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A brassière, commonly called a bra, is an undergarment for women. Its main purpose is to support their breasts, but is sometimes also used for sexual attraction in the form of lingerie. The bra is a nineteenth century invention which took off as a fashion garment in the 20th century.
Brassière measurement (also called bust size or bra size) refers to the size of bra a woman wears. Bra sizes were first introduced in the 1910s. The sizes vary from one manufacturer to another. Bra size systems are often used to label off-shelf bras and not custom-made bras.
The term cup, in relation to bras, began being used in 1916 when two patents were issued. Cup sizes are given in letters such as A, B, C, etc. Bra sizes in most countries have a number and a letter (for example, 34B). The number comes from the measurement of the ribcage directly underneath the breasts. The letter is a measure of how much larger the breasts are than the ribcage. This is found by measuring the chest over the breasts (across the nipples) and subtracting the ribcage measurement from the breast measurement, then finding the matching letter of the alphabet. For example, someone with a 3-inch difference between the breast measurement and the ribcage measurement would have a C-cup bra. However, this does not always work, since different manufacturers have differently-sized bras. Many women prefer to find a brand and size that works for them by trial and error.
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