What Defines Real Breasts? Curvy Kate’s Star In a Bra Challenged

By Elisabeth Dale


Curvy Kate, the brand that brings sassy style and fit to the D-K crowd is under fire for their “Star in a Bra” contest. Some wearers of this popular and well-liked bra brand aren’t happy that contest rules specifically exclude women with breast “enhancements.” And, according to the blogosphere, this rule applies to any woman who has had breast surgery, be it reduction, reconstruction, or lift.  Curvy Kate has responded to criticism by asking for input and may consider revising the rule.

But should they? Some believe Curvy Kate is right to make this breast distinction. After all, the brand was created to celebrate the regular, full-busted female body. It’s falsely assumed that many naturally larger breasted women are that size because they bought a pair. Women who choose implants are seen as cheating; purchasing breasts that Mother Nature never intended. And while other breast surgeries seem somewhat more acceptable (reductions, reconstructions, and lifts), implants are the one most “politically incorrect.” They’re even ridiculed and called “fake,” unlike any other cosmetically altered body part. So the Curvy Kate caveat underscores that natural D and up cups are normal and beautiful.

But it could also help perpetuate negative and false assumptions about women’s breasts.

First, by exclusion, surgically altered breasts are deemed less worthy, because they’ve achieved some false perfection. Yet the surgery and the patient’s objectives aren’t the same for each person. There’s no evidence that augmented breasts are of some uniform or much larger size. Implants are measured by cc’s, not bra cups. And a 300 cc implant will appear radically different on a woman of one build or height than another. Scroll through the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s gallery of post-surgical breast augmentations, reductions, and lift patients and you’ll find that women’s breasts come in all sizes and shapes. And nothing lasts forever. Surgically altered breasts don’t retain their post-surgical look over a woman’s lifetime. Many women see their breasts change again within a few years.

The second assumption is that women turn to breast implants to get attention from men or to obtain an “unfair advantage” (the unfortunate choice of words Curvy Kate used on their Facebook page). Bigger busted woman are often the object of unwanted sexual attention. Not to mention adolescent teasing, difficulty finding bras, or feeling awkward because clothes don’t fit. There are dozens of full bust bra bloggers out there helping women navigate the trials of this most favored status. Men haven’t been shown to prefer a specific larger size of breasts either; except those who are sexist, according to one survey. Curvy Kate’s success confirms that women in the D-K cup range have more complex fit and style issues.

The third myth is that acceptance of breast cosmetic surgery somehow encourages young women to turn to achieve an unrealistic ideal breast size or shape. Despite media headlines, few girls get implants as high school graduation gifts. According to 2012 ASPS statistics, there were only 8,012 such surgeries in 2012 in the 13-18 year old category. By contrast, there were 33,673 girls who had their noses reshaped. There were also 15,142 young boys who had breast reductions (for gynecomastia, an often temporary physical condition). Young girls have already learned that its okay to alter some body parts, but not others.

The ASPS statistics confirm that the majority of women who undergo breast augmentation are between the ages of 30 and 39 (followed by the 40-49 segment and then 20-29 year olds). Many of those women choose cosmetic enhancement for the very simple reason that it is the only way to regain breast volume lost through pregnancy. Women can return to their pre-pregnant body shape through exercise, but for some individuals, nothing short of surgery will restore former breast size. It’s never going to be a choice that all women make because no two boobs are alike, even on the same woman.

The Curvy Kate Star-in-a-Bra competition was created to celebrate D+ bra sizes. But the focus isn’t solely on a woman’s boobs. It also judges contestants on qualities of poise, personality, and intelligence. Curvy Kate will have to decide whether a woman’s decision to choose breast surgery, for whatever reason, outweighs all other criteria.

What do you think of Curvy Kate’s “Star in a Bra” competition’s rule about augmented or surgically changed breasts? Do you agree or disagree?

**Full disclosure: the author had a breast lift at age 47. Ten years later, her boobs are a different size and shape.


8 Discussion to this post

  1. Pris says:

    There’s a whole lot of projection in this post. CK hasn’t said anything derogatory about women with implants, in any way. All they said was that they think the natural breast better displays their bras, and that women with implants might have an unfair advantage. The first is their opinion, to which they are entitled, and the second is a very good point.

    I see a lot of emotional reactions to the SIAB rules, and a lot of anger and projection. It seems to me that most people involved are reacting to their emotions, rather than to the actual facts of the matter. People are going on about how this is insulting and judgmental of women with implants, when it is no such thing.

    I really respect Chrystal, and I’m disappointed that she is holding my comments on her blog post about this. I do think, though, that her post and some of the others on the subject display a sense of entitlement. For example, her comment above: ” . . . there is a lot of emphasis placed on the trials of growing up with large breasts. But what about the trials of growing up with out them?” Well, what about them? I am sure they were real and that there were some painful times, but what do they have to do with SIAB? What I mean is, what does introducing them to this conversation mean to you?

    • Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife) says:

      If natural breasts (again, the implication being that augmented breasts or surgically altered breasts are somehow “unnatural”) show Curvy Kate bras at their best, how could anyone with implants have an advantage? Women who have undergone breast surgery do wear CK bras, but the fit has less to do with implants than with the shape, placement, or weight of their breasts. I think the plastic surgery statistics also clearly point out that not many women in CK’s target demographic are likely to have had surgeries. So why make any distinction? (One could argue that there’s no harm in leaving a few people out on that basis as well, but assume CK isn’t concerned about women entering who have had nose jobs or unnatural tooth veneers, which give them a photogenic advantage.) Bottom line is that Curvy Kate can do whatever they want with regard to rules of their SIAB rules. But they can’t claim they are celebrating all curvy women in the process. If you want to read more comments and thoughts on the subject, please add your view to Curvy Kate’s blog post here: http://blog.curvykate.com/star-in-a-bra-terms-and-conditions/#comments

  2. ByBabysRules says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for posting a well thought out article on this. You linked to my post, and I honestly state that it was a hard post for me to write. I have also had a follow up post from a lovely woman who has had a breast reduction. She found it equally as difficult to share her thoughts in what would become a permanent internet media.
    For me personally, the implication of advantage is very hurtful. If I were permitted to enter I would be faced with the stereotypes against women with implants, in addition to the snarky comments you will read about the models being photoshopped. And there is a lot of emphasis placed on the trials of growing up with large breasts. But what about the trials of growing up with out them?
    I think the intent of SIAB is amazing, to show women of different body types, breast sizes, racial backgrounds, etc who are all confident in their body. I wouldn’t have been one of those women. But now, with my implants I feel like I look how I identify, and I am one of those body confident women. That is a point that is missing here.

    • Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife) says:

      Thanks for your comment. I, too, think Curvy Kate could take this opportunity to take a stand on how all breasts are deserve to be celebrated, no matter their age, size, shape, or surgically altered state.

  3. MG says:

    I can see Curvy Kate’s reasoning, but I do think it’s unfair. It’s a (likely unintentional) way of body-shaming woman. “We make bras for large busted people, but we only think the ‘naturally endowed’ customers are worth celebrating. We’ll gladly take your money for that bra to support your fake boobs, though.”

    The rule is especially unfair to women who’ve had reductions or reconstructions. My friend had a reduction and was still a DD! And her breasts were still “natural.” How should that not be celebrated?

    *Full disclosure: commenter got breast implants at 25.

    • Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife) says:

      It will be interesting to see what Curvy Kate decides and whether they will take the various comments into consideration. Thanks for adding to the discussion!!

  4. Ellen Lewis says:

    Elisabeth, I like this idea of discussing a controversy but I feel as if both sides should be clarified. I agree with the person who spoke of how Curvy Kate glorifies a naturally large bust. IF they had been around when I was a teenager, I am quite sure I might have rethought my decision to have a reduction. Yes the reduction changed my life: I no longer had to wear erector sets for bras or a bra under a leotard to the beach. Sports became easier, I could go on. There were absolutely no brands available in my sphere that supported and made a “star” out of large busted women. (with the exception of movie icons like Jayne Mansfield). I commend them for their efforts to celebrate the larger bust. There are definitely two sides to this argument.

    • Elisabeth Dale (@TheBreastLife) says:

      I too commend Curvy Kate for celebrating the larger bust. What I think is less productive is treating surgically enhanced or altered breasts as less worthy than “natural” breasts. Women should both have beautiful and supportive bras in large sizes to choose from and the freedom to do what they wish with their own breasts, without judgment. When it comes to breasts and bras, what fits one woman doesn’t fit all women.

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