This is a ranty post, but bear with me.
I’ve recently noticed an uptick in comments surrounding bra fit and bra sizing discussions that, frankly, suck. Briefly: I’ve heard more and more people on the extreme ends of the sizing spectrum (both very small bra sizes and very large or full bra sizes) offer up their opinion that someone more towards the middle of the size range isn’t “really” full-bust, small-bust, plus-size, petite, etc. etc.
Here’s my take:
I am, at 5’10”, a tall woman by most American standards. I regularly face fit issues with pants, jeans, and trousers that aren’t cut to fit my long legs. Therefore, I look for pants that are described by the manufacturer as “tall”, “long”, or “extra long” because without those labels, I have to assume that the “regular” pants will not be long enough in either the inseam or leg length. A woman who is 6’3″ is demonstrably taller than I am. This doesn’t mean that I don’t need tall pants. I do. I am not the tallest, but I am still tall.
I am currently wearing bras in the 34G/GG to 32GG/H size range, which makes me a fairly busty woman by most American standards. I regularly face fit issues with dresses, tops, and blouses that aren’t cut to accommodate a full bust. Therefore, I look for bras described by the manufacturer as “full-bust” because without that label I have to assume that a “regular” or “core” brand will not make a size with a small enough band + big enough cup. A woman who wears a 38J is demonstrably fuller-busted than I am. This doesn’t mean that I don’t need full-bust bras. I do. I am not the bustiest, but I am still busty.
I have worn bigger sizes than I currently wear, and I have worn sizes smaller than I currently wear. While many of my fit issues, shopping struggles, and support needs were magnified when I wore larger sizes, that in no way changes the fact that when I wore a 32F I still had blouses that wouldn’t button, and that I struggled to find bras that suited my shape, size, style, and price point. While there are more brands that make 32F than 32H (especially in recent years), I can assure you that when I wore a 32F I absolutely considered myself a full-bust person. Therefore I look HIGHLY askance at people who have begun to suggest that brands in the D-G or DD-GG size range aren’t “really” full-bust; they’re “average”, and as such, D-G and DD-GG brands “shouldn’t” call themselves full-bust.
I can’t help but find this really, fundamentally silly. Because D-G sizes are more common, full-bust brands shouldn’t make them? What? Maybe (and it’s a big maybe, as there’s no reliable way to get the necessary data to determine this) the “average” American woman wears a cup size in the DD-G range, and as such “core-size” brands like Victoria’s Secret, Aerie, et al. “should” be making those sizes, which would change the definition of “full-bust” from D-G to G+, meaning that a much smaller group of brands would remain “full-bust” brands. This is A) confusing and B) impractical. Even if it’s the case that more women wear D-G bra sizes than mainstream fashion brands realize, the fact remains that even a DD or E-cup bra requires patterns, machines, skills, and specialized components to assemble that A-D-cup bras don’t require. Just telling a brand “hey, your ‘average’ should really be bigger, so you should make more sizes and then relabel” doesn’t magically mean that the brand in question will be able to do that, either from a financial, stylistic, or technical point of view.
Furthermore, D-G brands are already specialized. It is harder to design E cups, F, cups, FF cups, etc., than it is to design C cups. It’s harder to get stores to stock them, and it’s harder to educate consumers about them. We need a label there so we, as consumers, know “hey, that brand knows what’s going on– they will give me the shape and support I need in a way that, say, Calvin Klein, cannot.” Full-bust happens to be that label. Just because it encompasses a lot of sizes (including the ones past the narrower D-G range) doesn’t mean the label isn’t accurate, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Are there full-bust brands that don’t fit me, a full-bust woman? Of course! Does that mean that someone they DO fit isn’t a full-bust woman? Of course not.
In a similar vein, I’ve been reading some comments that only certain size groups should count as “small-bust”, namely, the very smallest band/cup size combination. This is akin to suggesting that only the fullest band/cup size (or the smallest band + fullest cup) combinations should count as “full-bust”. No one will deny that those who wear 28-30 band sizes and AA-B cups face a retail landscape with an extremely limited number of available styles, nor will they deny that small-bust bra wearers experience their own unique fit issues and precise construction preferences. This doesn’t mean, however, that someone who wears a 36B, or (even especially) a 44B doesn’t also encounter fit issues related to their small bust. 30B is smaller than 44B, but that doesn’t mean that a person who wears 44B can’t consider themselves small-bust, and it certainly doesn’t mean that that person’s fit issues and struggles should be discounted.
Cup sizes are relative, not absolute. Even when coupled to a band size they can only describe so much about a person’s body. I know two women who both wear a size 32E, and yet one identifies as small-bust/average and another identifies as full-bust. They can both wear some full-bust brands; they can both wear some core-size brands. The distinction, therefore, is determined solely by the woman wearing the bra.
Cup sizes are not a competition. Attempting to dictate which cup sizes “count” veers perilously close to body snark, and it’s dismissive of each individual’s experience with their body. While I acknowledge that I’ve had an easier time with bras and clothes in the last year since going down a few sizes, and that by extension there are certainly some full-bust women who have an easier time of it than others, I can’t get behind silencing people who struggle less than I do.
I have zero interest in policing size categories. If you wear bras made by a full-bust brand, and you think of yourself as a full-bust person, then ta-da! You are “really” full-bust. Think of yourself as more petite or small-bust? That’s also a decision you get to make: you are “really” small-bust. Just because you might not face the same challenges as someone at the extreme ends of the size range doesn’t mean your boobs and your experiences with them are invalid.