Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Do 85% of women really wear the wrong bra size?

I have been thinking about writing a post on this for a long time, and recently The Lingerie Addict wrote her own post questioning this statistic. However, I do want to add my own thoughts. :-)

I hear this statistic everywhere. Sometimes it changes a bit. Sometimes it's 80%. Sometimes 70%, sometimes it's even written as 8 out of 10. But the general message stays the same.

It sounds sort of impressive, doesn't it? 85% of women. Well, I'm a pretty big advocate of getting a correctly fitting bra and I do believe that most women are indeed wearing a bra that's not right for them. But I'm skeptical about this particular statistic.

See, I would like for this to have come from some real study. But as many of my readers have probably guessed, I am a skilled and very thorough researcher. And when I encounter something like this on the internet, I frequently find that it is misreported, or just plain comes from nowhere. I always try to dig deeper, find the original research, find out where things came from.

So when I started to hear this statistic, I tried, and tried, to find where it originated from. I would have loved to have actually found something. There are very, very, very few studies on breasts or bra fitting. Most of what we know about the health benefits of a bra that fits are very anecdotal. Some more formalized research would be really nice. But I could not find anything, at all, about where this statistic might have originated from.

And then, even if that was a real study, how would you define a bra that fits, or doesn't, for the purpose of a study? Even so-called "experts" routinely put women in horribly fitting bra. There is no REAL research about the "correct fit," or how that might affect your health, that I have ever been able to find. I think that many Americans are still just unwilling to accept that there might be health reasons, and not just marketing/cosmetic reasons, for having your bra fit correctly.

I see this statistic used primarily as a marketing/scare tactic by lingerie companies. Then, so often, the same companies "re-fit" women into bras that still don't fit. But because the company has "fitted" these women into the "correct size," these women stubbornly believe that now they are wearing the right size, and that bras "just suck" or are painful, by definition. They won't seek out a new fitting, because the scary "fitter" pushed whatever size it was.

You would think that, if these companies actually cared about this statistic, they'd be making steps to change it for the better- and it would have changed over the several years it's been floating around.

So, I think it is safe to say that this is a pretty much meaningless statistic that gets thrown around because it's convenient. Maybe it originated with Oprah. Who knows? But I wouldn't trust it.

However, I DO think that the majority of women are wearing an ill fitting bra size. I would personally estimate it to be much closer to 90% or more. Yes really. Just In the city where I live, there isn't a single store you can even buy sizes outside of 32-48 A-DD. I suspect the average woman needs a 28-32 band size and above a D cup- and that's not even available here. The only people I know or have seen who are wearing correctly fitting bras are people I have fit myself. I would guess that out of the 90,000 people in my immediate area, less than 10 are wearing a bra that fits them right. That's certainly more than 90% wearing the wrong size. ;-)

In the end, it doesn't really matter what percentage of women wear the wrong bra size. What matters is helping women to find bras that fit, and that they can feel comfortable and beautiful in. So maybe, instead of repeating this statistic over and over again ad nauseum, we could just focus on the health and other benefits of wearing a bra that fits. Or better yet, could we have some real research? Pretty please?


  1. Love this piece! So glad others are talking about the 85% statistic.

  2. would you define a bra that fits, or doesn't, for the purpose of a study?

    Exactly... the only way to tell whether someone's bra fits is to look at them, assess the fit and ask them how it feels. Measurements never tell the whole story.

    Aside from that, when they talk about women wearing the "wrong size", do they take into account variations between brands and models? I have 28Es from John Lewis, Freya and Panache, and they all fit me differently. IMHO this is actually a good thing - it means the bra industry as a whole caters to more than one shape - but it casts doubt on the idea that there's One True Size for every individual.

  3. Brittany, you're so down to earth and refreshing!

    Of all the girls I have fitted, very few of them had been wearing anything remotely close to their true size - and many of them had been "professionally fitted".

    And of my online customers - many of whom buy both bras and clothes in the same transaction, it's fairly evident that if a woman buys a size 10 top but a 14E bra... she's not been properly fitted. To which we provide some bra fitting advice :)

    Some more well trained fitters would be good!

  4. This makes me think of seeing this girl at the mall the other day...she was very slender, and was wearing a shirt with a somewhat low back and front. The back of her bra was literally, without my exaggerating anything, UP TO HER NECK. And in the front, they were kind of coming out of her top...

    Yeah, I'd say a lot of people are misfitted, and some people very, very badly.

  5. I'd definitely agree. I live in Brazil and typically they do not differentiate between cup and band size. Instead they assume all women are roughly a B cup and just keep extending the band size! It's unbelievable how many women are sporting the 4-boob look and they don't even have realistic options available locally. There is a new line there from Liz that comes up to an F cup, but they only have that in specialty stores for a lot of money and there are many women who wear above a F cup!

  6. I'd say 95% of women are wearing the wrong size. The best indication: women refering to her boobs as "full C", "small D", etc.

  7. I love this and so agree! It annoys me so much hearing these "statistics" over and over. They are total scare tactics and I think just give women one more thing to feel insecure about. Certainly MANY people are not wearing their best possible bra but to say that you have one bra size is absurd! I'm a 36DD in most bras, yes, but sometimes a 38D fits better or a 38DD or a 36D or an E etc, etc. All bras are not the same! Also, some of my bras are certainly not supportive and bra fitters would love to shame me for them but I don't wear them for support, it's that they work better under certain tops. Anyway thanks for this website it's so great to see representations of "curvy" that are actually CURVY and not just plus sized.

  8. Being a certified bra expert, I agree with you. I can't even begin to express how many people in the wrong bra and/or size!

    Education is key, I strongly believe. The measurement is ONLY a guide. If I'm measuring a gal at a 40G, but I can tell just by looking at her she is only a DDD, I'm certainly not going to give G's to begin with!

    I then find out exactly what shes wanting (support, coverage, lift, etc) and go from there. As she trying on the different styles, I'm looking for proper fit by: no bulging, no gaping, side boob coverage, straps in the right place, band is in the correct place (between the shoulder and elbow), the band is the correct size (she should never, never leave with a bra that is any tighter than the clasps being in the middle hooks (I strive for the first hooks, always)).

    And the one thing I see more than I'd like is what I call shelf-boob. Ugh, come on people, your cups are obviously to big and more than likely you are in the wrong bra altogether!

    Those of us who do this for a living really needs the appropiate training and knowledge base of all of the bras in our stores and their pros/cons, the different types of breasts, all of the issues listed above and what the solutions are, that it isn't uncommon for a woman to be in a 44D in a certain bra and a 44DD in another and most importantly, my store may not have a bra that will work! Oh, did I mention that if I put a woman in a bigger cup, same band size and it still isn't fitting, stay with the bigger cup and go down a band size, if it still isn't fitting, go back to the original cup size but increase the band size!

    No wonder the percentage keeps rising! Sorry for the rant, I'm just very passionate about this issue.


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