I wrote a piece that was a response to a television segment about bra fitting that suggested modern bra sizes are built around Vanity Sizing. Many other boutiques and bloggers shared their opinions and the boutique at the center of the discussion has written a blog post to clarify what she says was a mass misunderstanding. The boutique owner tweeted to ask for my response to her piece so I have written my thoughts on particular excerpts from her post. This issue mattered to me because our collective approach to language around breasts (large breasted women in particular) is central to my work. xxRecently
Excerpts in Black My Responses in Red
I suggested that bra sizes have changed in the past 10 years due to vanity sizing. Do you think this is the sole reason? Your statement was very finite and emphatic which left little room for the possibility that fitters and manufacturers got it wrong on any scale.
I was expecting some differing views on the topic, but I wasn’t expecting so much misunderstanding. My personal response to your interview was that I thought an isolated and loaded statement can be dangerous. Statements without context can be more harmful than beneficial. If so many of us had this ‘misunderstanding’ then evidently the point you were trying to make wasn’t clear or wasn’t accurate.
I used to teach a “plus 5” method (adding about 5 inches to the underbust measurement) as a general starting point. When my NYC shop opened about eight years ago, I started teaching a “plus 3-5” method. I did this to accommodate some of the changes that bra companies were making to their bra bands. Now, eight years later, I’ve migrated to a “plus 0 to 3” for certain women. For many brands the plus 5 method has not been necessary for over 20 years so this method is not newly-outdated.
It’s important to know that only a trained fitter is really qualified to fit someone for a bra. And it’s also important to remember that hundreds of trained fitters put women in the wrong bra so educating women to spot a good from a bad fit is vital. There are no standards in bra fitting so women are at the mercy of an unregulated system.
I think one of the reasons some women were upset with my comments in the article or TV spot was because of the word “scam” in the title. I have to be honest: “scam” was never my word. I completely agree and acknowledged this in my blog response “I know that…. a media snippet can be taken hugely out of context”
The way I see it, at least it gets women’s attention so that I can “braducate” them and help them finally figure out why their bras are no longer fitting! This is where we differ. I think the ‘Vanity Sizing’ statement was frightening (and misleading) which caused more confusion than education.
Don’t worry about what size your bra says – worry about the fit! This is just the problem, women DO worry about what their bra says and the biggest leap you have to make in achieving great bra fit (especially for busty women) is to get there mentally before you get there physically. The Vanity Sizing suggested their bra size is ego driven rather than physically driven. This pushes women farther away from embracing small band large cup letters. It’s yet more stigma for them to deal with.
When I moved to New York about eight years ago, I fit into a 36D perfectly. But since bra sizes have changed, I now fit into a 32G in the same brand. And no, I won’t start naming brands. I don’t intend to place blame on any bra companies here. I don’t see how naming brands could be blame placing because most brands now fit women inch for inch – if you measure 32 around then you’re probably going to need a 32 band. If you had to wear a 36 band 10 years ago but now wear a 32 then that manufacturer has changed which elastics they use and are labelling their bras correctly so where’s the blame? I would be fascinated to have at least one example of a company that used to make a 36D that would fit a modern day 32G and offers BOTH those sizes.
Another reason that my comments have caused a stir is because I’ve used the phrase “vanity sizing”. Don’t tell me women aren’t vain about their band size. I have women jump for joy when they find out that a 30 or 32 bra fits them better than a 36. Who doesn’t want to have a slimmer, smaller back?! We’re only human, after all. Most of the brands I carry fit inch for inch – if you are a 32 rib measurement then you most likely wear a 32 band – how is this Vanity?
It’s been a real mission of mine to help women understand that a G cup or up is totally common, now! It’s taken years of “braducation”, instruction, and care to help women get over the stigma of D+ bras and just wear what fits and supports them best. How is using the term ‘Vanity Sizing’ not adding another layer of stigma to women with large breasts and small backs? There’s no two ways about it “Vanity” is a loaded word.
These letters and numbers mean something to women and their ego, so they are reluctant to pick out a new size themselves. It takes going to a bra shop like mine and being professionally fit to finally get it. A professional fitting in only part of the story. It’s going to take changing our language around breasts, women and cup sizes. As lingerie fitters we do not hold the keys to fit we are accountable to our customers who deserve to know their own fit
Some women claim that no one wants to be a G cup or more, and that changing bands sized could not be caused by vanity. Well, some women don’t want to be an A cup. And some women don’t want to be a 40 back. I don’t think bra companies geared sizes toward everyone, just toward the small minority that fit into the old A-D sizes. Unfortunate, but true. So why not acknowledge that first and foremost if you know that for a huge proportion of women the ‘Vanity Sizing’ did exactly the opposite (made them feel worse).
I think bra sizes have changed. And I think vanity sizing played a part in why it happened. I said it and I’m not taking it back! I think this is what you meant to say from the very beginning “Vanity Sizing has played a part in changing band sizes over the past decade” which would have been a balanced and thought-provoking statement. Unfortunately I think you’ve hitched your wagon so tightly to the ‘Vanity Sizing’ statement that it’s alienated some people.
I’m dismayed by the lack of understanding and outcry from other women in the field. Many of the “other experts” who are providing their opinion on the matter have not been working full time as a bra fitter for 25 years. Most of them haven’t even been in business for 10, which is when things really started changing.
A) So much outcry and ‘misunderstanding’ as you say should tell you that the piece wasn’t clear.
B) I’ve never claimed to be an ‘Expert’ because there's always something to learn and putting all the people who challenged your thoughts in quotation marks suggests you’re rather derisive of their opinions.
C) Longevity doesn’t equal infallibility. Some of us women who have been wholeheartedly and passionately in business for less than 10 years have new perspectives to bring to the table.
Regardless, my stance on proper bra fitting and my passion for helping women has always been very clear, and they should have known that. Despite what these other experts think, it’s more important to me that women realize that bra sizes have changed, rather than why. This whole paragraph sounds frustrated which is a shame because as bra retailers we should be working together to learn from each other. In my response about your GMA piece I didn’t mention you, didn’t link to the piece and even stated “I know that the boutique at the center of this storm is deeply committed to good bra fit”. The objective around my response was to reassure the D-K cup women that I work with that their size was not based on Vanity and they must not take one statement out of context because “A little bit of bra information is a dangerous thing”.
Vanity sizing or not, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s more important to me that women wear the bra that fits and supports them best, regardless of the size. The words “Vanity Sizing” may not matter to you, but they upset and confused other women – I think that’s the point you missed.