While I saw some amazing new offerings at Curve, as a first-timer, I did come away with some unexpected impressions (as did Holly at Full Figured Chest: read this excellent post on the difference between the full bust and plus size market; and Claire at Butterfly Collection, who tackles US cup sizing). At this expo are the full-busted brands who we rely on to make bras that fit us and keep our breasts and backs in good health. So how do they view us?
CONFUSION AROUND BAND SIZES
Being recently fitted into sizes around a 28J (for now, until the baby changes that!), I of course asked all the brands I spoke with about any plans to add or expand 28 and 30 size bands to their lines. A brand rep for one of the most prominent brands in the full-busted market (who also *produces* said 28 and 30 bands!) said, Well, those sizes are for Juniors. Other brands told me there was “no market” for these sizes.
A few reasons why I totally disagree:
1) I don’t believe in the misleading one-size-fits-all Plus Four or Plus Five measuring system for band size. It’s confused so many women about their proper bra size and made it seem like figuring out your bra size is this crazy mathematical formula best left in the hands of the experts. Wrong. Simply put, the measurement of your underbust will likely roughly correlate to your band size. You may have to add 1 or 2″ or subtract 1″, but I like how Beckie at Busts 4 Justice puts it in her War on Plus 4 Manifesto: the underbust measurement should be the neutral starting point you use to find your band size, “with high emphasis on using that as a base from which to find your perfect fit – be it +0, +2, +4 or even -1.”
2) I have to assume you’d arrive at the conclusion that 28 and 30 back bras were for Juniors only if you were using the Plus 4/5 system. If you have a girl with a 23″ underbust, and you then add 5″ to it under the old outmoded system, then I suppose you would think a 28 back would be a “junior” size. Then if you’re starting with women measuring 28″, you’d add 4″ and put her in a 32 band. One brand even came right out and advised this, circulating a chart that advocated adding from 2″ to 5″ to get your band size during a fit seminar at Curve Las Vegas.
3) If you ditch the Plus 4/5 system, plenty of *regular women* (not just Juniors!) measure for a 28 or 30 back. I’m one of them. Your underbust measurement is not dictated by your age! You could be 15 or 45 and have a 26, or a 34, or a 30 underbust measurement. Just look at this amazing survey by June at Braless in Brazil, who surveyed 205 women and found that 66% of them measured 31″or less.
For brands who still don’t want to believe that women and not just juniors ARE part of the smaller band full-bust market, they only needed to walk by the Curvy Kate booth and pick up a catalog. Three of the 4 models in the Curvy Kate Fall/Winter 2012 catalog wear 30 bands. And here was their in-booth model Lauren Colfer, a 30G, in the flesh:
4) Say you truly did think that 28 and 30 bands were for juniors. Then why the heck wouldn’t you want to expand this market? Do teenage girls not deserve a selection of well-fitting bras, too?
And, while we’re on the topic, if you ditch the Plus 4/5 measuring system, wouldn’t you need even more band sizes that could also fit Juniors, like 24s and 26s? I know my teenage self was desperate for a bra like this, instead of the 34Cs I finally managed to find at a department store with cups that fit, but that I could lift up over my breasts with the band done. At 30 pounds lighter, I imagine I would have needed a smaller band than the 28/30 I wear now.
5) Finally, the idea that there is definitively “no market” for 28 and 30 bands doesn’t make any sense. It’s nearly impossible to find any 28s or 30s in-store or online anywhere in the U.S. If no one stocks them, then no one buys them. Voila! No market. What a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there truly were no market for 28s or 30s, then how do stores outside the US, like in the UK and Poland, manage to sell them?
SOME RELUCTANCE TOWARD THE GG+ MARKET
Along with the pushback around 28 and 30 bands, I also heard some of the same “there’s no market” rhetoric around GG+ cups. On the one hand, I’m truly over the moon to see several new additions to the D-G category–the more selection, the better! But on the other…that’s only part of the full-bust market! As more women in the US market in particular become aware of sub-32 band sizes in their quest for good-fitting bras, those who need to move down in band size will likely have to move up in cup size, and for some of them, that means crossing the GG+ cup line.
Again, June’s amazing survey on Braless in Brazil confirms the market for GG+ cups in small bands, even in size 24 or 26 bands (GG+ would start at 10″ difference between underbust and bust measurement for brands with UK sizing).
I also wondered, if, say, a 36G cup is equivalent in volume to 32H, or a 28J, couldn’t you ostensibly make the bras you produce in a 36G in a 28J? I know it couldn’t be as simple as just having a shorter band, but I’d like to think it’s not an impossible feat. Curvy Kate’s size chart seems to point to this:
NEW BRANDS MEETING FULL-BUST MARKET NEEDS
With all that out of the way, I have to say how exciting some of the new brands are. They’re dead set on meeting as many needs for the full-bust market as possible.
- Newcomer Claudette, who now produces bras in 30-34A, 30-38 B-G, plans to expand to a 28 band in Spring 13 and hopes to roll out up to a K cup, then, too.
- As the chart above shows, Curvy Kate is one of the most inclusive brands I’ve seen. They don’t have the arbitrary size availability bra-to-bra that other brands can have (this pattern only up to an F, this style only starting at a 34). In general, bras within a certain range (their classic or their Showgirl) are offered in all the sizes they make. How refreshing.
- And even though Panache isn’t new, all of the bras in their newer Cleo line are 28-38 bands, with almost half of the styles available from D-J cups.
All of these are encouraging signs, but we still need to do our part. Help show the lingerie industry what you need. Talk to your local lingerie store and ask them about stocking more sizes. Leah at Hourglassy mentions here how some order minimums are pretty small, which may be more manageable for small businesses. If you only have a department store nearby, don’t be intimidated by their size. Ask them to stock more sizes, or email corporate. There are so many assumptions about our market and what we need, but opinions aren’t going to change unless they hear feedback from us otherwise.
UPDATE: To address some of these attitudes, myself and several other bloggers have started the Bra Band Project. If you want to help change these perceptions, please consider joining us! Read more about the project on my post about it here.