I am not ashamed to admit that a few years ago I had no idea an H cup existed, and I am not alone. Every week, a customer enters the shop who also has no idea companies manufacturer a GG cup, much less that she needs one. In fact, head to your search engine of choice and enter “36HH bras,” and the selection is vastly greater than most would assume possible for a size many people do not know exists. Are all of the options perfect? Of course not! However, the market continues to explore new fit techniques, to expand to better fabrics, and to create more innovative products for the market.
Now, return to your favorite search engine and look for “42A bras.” The choices drop pretty drastically. What astounds me most about this situation is how much earlier AA, A, and B cups became part of my bra vocabulary than a G cup did. In the lingerie world, we often discuss underrepresented markets and consumers—of which there are far too many, but for today, I want to focus on the men and women needing 38+ bands and AA-B cups. Part of my desire to discuss this topic stems from personal frustrations because I am researching ways to help customers who visited the shop in the past and were sized out of our inventory. Our existing manufacturers assume anyone needing a 42 band should naturally be at least a C or D cup. Why this thought-process is so pervasive perplexes me particularly because it stands to reason some people are not naturally well-endowed, regardless of their band size. After all, as the small band/big cup ladies know, you cannot assume a woman is not busty simply because she wears a 24-30 band, so why is the reverse acceptable? Women’s bodies are all different, and blanket generalizations about shape and size prevent manufacturers from accessing new customers and addressing their needs.
Certain sizes within this range will obviously have more choices than others, but common contenders are Ameona, Leading Lady, Anita, Chantelle, and Prima Donna. However, the larger the band size, the fewer choices available. Similarly, the selection for smaller cup sizes is worse than for those in the B-C range. Stylistically, the options represent mostly unpadded bras, with or without a seam, without much detail and in basic colors only. Or in other words: It’s pretty bleak. Scanning through the products for my research reminded me of how I spent my teens and early-20s bra shopping, idly staring at two bras and wondering if I wanted beige or black this time around. Even the designs with colors or texture pale in comparison to phenomenal pieces we see in many marketplaces now. Not to mention, many of the aforementioned companies offer more sports bras than actual bras, if they sell the latter at all in a size range. That way, if you weren’t already upset your size is so hard to find, you now can enjoy the fact manufacturers only want to sell you a sports bra.
The Fit Problems
While customers would be disappointed they cannot find a pretty bra in their size, I am sure having a basic style which fits, flatters, and feels fantastic would be a decent consultation. Unfortunately, my experience and research has not been overwhelmingly positive. First—and I have seen this firsthand with some of our manufacturers—an A cup is not an A cup. It’s more like a B or C cup. For the customer who originally needed the B or C, he/she can size down to improve the fit, but for the person needing an AA or an A cup, she/he now sized out of the style. For example, far too many reviews for Leading Lady have indicated the cup sizes are exceedingly generous, leaving a trail of unsatisfied customer reviews in the brand’s wake. Another possibility for why the cups are folding and not fitting in smaller cup sizes is that the designs, particularly those with a molded cup, are too tall. Cups that are too tall can create gaping and puckering easily, even if the size would have been otherwise correct. Most of these women in the AA-B cup range do not need chest-swallowing coverage, and in many cases, it’s this insistence on full coverage which causes more fit problems. From working with these customers and researching the market, I know many of the women in this size range have shallower breasts and breast tissue extending toward the side. As a result, styles with excellent side support from the wings as well as adequate coverage on the side of the cup help encase breast tissue while a lower coverage cup that is not too tall or open at the top prevent folding or gaping. This is by no means the rule, but a woman wearing a 44A often doesn’t need something completely full coverage in order to give her shape and support.
Speaking of shape, a lot of the styles tread more into a pointy or conical shape when a rounded, lifted shape would be better. As a result, even if the bra fits and feels comfortable, the person is not happy with the silhouette under clothes. This can be especially true for unpadded, cut-and-sew cups—a style which is not as popular here anyway on account of the lack of nipple protection and indiscreet seams. Moving beyond issues with the cups, I have read a lot of complaints about the band, namely that they can sometimes run too tight. As a result, the person who needed a 42A now needs a 44AA or a 46AAA. It’s important for manufacturers to examine the unique needs of a market and work toward addressing them rather than either scaling a pattern to fit or slapping something together and expecting consumers to buy it out of frustration. The most common requests I hear from people in this range are: a comfortable, supportive band preferably with smoothing; lower coverage on the cups; inset straps to prevent slippage; and light padding for a rounded shape.
The Male Factor
Brace yourselves: Some men wear bras. Whether for medical or personal reasons, a growing number of men buy bras, and more than a few fall into this exact category. Those suffering from gynecomastia may have a better selection depending on their cup size since C cups are a lot easier to locate than AA-B, but many still experience fit issues, some of which are identical to those experienced by females. With men with gynecomastia, they may have fuller breasts, but they typically have broader chests and backs which require a superb band to provide support. Underwires and soft cups alike can frequently fall short of encapsulating all of the breast tissue on the side. For men purchasing bras and lingerie for themselves, they have an added issue: It’s all basic. I mentioned earlier how dreary the options were, and for men, it’s no different. If you are experimenting with lingerie and want something sexy but you happen to wear a 40A, it’s going to be a challenge. While there are some companies addressing this, like Homme Mystere, the size range is usually more limited, meaning men with broader chests are sized out of the frillier bras. In fact, I would love to see a new company surface who specifically designs bras for men, both those needing them for gynecomastia as well as those who enjoy lingerie for its own sake.
Now, I have mentioned in the past that less common sizes tend to be ignored for the sake of increasing the availability and diversity of more common sizes, and there are valid reasons why this happens, both from a retail and from a manufacturing process. However, someone needs to be addressing these issues, and I know, as a retailer, that while this market is not going to overtake other demographics in sales, it’s still prevalent enough for me to have spent the last two days banging my head on the counter out of frustration while desperately evaluating which company deserves my inventory dollars. In the future, I would love to see a company focusing specifically on plus-size small busts. I have always said I would rather a company specialize on a niche market and offer exceptional products for them than to muddle through a broader range of sizes. Ideally, this company would be a bridge line with prices and quality in the $45-$65 mark and would offer a mix of basics and pretty bras, even if the fashion is not updated as frequently as other lines. Finally, I want to note my intention with this post is not to pit sizes against each other, merely to draw attention to an issue far too many people grapple with on a daily basis. One of the reasons I think the full-bust market has exploded in the last several years is how many women were raising awareness about the issues, and I want to pay it forward to another market.