Full-Figured and Plus-Size: What's the difference?

Lingerie has so much sizing vocabulary: plus size, full figured, extended sizes, full busted. Most of our clients have no idea if those things are the same, or if they’re applicable to them, but let me tell you: knowing your way around the terminology makes it so much easier to find the bra you’re looking for. Let’s break it down.

As we’ve talked about elsewhere on the blog, bras are measured in two places: the fullest point of the bust, and the tightest point on the ribcage. The former is the letter part of your bra size, and the latter is the number part. Let’s say you schedule an appointment and our fitter measures you a 46HH. That means a tight measurement of your ribcage was about 42-46 inches, and that the fullest point of your bust measured about 11-13 inches larger. Every body is a little different (as is every brand and style), so it’s good to think of this as a range rather than something fixed and absolute. Bra fitting: mostly science, but still kind of an art.

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In lingerie sizing, full-figured bras are anything larger than a D cup, irrespective of your band. In clothing, you may wear a size 0 or a size 22! It’s not really correlated to any other part of your body, just the size of your breasts. So for example, Panache caters exclusively to a full-figured client from a band size of 28 to a band size of 46, so even though their styles cater to a wide variety of shapes and sizes, they are all for full-figured clients.

The term “plus-size” as it relates to bras is much more related to clothing. If you wear plus-size clothing, you probably wear a plus-size bra. Plus-size bras are a cup size of D or greater, and a band size of 44 or greater. For example, Elila caters to a plus-size client, so all of their designs come with a larger band an a larger cup, and their patterns are designed for a plus-size person, rather than just scaled up haphazardly. We’ll talk about that in a future post, but it’s a game-changer!

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Full-busted lingerie isn’t as well-defined, but most vendors use that term to describe a cup size of D or greater and a band size of 36 or smaller. The general idea with this term is to highlight that the garment is designed for a person with larger breasts and a smaller frame. Extended sizing is likewise a pretty squishy term, but in most cases it means “outside the range Victoria Secret stocks.” Any band size below about a 32? Extended size. Above a DD cup? Extended size. Below an A? Extended size. Above a 40? Extended size. About 85% of our bra inventory is extended size, because, to be honest? Most people fall outside the Victoria Secret matrix.

These terms are supposed to help guide you, but can end up feeling alienating to a lot of people. Did this help demystify the seemingly meaningless words you see on tags? We’re always here to answer your questions about fit and sizing!

Kirsten Schofield