Bra Sizing, And Why We Can’t Always Get What We Want

Image by Beija London

It’s time for some bra talk, my dears (and perhaps a little moan as well.) Recently I put up a grumpy old lady rant about lingerie sizing, sparked from an observation of how lingerie brands who target a specific group (eg small back size, full bust) receive so many attacks for not catering to every individual’s own needs, rather than deserved praise for expanding the overall options available. I know this topic has been addressed before, but I did want to post something for the people who don’t currently understand how the lingerie industry works, and why, being a 32GG, you can’t just buy a good fitting bra at any old brand.

Miss Deadly Red wears a black Playful Promises bra
Miss Deadly Red wears a bra by Playful Promises

First off, lets talk about about what the industry calls “core sizing” which is back sizes 32-38 and cup sizes A-D. Straight away you may be realising that this is not that broad a spectrum of sizes, especially by modern standards where for instance, wearers might have had breast augmentation, so you can expect a bigger difference between back and cup size. I personally do not fit into core sizing! However, it does cover 16 different sizes, all of which have a minimum order per style and per colour with manufacturers. All these individual sizes have to be transported, stored, given retail space if it’s a high street store. All this adds to the costs and detracts from overall profitability if a certain size isn’t popular. So once you start adding in sizes that fall outside this core range, you risk investing in something that will leave you with unsold stock and less profit to invest in your next collection.

Lara Intimates Ava bra
The Ava bra by Lara Intimates, worn by The Wicked Jade

Next, it’s not as simple as just scaling up the design from a 34B to a 42KK. A bra supporting fuller, heavier breasts does need different design and engineering to be comfortable and fit well. A great instance of this is a British lingerie brand I love called Beija. Each design has three sizing groups (with indivdual sizes catered to within it) all with variations to make that style better suited to it’s wearer. Their X bra is for petite busts, is wireless and light. Their Y bra is made for B-D cups and features a more typical wired fit. Their Z bra is for DD-G cups, and seems to use more technical fabrics for support, sometimes thicker strapping, which believe me, you notice when it isn’t there! I recently had my first bra headache and let me tell you- spaghetti straps and E cups are not good friends! There can also be cost implications to less common sizes, possibly needing the manufacturer to create bespoke underwires because standard ones aren’t available in that size. Knowing what I know about underwires, this is no mean undertaking. I could write a whole blog post on it, but I imagine it’s very dull fare to anyone who doesn’t have to know this stuff!

Beija London black stripes bra
The stripes bra, by Beija London

So now we understand why some brands will not be able to afford or justify expanding their size range (not to mention that some are clothing retailers who do not specialise in lingerie) let’s look at how a brand chooses the size ranges it does cater to. When a brand starts up they will ask themselves who their target customer is, and this will include a body profile. They may be quite an athletic brand dealing mainly in core size sports bras, they may choose to specialise in the fuller figured woman, maybe women with small ribs and full cups. Whatever the body type of the woman they wish to sell to, they will have to pick a limited range of sizes for the reasons given above. The chances are that they will have done market research with women who match their profile and their size range will be based around that information. Unfortunately this may mean that you fall either side of that sizing, and will not be able to purchase from them. It’s important to know that this is not the brand choosing to exclude you for any reason- they just had to draw the line somewhere, and demand means that right now, they can’t justify expanding it any further.

Gabi Fresh x Playful Promises bra
The Gabi Fresh collaboration with Playful Promises

The good news is that the internet means you’re never far away from finding a new brand that is absolutely perfect for your needs. The best advice I can give is follow lingerie bloggers who match your body type (and ones who don’t- you find amazing styling ideas with these people!) A few of my favourites are-

Fuller Figure Fuller Bust

Comic Girls Need Bras

The Lingerie Raven

Big Cup Lil Cup

The Wicked Jade

These women all have vastly different styles, from luxury fetish to cutesy-everyday, and there are hundreds more, all sharing their finds! Maybe you’d even like to share your own thoughts.

But I guess the real question we’re all asking is how can we encourage brands to stray into our sizes, especially when we’re *just* on the cusp of fitting their gorgeous designs!

  1. People need to stop with the accusatory, angry comments when they can’t buy from a certain retailer. Remember they can’t possibly please everyone and if they included your size someone else would still be feeling hard done by.
  2. Instead you need to make sure that you encourage them in their good work- tag friends who are the right size for the brand and who you think would appreciate them. If they are making sales they have more profit to expand.
  3. When you find retailers who sell your size BUY IT FULL PRICE! I cannot stress enough what a difference it makes to meetings when you show that certain sizes only sell at a discount. This implies it’s not really worth continuing with.
  4. You can absolutely comment to express your wishes, but just think about how you would receive the following comments after you’d worked hard and invested huge amounts of money to release a collection.

“Only up to a FF? That’s supposed to be big? What about H cup and over? Nothing for me, as usual with most companies” (actual comment taken from a specialist brand’s post)

“Love this! @Mybigbustedfriend” this would look stunning on you. Can’t wait till they start selling K cups, I’d wear this style all the time”

Playful Promises lingerie
Playful Promises

Speaking as a designer, we all do our best to meet the varied and high expectations of our customers, don’t forget, at the end of the day, we really want to make a sale to you! So let us know what you want without making us feel defensive about our limited resources, or the things we haven’t been able to do yet. Support the brands who are trying to meet your needs, and offer your feedback about what you wish you could buy from them!

Finally, a list of designers that I think deserve recognition for trying to cater to a broad range of sizes! (please note that I have not personally bought from all these brands or been paid for promotion)

Helen Kukovski– Stocks sizes 28AA- 44K but will also custom make you a bra at no extra charge!

Curvy Kate– Awesome lingerie brand specialising in D-K cups with a great range of styles.

Playful Promises– On trend, and a brand whose inclusivity is renowned! Sizes 30A to 44H

Lara Intimates– A sustainable brand, that uses deadstock fabrics with a zero waste policy! Size 26A to 36I

 

 

 

What can I do?

Buy your size bra full price

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