By Ali Cudby
Recently there was a flurry of articles seemingly saying that women’s average bra size jumped from a 34B to 34DD since 1983. The source was a study by Intimacy.
As a retailer, you may have found the headlines a little hard to believe – I certainly did. Are women’s bodies really changing? If so, why? As a retailer, it’s important to understand changes or trends having to do with women’s bodies because that relates directly to how you buy and otherwise serve the women who shop with you.
As Elisabeth Dale asked in her Breast Briefs article on the topic, where’s the science? There may be numerous reasons why women’s bra size may be changing, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to focus on the answers why – and even the science that’s out there is all too often built on a questionable base of statistical data.
I have a lot of respect for Intimacy and the sheer number of women they have served throughout the years. The eye-catching headlines may have gotten them a lot of press, but probably did them a disservice in the lingerie community, who questioned the claims.
To better understand what really contributed to those articles, I went directly to the source – Kate Terhune, Intimacy’s PR Manager. Kate shared that the study was based on needs assessment forms that customers fill out when they are being fitted at Intimacy stores. The forms capture the bra size the customer wore when she entered the store and what she was ultimately fitted into when she left.
How many women? More than 60,000! That’s a huge number of data points, and plenty to declare statistical credibility among Intimacy’s customers.
So what did the study actually say? Unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly what the headlines claim.
In fact, the study of Intimacy shoppers showed that “the average woman believes her bra size to be a 34DD, up from a 34B twenty years ago.”
The study ran from 1992, when the first Intimacy opened, through 2012. The conclusion of the study focused on better education about fit and greater availability of bra sizes beyond DD-cup. These factors are directly related to the very real increase in average bra size at Intimacy. Bra size, not breast size.
Unfortunately, there is no demographic data for the study, so it’s not possible to extrapolate to the larger population. But given the lack of longitudinal bra studies in general, the numbers are worth examination in their own right
Perhaps there has been growth in America’s average breast size. It will be fantastic when we have the science to better understand any changes from that end.
What Intimacy brought to the table – and what is important to understand as a retailer – is a statistically significant observation that has much more to do with product availability and customer knowledge than wildly inflammatory claims about women’s bodies.
This study shows that when the right product isn’t available, and women aren’t educated about fit, they can end up with bras that can be harmful for women physically and emotionally. The work lingerie retailers do to bring a wider array of sizes and brands to their communities changes women’s locally available options, and Intimacy’s study shows just how dramatically that difference matters for women.