Back in June, Lingerie Insight disclosed that the reliability of the widely-reported statistic that the majority of women are wearing the wrong bra size may be little more than an urban myth.
We heard from brands and consultants that the “statistic” that says 70-85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size has been exaggerated by the media since the mid-1990s.
They also claimed that the stat was highly confusing, given that not all stores fit in the same way.
But despite the high level of scepticism over the ill-fitting bra statistic, independent retail consultant Amanda Brasher believes there is some truth behind it, and points towards a study that backs it up.
“It is not an urban myth,” she says. “Research has been carried out both in the UK and in Australia. For example, in 2010 a breast health research group at the University of Wollongong published a study on optimising breast support through correct bra fit.”
Regardless of this result, however, Brasher strongly believes that women need to focus on fit, and not size, when shopping for a bra.
“Just in the same way that we buy jeans and may be a size 27 in one brand and a size 29 in another, bra sizes vary significantly from brand to brand. I have even known one model of sports bra to vary in size from black to white. This is likely to be due to the dying process,” she explains.
“You also have to take into account that there is no industry standard or definitive agreement on best fit criteria across retailers. Some stores are still wedded to measuring around the chest with a tape measure to determine underband size, despite the fact that this tends to lead to inaccuracies.”
Author and breast expert Elisabeth Dale agrees. “One hundred percent of bra brands have different fit standards, not to mention use different methods to calculate bra size. Plus each bra style fits differently (compared a contour cup bra versus a cut-and-sewn bra),” she says.
“Women need to wear what fits them and focus less on arbitrary numbers and letters. That’s why I advocate knowing your Bra Zone (styles that fit you—including equivalent cup and band sister sizes).”
A UK study carried out by the University of Portsmouth in 2011 also suggests that women shopping for new bras should throw away the tape measure and focus on how the garment fits.
Sports scientists at the university measured 45 women using both the traditional method of bra fitting (using a tape-measure) and the best-fit approach, which is based on a set of criteria that considers the under-band, the cup, the underwire, the straps and the front-band.
They found that compared with the best-fit approach, the traditional method overestimated the band size in 76% of women and underestimated the cup size in 84%.
What’s more, the researchers believe that the traditional approach to fitting may be contributing to the estimated 85% of women in the UK wearing the wrong sized bra.
So the ill-fitting bra statistic may not be an urban myth after all, but as more consumers are educated on the importance of shopping for the correct-fitting bra and not the correct-size bra, it may begin to show signs of improving.
Boux Avenue is one retailer that uses the tape-measure method to fit customers. However, it also stresses the importance of taking into account other factors that affect their bra size; the style of bra, the fabric, shape of the bust and their own chosen preference.
“We advice customers to get fitted in any bra that they purchase. Their size may vary slightly from store to store, but as long as the style they have selected fits them correctly, they will see real benefits,” says buying director Debby Duckett.
Ali Cudby agrees, adding: “Measuring is just a starting point, and size differs from brand to brand. (And even within a brand, from bra to bra.) Plus, bras fit different bodies differently. People ask me about my favourite brand all the time. It’s irrelevant. You have to find the brand – and the bra – that fits each unique body.
“But, and this is the tricky part, ultimately, women have to buy a size, especially online. Bricks and mortar retailers have a huge advantage because they can know their inventory and make the process much easier for customers. When retailers are successful in showing customers their value (and too many aren’t) they have the most loyal and profitable customers.”