We’ll sup­port you ever more? Bras get big­ger as non­plussed ex­perts re­veal boom in busts

More ac­cu­rate mea­sur­ing and fuller fig­ures mean our cups are run­ning over

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Alice Hinds ahinds@sundaypost.com

For every boom there is a bust but, by any mea­sure­ment, it would seem Bri­tain’s bras are get­ting big­ger.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search, the aver­age cup size in the UK has grown to an am­ple 36DD, a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease since the 1950s when the aver­age woman was buy­ing a 34B.

But are we ac­tu­ally get­ting big­ger? Ac­cord­ing to Emily Ben­dell, of Blue­bella lin­gerie, our big­ger bras may be to do with how we mea­sure and fit our un­der­wear, as well as chang­ing body shapes.

She said: “It’s prob­a­bly a com­bi­na­tion of both. Women prob­a­bly are get­ting a bit bustier, but the way we mea­sure has ac­tu­ally changed.

“We used to mea­sure around the body then add four inches to that mea­sure­ment, and your cup size would be the dif­fer­ence be­tween that num­ber and across your bust.

“Now that has changed, but not with all re­tail­ers, so there’s a bit of con­fu­sion in the market.

“The in­crease in size is partly due to the dif­fer­ent ways of mea­sur­ing, partly peo­ple be­ing bet­ter at get­ting mea­sured and get­ting the right bra size, and partly be­cause women have ac­tu­ally got big­ger boobs as well.

“It’s a real com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors.” Un­like dress sizes which in­crease se­quen­tially, bra sizes are a lit­tle more com­plex to cal­cu­late, and can of­ten leave women con­fused in the chang­ing room.

Emily said: “Peo­ple of­ten look at the let­ter on the end of the size and think that it re­lated to your boob size, but it’s only the com­bi­na­tion of the let­ter with the back size that gives you a proper idea.

“For ex­am­ple, if some­one is a 36B, the vol­ume in the cup is the same as a 34C or a32D.

“So you can have one lady that’s a D cup and an­other lady that’s a B cup, and ac­tu­ally the vol­ume is pretty much the same but with dif­fer­ent band size.

“We need to get away from think­ing DD means big boobs and B cup doesn’t be­cause ac­tu­ally it de­pends on the other mea­sure­ment.”

Although Emily ad­mits women are now bet­ter at get­ting mea­sured, it is es­ti­mated that more than 80% are ac­tu­ally wear­ing the wrong size of bra, some­thing which Marks and Spencers’ tech­ni­cal man­ager

Women started telling us and ask­ing, ‘I love this style, why is it not in my size?’

and “bra fit ex­pert” Ju­lia Mercer says she has wit­nessed first hand.

“We know that 84% of women that we have fit­ted are in the wrong size, with the un­der band be­ing the most com­mon area that women get wrong – it’s quite of­ten too large,” she ex­plained.

“The sec­ond most com­mon mis­take is choos­ing cups that are too small.

“Se­lect­ing the cor­rect bra shape to your body shape is key.

“There are four main bra shapes – plunge, bal­cony, full cup and strap­less. Most women can wear a full cup or strap­less, but if you have a smaller frame and closer cleav­age, a plunge will al­ways fit bet­ter. If you have wider shoul­ders and a gap be­tween your breasts, a bal­cony will al­ways fit bet­ter.”

De­spite in­creased de­mand for larger sizes, many women still find it dif­fi­cult to find fash­ion­able or flat­ter­ing un­der­wear, and Emily agrees that some brands in the market need to catch up.

She ex­plained: “There’s def­i­nitely been a time lag within the in­dus­try. At Blue­bella we’re lucky that we have a very direct link to our cus­tomers through In­sta­gram, and they can tell us what they want.

“Our cus­tomers were of­ten say­ing, ‘I love this style, why’s it not in my size?’ and that’s how we re­alised that, although the market was rel­a­tively well served in terms of func­tional lin­gerie, there wasn’t fash­ion-fo­cused lin­gerie in a larger range of sizes.”

Along­side an in­crease in bra size, women’s fig­ures have also be­come

curvier, too. The aver­age woman in the UK now wears a size 16 in cloth­ing and has a 34-inch waist – six decades ago, she wore a size 12 and mea­sured just 28 inches.

Icons of the 1950s, such as Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, who were con­sid­ered beau­ti­ful for their curves, now rep­re­sent a more ac­cu­rate size and shape for women, and the fash­ion in­dus­try has seen de­mand grow for more in­clu­sive cloth­ing as we have be­come big­ger.

A 2017 re­port from PwC found the UK’s plus-size market is now worth an es­ti­mated £6.6 bil­lion, and is out­per­form­ing the over­all wom­enswear and menswear cloth­ing market.

In the next five years, it is also pre­dicted to grow by a fur­ther 5% to 6%.

While brands and de­sign­ers still have a long way to go, Dr Sue Thomas, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in fash­ion at He­riot-Watt Univer­sity, be­lieves the in­dus­try is chang­ing.

She said: “When you look back at peo­ple like Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, she was very much con­sid­ered a sexy woman.

“But in ti­tles like Vogue, you would still see mod­els like Twiggy. So, fash­ion and re­al­ity haven’t al­ways nec­es­sar­ily over­lapped – there has al­ways been the idolised ver­sion.

“Now peo­ple are de­sign­ing with a bet­ter so­cial com­pre­hen­sion. Within the in­dus­try there has been sev­eral moves about mak­ing siz­ing more ac­cu­rate and more re­al­is­tic – whether or not it’s been na­tion­wide or even uni­ver­sal is an­other mat­ter.”

So­cial me­dia has played a large part in en­cour­ag­ing de­sign­ers to change their siz­ing. On In­sta­gram #BodyPos­i­tive ap­pears on 7.5 mil­lion posts and #PlusSizeFash­ion has been used

4.8 mil­lion times.

Dr Thomas said: “There’s now a grow­ing sen­si­tiv­ity to cre­at­ing stan­dard­ised sizes, and so­cial me­dia has def­i­nitely played a part in this, es­pe­cially through body pos­i­tivism. There are a lot of in­flu­encers who are all about the body pos­i­tive mes­sage as op­posed to nam­ing and sham­ing.

“How quickly and well or­gan­ised the in­dus­try is at recog­nis­ing this varies.”

She added: “Peo­ple want to wear fash­ion­able cloth­ing no mat­ter their size or age – they want the red car­pet look. If they see a strik­ing dress on their per­sonal icon, they want to look like them.

“And so there is a market for mak­ing ‘event and oc­ca­sion’ cloth­ing in all sizes. If some­one wants to wear it, that should be an op­tion.”

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