Reduction mammaplasty is rationed in NHS plastic surgery provision, despite abundant evidence that most women who undergo this operation obtain significant improvement in their physical health and quality of life. We suspected that women seeking reduction mammaplasty often wear ill-fitting bras, which may exacerbate some of their symptoms. Therefore, we studied 103 women who attended a nurse-run pre-assessment clinic, asking them what size bra they currently wore and then measuring them to see whether their bra size was correct. We also questioned bra manufacturers, designers and shop bra fitters about bra manufacture, sizing and fitting techniques, and we reviewed these findings. Of the 102 women suitable for inclusion in the study, all wore the wrong size bra. Their mean 'claimed' back measurement was 36 inches (range: 30-42 in.) and their mean cup size was F (range: C-J). We found that all but one underestimated their back measurement (by a mean of 4 in.; range: -2-10 in.) and overestimated their cup size (by a mean of three sizes; range: one size smaller to seven sizes larger) when compared with manufacturers' fitting guidelines. Multiple regression analysis used to assess the relationships of various factors to incorrect bra sizing showed a strong link (Pearson correlation=0.54; P<0.001) between obesity and inaccurate back measurement. The reasons why women with breast hypertrophy wear incorrectly fitting bras are discussed. We conclude that obesity, breast hypertrophy, fashion and bra-fitting practices combine to make those women who most need supportive bras the least likely to get accurately fitted bras, so exacerbating the symptoms for which they seek surgery.