When I used to shop for bras at Macy’s, I’d make a beeline for the full figure sign because that was the section with the D+ bras. It seemed like overkill to label every woman with a big bust as full-figured, but I guessed I must be full-figured.

Then in 2008, a designer connected me with her patternmaker, who turned out to be the 84-year-old Roslyn Harte, a highly regarded lingerie designer who agreed to talk to me by phone. I described how I wanted to create a shirt for full-figured women–you know, a shirt for women with large chests who aren’t plus-sized. Roslyn immediately interrupted me: “You mean full-breasted, not full-figured.”

I was thrilled by the revelation. How wonderful that there was actually an industry label for me and the women I wanted to design for. To be defined made me feel acknowledged and recognized. I no longer had to be an exception within a category that only partially fit.

Today there are many more people who understand the phrase “full-bust”–it’s not just for industry insiders anymore. I’ve even seen department stores with “full bust” signs, and any online lingerie store worth its salt has a separate category just for us.

Recently, the bloggers over at An Enhanced Experience discussed each writer’s definition of “full-busted” and whether she thought it described her. As each writer shared her bra size, I thought, “Of course you’re full-busted! Case closed.” I felt a little chagrined by the dialogue. “Full-busted” may be more widely recognized now than in the past, but it certainly isn’t universally understood. There are still too many people who believe that a bust size past a D means a woman has a large body to match. If women who clearly fall within the textbook definition of full-busted disclaim the title, there are less of us to embrace it and educate others.

As you read that last sentence, you probably wondered what textbook definition I was talking about. I’m not even sure there is one! The Full Figured Chest has suggested that anyone with a 34 band and lower and a DD cup and higher qualifies, while a Wikipedia contributor has written that full bust is “commonly used to refer to a breast with a cup size of at least C.” However, I tend to agree with Ali Cudby’s definition from her Fit My Bras course: 28-38 bands and D cups and higher.

Now that I’ve set out my criteria, it’s time to confess that even I haven’t “felt” full-busted lately. As a 32F in French brands and a 32FF in British brands, I have it easy; and like many of the Enhanced Experience bloggers, I tend to associate “difficult” with being full-busted. In fact, I focus so much on the challenges facing full-busted women who wear H+ cups that I completely discount my own experience. When I visited the Empreinte store in Paris last month, I almost missed out on their amazing very plunge seamless padded bras that stop at an F cup (review to come) because I only ever look for styles that go to an H cup.

A couple of weeks ago, Eveden invited me for a fitting at their press event and put me in the Fantasie Allegra* vertical seam bra. I was confounded when it fit me in 32FF and 30G. I NEVER would have tried this bra on my own because I had it confused with the Freya Starlet** vertical seam that only goes to an F cup. Because of the F cup ceiling in the Starlet, I had in mind that all vertical seam balconettes were off limits to “real” full-busted women. 

freya starlet fantasie allegra
Freya Starlet on the left, Fantasie Allegra on the right.

It’s not just F cups that challenge my perception of full-bustedness. I also carry a subjective ruler around in my head. Someone who is mildly projected, I immediately discount because she probably “only” wears a D or DD and has it soooo easy. Someone who is moderately to very projected, I give my full busted seal of approval. For instance, I was super interested to read A Big Boob Styling How-To on Man Repeller recently, but when I saw the writer’s photos, my internal ruler said, “Her experience doesn’t count because her boobs don’t look big enough.” Even though she wears a 32G, maybe it’s an American G, which is only a British F, and life just isn’t that hard for F cups. Or FF cups like me.

Since I have been minimizing my own full bust status lately, the following pictures of me with my graduating niece last weekend astounded me. How did my chest get so prominent??? (I have to admit, I was kind of relieved to see it again!)

I’m wearing my Freya Hero in 32FF in this photo, compliments of Bras-Galore. I’ll be reviewing it soon!
Darlene and niece cropped
I’m not sure which bra I’m wearing in this photo.

Maybe you don’t think my chest is taking over the photos like I do. And hopefully you’re not tempted to disregard my experience in the same way that I was tempted to disregard the Man Repeller writer. But if you are tempted, I completely understand.

However, rather than giving in to the temptation to discount our smaller sisters, I wonder if we can find ways to appreciate the full spectrum of full-bustedness. For instance, the Man Repeller post gave me some great ideas for accessorizing. Any article that goes beyond the busty basics has something to offer all of us regardless of where the writer falls on the spectrum. And being full-busted isn’t only about difficulties. We have a lot of celebrating and sharing to do.


*There are reviews of the Allegra by A Tale of Two Boobs and Faustineli.

**You can find a great review of the Starlet by Science and Silicone.