To say a bra can make or break a trip might seem extreme – but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’m sure anyone who has had to endure the discomfort of a dodgy underwire for the length of a six-hour flight, or the self-consciousness caused by lack of support during sports, will agree with me!
If you find yourself needing to buy a bra in Europe, the good news is: you’re in luck. By and large, a diverse range of sizes and styles are available across the continent. Of course, if you have a particularly usual size (such as a very small band size and/or larger cup) you may need to shop around, or else visit a specialist store – but it’s still nothing like the nightmare tales you hear about fuller figured women trying to buy underwear in Asia. I can still remember being chased down a side street in a Chinese market by a women who was brandishing the most miniscule pants I’ve ever seen and shouting “They stretch! They stretch!”.
The other good news is that most of Europe uses the same sizing system, which means that you don’t need to do tricky conversions every time you cross a border. However, there are a few exceptions. The different sizing systems in operation across Europe are as follows:
- Standard European
- Belgium, Spain and France (BSF)
- Italy and Czech Republic (ICR – we’ve listed these measurements for reference, but these days you’re more likely to find them using standard European measurements)
First, we have the band size:
USA UK EU BSF ICR
32 32 70 85 1
34 34 75 90 2
36 36 80 95 3
38 38 85 100 4
40 40 90 105 5
Then, for the cup:
USA UK EU BSF ICR
A A A A A
B B B B B
C C C C C
D D D D D
DD/E DD E E DD
DDD/F E F F E
G F G G F
H FF H H FF
I G J J G
… and so on.
Happy bra shopping! And remember: if in doubt, you can always ask for a fitting (or, you know, awkwardly mime that’s what you want).
Swap your bra shopping stories below!
This is so awesome Leah! I would have never known how US cup sizes translate to sizes in Italy, or Czech Republic! Thanks for saving us all some embarrassing moments!
I’ve got to admit, I had no idea what size I was outside the UK until I wrote this. Good to know!
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Leah, Unfortunately in Spain they don’t sell some sizes that exist in the U.K and U.S (double D included), not even the Spanish version of the size. They simply don’t make bras in these sizes. Sort of like they don’t make half sizes in shoes. If you don’t fit the sizes they make, you’re out of luck. I”ve been to every major department store and lingerie store. No one has a 32 DD or equivalent. I’m at point where I Have to order something from U.K and have it delivered in Spain. Quite an expensive way to shop especially considering bras are so particular and if I don’t like how it fits, once it’s here, I can’t really return it…