Review: bra fitting apps put to the test

Wouldn’t it be great if the complicated problem of finding the perfect bra fit could be solved with an app? After all, there’s an app for virtually everything else. Lotte Debell tests out some of the latest bra fitting apps and size calculators to see just how well they work.

Figleaves Bra Size Calculator

Figleaves bra size calculator

The Figleaves bra fit calculator presented a challenge immediately because it specifies that you should wear your best fitting bra but it should not be a moulded T-shirt bra – which rules out my best fitting bras! However, I dug out a Chantelle half cup that is a little bit long in the tooth now but still fits reasonably well, and got stuck in.

First you have to enter the size of the bra you are wearing, in my case a 32A. The next question is about how the back band sits – straight, high, low, digging in, etc. So that’s easy, as my back band is parallel. Then you are asked about how much slack there is in it, and this is a bit trickier. You are asked to wear the bra on the loosest hook, as you would when it’s new, but this old favourite is a couple of years old so I wear it on the tightest hook. Anyway, to see what the result would be, I answered according to the current fit.

The next lot of questions are about the fit of the cups – how does the wire sit, are your breasts fully inside the cups, is there any loose fabric, etc? The cups fit perfectly on all of these points, so that was easy. And then the calculator reveals my bra size of… 30C.

Now, given that the only thing wrong with the fit of my bra was a slightly loose back band, I was expecting it to come to a 30B, which is a size I wear in some brands, but generally I prefer the less restrictive feel of a 32 band. On the results page, Figleaves states: ‘Our research shows that the most common fit result is to go down by one back size and increase by three cup sizes.’ So maybe this is why they jumped by two cup sizes instead of one.

In the spirit of fairness, I went back and did the calculator again, this time assuming the back band fit as it did when new, and it came out at a 32A. I then repeated the test wearing my current favourite and newly fitted Chantelle moulded plunge bra. The result was again a 32A. Finally, I did it one last time wearing a 32B bra that has never fitted that well – just a bit too big everywhere, especially the cups – and the result was a 30C.

So clearly it depends a lot on the bra you are wearing at the time and how well you judge the degree of fit. The calculator is quite specific. If your bra does not fit perfectly on any point, you then have to specify by how much it doesn’t fit, for example, how far can you pull out the back band or how much loose fabric is there on the top of the cups? So it’s never going to be 100% accurate. If you are in a bra that is a really bad fit, as many women are, there is a good chance you will end up a lot closer to your actual bra size if you use this calculator. Maybe a better test would have been to try it with a bra that really didn’t fit me and see what the results were, but I don’t have any of those!

All in all, this is quite a good starting point for finding your bra size, and definitely helps signpost to users the signs of a not so good fit. I like the fact that it doesn’t require a measuring tape and therefore steers clear of the conflicting plus four, plus two, plus zero methodologies, but it can’t take into account things like individual preference – a big part of bra fit – or bra age, which can affect fit and potentially skew the results. Perhaps the instructions should state that the bra you wear should be less than six months old.

Try the calculator

Sizem bra fitting app

Sizem bra bfitting app

Sizem recently developed an online bra fitting application based on a series of six measurements you have to do yourself without a bra on. You then enter the results in the appropriate fields and the application calculates your bra size.

There are three underbust measurements. You exhale fully and pull the measuring tape as tight as it will go. You repeat this step pulling the tape only as tight as is comfortable, and then you inhale fully and pull the tape just tight enough to stop it falling down.

The other three measurements are for your overbust. Firstly you stand up straight and inhale and pull the tape loosely over the fullest part of the bust. Then you bend over so you back is parallel with the floor  and your boobs are hanging down, and repeat the above measurement. Finally, you lie flat on your back and one more time measure loosely over the fullest part of your bust.

It’s a fiddly process, and it’s also difficult to do on your own with any accuracy. It is important at all times to ensure the measuring tape is parallel around your back, which is pretty hard to do when you are bending over or lying on your back. Throughout the process it felt impossible that my inevitably slightly slapdash measurements could generate an accurate size, and I have to admit to being slightly suspicious of a system that takes so many measurements when I’m so used to judging these things visually.

I did it once, got a bra size of 30D/32C and felt quite justified at my scepticism, then read the instructions properly, did it again, and got a bra size of 30B/32A. So maybe it’s not so silly after all, and taking six measurements is better than the standard underbust/overbust calculation. I would be interested to know, however, whether it works quite as well for D+ cup sizes.

Try the app.

Fine Lines Bra Fitting App

Fine Lines Bra Fitting App

The Fine Lines smartphone app was developed by Australia ‘bra critic’ and lingerie business mentor Bra Queen Renee Mayne in association with Fine Lines Lingerie and is designed to be a virtual fitting room. The app offers a series of videos to explain good bra fit and how to find the right shape for you, a bra fit calculator where you enter your measurements (underbust and overbust) and links to view the Fine Lines collection.

I had a few problems with this app, some to do with how to worked and others with the content. First, the videos. The video about bra fitting and how to spot and remedy the signs of badly fitted bra was quite educational. Video is a good format for really getting these points across, and would help women understand why their bras don’t fit. However, once the video has finished you find yourself in Youtube with no way (that I could find) to navigate back to the app. I had to close it down and open it again to get back to the menu to watch the next video, which was really annoying.

As was the next video which focused on breast shape. About the only thing I agreed with in this video was that we all have different shaped boobs. But apparently there are only four different variations (high set, low set, wide set and close set) and the advice on bra styles for different shapes it sketchy at best. I didn’t think it was a helpful video, and once again I was stuck in Youtube and had to close the app, which means I didn’t bother watching the third video about convertible bras.

Then the calculator. You are asked to wear a good fitting non-padded bra to measure yourself. Great if you’ve got a well-fitted bra, but what if you don’t? I wore my Chantelle moulded plunge which is ever so slightly padded. Then you have to measure your underbust and are told to round down if you measure an odd number – but the lowest measurement you can pick is a 30! So instead of entering 28 as I measure 29 I had to enter 30. Do 28 backs not exist in Australia or just not in the Fine Lines range?

Then you enter your overbust measurement and you get your bra size in a range of international sizes which is quite handy. And I came out a 30B, which is about right, but that’s only because the limited size range in the app prevented me from following the instructions properly. I wonder what my size would have been if I’d been able to enter a 28? I’d guess a 28C/30D, neither of which would be any good for me (but as noted, the bra I was wearing does have a little bit of padding in the moulded cups which may have skewed the cup size).

Overall, this app has some good points – the fitting video is quite good – and if you really don’t want or can’t go to a store for a bra fitting, this is the kind of tool you could use in the privacy of your home to gain an understanding of your bra size – but only if you are a 30 back or above, and the standard underbust/overbust measurement becomes less reliable the higher up the sizing range you go. The fact that it has been developed with and is designed to be used in conjunction with one particular brand’s range is also problematic, and from a usability point of view I found it quite flawed.

Download the app: App Store | Google Play

ThirdLove bra size appThird Love

Yes, it has happened. An app has been developed that calculates your bra size based on selfies!

Actually, that’s a rather unfair and simplistic explanation of the new ThirdLove bra fitting app that hit the headlines last month. But it does use photos to calculate your bra size rather than requiring any self-measuring or analysis of the fit of your current bra.

The App has been in beta for some months and is now available to download, but only at this stage if you are in the US, at least as far as I could tell. Once downloaded, you stand in front of a mirror and take two photos of yourself – one from the front and one from the side – wearing a bra and, if you like, a fitted vest top. You have to position your phone just so to take the photos and voice prompts help you to get it just right. You then do a couple of adjustments yourself before repeating the process with the second photo.

ThirdLove calculates your bra size based on these images. It is important to note that these bra sizes are specific to ThirdLove, which offers a sizing system based on half sizes, and therefore you won’t receive a bra size you recognise and you can use anywhere else. The other point is that for now it only works for A-D cup sizes. However, you can go on to browse the ThirdLove bra styles that are suitable for you, and customise things like colour and details before ordering, so essentially you are getting a bespoke bra. And one that, if the app does really work, should fit you perfectly.

I was unable to test the app as you need a US phone number to download it from the website – although the company’s FAQs state they do plan to expand internationally in time. There have been a number of positive reviews, however (see Stephanie Chan’s review on on Readwrite.com and Sarah Kessler’s on Fast Company). As soon as it is available internationally, you can be sure I’ll be checking it out!

More for information, visit the ThirdLove website.

Verdict

While some of these apps are quite useful and quite clever – the Third Love app, if it works, could be very cool – none of them are substitutes for a proper bra fitting by an expert, and none of them can factor in comfort.

And when it comes to the calculators that are based on measurements, the fact that they spit out a letter and a number could be less helpful as it perpetuates the misunderstanding that once you have found your size, it doesn’t change, whereas the truth is that different brands and even different styles from the same brand may fit you differently, not to mention how age and other changes affect your size.

And then there’s individual preference. I don’t like tight bands so I wear a 32 rather than a 30, as most of these calculators told me I should be wearing.  That’s the kind of thing an app can’t factor in.

I prefer an approach like the one Figleaves takes because it feels less absolute. Yes, it gives you a size at the end of it – it wouldn’t be much use for customers wanting to order from the site if it didn’t – but the fact that it is not based on measurement makes this seem less set in stone. And I like that there is a guide to brand sizing included which explains the differences in how certain brands can fit.

And it is surely much better in the long-term to educate ourselves about what a good fit looks and feels like rather than relying on buying a certain size. Of course, shopping online means you do have to make a size choice before you purchase, but understanding good fit means you are better able to judge whether or not you should keep your new bra or exchange it for a different size. And hopefully you’ll end up a lot more comfortable in your underwear!

Anyone else had any good/bad experiences with bra calculators? Or can you make a recommendation? We’d love to hear from you.

 

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