Tag Archives: underthings

American women, their bras, and that 80% statistic

You may have heard that 80% of women in the United States wear the wrong bra size. Unfortunately, this statistic isn’t surprising. Speaking anecdotally, bra shopping is one of those things that a lot of women don’t enjoy — but interestingly, it’s one of those things that I hear women say they want to enjoy.

The now infamous statistic comes from a 2004 study by Wacoal America, a well known lingerie brand. While the main takeaway of the study is a headline in itself, details of the survey are useful for people like myself who want to know more about why so many American women are wearing the wrong bra size. (We can’t uniformly blame Victoria’s Secret.)

  • 39.9% of participants wore the wrong band and cup size.
  • 22.4% had the wrong cup size only.
  • 18.3% had the wrong band size only.

It makes sense that 40% would have the wrong band and cup. Cup size is proportional to band size, and oftentimes, changing the band size makes an enormous difference in what cup size you’re wearing.

  • After being fitted properly, more than half of the women moved up in cup size and down in band size.

Liz Smith, who at the time was director of retail services for Wacoal, noted that this made sense, since given the stigma around wearing larger cup sizes, women compensate by wearing a smaller cup size with a larger band — probably the most uncomfortable option available. As someone who wore a 36C, then a 36D, then a 38D, and finally a 36DD before finally being fitted and realizing that the vast majority of the time, I’m a 34F, I relate to this trend in a major way.

Numerous lingerie bloggers have noted the difficulties with US bra sizing, which determinedly stick to double-D, triple-D, and even quadruple-D standards, complicating the simple UK standard that just follows the alphabet. It is normal to have a bra size that goes past E, but based on what many US retailers stock, you wouldn’t know it.

So, how should a bra fit? 

Nothing beats being able to actually see what a good bra fit looks like. This is the best bra fitting video I’ve ever seen on youtube. It’s long, but it’s comprehensive and real. It compares what an ill fitting bra looks like as opposed to a bra that fits well. She also provides a cheatsheet to the sections of the video as well as helpful links in the “About” section.

Wrapping Up

Have you ever had a bra fitting? If not, I’d highly recommend it! And even if you have, a bra fitting in a new store can be helpful to expose you to new brands. Good sales associates are good teachers and help you learn how to put your bra on properly, how your bra should fit, and help you figure out what kind of options are available.

For those who feel comfortable, most lingerie boutiques offer private fittings, including walk ins. Chains like Intimacy are known for having excellent private (scheduled) bra fittings, especially for the busty and plus sized (I’ve had great experiences with them). MOC friends have recommended the fittings at Nordstrom, partly due to their selection.

And remember!

1. 90% of the support comes from the band. If you are constantly tightening the straps, or if the band is riding up your back, throw that bra out.

2. When trying on bras, always use the loosest hook. The other hooks are there for when the band starts to lose elasticity.

3. Remember that cup size is proportional to band size: a 38D will actually be much larger than a 28D. Even though they both are D cups in their respective bands, the 28D will have a much smaller cup because of the smaller band.

4. Scoop all of your breast tissue into the cups, and smooth it out to prevent quadboob. If you’re popping out at the sides or on top, the cup is too small.

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meet bluestockings: an alternative lingerie boutique

When I asked my friends if they would shop at an alternative, feminist-minded, queer-friendly lingerie boutique that stocked hard to find sizes and decidedly non-traditional underthings, the response was an overwhelming yes, quickly followed by, why the hell doesn’t this exist yet? and, when are you opening?

This was tremendously encouraging, since I am passionate about bringing this shop into being: first as an online boutique, and eventually as a brick and mortar store that will be both lingerie shop and safe community space.

Creating a store that is a safe, welcoming space — that is feminist in its founding principles — is crucial to my approach, even as I work on the online boutique. Being “safe” and “welcoming” means explicitly communicating that anyone who likes wearing lingerie is welcome here. It means not having to wonder whether we will stock your size. It means not having to worry about whether you belong here based on the layout or marketing of the website, implicit assumptions about your life in the language that is used, and the brands that we carry. Stocking a variety of sizes is about allowing various populations to see themselves represented and valued. Stocking clean-cut boxer briefs alongside lacy thongs literally removes the physical and metaphorical space that we place between those items when we designate them as being for one gender or another, as “fancy” or “casual,” as if such adjectives were the same thing to all people.

Underthings are just underthings, no matter who they are worn by. They should fit you well. They should be comfortable. And they should make you feel awesome and downright giddy. Basically how I feel when I put on my Wonder Woman underpants.

So, my friends.

If you walk into a lingerie boutique and everything is a bit too frilly for your liking, we are here for you.

If you walk into a lingerie boutique and have serious doubts about being able to find your size—whether because you wear a 28D, a 30A, a 38B, or a 40J—we are here for you .

If you aren’t a cis-woman and would like to be able to find all of your underthings under one roof, we are here for you.

If you want to get on the ground floor of a startup alternative lingerie boutique and have input in what you would like to see in your ideal store, jump on in! It’s all hands on deck.

Welcome, friends. I’m so glad you’re here.


– Jeanna

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