Technical: choosing a bust cup size

A topic that we are contacted about often is how do you know what bust cup size a pattern designer drafts for? And how do you know what bust cup size you are? For anyone with a different cup size to B/C, which is the size most patterns typically draft for, you might need to do a small (SBA) or full bust adjustment (FBA). This can be quite time-consuming and tricky depending on the pattern design. It’s also overwhelming when you are new to sewing. Over the last couple of years year we’ve seen an increase in the number of designers choosing to include different cup sizes with their designs for the bodices of dresses and tops. Not only will this save you time but you can also have the confidence that it’s been drafted professional for your body shape.

We all thought it would be helpful to bring all this information together in a handy post so that you can learn how to measure yourself and calculate your bust cup size, plus discover which designers offer multiple bust cup options for dresses and tops.

What bust cup size am I?

Most patterns are drafted to be suitable for a B or C cup. In sewing patterns, cup size is the difference between your full bust and upper/high bust measurement (note: this is not the same as bra size).

Bust – this is the measurement around your body across the fullest part of your bust, often your nipples (but not always). Make sure you keep the measuring tape straight as you record the number so that it doesn’t dip at the back. Check this in a full length mirror.

Upper bust – this is the measurement around your body that is taken above your bust. Measure just under your armpits. If you have a larger or smaller bust than the typical B/C cup, this will be useful to know for doing full or small bust adjustments to bodices.

Note on the video: we recommend not wearing a bra to take your upper bust measurement but wearing your usual bra to take the bust measurement.

To calculate your pattern cup size, follow the method above to measure your upper bust. Next subtract your upper/high bust from your full bust measurement and use the list below to work out your pattern cup size.

Pattern cup size = full bust – upper/high bust

1″ = A cup

2″ = B cup

3″ = C cup

4″ = D cup

5″ = DD (or E) cup

6″ = DDD (or F) cup

and so on.

For example, my bust size is 38” and my upper bust is 34” so I would be a D cup. This makes sense with my experience of having to typically add 2” to the bust of patterns (2″ on the fold = 4″ in total) as part of a FBA (full bust adjustment), which are usually drafted for a B/C cup.

Pattern designers with different bust cup options

Jennifer Lauren Handmade

Jennifer Lauren Handmade has included A – F bust cup options in her most recent pattern releases. With a nod to vintage, these classic dresses and tops are elegant with interesting design details.

In the shop: Yes, paper, PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.

Sizing: UK 6 – 24 or 16 – 34.

Bust cup options: A, B, C, D, E and F.

(1) Kinfolk Dress

(2) Emmie Tee

(3) Luna Lounge Set

(4) Georgie Pinafore


We are spoilt by options from Cashmerette, who have lots of sewing patterns with three bust cup size options (C/D, E/F and G/H). With everything from dresses and tops to cardigans and hoodies, your bust cup options are covered!

In the shop: Yes, paper.

Sizing: 0 – 16 or 12 – 32 (approx. UK 8 – 18 or UK 14 – 34, based on our standardised size chart).

Bust cup options: C/D, E/F and G/H.

(1) Roseclair Dress

(2) Stanton Hoodie

(3) Lenox Shirt Dress

(4) Vernon Shirt

(5) Saybrook Tank

Itch to Stitch

Itch to Stitch offers a huge range of sewing patterns that have several bust cup options. Above we’ve selected a few of our favourite tops and dresses from the collection, including the latest releases.

In the shop: Yes, PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.

Sizing: US 00 – 40 (approx. UK 6/8 – 34/36, based on our standardised size chart).

Bust cup options: A, B, C, D and DD.

(1) Winterthur Jacket

(2) Amador Top

(3) Sentosa Tank

(4) Fisterra Top and Dress


Liesl + Co

Liesl + Co offers a range of sewing patterns in everyday style that are easy to sew and several have bust cup options.

In the shop: Yes, paper, PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.

Sizing: 0 – 20 with A/B, C and D cups (approx. UK 8 – 20, based on our standardised size chart).

Bust cup options: A, B, C, D and DD.

(1) Santa Rosa Top and Dress

(2) Verdun woven t-shirt

(3) Sintra Halter Top and Dress

Chalk and Notch

Make your mark with Chalk and Notch sewing patterns. Their mission is to offer stylish, professionally drafted patterns with detailed instructions.

In the shop: Yes, paper, PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.

Sizing: US 0 – 30 (approx. UK 8 – 30, based on our standardised size chart).

Bust cup options: A, B, C and D bust cup options.

(1) Victory Tank

(2) Wren Blouse and Dress

(3) Shay Dress

(4) Marcel Dress and Tank Top

Simplicity, Vogue Patterns, Butterick and McCalls

Browse our commercial patterns range of designs with bust cup options. With over 50  sewing patterns, the commercial brands offer a wide range with custom cup pattern pieces.

In the shop: Yes, paper (Simplicity SP104 PDF or Pdf + printed copy shop only).

Sizing and bust cup options: varies.

(1) Simplicity SP104

(2) Vogue Patterns V9202

(3) Vogue Patterns V9252

(1) Butterick B6783

(2) McCalls M7971

(3) McCalls M8161

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2 thoughts on “Technical: choosing a bust cup size

  1. This is great information. Thanks for making it available. It would also be additionally helpful if you put the entire cup size chart. My difference was double your last and I wasn’t sure where that would put me! I did find another chart online and helped me make sense of the rest. I also really like your pattern references including pictures of the patterns.

    1. Hi Laura, glad to hear this post was useful and thanks for your feedback, we have added on more cup size options.

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