When Sister Sizes Aren’t

Most women with large breasts are familiar with the concept of “sister sizes.” Sister sizing is an idea established by the bra industry. In the sister sizing system, a bra cup is the same size (in volume) as the cup of the same bra in the next lowest band size, and next largest cup letter. The simplest way to explain this is to say that the cup of a 36C is the same size as the cup of a 34D. It works in the opposite direction, too: the cup in a 36C is also the same size as the cup in a 38B.

Those of us with hard-to-find sizes rely on the sister sizing system to find bras that fit us. Sometimes we just can’t find a bra in a store that will fit us, but we can find one that is a close fit, and by evaluating the fit of that bra, we can determine which size to order. We trust the sister sizing system to work. I learned recently, though, that it doesn’t always work: at least with one company, it can’t be trusted.

On my recent trip to Nordstrom, I was hoping to find some bras that would fit me. I tried on several bras, but had a few problems. The first problem was that the SA didn’t seem to believe me when I told her I wear a 34GG or H, and sometimes a 32H. She actually brought me FFs and Gs to the dressing room, which was frustrating, but also led to me laughing out loud as I tried to cram my boobs into them.

The second problem was that Nordstrom had almost no bras above a G cup. Those they did have were from Chantelle and Wacoal, both brands that I find too wide and shallow for my build (the cups are shaped really weird, y’all!)

The SA did bring me one bra that I rather liked, a Cleo Sasha. I was initially skeptical about this bra, as I usually find that Panache bras have a center gore too wide for me, and often too-wide cups as well. I saw that this bra seemed to have neither of those problems, though, so I tried it on.

Unfortunately, once I got in on, I found that the band was very loose, and then discovered that this was in fact a 36G. Surprisingly, though, the cups were too small. I bulged out of them all over. Here are some phone pics I snapped in the dressing room. Please forgive the blurriness!

I circled the most visible problem area. If you know what to look for, you can see that my breast is bulging upward out of the cup, distorting the top edge and making the lace trim stick straight upward, vertical, instead of curving around to enclose my breast.

In this one, you can see where the breast is bulging out at my armpit, and also where the tissue is bulging out and distorting the cup near my cleavage.

The cup on this bra was clearly too small. I logically deduced that the sister size, 34GG, would be too small as well. So, I asked the SA if she had a 34H. She did not (and, unpleasantly, she told me that Cleo didn’t make this bra in 34H, a fact that was easily checked, and disproven, on my phone.)

A week later, I visited my local Intimacy shop. I’ve had mixed results with Intimacy: the first time I visited, they had a perfect bra for me, but as the boobs have grown over the year, they have fewer and fewer options to offer me. Sometimes I visit a shop to find no bras over a G cup. In this case, I was (somewhat) in luck: they had some bras in GGs and Hs, and I set about trying those on. I didn’t find a lot that worked for me, to be honest, but one bra I found that I did like was another Panache model, the Andorra. Like the Sasha, Andorra has a narrow center gore, with the cups very close together. The cups are a little wider than I am used to, but they were not uncomfortable. However, in the 34GG, I found the band to be very loose. I asked to try a 32H. To my surprise, the cup on the 32H was actually smaller than the cup on the 32GG. Shouldn’t these cups be the same size? It wasn’t just a matter of band, either: I took the bras off and held the cups up to one another, and the 32H was clearly more shallow.  (Also, the straps on the 32H were quite narrow, which seemed strange and non-intuitive to me.)

I commented on the strange size difference to the SA when she returned with a 32HH, and she said “Well, the sister sizes don’t always line up.” This was news to me! In the end I tried on all three Andorras, and the 32HH cup was too wide. I decided to go with the 34gg and got ready to depart the store. On the way to the register, though, I had a thought: when I first got to the store, I had asked if they had a Sasha in 34H. Alas, they only had it in a 34GG. If the sister sizing in Panache couldn’t be depended upon, though, maybe that 34GG would fit me! I decided to try it on, and in fact, it was a perfect fit.

It seems strange that the 36G would be too small, but its sister size, 34GG, would be a perfect fit. I don’t understand it! But I am pleased to have this great-fitting bra, anyway. Look at that uplift!

No bulging or distortion, and the breasts are centered.

No armpit bulging!

I haven’t had time to review the Sasha yet, but already I can tell that it’s a great t-shirt bra. Although it is seamed, the seams are very flat and the fabric is a very very thin simplex. One of the seams is a tiny bit tight, but I tried stretching it a bit with my hands and it flattened almost entirely, so I think that when the bra breaks in that tightness will go away.

I’m very excited to find that there are some Panache bras that will fit me. I’ve thought for years that they were all off-limits, due to width. Finding some Panache that fit means that there are more bras available for me, and that’s a relief. I am already speculating about which Panache bra I want to try next!

I am still undecided about the Andorra. It was very pretty and very comfortable, and a pretty good fit. I worry, though, that the already-roomy band will stretch out in no time. Therefore, I don’t think I would pay full price for it, but if I found one very cheaply, I might snap it up.

3 thoughts on “When Sister Sizes Aren’t

  1. You know, it makes sense, though, that the sister sizes don’t always match up. I’ve gone through a lot of bra sizes over the past year and half and throughout that time my breasts have become a lot more narrow than they were before. At my heaviest weight (and largest band size) I needed quite a bit wider cups than I need now (sure, my cup size was bigger than too) but it does make sense that with the smaller band sizes that the structure might need to be somewhat different.

    You do give me some hope with Panache since I also have the problem with wide cups! I don’t think I’m ready to try and order any online again but if I get a chance to go back to the states or Europe I might see if I can try some on instore.

    • I have been emailing with a rep from Panache and here’s the info: above a G cup (so from GG-KK) many Panache models are reworked so they have more narrow, deep cups and a more narrow center gore. Eliza and Andorra are two of the models this happens with. That wide center gore that always bothered me in Panache models can be avoided now that I am a GG/H instead of a G.

      The Sasha has a really narrow gore in 36G, too, though, so it may be one you want to look into. And, another bra with the same cut is coming out in the spring.

      Most of my bras right now are Fantasie side support models; they have more narrow wires than other Fantasie models. And the wires on the Panache bras I have tried lately are the same width as on my Fantasie side support bras. So, it IS possible to find Panache bras with narrow wires, you just have to be above a G cup, and know which bras to look for. The Confetti, for example, has a wide gore all the way up to KK.

      Maybe you should start a bra shop in Brasil!

      • Wow, good to know! Panache often has sales on Zulily so I’ll keep my eyes peeled for those models.

        Sigh, I would love to start a shop here. Unfortunately, with my job I’m not allowed to own any other business or work anywhere else (I can only invest in companies). I’m not willing to quit my job but some days if I have a really bad day at work I dream about it. I actually have it all worked out in my head and I keep meaning to post about it soon (in the hopes that someone steals my idea!!!!).

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