Don't take this as a definitive guide; I am just passing on whatever I have gathered from my experiences. I'm hoping it will help, but don't take it as set in stone!
Measurements: For bands, Korea goes by cm (so 70, 75, 80, etc.) In terms of cup size…some online converters say the cup sizes are different (that an A in Korea is a AA in America) while others say it’s the same. Personally, I found them to be the same. An A in Korea looked and felt the same as an A in America, so that’s what I’ll go by in the rest of the post.
Common bra sizes: The most common bra size in Korea is 75A, which translates to a 34A in America. Honestly, I’m a bit skeptical, seeing as most Korean girls are reasonably endowed...But that’s what I was told, and it certainly agrees with what you see in store. 75A is indeed the most common and available cup size. B cups are just as common, so I saw a lot of 75-80 A&Bs while I was there. (In American size, that would be 34-36 A&B.)
After that, it starts to be less common. C cups are common, but they seemed to come with larger bands. For instance, I saw a lot of 80C but not a lot of 75C. (That’s 36C and 34C, respectively.) D cups are even less common; I only saw one or two that I remember. And in terms of bands, I occasionally saw bands as large as 85cm (38”), but it wasn’t available in all designs. But remember! This is based on what I’ve personally observed in stores. It could be that I just didn't notice, or they they had larger bras in the back that you just have to ask for. Or it could be that other stores have them and I just never went there. I am more confident in my observations about petite sizes, since that's what I wear. :)
Speaking of petite sizes, 70A (32A) is common, but not thaaat common. It's certainly not as common as 75A (34A.) And bands that are even smaller (like 65cm/30”) are pretty rare. A store may carry one or two bras with 65cm bands, but they may only come in smaller cups like A, B, and maybe C, but not necessarily D. And because it’s so uncommon, it may not be in the design you want.
Overall, it’s still difficult to find large cups with small bands (or put another way, small bands with large cups.)
Usually under 30,000KRW. From what I’ve seen, simple bras run from 10,000KRW – 17,000KRW. Cute bras that aren’t too extravagant, like the one below, are usually between 20 – 30,000KRW.
But if you buy online, you can find plenty for under 20,000KRW! I think it's because they're older designs, but I'm not sure. What I can say is that the pink bra above is definitely cheaper online now than when I bought it. It's currently selling for only 17,000KRW, and although I don't remember the exact price, I know I bought it for more than that. Here are some more examples:
▼ Yes bra -- 15,600KRW
▼ Yes bra -- 15,000KRW
And just to clarify, these aren't random no-name bras from Gmarket. They all come from franchise brand stores in Korea. ^^
I am petite. I wear a 60-65D (28-30D), depending on how tight the bra’s elastic is. This is a difficult size to find, even in Korea. I can occaaasionally find 65D, but it’s usually not in a design that I like, or the cup shape isn't right for me.
Here’s what saved me: tailoring! Most bra stores in Korea offer tailoring service if the band is too big. In Korean it's called 수선 (soo sun.) I have also heard of it referred to as 픽스(“fix”), but I think “soo sun” is more common. This service is free at Eblin and costs 1,000KRW per bra at Mixxo. I can’t speak for other stores since I’ve mostly bought from Eblin, but I reckon it’s still pretty cheap. The process takes about a week, although I’ve also gotten it back in 3 days.
Basically, if the bra you like fits well in the cup but is too big in the band, they can easily remove the extra slack for you. To know what bra to choose, you have to convert your cup size. (Skip this section if you already know how to!) For example, I wear a 65D (30D.) Now that's not because my boobs are big; it's because my rib cage is small. Cup sizes are relative to your band size. A 65D cup will not be nearly as big as a 75D cup:
So although I technically wear a D cup, my boobs are actually the size of a 75B (34B.) How do I know this? I converted! To convert, you go up in band size and down in cup size. So starting from 65D, I converted twice: 65D → 70C → 75B. (Each time going up one band size and down in cup size.) In other words, a 65D cup is actually the same volume as a 75B cup. This is very important when it comes to buying bras because as I mentioned above, 75B bras are very common in Korea! So rather than searching desperately for 65D bras, I simply bought 75B bras and got them tailored instead! I once had them take off 15cm (to go from 75 → 60), but that’s really pushing it. 10cm is A-ok, though!
What happens is after choosing your bra, they will fill out a form with how many cm you want to take off. You will leave your phone number so they can contact you after it comes back from the tailor. If you don’t have a cell phone, Mixxo was fine with just my email address. Or, if you don't have time for tailoring, there’s also the option of Aimerfeel. Aimerfeel is a Japanese store that carries small bra sizes and they have a location in Myeongdong.
This is where it could be subjective. My experiences are biased from the perspective of having a small bust. For the record, I’ve bought bras from Target, Victoria’s Secret, Macys, and online. In Korea, I’ve only bought from Eblin and Mixxo (but mostly Eblin, hehe.)
Starting with America, I’ll use Victoria’s Secret as an example, since most girls seem to buy their bras there. Generally speaking, most of Victoria’s Secret’s designs are simple and smooth. Not a lot of 3D lace or ruffles going on. The cups are made out of soft foam and the bras are lightweight. They're even a bit floppy on their own.
Soft foamy material:
Asian/Korean bras, on the other hand, have more structure on their own. Their straps, cups, underwire, and elastic are all thicker and stiffer. Many bras also contain 1-2cm of padding on the cups. In a sense, they feel sturdier than American bras which are typically soft and lightweight. Korean bras also tend to have more detail in their designs. Granted, Eblin is a bit on the extreme side, but I would say it's still more common in Korea to find bras with extra oomph (such as lace, ruffles, or bows) than in America.
▼ stiff cup
▼ design detail
▼ Yes bra
▼ no brand bra
Now that’s not to say all bras in Korea are like that. There are plenty of lightweight bras with simple designs, too! The bra store in the subway (Ciab, I think it's called?) carries a lot of simple 2D designs. Eblin has some low-key designs as well:
I guess a more accurate way to put it is that because Korea is so densely populated, there are more bra stores in general. Perhaps they don't actually have more cute bras; it could just be that they're more accessible because the stores are closer together. Or heck, maybe they do have more cute bras! I'm not sure, what do you think? It's been awhile since I shopped for bras in the States.
Personally, I've never been a fan of Victoria’s Secret. I like Asian bras! My boobs are small and don't have that typical round, teardrop shape. So unlike the models' boobs which sit nicely in the cup, mine find their way out the sides. With Asian bras—well, the subset of "Asian bras" that are stiff and thick, that is—the added structure from the stiff cup and thick elastic keeps my fat in place. But I'll admit, this “structure” may not suit everyone. Victoria’s Secret bras feel thin and lightweight, whereas the bras I wear feel more like armor. All that padding can make your boobs feel hard, and the thick elastic can make you feel restricted. If I had to describe it, it’s as if Victoria’s Secret bras try to gently accentuate the boobage you already have, whereas Asian bras squeeze everything you’ve got to make bigger boobs. I'm exaggerating a bit here; it's not near as bad as it sounds! Ultimately, it boils down to personal choice. I prefer stiffness over slippage...not to mention the cute designs and cheap prices! :D
(Just because I think they're pretty ^^)
Here's what the inside of most stores look like. The Sinchon location I showed in my last post is much bigger, but most stores are actually quite small. These aren't my photos, since they didn't let me take photos inside. ><
With people inside:
And some of their bras/lingerie:
Notice how wide the sides are:
They also sell bustiers ^^
▲ This one, omg!! I want it so, so bad! I actually tried it on once, but my boobs couldn't fill the cup. Just two breezy voids...
Update: Here is Eblin's FB page if you want to follow them! It's all in Korean, but you can get updates of their new releases :D
Thanks for reading! If you have any noteworthy experiences on buying bras (whether it be in Korea or elsewhere) that you would like to share, please do ^^ My experiences are admittedly very biased towards petite sizing (and buying at Eblin, hehe.)