Debunking The Big Bra Fitting Myth

Quick question for you…

Did you ever wonder about the origin of the bra fitting “statistic” that says 70-85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra? Well, I did a little homework, and guess what? 

Woman trying on a bra

It’s little more than urban legend.

So where did it come from?

By 2010, when I began to formally research my book, Busted! The Fab Foundations Guide to Bras That Fit, Flatter and Feel Fantastic, the stat was already well entrenched in industry lore. After a LOT of digging – many hours in the FIT Library – I uncovered something interesting and unexpected. 

My research revealed that the statistic was originally pulled from some anecdotal quotes in Women’s Wear Daily interviews from the mid-1990s. Here are a couple of the quotes:

imgres“According to manufacturers, 7 women out of 10 are wearing the wrong bra size – and don’t even know it.” (WWD “Retailers: Fit Clinics Pay Off” by Karyn Monget, August 14, 1995)

AND

“Foundations makers like to claim that 8 out of 10 women are not wearing the right size bra and retail sales help is frequently blamed for this.” (WWD “Dial F for Fit” by Karyn Monget, October 30, 1995)

That’s right, the hallowed number is not based on any survey or study. By the late 2000s it was further entrenched in the minds of consumers with more information from a single boutique’s internal research. My guess is that the more people heard the statistic, the more they used it. I, myself, included the statistic in my book because it was already so well accepted in the world of lingerie and beyond, but using the number was an aspect of Busted! that always bothered me.

In the beginning, the statistic was used to show women that there was a bigger world of bras out there – that bras went beyond the DD-cup. At this point, the message has morphed into something else…something negative.

Just today, I was talking to a woman who shared that she went bra shopping, and the fitter kept telling her, “you’re wearing the wrong bra.” This woman single-handed runs a 7-figure business, but ended up feeling stupid and ashamed. She left without buying anything. “That was a couple years ago,” she told me, “and I haven’t stepped into a lingerie department since then.”

When statistics are being used to scold women about yet another way they’re wrong, it’s time to reassess whether those numbers are serving the industry’s purpose. 

The truth is that every woman can be told her bra is “wrong,” for two reasons.bra-sizes

First, bras fit differently from brand to brand, and even within a brand, from bra to bra. There are simply no set manufacturing standards for size in the lingerie industry. Plus, any fitter can find some fault with the way a bra fits if they look hard enough. Everyone has a different opinion about band or strap tension. Or an idea about which style is right for a woman’s shape.

Second, bra fit is personal, and if a bra isn’t comfortable, then it doesn’t fit. No arbitrary number should trump a woman’s trust in her body. Period.

Let me be clear – there are standards for how a bra should optimally fit, and they are standards I believe in deeply. Bra fitting is an important aspect of my business. My definition of fit includes subjective metrics because it embraces women’s personal preferences and unique bodies. There are ways to talk about bras and bra fitting without incorporating the message that women are somehow “wrong.” If every bra can be “wrong” then the statistic is irrelevant, in any case!

Beyond that, I think the idea of there being a “right” and “wrong” way is inherently body shaming. Body shaming should have no place in any business dedicated to, literally and figuratively, uplifting women. Even if it is unintentional, it’s time to rethink the impact this particular statistic is having on customers.

Women have an opportunity to decide which garments to wear against their most intimate parts every day. I believe selecting beautiful lingerie is an important foundation for each day. It’s a way for women to say, “THIS is how I CHOOSE to show up as my best self.”

Women all deserve to feel amazing in their bras and their bodies.

We have an opportunity to help women feel stupid and ashamed…or amazing and uplifted. 

I invite you to join me in saying an overdue farewell to the 70-85% number.

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  • Kimberly Anderson

    Great Article! Very “UPLIFTING!”