Dressing Professionally When Your Top and Bottom Are Different Sizes

my top and bottom are different sizesReader A has a great question about having a differently sized top and bottom:

I am a second-year lawyer at a big law firm in New York, and my largest problem in terms of dressing professionally, rather ironically, is my small bust. Most dresses and blouses appear to be made with at least a B cup in mind, so I am constantly having to get them tailored and paying the extra money that comes along with it. If not, I look like I am playing dress-up. I am 5’7″ with normal-sized hips, so petite sizing is not always a good fit.

I checked your archives and found plenty of resources for the well-endowed women, but less for small-busted women (please let me know if I missed a post on this!). If you or your readers know of any clothing lines or brands that make button-up shirts or dresses for smaller chests or had any other tips for me in terms of dressing professionally with a small bust, the information would be most appreciated! I would also appreciate tips on good bras for small chests — even though I like my body and giving the appearance of having more on top than I do isn’t a huge priority to me, it might be helpful to other ladies with similar body types.

Wow, great question, and I’m sure one that other readers share. This isn’t something I’ve talked about with friends or read about, though, so I’m a bit stumped — and fascinated to see what readers say! I had a roommate in law school who had been told she was a size 2 on top and a size 10 on the bottom, so this can be a significant problem. (Pictured: Triangle quilt, originally uploaded to Flickr by Melisande.)

a) Re: tailoring: I think you’re on the right track here to get things tailored. One minor issue may be that you’re so used to the tailored look and feel that you’re annoyed that things off the rack don’t fit you perfectly that way. But in my experience, things off the rack don’t fit anyone perfectly — I could probably find at least one thing wrong with anything that isn’t tailored or a stretchy material. Which leads me to my next point…

b) Aside from a few tailored pieces, try incorporating more stretchy, fluid materials in your wardrobe, or looser fitting pieces. A number of my friends who are small-busted wear a ton of loose silk t-shirt blouses (such as the one we featured last Wednesday); you may also want to look into silk jersey — tops and dresses by Diane von Furstenberg and the like. We just ran a post on the best t-shirts for beneath suits; you may want to check that out.

c) For suits, buy separates. Sometimes suits are sold as a set — there’s one price for the jacket and the bottom — but many times they’re sold as individual pieces so you can buy a jacket in a size 2 and pants in a size 10 (just for example) if that’s what you need to do.

Readers, what are your tips for accommodating a small bust but normal-sized hips? What do you do in general when your top and bottom are in two different size ranges? How about Reader A’s question re: bras — any favorite brands to recommend?


  1. Hi there, fellow small woman!

    A-line dresses (both with sleeves and without) and sweaters, skirts and knit tops/sweaters, pants and sweaters/knit tops. Sense a theme? Avoid jackets if at all possible. I am a pencil: 34A bust, but I have strong shoulders and back, 23 waist, 35 inch hips and the shortest waist in creation, so I have long legs. The best way to go for me is lower rise pants (because of my lack of waist issue), pencil skirts, non-blouse or jacket tops. Don;t get baggy tops, but you can go looser if you wear a camisole underneath that complements the color and style. This keeps you from looking draped in yards of material. If you must wear a jacket, go for Nanette Lapore-type ones that have darts and/or nip in at the waist and are not cut boxy. Also, I would avoid waist-length jackets, as they are often boxy and make you look even flatter-chested. I actually have had good luck with Vic Secret barely there (not sure if that is the name, but they don’t show under anything) bras with a bit of padding. Good luck.

    • I don’t really have a flat chest, but I am 2 sizes bigger on the bottom than I am up top. I like to wear things that accentuate my waist as that tends to give me more of an hourglass figure. The flowy look is awful on me it tends to draw the eye right to my hips. I think you have to have a straight figure to look good in the flowy shirts without a belt.

      I agree with the above post that Nanette Lepore is great for giving you the illusion of having more curves, and the style tends to fit well for women who have larger hips.

  2. Diana Barry :

    I have a friend who is a 0 or 00 petite up top and 4 petite on bottom. She gets suits from BR and Theory, with smaller size up top and bigger on the bottom. She then has them take in the jacket at the waist (she has one of those men’s-hand-span waists) so it is not as boxy – even the shrunken blazers are boxy on her. Also, she wears padded bras so she looks like an A+ instead of an AA-.

  3. I am like reader A but I am short (157 cm tall), tiny torso with AA cup and generous hips, thighs and seat. I always dreamed of fitting in a “normal” sheath dress: but if the torso fits, the dress won’t go past my hips and if the hips and thighs fit then I have a large unflatering gap on the top.
    I go with Kat’s advice number b. I got several silky blouses from Ann Taylor loft. They are not meant to be snug, and most of the time they have ruffles, a bow or some flower at the collar or chest area. This gives the illusion of a more proportionate bust.
    Other than this, I wear dresses that are large at hips/ A line but with a snug torso.
    I avoid buying suits if I cannot get the top and bottom separately (this happens when sometimes you have to buy the suit as a set and not as separates).
    Hope this helps.

  4. I tend to buy suits at yoox on clearence (hurrah for $185 Armani) in two sizes, one for my top and one for my bottom. I consign the other parts. You are still getting a good deal on both pieces and the pieces you don’t need can be easily sold.

    I’d also suggest shopping in person, many department stores will sell you different sized suiting items because their women’s suit items are all sold as suit seperates. I think DKNY is usually sold as suit seperates and the line is good quality.

    • Aren’t those clearance items on Yoox usually no-returns? How do you do that? Have you tried on Armani (for example) elsewhere, so you know your size?

      • Anonymous :

        mia can correct me if I’m wrong, of course. But I don’t think she returns the suits. She keeps the pants from size X and the jacket from size Y. Then sells the pieces she can’t use–for example, on ebay or in a resale shop.

        • Yup. I bought one suit in a 4 and one in a 10 and took the bottom from the 4 and the top from the 10 (apparently my arms need some serious toning haha). I consigned the rest. The suit (a beautiful black wool Armani) came to about $400 with shipping plus I got $100 back on the pieces I consigned. I put together a Dsquared skinny pant suit for $575 this way, also with money back on the consigned items.

          Obviously you need to get lucky here and the suit needs to be available in both sizes. It definately does happen though. I check yoox daily on my phone.

          I consign and buy from consignment a lot and I’ve never had problems. The place I go to will give me 40% of the purchase price on the items I bring in and usually they don’t realize when I get something on sale or the extent of the sale. Armani and Dsquared suit seperates with tags will sell easily and for good prices.

      • I find Armani pant suit sizing to be the same as Banana Republic suiting. Exactly the same, maybe just a tweak tighter in the pants. I will note however that their jackets are not cut for dress shirts underneath, even if you go up a size it will look weird. They look great with shells and t-shirts.

    • I’ve never seen Armani suits there for $185. What’s your secret?

      • Check every single day. Just bookmark women’s suits under sale on your smartphone and make it a habit at breakfast. I find my best deals at the end of March and early April, particularly on Wool suits. Also bookmark specific suits you like and keep checking on them to see if they go on sale (I waited months for the Armani to get affordable). Also note that Yoox’s sale prices do drop gradually so it’s worth it to wait sometimes.

        If you find a good deal not in your size check every few hours on that one suit in case someone returns the one in your size. (I have done this sadly enough…)

        Honestly, if you have the time and patience it pays off. I have a hideous Banana Republic suit my Dad bought me for first year law school that probably cost almost as much as the Armani I am currently wearing.

  5. I have a similar problem and have found I look best if I wear things that emphasize my waist (semi-high-waisted pants and a-line skirts with feminine tops tucked in). Also getting properly fitted for a bra has made a huge difference for me. I avoid button-down shirts and tend to wear a lot of chunky jewelry. Scarves can also help balance your look as long as you don’t go overly flight attendant with them. If you wear a lot of black and great shoes no one will notice the disparity.

    • EL – Where did you get fitted for your bra sizing? Have been fitted at VS and Macy’s, not terribly impressed with either.

      • Go to a real lingerie store. Chain stores and department stores almost never have employees as well trained as the little old ladies who staff most lingerie stores. At VS in particular, employees are told never to tell a woman that she wears a size the store doesn’t carry, so if you wear an unusual size, you’ll get shoehorned into whatever VS standard size they have lying around.

        The bras you buy at independent stores will tend to be more expensive, but once you know what works for you, you’ll be able to buy more at a discount online if you want. Plus, it really does make all the difference in the way your clothes fit.

        • I agree. And even at a real lingerie store, the clerks get it wrong sometimes. I went to Nordstrom one week and was told I was one size, then the next week another clerk told me I was a different size. The second week, the woman was correct — I needed a DD, not a D. (I know, funny thread for me to join, but I have very narrow shoulders, so I understand the original poster’s pain.) At any rate, I think it’s probably true that the sales lady the first week, who told me I was a “D” cup, was wishing me into a size where I had more choices. The moral: it doesn’t hurt to go a few places, and by all means, insist on trying on a lot of different bras, maybe in a few different sizes. Also, when I find a bra I think I like, I put my blouse on over it so I can see how it makes my clothes look and fit. That is, after all, how you’re actually going to wear your bra. . . .

        • I JUST got fitted for a bra for the first time. I am a 32G. Its crazy, but I look and feel so much better now (had been wearing a 34DD). Went to a real lingerie store. I’m a convert.

      • If you happen to be in the NYC area, I’ve always found www.journelle.com to be wonderful with fittings. They also carry lots of unusual sizes, too.

  6. SF Bay Associate :

    I am a hippy, small busted 5’6″ corporette as well. For me, I would not wear Kat’s suggested loose silk tshirt- while anything tight on anyone is bad, anything loose is not flattering on me either. I also disagree about wrap dresses/tops and other DVF styles – my bust is not large enough to help the top part of the dress or top stay “up,” so there’s just a lot of drooping fabric and risk of hanging open. It looks really sloppy on me. Do buy yourself a roll of double-stick tape though – very handy for the tops you can’t hold up on your own.

    I do agree that you should buy your suits as separates – there is no point to buying tops and bottoms in the same size because no amount of tailoring can fix a jacket that is a size or more too big.

    For lingerie, check out lula lu – it’s a bra company specializing in small sizes from various brands, including a house brand. I have also found that Calvin Klein, both his regular and “petite” lines (shorter straps, straps closer together) offers true A-cups which I think fit great. Elle Macpherson’s line is cute, but her A cup is too big for me. Wacoal is another good option. Go to nordstrom, get measured.

    For tops, almost all of my tops are some kind of v or scoop neck. No crews, no boatnecks. I rarely wear button up shirts – if they are small enough in the chest, they are too short in the length unless I am wearing a high-waisted skirt, so I pretty much suggest you give up on those unless you want to go for custom shirts. Scoopneck knit shells are my favorite under suits. Be careful of cowl necks – a slight cowl can be good, but a “normal” or large cowl will not be flattering at all because it won’t hang right. I also really like the silk mesh tops that Classiques Entier Atlier has ever season – very flattering.

    For dresses, some brands have room for hips and some don’t. I like Classiques Entier and Elie Tahari – my top and bottom are one size different from each other, so in CE and ET I can get the dress size that fits my top and still have enough space in the hips. I also hear Kay Unger is similarly cut. I have not found any other brands of dresses that work for me. Theory and J.Crew dresses, for example, are disasters for me. Otherwise, and until I found CE and ET, I must sadly say that pretty much dresses may not be an option for you. They just don’t fit. I usually wear lots of skirts and tops, rarely dresses.

    Yes, lots of tailoring. But also recognize that unfortunately some styles are just not options for us (or at least, me, in my experience), and no amount of tailoring will help.

    • Concur on Lula Lu. Also Tahari dresses, and pants suits for that matter. I have had good luck with Calvin Klein dresses.

    • I have to say, as a small-busted woman I’ve just about given up on button-front shirts. They’re either absurdly loose, or skin-tight (juniors-section styling).

      • Amen. I have given up.

        • Anonymous :

          Interesting – I’m also small on top (well, all over), and I wear button-front shirts almost daily! JCrew (size small) and Brooks Brothers (size 6) fit me perfectly (fitted but not tight). I’m also tall, though, so maybe that makes a difference?

      • Hey, as a large-busted woman I’ve also given up!

        Button-front shirt makers, take note.

        • small busted, long waisted, also given up. only wear the many i have under vests or v-necks. they don’t tuck in on me ever. also because the pants are all so annoyingly low rise these days. yes please listen stores, make things grown up women can wear to work.

      • Interesting. I’m fairly small-busted (B), but I’ve found that BR’s no-iron button downs size M fit me perfectly. They could stand to lose an inch around the waist, maybe, but if I tuck them in they look great. I’m 5’9 and have swimmer shoulders, though, so maybe that helps?

    • Agree with SF Bay Associate–I’ve found some Calvin Klein bras that are flattering and comfy A cups. I tend to look for ones with some padding, both for figure-flattery, and to avoid headlights!

      Actual wrap dresses are rarely flattering on me, as they tend to sag and have too much fabric in the bosom, or have a huge gap! But sometimes faux-wraps work well, especially if they’re wrappy over the bosom and then have an empire-waist band (though sometimes, those are just as bad).

    • Bk foette :

      Agree with SF Bay Assoc — never regular crew neck, always v-neck or scoop – I do think empire waists or pseudo wrap shirts are pretty flattering on me as well but it varies.

      Buy suits in separates only.

      I have also had good luck with CE dresses fitting off the rack.

    • agree!! buy suit separates in 2 sizes… I have finally learned how to only look for dresses with a ‘free hip’ as in a-line or full skirt, and that way I can get one that fits on the top, and the hip is not a problem….. also, i have learned the amazing world of belting!! As other commenters have said: emphasizing the waist really helps, so I can put either a skinny belt right at my natural waist, or a wide belt high on my waist, under a sweater, and it gives me an hour glass look, makes it not look so unbalanced. Check out this blog post with belting advice, http://www.alreadypretty.com/2010/08/what-belting-can-do-for-you.html a couple of the looks she does with belting ‘to bring up the waist’ have really helped me!

    • I was almost ready to give up on button up shirts – but then I tried Brooks Brothers. They have a petite – tailored – iron free shirt (I think red label?) French cuff. I was always so frustrated because my husband could easily find great men’s shirt (like Van Heusen) but the women’s stuff was crap. The Brook Brothers shirts are very nice – just don’t get the ‘classic’ cut (blue label?). The tailored cut is much more sliming at the waist, but not overly large in the chest area either (for petite).
      For dresses I’ve also had luck with Ellen Tracy, but Tahari still remains my strong favorite. Calvin Klein is really hit or miss for me – I always feel like my hips look three times larger.
      I would also emphasize choosing the right neck line and jewelry to draw attention away from hips and upward to your face and neck. Jewelry is not my strong suit – so I had a Stella Dot ‘stylist’ help – I actually really enjoyed it and it’s a great way to incorporate more trendy jewelry into a conservative suit.

  7. Does anyone else feel like they are the only person on this site who doesn’t get things tailored on a regular basis? Apart from the usual suspects (bridesmaids dresses!) and maybe hemming 2 pairs of absurdly long designer jeans, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything altered.

    • I don’t do it at all unless something needs to be fixed, or unless I get it altered at the store and have them ship it to me. I’m tall, so my problem is never that there is too much fabric, but not enough.

    • soulfusion :

      I rarely to never tailor either. Mostly because I’m bad at errands but also because my weight fluctuates enough (in the 5-10 pound range) that I just know as soon as I tailor to one size I’m going to shift. That being said, I do have a bag of items to take to a tailor on my closet floor (see, bad at errands).

      • Wow, can I relate! Fluctuating weight, being bad at errands, never tailoring despite the “to-tailor” pile on my floor. At this point in my life, I try to work around these traits by buying clothes on the loose side. That way, when I have utterly failed to tailor anything, at least my clothes fit me decently in my heavier moments…

    • I rarely get things tailored, except to let out hems on skirts and sleeves. I could have my jackets taken in, but I prefer things to be less fitted and thus less risk of looking sexy.

    • Same. It’s too expensive. I just refuse to buy pants that don’t come in short sizes. I have narrow hips and a larger top so I just buy my suits a size up and you can’t really tell if the skirt is a bit big. I don’t wear dresses.

    • Also a non-tailor person. It’s expensive and time consuming to get it done, and not tailoring helps me control my clothes budget, ie: I don’t buy it at all if it doesn’t fit mostly perfect off-the-rack. Since nothing ever fits perfectly off-the-rack, I end up spending way less money on clothes. On the off chance something does fit? I buy it in 3 different colors :) However, I do wonder if I could get that extra ounce of polish and “togetherness” if I got some of my things a little more fitted.

      • Before I decide to tailor – I ask myself long and hard is the suit worth it. Was it a relatively cheap and trendy suit or is this more timeless suit that can stay in my wardrobe for multi seasons. I have a couple ‘go to’ suits for each season that have been tailored – and they really do add the extra ounce of polish. Of course – I don’t wear them every day, but it’s great to pull them out for a big deal and know they look and feel great.

    • I don’t drive and therefore I almost never get anything altered or dry cleaned unless I have to. It means I have to really think before buying anything but honestly it’s worth it.

      The main alterations I get done are in stores when I buy items in them and they throw in alterations.

    • somewherecold :

      I’ve also never had anything but a special occasion dress altered. I do wonder if it might be worth getting some of my suits altered to look a bit more polished. I also have been looking for some suiting dresses for several years now, so I might need to bite the bullet on those, since I haven’t found anything that is long enough and big enough in the hips but not gaping up top.

    • Honey Bear :

      I don’t get thinks tailored on a regular basis b/c I try to buy petite/short pants so I don’t have to deal with hemming. It’s not convenient for me to go to a tailor so I try to avoid buying things that need altered. But, if I had a great tailor within a 5 minute walking distance from me, I would definitely be buying more clothes!

    • I rarely get things tailored as well. If a suit needs tailoring and I bought it at a place that has in-house tailoring, I’ll do it then. Otherwise, I buy things that fit off the rack and hem pants myself with hemming tape. Although you did remind me to get a dress hemmed for Memorial Day weekend. It’s a long dress I wore once to a wedding and somehow managed to stick my heel through while dancing. I think I can save the dress by making it knee length.

    • I have a sewing machine and do my own alterations; as a short-legged 5’2″ woman I had to learn to hem my own pants. I can also take in simple darts in shirts but do not do more complicated tailoring.

      • you all are lucky! I have no choice. short legs. don’t think I’ve ever bought a pair of pants that didn’t require hemming. seriously.

    • I find that I will budget in tailoring to some less expensive items, or items I really love. If it really needs the adjustment, I won’t buy it unless I am ok spending an extra $20 to make it perfect. It can be a great way to get away with buying some less expensive pieces. After alterations you would never know the difference. Pants are also becoming a real problem. They really don’t ever seem to be cut curvy enough.

  8. I have the same problem. Most of my suits come from Talbots where almost all the suits are sold as separates.

  9. Great post! I have broad shoulders for my height (5’4″), small boobs (34A), a short torso, no waist to speak of, and slim hips. I can usually wear the same size top and bottom as long as the waist isn’t too nipped in, but finding professional dresses that fit is another story. For bras, I’ve had good luck with Calvin Klein. They make lots of lightly lined options in my size in black, nude-for-me, and fun prints, and their molded cups on the T shirt bras are a true A as someone else mentioned. There’s usually a decent selection at the outlet mall near me. I’m not interested in push-up bras, so I HATE Victoria’s Secret and all of their overly padded nonsense. I also have lulalu.com and lailides.com bookmarked in the event that I actually graduate with a job next year and want to buy some pretty, pretty lingerie. :)

  10. For those who are petite, there are some other blogs that are purely in the mood of sharing about clothing sizes. Extrapetite.com and alternationsneeded.com. I find these two women tend to dress on the more casual side for work but it’s all about petite clothing and what fits/doesn’t fit.

    • Great! Thanks for sharing!

      At 4’11, I consider myself an “ultra petite.” It’s a shame that my hips and behind didn’t get the memo. It’s hard for me to find clothes that are a decent cut for my frame, but that I can also get over my butt.

  11. I have the same figure, only taller (6 ft) and I’m presumably older (law class of 96 here). I’ve found that separates and tailoring are the way to go. I also avoid blouses like the plague — between too-short sleeves and gaping torso, its just a no. My go-to work outfit has been a knit shell or tee (silk) with a scoop or modest V-neck with a skirt suit. Tailoring, tailoring, tailoring — bring the waist of the jacket in, but make sure the shoulders and armholes fit before you buy. Skirts are either straight or A-line; make sure they fit your hips then have the waist taken in. I’ve also had some sleeveless blouses and knit shells tailored along the side seams to the waist — taper them in. Good luck and try to find a good tailor!

    • I’m 6 ft tall as well and wondering where you buy your suits or other clothes. I’m always on the hunt for new places that sell clothes that will fit me. I agree with you as far as tailoring goes. I usually end up buying items and having a tailor let out the sleeves or hems.

      • I’ve heard Long Tall Sally is great for tall women. http://us.longtallsally.com/ I haven’t tried their clothes personally but I have a 5’11” friend who is thrilled to have found the site.

    • backtowork :

      I agree; a good tailor is the secret if you don’t have an off-the-rack body.

      • Tall ladies — its a PITA. I go to the usual suspects — JCrew, Banana for basics and tall pants. AnnTaylor, Talbots, Eddie Bauer also have some tall things and Talbots has 24-26 inch long skirts, which can work for me. Otherwise, its rather random — generally higher-end/designer things have longer legs and arms (Gucci, believe it or not, had some really long pants in the past) but once you get larger than a size 10/12 life can be difficult, esp. if you need an extra inch or two in the rise. Some black label Ralph Lauren works too. The key fit areas are shoulders, armholes, and hips, and from there its all tailoring. And dresses, esp. sheath dresses, are generally a NO because the proportions are all off. I’ve gotten some clothes professionally made, which can be great — my wedding dress and some special-occasion stuff.
        For cocktail I’ve also bought some way-too-big vintage dresses on ebay and tailored them to an inch of their life — get something at least 2 sizes too big and a good seamstress (not the drycleaner) can basically remake it for you for around $100 in NYC. (Also note that vintage sizing is different than current sizing, so ask for measurements of the dress and compare it to something currently in your closet.)

  12. I have always been a very obvious pear shape. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last 6 months and now look more evened out, though still a pear. I plan on losing the weight for health reasons, but will miss being this balanced. It’s a lose-lose situation.

  13. looking for a t-shirt :

    . . . to fit my AA petite top. That’s all. A plain white cotton well-fitting t-shirt. Made in USA? I am thinking of seeking out a junior size. Any success in this regard from the readership?

    • American Apparel? Forever 21? The former is made in USA and runs very small.

    • Petite Bateau is good for this, not made in the US but better quality than F21 at least…

      • I second American Apparel. Ignore the creepy heroin-chic photography. I find their basic tees and u-tanks to hold up really well. Just size up (maybe two sizes, depending on your build). I take a small in tops most places and find their mediums to be very fitted (great as base layers).

  14. Anonymous :

    Anyone have tips for the opposite body shape? I’ve got broad shoulders, slightly larger than average bust, but narrow hips, flat behind. I’ve started avoiding pencil skirts since they tend to emphasize how small I am on the bottom, which looks out of whack with my top half. Any advice on how to look a bit more proportional?

    • I strongly recommend the book The Science of Sexy by Bradley Bayoud. It is all about learning to dress with the body type you have. He divides bodies into 48 different types and then gives you the forumla of the types of clothing that is most flattering on your body type. I love this book!

  15. I am a 36AA, which is pretty much impossible to find. (Why do bra makers think that there must be a difference in cup size between a 32A and a 36A! ) Anyway, several years ago I bought three bras from a brand called Intimissimi (or something like that) sold at only larger VS stores and, for a brief time, online. The bra came in different cups sizes with both an adjustable band (around) as well as adjustable straps. The only bra I have ever had that fits right!

    Fast forward several years. My bras are well past the point of needing to be replaced, and the brand is no longer available in the US. Anywhere. Can’t even order them online. Apparently the only way to buy this brand is by going to Italy. Sounds like a good excuse for a European vacation, if only I had the funds!

    • Try the Itty Bitty Bra Company?

      • Anonymous :

        I’m surprised that a company with this name exists. If someone came up with a “Fat *ss Panties Company” for larger bottomed women, there would be serious backlash…

        • I dunno – I think I would be a funny name. Except for the fact that I hate the word “panties”.

        • Anonymous :

          LOL! And imagine if a woman received lingerie from that store from her significant other…

        • I guess not everyone considers “itty bitty” to be a perjorative. I think the name is cute and it clearly is a play on words on “IBTC”.

        • Now I want a pair of underwear with [email protected]$$ in huge letters across the back.

    • Bare Necessities has several bras in your size including bras by Panache, which is my favorite brand.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      There is an intentional difference in cup size between a 32A and a 36A: 3 cup sizes. Cups are equivalent across bands only if you go up a band, down a cup/ down a band, up a cup. So 32A = 34AA, and 36A = 34B = 32C. If you want a “32A” size cup in a 36 band, you need a 36AAA. Try lula lu – they carry 36AA!

      • Aimez-Moi :

        Only to a degree. I’m a 30B, and often get fitted as a 34AA at department stores, which features cups which will only fit half my breast in ie. the wire cuts almost to my nipples, and a gaping back.

        Don’t underestimate a good fitting bra. I now buy mine from ebay, in pierre cardin, because they are the only ones I could find without getting it tailored (ie it will be $100+ from a specialist boutique, or going the CK route, which is hard to find in Brisbane, Australia- I have to drive an hour to their store.)

  16. Anonymous :

    For smaller busted ladies in NYC, I recommend Ripplu on Madison.

  17. As for brands, try Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. I can’t wear them b/c they are too big in the hips and too tight in the chest. Maybe they’d work for Reader A.

    J. Crew tops are generally good for smaller busted women. Banana Republic uses very small chested models, so presumably their tops would work well, too.

  18. Reader A here. This is all so helpful. I really appreciate it!

  19. I’m also about a size 4/6 on top and an 8/10 on bottom. I actually like to wear closer-fitting tops because they emphasize the smallest part of my body and make me look narrower overall. I tend to favor shirts with an empire waist construction or are otherwise fitted around the upper torso, and a looser bottom that hits just past the hip. Mostly I wear separates.

    When I do buy dresses, I have them altered if they don’t fit right in the bust. It makes a world of difference. But I also try to look for styles that don’t have darts or shaping that require a precise fit because if that type of dress fits over my hips, it never fits in the bust.

    For small-busted bra advice, try this blog: http://smallbustbigheart.com/

    I got my bra fitting at SyleneDC; their site at http://www.sylenedc.com has lots of good bra shopping advice. I found that Natori and DKNY had good 34A T-shirt bras.

  20. J.Crew is great for small busts. I am 5’9″ and a size 0, a 30C on a good day (which sounds big, but isn’t if you adjusted it to a normal band size) and they are really the only store that I can find stuff that even comes close to fitting well.

    If you are short, you will want to order shorts where available because I wear all of the normal stuff and it is usually the perfect length for me. There has only been one time I needed a “tall” in something from J.Crew.

  21. Wondering :

    Love this post! I have the same body type as you, Reader A. I have barely a 32B bust and am usually a size 2 on top and a size 4/6 on bottom. Here is what works for me:

    1. I wear a heavily padded bra from VS. I realize that not everyone is a fan of them, but they make me feel more confident and I feel that I look so much more proportionate and balanced because I have wider hips. I wear one with the most amount of padding (the kind that evidently makes your cup size look two sizes bigger, which definitely is NOT true. I basically just look like a fuller B cup)

    2. I love Classiques Entier for everything, Tahari ASL for dresses (even their sheath dresses work on me), and Calvin Klein dresses. Any sort of fit and flare dress will be your best friend, and luckily, this season is full of them. Go to Nordstrom’s site and search dresses by “A-line”.

    Something like this, for example:


    3. I have had good luck with button down shirts from Express, in a XS or S. Express doesn’t get a lot of love on this site, but I like them because they are cut small and so they work well for the small endowed. You have to wear a cami underneath most of them, as they’re often a bit revealing.

    4. Loose fitting tops look terrible on me. I have a pretty small waist, and fitted tops emphasize that, so I always stick to that.

    • Where do you buy bras? I’ve recently realized I’m also a 32B, not 34B, and have the hardest time finding bras in that size.

      • I’d recommend trying TJ Maxx and Marshalls first. Since so few stores tend to carry 32 bras, many of them end up dirt cheap at the discounters. I’ve gotten several Calvin Klein bras there for $5 and other ones I loved for $10. Dillard’s is the only departments store I’ve visited that has a fairly good selection in 32 bras. I try to load up when they have their lingerie sales.

      • Wondering :

        Hi kz, I buy the heavily padded bras that I prefer to wear from Victoria Secret. I went to Nordstrom and had a proper bra fitting, found out I was a 32B, and then went back to VS to buy my bras. Like I said, I prefer a heavily padded bra and VS is pretty much the only store that carries those. If you like more of a Tshirt bra with little to no padding, I would check out Marshalls or Ross. I have never had a hard time finding my bra size, actually, so maybe those stores will help you.

      • I’m lazy – I go to Nordstrom and let the very helpful ladies there pull all the bras in my size (32D, so probably just as hard to find as 32B) so I don’t have to pick through all the bras. Not the cheapest option, but as I said, lazy. Plus I don’t seem to be too hard on my clothes and my weight doesn’t fluctuate, so they last a while.

  22. 1) Clothes with empire lines: Empire waist dresses and blouses.

    2) Elegant (silk, for example) tunic-length blouses or over-blouses worn over simple straight or slightly A-line skirts.

  23. also, you may want to try victorias secret’s button up (down?) shirts. I can NEVER get that kind of shirt to fit me because apparently my chest to waist ratio is “off” (too small on top, wohoo!) and those fit me perfectly. Not the BEST quality, but they certainly solve a problem for me.

  24. For well-proportioned jackets, I like Theory, BCBG Max Azria, H&M, Ann Taylor LOFT, Banana Republic and Express.

    For button down shirts, I like H&M, Express and Gap.

    For bras, Victoria’s Secret, Chantelle, Calvin Klein and Gap. Figleaves is a great site to search for bras by size.

  25. I love Wacoal bras! Their 32 band starts at AA and goes all the way through G, which is awesome if you have a weird size. (Like me.)

    I’ve pretty much given up on button-up tops, and on not getting things tailored. Hooray for “them child-bearin’ hips.” :|

  26. Anonymous :

    Really surprised by some of the comments. They are all so contradictory! I’m a 0/AA cup on top and a 4-6 on the bottom.

    I can’t fill out a wrap top or dress, even a faux-wrap top, so I don’t usually look at those unless I’m willing to have the sleeves moved. If a wrap dress is sleeveless sometimes it can be taken in at the shoulders enough, but you have to be careful you’re not just shortening the dress while still having the top too big.

    A-line skirts instead of pencil skirts (emphasize the waist instead of the butt) are a must! I’ve got one pencil skirt in my closet and its part of a vintage 1940s suit and it is cut completely differently than pencil skirts nowadays (it hits below the knees and is cut more generously through the hips since it has longer to taper).

    I’m most surprised by the suggestion not to wear jackets. I think anything that adds bulk on top is a good thing. Jackets, cardigans (at the same time!), scarves, and layers are all good. And there are some tops that are just going to look better on small torsos. Boat necks for instance. I think boxy jackets work fine too (think Chanel square, not poorly cut) as long as they hit above the hips.

    I prefer low rise jeans and slacks, since I only have to fit one measurement (my size 6 hips and not my 0 waist and size six hips). But that means buying longer shirts / jackets cardigans (easy-ish since I’m short).

    One tip I picked up from a friend about reading fashion blogs is to identify what you are not and look at the “don’t” lists for them or look for the opposite of their “do” lists. For example. pencil skirts are often recommended for “boyish” figures to “emphasize curves”. I don’t have a boyish figure and I don’t want to emphasize curves so no pencil skirts.

  27. I ordered a couple of bras from Itty Bitty Bras – made just for the small chested, and they’re great. Only downside was two days after they arrived, I found out I’m pregnant, so they aren’t fitting great now. ;-)

  28. I am too small for most 32A bras, and can never find smaller sizes in stores, but LOVE the wireless favorite bras from Gap. So comfortable, invisible, and come in lots of colors.

    I wear mostly button down shirts and boat necks. I think things that hang a little (not too big, but cut to do that) also tend to look nice.

  29. High-necked blouses and turtlenecks are your friends if you have a smaller bust. Being a bustier woman myself, that’s pretty much the only recommendation I’d have for the opposite problem.

  30. 14 top, 18 bottom :

    In matching sizes, people who are 14 tops and 18 bottoms (other sizes will fall into this category as well) face a special challenge: ordinary sizes run through size 16, while plus sizes start at maybe 14W.

    So you can’t find a small enough top in the plus sizes, nor a large enough bottom in the regular sizes. Until recently, the two possible solutions I faced were getting a size 16 skirt tailored or trying to find a place that carries the same suit in both sections (good luck). I would probably have had to get a plus-sized skirt tailored as well, because the width is built in at the waist as as well as the thighs, while I mainly have the width in the thighs.

    However, I lucked out when Macy’s Charter Club started carrying size 18 (not 18W) skirts in their regular section. They only have a very basic suit in gray, black, pinstripe, and navy. Machine washable and less than $100 for the whole suit. I can’t confirm that you can order them online because the site is down for maintenance.

    Is it a mediocre suit? Sure. But for me, as a first year law student who has never owned a suit and needed to get something that fit reasonably in a matter of days, it was a godsend. I had been turned away from probably a dozen stores before I found this.

    Right now my plan to prepare for interviews at the end of the summer is to lose enough weight to gain some more options. If anyone has a better idea or has dealt with this problem before, I would be glad to hear your take on it!

  31. 4 top, 34A bra, and 8/10 bottom here. buy suits as separates obviously, and for tops I like the brooks brothers non-iron shirts, or even basic gap vneck or scoop-neck tshirts. I have narrow shoulders and a narrow waist, so i like snappy little jackets that emphasize those parts and hit at the hip.

  32. Any suggestions for a dress size 12 with an A/AA cup? I find its very hard to find clothes that fit properly because they expect all chubby people to have gigantic boobs too. Not so! At least in my case. I’d say I’m a 10/12 top and a 121/14 bottom depending on brand. I’m not interested in fake push up bras and don’t have the money for tailoring…any suggestions? I wear some 36A and 34A VS bras but I dont think they really fit all that well…I just want to look proportional and natural.

  33. I know this thread is super old, but I just want to say… YES! This is me! I’m 5’9″ with broad square shoulders, 30C bust, 27″ waist, 41″ hips. (So I’m in the 2 on top, 10 on bottom camp). Shopping often leaves me depressed, because it’s so hard to find things that fit. Small and/or petite tops fit great in the bust, but often don’t have the length I need (or are too tight at the bottom), and I usually end up rolling long sleeves to mask the gap at my wrist. And like many others on the thread, dresses are a tricky (and rare) proposition. Bottoms are also difficult as I need long inseams, and even if it’s not the most flattering I LOVE low rise pants because then I don’t have to worry about drastically taking in the waist. A belt often doesn’t work because there is so much extra fabric to reign in. Thanks to all the previous commenters for the great tips, and for making me feel less alone :)

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