When I was last back in Edinburgh, I went bra shopping. I last went 3 or possibly even 4 years ago, but sadly the four ones I got then are fast reaching the end of their life, so I thought I’d best get some new ones. I went to the exact same place as last time, John Lewis, where they have lovely matronly fitting ladies. I asked for help, because I couldn’t for the life of me remember my back size.
Much to my surprise I’d gone up two cup sizes, from a D or DD to an E or F! I know it’s not the done thing to tell people your actual size, but this is going to make it a bit easier to talk about. I should also point out that my body has changed very little in the last few years. My weight is the same (I did put on 3 kilos at one point after the wedding, but they’re gone now and I’m back at the ‘magical self sustaining weight’ I’ve been since I was about 23) and all my old bras all still fit me, so I am fairly certain that my breasts haven’t started growing. So it’s a bit ridiculous really! Of course I am not flat-chested, but neither am I bravissimo sized!
So I can only assume that there is some sort of cup size inflation going on, the equivalent of the vanity sizing dress size deflation. Because to give the fitting ladies credit, what they brought me did actually fit, so they weren’t just making it up. I was pretty incredulous and was quizzing the assistants, who told me that the average cup size of a woman in Scotland (apparently this is bigger than England – though I’m not sure who produces these statistics!) is DD. Which does somewhat beg the question why the shop was full of B cups. If DD is average, surely hardly anyone is a B any more and the producers and buyers are wasting their resources flooding the market with useless product!
My guess is that’s because B cup bras are pretty. Lovely delicate things with straps you’d be happy to have peeking out under vest tops and maybe a bit of lacey decoration. Whereas once you get over a D, and in some brands, a C (just to remind you, that’s two sizes below average!), it’s a different story. There’ll be a bra model, which you can tell is meant to be the large size equivalent (same colours and fabric), but is completely different. The straps will be wider and less decorated, there’ll be three hooks at the back, and there’ll be more fabric on the cups too. As this excellent post on the history of bras on Footpath Zeitgeist points out, this will be done on the name of ‘support’. Bigger breasts are by definition seen to be in need of holding up, in danger of escaping. Which has nothing to do with what is happening in reality. Some people (at all sizes) want lots of extra support, and some (like me) don’t need it and would prefer something that does a bit of holding up, but doesn’t build a restrictive military structure around your chest and also, you know, looks pretty.
But bigger size bras will almost always look frumpy and oldfashioned, and definitely not something you want anyone to see. Because if you’re big-boobed you really should only be wearing things with sleeves and high necklines! Hide yourself even if temperature wise it actually make you quite uncomfortable (on which, see Sadie’s post)! Or that’s the message I’m taking from this anyway. And as a person new to the larger end of the spectrum it pisses me off! It’s the same point I made when I first wrote about dressing modestly, ‘bigger’ women will be judged by different standards, not because of what they wear, but because their bodies are seen as unruly and somehow more sexual. And that’s not right.
As for the bras, I got two super frumpy tshirt bras, and escaped back into the DDs for two more fancy models, which didn’t exist in any bigger sizes. I got the blessing of the fitting ladies though! But what I really wanted was a replacement for my favourite bra. It’s cotton, it has a bit of padding, the straps are thin and there’s a bit of lace detailing. I love that bra and if I could find anything like it again, I would buy four of them and be done with it.