Fancy Fun Femmes: The Bra Guide

Bra Week_Rory Midhani_640
WELCOME TO BRA WEEK! This week and next, the Autostraddle writers and some special guests will be giving you the scoop on over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders and otherwise-inclined chest-covering situations — fashion, history, feelings and so much more.

How To Size Yourself For A Bra

by Robin Roemer

To fit yourself properly for a bra, besides the old trial and error method, you’ll need to measure your bust. If you don’t have a cloth tape measure, just use a strip and then measure that with a yard stick or regular tape measure.

Step 1: Measure your band length. This is length around your chest just under your breasts.
Step 2: Measure across your chest, right in the middle across your nipples.
Step 3: Take the measurement from step one and subtract from step two! This number will determine your cup size.


Use this handy chart to help you find your cup size in inches or centimeters.


Your size will be your band length and your cup size. Voilá! Little known fact. Cup size is not universal. So if your breasts are the same size as someone, but your band size is different, you do not share the same cup size. See this infographic!


This info is important if you ever want to change bra sizes!


A few extra tips!

– You should be able to stick one finger under your strap. Don’t let it be much looser than that since the elastic in bras tends to stretch out over time.

– Lean over when you put your bra on. It’ll help you fall into place a bit easier.

– There should not be any gaps between your breast and the inside of the cup. Your boobs should also not be popping out of your bra.

Photography by Robin Roemer

Photography by Robin Roemer

Where To Buy Something A Little Fancy

by Robin Roemer

My experience in lingerie stems from my years photographing couture lingerie collections, working with a lingerie personal shopper doing private boudoir shoots for her clients and abiding by a strict no-cotton policy. At this point in my life, I feel just as sexy (and a few dollars richer) in cotton boyshorts, but I still appreciate and admire the craftsmanship present in fine lingerie.

So if you want to blow your tax return on something sexy, or have a special gift in mind and a little cash to spend, here are just a few of my favorite lingerie stores!

Photo by Robin Roemer Left: Agent Provocateur bra / Right: Zana Bayne harness

Photography by Robin Roemer
Left: Agent Provocateur bra / Right: Zana Bayne harness


Journelle has several boutiques in NYC, but you can easily shop online! They carry several different brands/designers. One of my favorites, Elle Macpherson’s line of intimates, can be found here and isn’t over the top expensive!

La Perla

La Perla is one of my favorite lingerie brands. You can find their stores all over the world, in several of the largest US cities and online.

Agent Provocateur

Agent Provocateur is couture meets kink. If you prefer leather to lace, but still want a feminine cut, try Agents selection. Find a store near you or shop online!

Kiki de Montparnasse

If you find even the most timid lingerie trashy, Kiki de Montparnasse is refined and sophisticated brand you might want to peep.

Zana Bayne

This isn’t a lingerie brand per se, but if you are looking for fun leather accessories you can wear from day to night, Zana Bayne is a really amazing designer you should check out. The Zana Bayne fashion week show is up now on their website and items can be purchased from the online shop.

My most recent designer obsession is Dani Read.

If these brands are a bit more than you want to spend, you can do what I usually do and check out these collections for inspiration (or just eye candy). Whether you shop thrifty, do it yourself, or drop some serious cash, make sure you check out the materials on your garments before chucking them in a washing machine. It might be worth your while to hand wash your delicates!

Here are some picks from those stores for your collection:


1. Elle MacPherson Artistry Contour Bra ($65) (A-DD).  2. La Perla Renata Demi-Cup ($124) (B-D).  3. L’Agent by Agent Provocateur ($74) (A-DD). 4. Kiki de Montparnasse Ondule Soft Cup Bra ($195) (S-L).  5. Chantelle Mutine Full-Figure Plunge Bra ($78) (D-G). 6. Lascivious Rachel Full Cup Bra ($190) (B-DD).


Where To Buy Something That Looks A Little Fancy

by intern veronica

Brands like Calvin Klein, DKNY and Victoria’s Secret are great if you’re able to make a mid-level investment in your bra. When it comes to lingerie, unfortunately cheaper bras are more likely to break (underwire popping out of the fabric, most often) or fray in the wash, but they’ll do the trick for as long as they hold up! I find H&M and Forever 21 to be great sources of bras that won’t last long but look good trying and Target is also a good place to find good stuff. Especially if you’re looking for hard-to-find sizes, I can’t recommend HerRoom and their search-by-size feature enough, and also Big Girl Bras, which goes from 28A to 58J.

Here are some options for people of all sizes and price ranges!

1-Cheaper Femme

Black Nights

1. Calvin Klein Underwear Icon Bare Stretch-Satin Underwired Bra ($40) (B-D). 2. ASOS Boudoir Art Nouveau Lace Underwired Bra ($33.87) (B-D). 3. Bluebird Isabella Bralette ($32) (S-L). 4. Jezebel Women’s Ideal Unlined ($32) (B-DD). 5. Xhiliration Perfect T-Shirt Push-Up Plunge Bra ($12.99) (A-D). 6. Torrid Lace Demi Bra ($42.50) (44B-40DDD)

1-Femmey Pink Bras

Pretty In Pink / Lady In Red

1. Felina Marielle Full-Busted Bra ($39) (32C – 40DDD). 2. b.tempt’d by Wacoal Full Bloom Underwire bra ($35) (32B-38D). 3. Cleo by Panache Lucy Balconnet Bra ($53) (28D-38J).  4. Under it All Unlined Bra in Grey and Pink ($62.99) (32B-38D). 5. “Scarlette” Lined Lace Bralette ($30). 6. Elle MacPherson Safari Style Stretch-Mesh Balconette Bra ($45) (32A-36DD). 7. Calvin Klein Launch Lace Underwire Bra ($31.99) (32B-38C). 8. Hannah Cotton Lightly Lined Bra ($24.99) (30AA- 38DD)

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Robin specializes in entertainment, lifestyle and portrait photography. She's also a Creative Producer, Director of Photography and co-owner of Scheme Machine Studios LLC, her production company based in Los Angeles. Robin loves shooting for TV and film and has worked with media companies like Legendary Pictures and Viacom. She shot and directed the Pride campaign for Google called #ThisIsFamily. Robin has had the pleasure of working on national campaigns for companies like Dove and Levis, and had the unique opportunity to shoot for non-profits and initiatives such as The Black List, Save the Children, Move to End Violence, Have a Hart Day, and The Clinton Global Initiative. She is most proud of the work she has done with organizations such as The Ad Council and RAINN working on national impact campaigns. Her celebrity roster includes Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, The B-52s, Keri Hilson, JB Smoove, Tegan and Sara, Margaret Cho, The B-52’s, Andreja Pejic, and many more. She was there for Autostraddle’s birth and proudly served as A-Camp co-director for many years.

Robin has written 82 articles for us.


  1. Great list! I am also a hug fan of FYI by Dani Read, she is awesome.

    Side note: the chart above shows US sizing, but most full bust brands use UK sizing, which includes double letters (FF, GG, etc.). Just an FYI for all you DD+ shoppers!

  2. I just had a thought, you should totally call these Brarticles. Thank you, I’m here all week. *bows*

  3. Hang on, am I missing something with the sizing instructions? Usually you add a certain number of inches to the band size before subtracting it from the cup size. Using your instructions I am a 31DD which…I have never heard of before.

    • I recall something along the lines of four inches, which would put me into the 34C category just like the bras I usually wear, instead of a 30F/G.

      • The current rule for how to measure yourself….varies. With some sources suggesting you use your actual chest width as your band size, some suggesting you add 3 inches, and some suggesting you add 4. I recently needed to replace all my bras with a different size, so I got to explore the ludicrously inconsistent world of bra sizing. The suggestion to use your chest size as your band size would leave me with a bra that was uncomfortably tight, but it apparently works life-changingly well for some women.

    • I’d always been told to add 3 to an odd number, and 4 to an even number before subtracting. I just re-measured myself to check, and the method given in this article would put me in a 32C instead of the 36A that a currently wear. While I get that 32C/36A involves basically the same boob volume, a 32-anything is never going to fit me when the 34s I was squeezing myself into for years were painful enough.

      I mean, if that sizing method works for some people, then great! but if I were to try to make a 32C fit me, it would be even more of a frustrating/tear-inducing experience than bra shopping was in high school, and nobody wants go there.

  4. I am loving every article in bra week. It has been so great and it is making it very hard for me to resist going out to buy some new lingerie.

    Especially this article.

    So much pretty lingerie!!!

  5. I literally just paused and said, “Oooooo pretty!” when I saw the photo attached to this article on Facebook. Then, I couldn’t figure out if I was thinking that about the bras or the boobs in the bras. I’ve settled on both. I’m so gay.

  6. I’m super interested in finding places to buy ethical bras. As in sweat shop free, fabrics sourced ethically, that kind of thing.
    I already do that with all my other clothes, but it’s harder for lingerie, it seems.
    I can get regular bras and panties from Cotton On, which is pretty ethical – but what about sexy things?

  7. Wait are you supposed to measure across your boobs with a bra on or off? I feel like it would change the measurement.

    • I’ve read you should measure with no bra, 3 ways: standing up normally, bending over with your torso parallel to the floor, and lying down. And then average them!


  8. Showed my wife this article. Now my wallet is crying. But I think I’ll be really happy.

  9. Also, I have bookmarked this article (like the underwear week ones) forever and ever and ever AMEN.

  10. I LOVE Elle MacPherson bra’s, they are basically all I buy. I do suffer from a bit of self delusion in regards to my bra size, I just can’t seem to accept that the gals are more like an 8DD than a 10D. Mostly because I know that I would never be able to find any bras that would fit.

  11. GREAT article !

    For online shopping I like places like Ideeli, they have discounted prices on some of the mid priced brands. Unfortunately with bras it seems you get what you paid for … up to a point. Not all pricey brands are better. For me, Cosabella is wonderful – style, price (when discounted) and non-itchy materials !!

  12. can i just take a second to recommend to all y’all? this is a site that has a wide range of sizes (i wear a 28h, for example and i have no trouble finding fucking gorgeous bras) and while they aren’t cheap, they won’t break the bank and they regularly run sales and have coupon codes for returning customers. their bras run a little on the femmey side, especially if you’re in the bigger cup sizes, but they also have some streamlined designs if you don’t want all the lace and frills. the website may not look like much but it’s run by real people and i have had great experiences. please check this out. i am always a little bummed out when i read lingerie/bra recommendations and am fully aware that i won’t even have to bother clicking the links to know the shit won’t fit.

  13. This article is awesome and so affirmative. I used to like bra-shopping at Target but now find it traumatic. Everything is overly padded and sexified and nothing fits. On a whim recently, I stumbled into a lingerie shop in the West Village. The proprietor sized me up on the spot (who knew I was wearing the wrong size the whole time?) and it was actually a fun experience. I didn’t have to stress about sizing and hunting down bras because she did it for me, and the bras weren’t overly weird. I eventually purchased a $62 Elle MacPherson bra and considered it an early birthday present to myself. Never had I felt so awesome in a bra! I handwashed it in my sink that night in an attempt to be responsible, but was foiled the next morning by my decision to put it in the dryer for 5 minutes so I could wear. Now it feels the same as all of my other bras and leaves marks on me as a bonus. Moral of the story is that bras don’t have to suck but don’t EVER put fancy bras in the dryer.

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