Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Big Bra Myth

So this morning I was watching Live With Regis and Kelly, and they did the usual segment on how 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size.

Someone trots this trope out at least a couple times a year, and I'm sure by now any men seeing these segments must think that women are totally clueless when it comes to bras. Apparently we don't understand complicated things like "numbers" and "letters"! We don't get all the intricacies of concepts like "cup size" and "band size".*

Why, to all appearances, we women must just go into the store and throw on the first bra we see!

Let me tell you the real truth behind the "8 out of 10" figure. You want to know why so many of us are wearing the wrong bra size?

The store doesn't carry our size, that's why.

According to a little Googling, the average woman's breast size in the US (are you ready? Make a guess. I'll bet you'll be surprised) is: well, somewhere between 34DD and 36DD!**

I know, color me amazed as well.

For any men who are reading this (I'm hoping some women forward it along to clue you in), you must be asking why this is such amazing news.

Well, first of all, there's little consensus on that average size. I don't know why an average size should be so controversial, but I had trouble just narrowing an average range down.

I found some sites, like breastoptions.com, for example, still citing the coveted 36C figure, which apparently was the average around 1999-2000 and the size, according to them, most women still WANT to wear.

The change from C to D (or DD) in the last decade is apparently attributed to us US women getting a bit heavier over years. Speaking for myself, I have to acknowledge that I personally, am, ahem, more generously proportioned than I was back then.

But anyway, back to the point, we need to wear the right size, ladies! We're all doing it wrong!

So off to the store we go. And when we get there, what do we find? We should expect to see the racks overflowing with D and DD bras, right? Because that's the average size!

Nope. And men, this is another reason we are all boggling at that "average size." Because, judging from the assortment in the major stores that I see, 34D and 36DD are barely represented at all.

Really, we mostly find A to C cups. Not only that, but we see a narrow range of cup sizes, and it usually ends up that the smaller cup sizes are available in A, starting at about 32, and the largest cup sizes show up the Cs and the (scant) Ds.

Which isn't to say that there aren't any DDs at all, but by the time we come around to them, it's usually only the highest numbers that are represented, the above 40 cup sizes.

So good luck to you if you wear an outlying size! Or even the "average size"!

So I watched with a bit of a cynical eye when, on Live with Regis and Kelly, they measured actual, real women, and supposedly they did them a favor by finding their "true" bra sizes.

All I know is that one of the women ended up in an E cup (Regis, bless him, said, "I didn't even know there was an E cup!").

And Kelly Ripa went *down* from her regular 32A (which I think fits her just fine, judging by the way her clothes look on her) to a 30A. Which puts her firmly in the range of training bras, intended for teens and pre-teens.


Good luck finding your size, ladies!

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering? I've actually, through weight changes and the rest, developed into a 36B cup these days, and a recent measuring by a "bra fitting specialist"*** confirmed this.

Which, as I hope you've learned from reading this, means nothing more than that I am currently luckier than the 8 out of 10 women who can't. find. their. bra. size.

*Which, by the way? CAN be a bit confusing, through no fault of our own. Bra manufacturers in Europe use a completely different sizing method than in the US, and some manufacturers add inches to what they indicate are the actual sizes, in a process known as "vanity sizing".Wikipedia has a whole primer on why bra sizing can become so complicated.

**We think. There's actually a bit of a disparity in the numbers reported as the average. Keep reading.

***Although I found reference to articles (like this one) relating that fitting specialists travel around the country, training other women to become fitting specialists, nowhere could I determine what the training entailed. Your own specialized measuring tape, perhaps.

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