When Mr Butterfly and I set off for Las Vegas last month we were super excited to attend a big lingerie show and get up close and personal with lots of brands. We definitely met lots of interesting and passionate people at the Curve Show but this was interwoven with some glaring problems that dog the lingerie industry and keep women from their best-fitting bras.
Here are the FOUR big bra problems I encountered:
1. The use of multiple Ds is keeping North American women away from embracing larger cup letters
2. Not enough brands understand the difference between Full Bust and Plus Size bras
3. Sizing for Full Bust women is still wildly inaccurate
4. Online boutiques are massively overlooked by brands and women alike
|It was a privilege to attend the Freya Fitting Seminar, however, it raised more questions than it answered.|
1. Who Wants to be a 12D? Not me!
As most of you know I'm an adopted North American having lived here for 7 years but I'm originally from England. I had never heard an F cup referred to as a DDD before I moved to Canada and it baffled me why multiple Ds were used for bra sizes. Figuring out how the multiple D system translated into UK sizes took me months.When I attended the Freya Fitting Seminar in Las Vegas, the fitter referred to the range of sizes produced by Freya as going from D to 12D (or K in UK sizing). Using Ds to describe sizes all the way up to a K is ludicrous and harmful in my opinion:
- No one else in the world uses this multiple D system so it makes it harder for women to figure out which bras from other countries will fit them (something they need to know considering how few North American brands design for G+ boobs).
- Keeping women trapped in D cups perpetuates the stigma that anything over a D cup is huge (check out my blog 'Breaking the D Cup Barrier' to understand why this is a problem)
2. Full Bust Bras Aren't Necessarily Big Bras
What's the difference between Full Bust and Plus Size bras? Plus Size refers to your body size and not your boobs. You can be plus sized and have a small bust. Check out the chart below to see an approximate breakdown of Regular, Full Bust and Plus Sizes:
A lot of brands we spoke to were eager to tell us about the addition of G and H cups to their range, however, very few of them had these cups in bands under a 34. Adding larger cups is a good step but in the full bust market only adding 2 band sizes is only half a job. Brands still need to figure out where the Full Bust and Plus Size markets differ. Check out Holly Jackson's review of Full Bust vs Plus Size.
3. How I wish there was a single sizing method!
I understand that no two garments can ever measure exactly the same. The machinery you produce the garment on, the style of the garment and the average weight/height of the models in your country all affect the eventual size. However, in the bra world the advice on size (and measuring for size) differs wildly.
During the Freya Fitting Seminar I raised the question that UK DD bras are always shown as being equivalent to a US DD whereas in fact they almost ALWAYS fit like a US D cup. A UK E cup fits like a US DD cup and a DDD fits like an F cup. The fitter agreed that she also found this and yet every UK size chart lists a DD the same as a US DD.
We were handed a Freya Sizing Chart and I was really surprised to find that their chart suggested adding inches (in one instance the classic +Four Method). For a dedicated Full Bust brand like Freya I was so surprised to see them recommending adding inches to your band.
|I was undoubtedly the annoying kid asking too many questions. "Why do you add inches...?"|
Considering Freya makes 28 and 30 bands I was surprised not to see them on the list so I asked "Who do you fit into 28 and 30 bands?" The answer totally floored me - "Juniors". What?! Has Freya been online and read how many fully grown women review their 28 back bras? The seminar was supposed to be conducted by Frederika Zappe, Freya's senior fitter, but she was ill so we had a last minute stand-in fitter who was perhaps caught a little off-guard, but surely she should know that women wear 28 back Freya bras.
If a flagship Full Bust company like Freya is adding inches and marginalizing 28 and 30 backs then the industry is in more denial than I thought.
4. We Were the Ugly 'Online' Sisters!
When we set up Butterfly Collection I very quickly realized that North America wasn't used to the idea of selling bras online. Brands told me time and time again "We don't sell to online" "We have no need for online boutiques." It was very frustrating but I knew that what I was trying to achieve (bringing hard to find Full Bust bras to Canadian and American women) was even more important and necessary. How are you supposed to shop for your HH boobs if you live in a remote village in the North West Territories!!
|My passion revolves around giving women the tools to understand their breasts and bra size|
We continue to come up against 'Online Fear' and indeed some brands at Curve simply wouldn't talk to us about their lingerie because we're online. One brick and mortar store owner actually said to me "So you don't have to think about fit then being online." This summed up for me the lack of knowledge about online boutiques. We have to empower our customers even more to understand their size and styles. Fit should be everything to every boutique whether online or off.
When I spoke to brands and other store owners about the online discussions around Full Bust bras, removing +Four as the standard measuring technique and competitions like Star in a Bra most looked at me like I was spouting gibberish. Being so far away from the conversations (and women) who rely on the Internet for their bra knowledge, support and product is a mistake that some may realize too late.
|The heaven that is Claudette's Neon Green Mesh bra will be coming to Butterfly this spring!|
Our trip to Vegas was thoroughly worthwhile (we got to see Claudette's neon green mesh bra for goodness' sake!) While the lack of knowledge about Full Bust bras is frustrating it also makes me even more determined to grow Butterfly Collection and set the tone for how Full Bust women everywhere should be treated. xx