The Truth About Bras in 2023

Written by Janell McPhail


Posted on November 04 2023

Since 2021, I have been working on myself. I have worked on my mental health, I stopped drinking alcohol, I have been working out regularly and I have been eating better and taking care of my body. As a result, I have lost almost 30 pounds.

I don't start this blog post to brag or celebrate weight loss. It's definitely a nice outcome, but taking care of me has been much more important than weight loss. I've learned more about myself, what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, and how much better of a wife and mother I am when I put myself first.

As part of the weight loss, I have lost my bust. It always happens doesn't it? You work on losing weight, and you really would prefer to lose a little in the booty, maybe some baby pooch remnants and a saddle bag or two--- but no, you don't lose as much there. Instead, your bust gets smaller. And the shrinkage tends to happen first. (sigh)

I started to plateau in my weight loss, so I decided it was time to find a new bra. The bras I had were definitely getting too big and I could tell I was about a cup size smaller. I'm a stylist and I actually worked in the lingerie department at one of my very first retail jobs. It was a store called Palais Royal and I was trained to do all kinds of retail things, including how to measure women for bras.

So as the shrinkage started to be more apparent, I decided to pull out my trusty tape measure and measure my rib cage and then my bust line. It's really difficult to measure yourself, but I was determined to get a better idea of where my numbers would be.

I wrapped that tape around my trunk and calculated a 34" rib cage and a 38" bustline. According to the chart and all the things I learned when I worked in the lingerie department 26 years ago, I would be measuring down to 34C. This made sense to me, even though I was measuring myself, because that was my size prior to having children.

How to measure for a bra

Next, I set out to find a bra in 2023. Let me just tell you, this has been quite the journey. The next morning, while scrolling social media, I saw an ad for Skims. I clicked on the ad and realized it was a company started by Kim K. The website was very easy to use and the photography was beautiful, so I decided to give it a whirl.

The Skims website has it's own calculator to determine my size, so I entered the number and compared it to the size chart. Low and behold, the conversion to my 34" measurement at my rib cage and 38" bust measurement meant I needed to order a 40B. What? I checked again. Math is math so this isn't making any sense to me.

Actual screenshot from

I measure women all the time, several times a week. I know what a 40" rib cage looks like, so I'm sitting here thinking there is no way I am going to order a bra in a 40" anything. These bras are in the $50-$60 range so I am not just playing around here. Naturally, I don't trust the website chart and I order what I think my professional brain says to order. I ordered one bra in size 34C and 36C.

The bras arrive in a beautiful box in just a few days, but the horrible. Horrible, I tell you. There is no way these 3 baby breast feeding boobies are fitting into these tiny pieces of fabric bras and my breasts aren't even "that" big anymore. I pack up the disappointment and let Kaylie (she is the 17 who works at the store with me) try them on and they fit her perfectly. They now live in her dresser. Imagine that. Pre-baby, perky boobies fit in that amount of fabric.

Before I started this brazier journey and before I ordered from Skims, I polled the Sweetlifers about the bras they liked. Several women said they loved Soma bras, so I decided I would try them next. I log on to their site because I have no idea where the store is, and go straight to their bra calculator. Again, I measure...with real measuring tape, a 34" rib cage and the 38" bust size. The size chart on Soma says I should order a.....38B. What? A 38"? What is this craziness? Again, I sat through training and saw a whole bunch of old lady boobies and now I am seeing these numbers but they do not add up. How can my rib cage, which measures 34", mean I order a 38"? I was soooo confused. BUT, after my experience with SKIMS, I decided to actually listen to the chart and order a 38B and a 36C.

This is the size chart from

These bras took a little over a week to arrive, but when they did, the box and presentation was so pretty. I immediately tried them on and....was so dissapointed. AGAIN. I put on the 38B and guess what? The band was way too big and the cup was all kinds of wonky where it didn't lay right on my chest. I could get my whole hand inside the cup. My boobs looked like deflated balloons.

The 36C did fit better. Not perfect, but good enough to keep it. However, I still haven't found the bra panacea, so I start researching a new plan.

I start thinking of places where I can actually go try on bras and get professionally fitted. Nordstrom's used to be my go to for this, but....the lingerie department in the Austin location has little to no bras and the bra fitter is no longer on staff. (sigh)

Then I think Macy's, to which I quickly close that thought. The last time I walked inside a Macy's it was so depressing the whole store would benefit from taking some Lexapro.

Suddenly, I remembered a customer who told me about a new store in Hutto, Texas where bra fittings are professionally performed. Ah ha! I reached out to Shapely Hart and got an appointment to go get fitted.


The inside of the studio where all the beautiful bras are displayed at Shapely Hart. It's like a girls wonderland. Very tasteful and family oriented. You could easily bring a young woman inside and not be embarrassed.

On a Friday afternoon, I head over to Hutto and find this cute little "bra fitting studio" manned by a sweet lady named Jen. She introduced herself and we got straight to measuring. Low and behold, another person measuring me arrived at a 32" rib cage and a 38" bustline. Technically speaking that means I am measuring a 32DDD (the old fashioned way).

I take a deep breath and ask Jen why all these numbers are so different and why none of the bras work for the size charts to which I was traditionally taught.

Her answer made the most sense and solved the puzzle for me.

She said bras nowadays are sized specifically to the bra and the brand within that bra. Each company has their own size chart and conversion and it doesn't really correlate to what I would've been taught years ago. So in other words, Maidenform bras and the sizing would probably work with the chart where I was taught, but these newer brands like SKIMS and Soma play by their own rules.

To top it off, even the bras in the bra studio varied. In reality it meant I really needed to try on a whole caboodle of bras in the styles I liked to see which had the best fit at the shoulders, between the girls and the band at the back.

It took roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes for me to try on at least 50 bras in the studio. Jen was so patient and sweet. She would bring me a style to try. I would throw it on and based on my grumble or sigh, she would bring me something else to try.

Before I knew it, I found a bra I really liked, but it was only available in black. URGH. I don't want a black bra everyday. Then Jen came to the rescue and told me she could order whatever color I'd like. DING, DING, DING.


Jennifer Hart, the owner of Shapely Hart, and me


I was thrilled because I found two bras that fit well, and one that is truly a beautiful bra. I decided the saga wouldn't be over until I wore the bras for a few days. I am happy to report, after four weeks of shopping and trying on no fewer than 55 bras, I finally found a new favorite AND a back up style. Bonus? I even found a strapless bra that seems to stay put too.

A proper fitting bra should make no lumps or bumps, especially in the cup.

The moral of the story, sometimes you really do have to go back to old fashioned ways to get things done properly. Physically going and seeing a professional was the key to finding the perfect over the shoulder boulder holder. 2023 may be advanced in so many ways, but not when it comes to finding the perfect brazier.



  • Comment author

    Found you on FB & have been visiting your delightful website. Find your SEB presentations helpful in clothing education &, of course, your fab variety of clothing – what a delightful surprise! I just got a chance to read your trying time in finding a bra which Actually Fits – can sooo relate. Thanks much for validating a very similar experience (!) & for your terrific eye in identifying lovely, fun, reasonably priced, wide variety of clothing biz/website.

    Posted by Margo | April 19, 2024
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