Why is it so important to get into a size (and style) that fits?
In a nutshell, to change the world.
The bra is a fairly young garment—when compared to the existence of other types of apparel. Outer coverings—such as pants, shirts, and dresses—have been around for hundreds of years. Maybe not in the shape or style that they are now but attire that served their purpose has been. Without doing a poop-ton of my own research but going off this website--A Brief History of the Bra--the bra first came to be in the early 1890s, as a replacement (of sorts) for the corset. Underwires came to be in the early 1930s and cup sizing came soon after. It should be noted, though, that cups sizes from that time bear little resemblance to the cup sizing of today.
The history, for someone with my passion to fit my clients and know where it all came from, can be quite distracting. I nearly got sucked into reading from numerous websites rather than finish up the point that I’m trying to make on this post. Please forgive me if it gets a little scattered because I may see a tidbit that I want to include and throw it in randomly.
In the meantime, a little visual timeline of the evolution of the bra:
1920s--when busts were flattened and squished
1940s--note the age progression and how it relates to the length of the bra
1950s--you could hurt someone with those shapes
1960s--all about function, not flattery
Starting to appear in a much "softer" shape; far less structure
There are tons of bras to choose from nowadays. I really think the style explosion began when Madonna started the trend of underwear as outerwear—first in the 1980s when she first hit the scene in her lace bustiers...
and continuing into the 1990s during her Truth or Dare/Dick Tracy era...
An extreme throwback to the 1950s.
Before that, bras seemed more functional than anything. After that, they had to be “pretty”, “unique”, “eye-catching”. Because of this paradigm shift, hundreds of choices became available, at all different price points.
They no longer appear to be the *right* choices, though. For decades, the shape and size of women was pretty stagnant and fairly small, even if we did get taller by a bit. In the 1960s, based upon numerous sources that I could find, the average weight of a woman was 140lbs. In the 1980s, there was a increase to 145, and by the year 2000, the average weight was more than 165lbs. Yet, bra *sizes* remain pretty much the same. Granted, it was a whole different sizing method then—one that I don’t know enough about to explain, I just know that it was different. For example Marilyn Monroe was touted as a 36C but the *fullest* part of her bust was 37” so, clearly, the sizing system was different then. (And a “32” might have worked for someone who may have had only 26” around their ribcage because the measurement was based upon bust proportion or whatnot.) However, even with the sizing *method* change, they stuck with the same band size range: 32 to 38 or 40; and, pretty much the same cup range: A to DD or DDD. And, in stores, that is the consensus of availability today. Yes, there are exceptions but they are few.
20, 30, and 40 years ago, we didn’t have nearly the “insulation” that we do now so having that limited a range wasn’t as much of an issue. With the increase in body weight and obesity, though, comes a variety of flesh distributions, for lack of a better description. Band sizes have to take into account rib circumference as well as the flesh that covers it; which could be very little or quite a bit or somewhere in between. Cup sizes are approaching their limit, in terms of letters of the alphabet. The UK is up to L; the U.S. is up to N (which is actually *smaller* than the UK cup of L); yet the flesh that fills the cups continues to be more and more.
Despite these drastic changes, though, department stores haven’t really changed what they carry. They just carry more options in the sizes that they already had, and have had, for years. To some degree, having that small a band range is perfectly fine but is it the *right* range to have? On a survey post on /r/ABraThatFits, where the majority of responders (646 of 909 or 71%) fall into an age range between 18 and 29, the perceived band size (774 of 895 or 87% ) does fall into the 32-38 range but, upon further investigation (i.e. inputting measurements into the provided bra size calculator) it seems that the majority actually falls into a range of 28-34 band sizes (714 of 895 or 80%). The other disparity lies in the perceived and calculated cup sizes of survey participants. Perceived cup majority (cups measured via UK sizing): B to DD (629 of 894 or 70%). Calculated cup majority (again, UK sizing): DD to G (571 of 895 or 64%). I should also mention that the perceived cup greater than G totaled only 34 but, when cup size was calculated, it totaled 192 above a G cup.
Why is this important to note? Department stores, in general, are providing cups only up to F (U.S. size DDD) and the band size that is *married* to these cup sizes are TOO BIG for the customer—usually a 36 or larger. Customers are forcing themselves into these mismatched sizes because it’s too tedious and labor intensive to get the band/cup combo that actually fits.
The mode value of the perceived cup size is a B and the mode value of the perceived band is a 34. So, folks are buying the 34Bs but are really needing 30Es (mode value of calculated band is a 30 and mode value of calculated cup is an E)—two band sizes and three cup sizes different, not even a “sister size”.
A sidenote: there wasn’t an alignment between age and bra size so that’s why there is the number differences that there are. It *is* important to note the age of the majority, though, because this is the demographic that is a primary candidate for much of the well known bra marketing in the present time.
So, I go back to my original question but slightly rephrased…Why do we need to buy bras that fit? So that manufacturers will listen and adapt. They won’t change what they think works until their bottom line indicates that it’s necessary.
Quit buying the 36Cs that work “okay”.
Invest in the 30F that makes you feel fabulous!!