Bra Fitting & The Problem With Sample Sizes
Today’s blog post comes from Samantha, the artist and writer behind http://www.svcon.blogspot.com/. As a former bra fitter, boutique manager, and lingerie model, Samantha shares her unique perspective in this personal essay about the problem with the standard sample sizes used in the lingerie industry.
The lingerie industry has a problem, and that problem is their standard sample sizes. Hello, I’m Sam. I have an absolute zeal for all things underthings. I have been a bra fitter, a boutique manager, a boutique buyer and a lingerie model.
Every time a new line of bras comes out, the manufacturer sends out samples. As buyers, we base our purchasing decisions on these sample bras. To save money, a standard bra sample size (34B) is used by most companies. Companies that specialize in fitting larger busts use 34D as a standard. In my opinion neither of these sizes is the correct choice. In fact, the current sample sizes actually make it harder for buyers, models, and fitters to do their jobs.
First, for buyers: a sample bra does do one thing – it gives me a good idea of what the bra will look like when it goes into production. But my purchasing decisions were not based only on looks. Fit was also very important, and the best way to know how a bra fits is to see it on someone.
No ethical fitter would sell an ill-fitting bra (and very few women want to buy one). I know that if that sassy new polka dotted balconette lacks support or gives a strange shape, customers are unlikely to buy it. Fit is especially challenging when it comes to larger busted women.
An ideal sample should be in a popular size. I want to be able to see what a bra will look like on the average woman. In my experience, there are a lot more women who are 32C than 34B. This isn’t a disaster, because usually there was someone on staff in 32C who could try on the sample bra on the tightest hook in order to get an idea of the fit. But that told me nothing about how the fuller-cupped versions of that bra would fit. Companies that expand their line to carry bigger sizes still only offer the 34B sample bra. It’s hard to celebrate the inclusion of an F cup demi when the only sample they send me is 34B and I have no way of knowing how the F cup would fit.
As I mentioned, companies that specialize in D and up bras offer 34D as their sample size. This isn’t much better, though, since they usually manufacture their bras to size 38G and beyond. A woman with breasts this size is going to fit a bra very differently than a woman who wears a 34D.
I worked as a “busty” fit model (I wear a 32FF) for an importer who carried some brands specializing in D+ cup sizes. Here, I saw the sample size problem firsthand. At shows, I would never be able to show off the upcoming styles (in this case, only available in the 34D sample size), and instead was provided with ‘classic’ styles to model for buyers. Sample sizes were problematic for other models as well. Most models tend to be very slim, so a 34 band would always be too big and would ride up in the back, even on the tightest hook.
Ideally, a sample size should reflect both the most popular size within a range and a mid point in their scale of sizes. I think a 32C sample size would make the most sense for A-D bra lines because it’s a popular size that falls midway in the size range, and is a more appropriate fit for “straight-size” models. For lines that specialize in D-G, a 34F would be a more apt sample size, as it’s more popular, falls more in the middle of the range and allows for a suitable fit for plus size models. Lines that carry a wide range of sizes (like A-D) should offer both, and fuller busted lines that carry up to a J should be prepared to offer both a 34F and perhaps a 36GG.
I understand that producing samples costs money… but so does discontinuing a bra or a whole line because it won’t sell. Fit sells, and helping buyers evaluate the fit of a bra before ordering is good for manufacturers in the long run.
Image Credit: All images from http://www.svcon.blogspot.com/