Sister sizing is a really useful tool in bra-making. It’s the principle that some bra sizes share cup sizes, but have different band sizes, which basically means that you can create a new bra size, just by changing the length of your band. It’s a bit complicated to explain all in words so here is a bra chart:
This is the underwire sizing guide for full size range of the Black Beauty Bra. You can see that size 40B, 38C, 36D, 34DD, 32E, 30F & 28FF all use a size 40 underwire. They are all sister sizes- sizes that have the same cup, but different band lengths. That means that you can take any one of these sizes, and create one of its sister sizes by modifying the band length of the pattern.
I find that it’s easiest to think of sister sizes as sizes that all share an underwire size. So you can see from this chart that a size 34B, and a size 30 D are sister sizes, and a size 38DD and a 34F are sister sizes… etc
This also means that you can make sizes that are completely outside the range of the pattern, like shown in this chart:
You can see from this that if you had a size 40D pattern, you could make it into a size 42C pattern. Or if you had a 30G, you could modify it to be a 28GG. It really expands your size range.
It’s also really great if you fall between the two size ranges of my pattern. Say you measure to a 34DD, make up the pattern and realize that you want one cup size bigger – 34E, but that’s not available in your pattern! No worries, you can take the size 36DD, decrease the band size by one size and voila – 34E!
Then comes the question of how to make this alteration- how much do you remove or add from the back band for each bra size difference? Well I wanted to make that very simple for you, so I made a print out!
This print out is designed to work with my Black Beauty Bra pattern, and may not work for all bra patterns.
If you are decreasing your band size say from a 34DD to a 32E, you can print out the page here.
If you are increasing your band size, say from a 34DD to a 36D, you can print out the page here
Be sure to use 100% scaling when you print.
You can also watch my YouTube tutorial here
To Decrease Your Band Size
If you are decreasing your band size, you will take your back band piece, cut it in half (mark half by fold in your pattern piece in two) and mark a horizontal line to ensure your pattern pieces stay aligned. I call the two half ‘Center Back Band’ and ‘Outer Back Band’
Using the print-out, place your center back and along the indicated line, making sure that you line up your horizontal line too.
Then place your Outer Back band along one of the Band Size lines, overlapping your center back band, and keeping your pattern pieces aligned with the horizontal line. In this diagram I show decreasing by 2 band sizes (for example a 32 to a 28), but you should use whichever line works for your modification. Then you re-draw the top and bottom lines, keeping the side seam and hook and eye edge unchanged. Voila! Your new piece, and your new sister size!
To Increase Your Band Size
This alteration is very similar to the previous. You start by cutting your back band into two pieces and marking a horizontal line.
Then, using the print-out for increasing back band size, place your Center Back Band piece on the indicated line (aligning the horizontal lines) and place your Outer Back Band piece on the Band Line that suits the number of band size you wish to increase. In this example I show 2 sizes. Then you re-draw the top and bottom line of the pieces, keeping the side seam and hook and eye edge in-tact.
It’s really as simple as that!
I know that sister sizes really blew my mind when I first learned out them, and really opened up the possibilities of pattern sizing!
I’d love to know if you use my print-outs and if you find this tutorial helpful : )
Wow, thank you. I haven’t dipped my toe into bra making, but eagerly read all you post.
So happy you enjoyed the post, and I hope you join in on the sewing one day 🙂
Woah! You have officially blown my mind. As someone who has had so much trouble finding a big enough cup size for the smaller band size, I kind of knew about sister sizing but hadn’t connected that you could adapt a pattern that way!!! This is brilliant, thanks Erin!
Since you asked 😉 yes, this post and your printouts are great! I’ve been struggling to find my perfect size, and I thought I had it. Unfortunately, it turned out that I still needed to do some mix-and-matching. I prefer the wire size for a 28E, but the cups are too small. Different styles of wires didn’t solve the problem. The cups for a 28F are both, perfect lower cup, too big upper cup. I prefer the findings for the 30DD (3/4″ elastic curls in on me because I’m super short, and 3/4″ straps feel like they’re going to slip off), but the bridge, cradle, and band were a different height than the 28E. For some reason, when I read this post, the lightbulb came ON: the E sizes are different from the DD sizes because the wider bottom elastic on the E’s flip up and need more room so they don’t go past the wireline! Holy cow! Because of THIS post, I realized I could use the 30DD bridge and cradle to suit my preferred elastic width, and if I DECREASED the 30DD band, it would still fit the cradle, but be the correct length! I used the 28F lower cup, and shortened the upper cup to fit the 30DD cradle, and modified the powerbar. Now, I can TOTALLY customize any Black Beauty Bra I make for exactly what I want: any width elastic, any height hook and eye, and still use my best-fitting wire. Thank you for writing this, and making it so simple for us folks who just never seem to fit the mold. Your printouts are clear, and unlike me, you don’t get too wordy! I knew what sister sizing was before I read this, but it never clicked that I could just keep going, multiple sizes, in either direction. You’ve re-sparked my excitement to try again 🙂 Thanks!!
YAY!! so happy to help 🙂
Please check our website and size chart. we cater to the narrow frame with full bust, and our sizing is based on your actual measurements.
You can also email us through the site with questions regarding sizing, we are there to assist!
Thanks for this! I just bought your Black Beauty pattern, but I was using US sizing when determining what size to buy, and with the UK sizing I was just outside the pattern range! Now I don’t have to stress about it – I’ll just adjust the band for the correct cup size.
Thank you, this Blog Post was very useful for me. I successfully graded down from a 34 to 28 band (Black Beauty Bra).
Unfortunately although according to the measurements I should be a 28DD, the 34D cup is still a little bit too small. Will have to start again with 34DD and the band size modification. As I’m between the size packages it would have been great to have one file with all sizes but thanks to this blog post I now know more about sister sizing and how to alter the band.
500and5.de // nahtzugabe5cm.de
Happy to help 🙂
How about sizing down a cup size to an a cup? How would i go about that?
That’s simple! You would pick the band size that you prefer, and then go down one cup size. So say you measure to a 34D, if you wanted to go down a cup size and keep the same band size, you would make a 34C 🙂
Thanks for that blog post! Can I also downsize the Jordy Bra pattern with sister sizing? I have an 40 A (35″ band size, 39″ cup size).
Yes you can!
So if I’m a 40b what’s my sister size. A 36b fits good EXCEPT the bands too tight amd all my fat rolls over. I have a extremely large rib cage under my breasts but small breasts. I hate it but what can I do about it. I try to find bras that fit to no luck
Hi Yvonne, Sister sizes to a 40B would be 38C, 36D, 34DD, also 42A. If you find that a 36B fits well in the cup, then you might want to use that size and length the band by 2 sizes to make the sister-size 40AA.