up or down a band or cup size. For example, if you’re wearing a 36C and it appears two back sizes too large and the cup looks fine, go down to a 32 and increase the cup size to a DD - although the cup letter changes, the volume remains the same. Similarly, if you’re wearing a 32F and the back is too tight, go up to a 34 back and down to an E cup; again the cup volume doesn’t change although the letter does.
You can also use the size matrix below to help you; your corresponding sizes, sometimes known as your ‘sister sizes’, will be the options directly to the right and left of your current size.
Sister Size Chart
<----- Sister Size Down
Sister Size Up ----->
How your bra should fit
- Should feel firm.
- Should sit flush against ribcage and parallel all the way around your body.
- Should be able to comfortably fit two fingers under the band.
- Breasts should sit within the cups perfectly.
- Should look smooth with no bumps, ridges or flat spots.
- Should fully encompass breast tissue.
- Should sit flat against ribcage.
- Should sit snugly against the shoulder.
- Should be able to comfortably fit two fingers under the straps.
Common fit problems and solutions
- The band rides up when you lift up your arms; consider going down a back size.
- The band digs in and feels tight; consider going up a back size.
- Breasts spill out of the cups at the front; consider going up one cup size.
- Breasts spill out of the cups at the front and sides; consider going up two cup sizes.
- Cups have excess fabric; consider going down a cup size.
- Bust drops beneath wires when you lift up your arms; consider going down a back size.
- Wires dig in; consider going up a cup size.
- Centre of bra stands away from breastbone; consider a different bra style.
- Straps dig in; consider going up a cup size and down a band size.
- Straps slide off; consider going down a cup size and up a band size.
Full Cup Bra
Pus Up Bra
Strapless and Multiway Bra
Larger Cup Sizes (DD+)
Bras for larger cup sizes have enhanced features to support the bust:
- The underband is usually wider, as this is where most of the bra’s support comes from.
- Hook and eye straps are usually deeper to reduce pressure on shoulders.
- Straps tend to be slightly wider to distribute weight on the shoulders more evenly and comfortably.
- Underwire will feel firmer; the cup may be constructed using a multi-panel design for better support.
We also offer a range of non-wired bras in larger cup sizes which provide a more relaxed fit with a good level of support.
Whether it's yoga at home or a high impact HIIT class, you’ll need a more supportive bra to wear when active. This will enable you to move freely without damaging or stretching the delicate breast tissue. Below, we’ve outlined which bra impact level is best, depending on your choice of activity.
- Great for yoga, Pilates, walking and any activity that causes minimal bounce.
- Usually crop styles designed for comfort & support, allowing you to stretch and move.
- If you’re a DD+ you may find it more comfortable to move up an impact.
- These bras have more structure and shape, providing additional support.
- Good for activities such as spinning and dance.
- Fully structured styles which can be wired or non-wired.
- Designed using performance fabrics, seaming and compression to provide high levels of support.
- Hook and eye straps are usually padded for additional comfort.
- Suitable for activities such as tennis, netball and horse riding.
We offer a selection of soft, non-wired bras which are recommended for younger customers to protect their delicate breast tissue as it grows. As the bust can develop quickly at this age, regular fittings are recommended. Our professional fitters can measure over T-shirts and customers are welcome to bring a female family member or friend with them to the fitting.
Maternity & Nursing Bras
During pregnancy you’ll need extra support as your breasts grow and your ribcage expands. We advise having a fitting each trimester, with a final fitting scheduled at around 30 weeks. At this point we can fit you for a nursing bra, if needed, and offer guidance for the months ahead.
Nursing bras have clips on each strap that are easy to open with one hand, allowing quick access when breastfeeding. Cups are more spacious to allow room for breast pads and for fluctuations in breast size.
We also offer a range of non-wired bras which offer comfort and support during the night or in between feeds.
Post Surgery Bras
If you’ve recently had breast surgery, you may have sensitive scar tissue, swelling and tenderness, so it’s important to find a correctly fitting bra that offers both comfort and support. We aim to put you at ease; our skilled fitters are specially trained to understand the needs of women who have undergone breast surgery and can help you find the right bra to make you feel comfortable and confident.
Please book an appointment before you visit to ensure a specialist fitter is available.
Pre- and Post-Op
Immediately after treatment you may experience reduced movement and swelling, meaning a well-fitting bra is essential to your comfort. We recommend:
- Bras that are seam free and non-wired to avoid irritating sensitive areas.
- Front fastening bras or bras with drop cups for ease of dressing.
- Stretchy, supportive and breathable fabrics which can assist with your healing.
- Styles that come up high under the arm and deep below the bust to provide a secure, comfortable fit.
Prostheses and Reconstruction
The effects of surgery and treatment can take some time to settle. You might be given a temporary cotton prosthesis until you’re ready for a permanent one. Permanent prostheses are measured by weight rather than cup size and are available in a range of shapes and weights. You can also get specialist prostheses for strapless bras and swimwear. When being fitted for a prosthesis, we suggest wearing a non-padded bra to allow your consultant to accurately assess your shape.
After your operation, it’s recommended that you continue to wear non-wired, soft bras, preferably without seams, until any swelling and scarring has healed. We offer a range of post-surgery bras from Royce that are specially adapted. They have pockets, deep under bands and wings, and wider straps. If you prefer to have a regular bra adapted to hold a prosthesis we also offer a pocketing service in store. Pockets can be added to most bras and swimwear. If you’re a DD or larger, we recommend you request a flat pocket, as it provides a better fit for bigger busts.
Long-term recovery and beyond
Even after your scarring has healed and swelling has reduced, you may wish to continue wearing non-wired or specialist bras. Everyone is different, and as long as your natural breast and prosthesis are well supported you can wear any style you choose. In general, full cup bras can help cover scarring and bras with stretch lace, elastic or trims are good for supporting a prosthesis.
If you feel ready to wear an underwired bra, opt for one that is fitted to the natural breast. You may also wish to consider styles with soft wires, which are more flexible and can move with the body. Where possible, try to avoid seams or firm joins, which can rub on sensitive scar tissue and may cause discomfort.
Post surgery fitting & what to expect
Being fitted following surgery is similar to other fittings; we offer this service in all of our shops (except for John Lewis at Home shops). Our expert fitters are specially trained to put you at ease. We’ll start by asking what type of surgery you’ve had and what advice you’ve been given by your breast cancer nurse. We’ll then measure you and assess your size to help you find a bra that is supportive and comfortable. You can book an appointment online, via the phone or by visiting us in-store; one of our experienced fitting Partners will be happy to assist you. Below we’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions:
- How long will it take?
The fitting may take a little longer than normal as we’re committed to finding the right bra for you.
- When can you fit me?
We can fit you for a bra immediately after surgery and in the first few months of your recovery, before you’re fitted for a prosthesis.
- How will it feel?
Non-wired post-surgery bras will feel firmer than wired styles because the material used to make them needs to provide you with robust support. You may be a different cup or band size than you're used to as each bra style and brand fits slightly differently.
- How will you measure me?
We will always fit the bra to your natural breast to ensure you’re well supported. If you’ve had a double mastectomy we’ll fit the bra to your underband measurement and the prosthesis. If you’ve had reconstruction surgery, we’ll fit to the larger breast. We can measure and assess your size with your bra on or off - our priority is to make you feel as comfortable as possible. If you have limited mobility due to the type of surgery you’ve had, our Partners are there to help.
- Do you have private changing rooms?
Our shops have individual, private fitting rooms; some shops also have discreet, larger fitting rooms specifically for post-surgery appointments. Please ask one of our lingerie Partners in your local shop about the fitting facilities.
VAT exemption and pocketing service
As part of our lingerie service, we provide pocketing on bras and swimsuits for women who’ve had breast surgery. You can choose from any suitable bra or swimsuit in our range and have one or two pockets added. This service usually takes around one week, and the completed bras are returned directly to you. Our Partners will be happy to give you further advice.
If you’ve had a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, you’re eligible for VAT exemption on the cost of any product specifically manufactured as mastectomy wear.
- All pocketed post-surgery bras, such as the Royce range, are automatically exempt from VAT.
- If you choose a standard bra and have a pocket fitted for a prosthesis, you can claim back VAT by completing a VAT Exemption form.
- The cost of having a pocket created is also exempt from VAT.
- Please note, if you choose to buy a standard non-wired bra and do not have it altered in any way, the product will not be exempt from VAT.
If you purchase a bra from us in store, our Partners can guide you through the process of claiming VAT back. If you buy from us online, please contact our Customer Services team on 08456 049 049.
Lingerie Fitting Appointments
Your bra size changes at different stages of your life. So our free fitting service is the perfect opportunity to find the bra that's right for your shape and size today.
Our expert bra fitters will measure your body accurately to achieve the best fit. They can advise on all kinds of bras, including first, maternity, nursing and post-surgery bras, as well as shapewear and swimwear. We offer four types of lingerie fitting appointments. You can book online using the link below, or in our shops at the Lingerie Department.
Brazilian & Tanga
Thong & String
Whatever the outfit, our expert fitters and Personal Stylists will help you find the right solution for a more streamlined silhouette. Our range of shapewear comes in different levels of support:
Levels of support
Types of shapewear
Slips & Bodies
Slips and bodies are designed to shape the tummy and hips, smoothing the silhouette from bust to hips or knee. They can come with padded or underwired cups; some are cut to enable you to wear your own bra. Slips and bodies are perfect for wearing under figure-hugging dresses.
Briefs & Waist Cinchers
Shaping briefs and waist cinchers smooth your waist and hips; they also support and flatten your tummy and emphasise your waist for an hourglass figure. These are great for wearing under tailored outfits, skirts, trousers and dresses.
Thigh slimmers provide support from the waist down to the mid thigh/knee. They smooth your tummy, hips and thighs and can shape your rear. These styles are versatile and work well under trousers, skirts and dresses.
How to get the most out of your shapewear
- Always “step into” your shapewear; this will help to keep the control panels and seams in the correct position on your body.
- Always buy your actual dress size. If your shapewear is too small it will roll up or dig in; the correct size will flatter and sculpt your figure.
- Different outfits or problem areas may require different styles of shapewear as well as varying levels of support to ensure a smooth finish under clothing.
- Build up your shapewear options to ensure you have the right piece for every outfit or occasion.
- To ensure longevity, always follow wash care instructions and do not tumble dry your shapewear.
Tips to look after your lingerie
- Try to alternate your bras and avoid wearing the same bra for more than two days in a row.
- Always wash your lingerie according to the garment care label.
- Close all fastenings before washing to avoid snagging.
- If you can machine wash, do so at a low temperature and on a delicate cycle. Use a lingerie bag when washing by machine.
- Dry bras flat so they don’t stretch and retain their shape.
- Tumble dry your bras or shapewear or use an iron on them.
- Twist or wring your bras when drying as this could damage the cups and underwires.
- Use clothes pegs on bra cups as this can distort the foam.
- Dry lingerie on a radiator.
EARN REWARDS WHEN YOU PAY
Shop with a Partnership Card and get 1.25% back in the form of points towards vouchers.
18.9% APR Representative Variable. Credit Subject to Status. T&Cs apply*.
John Lewis plc, 171 Victoria Street SW1E 5NN acts as a credit broker. Credit provided under exclusive arrangements with the lender John Lewis Financial Services Limited