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Full Busted Frustration: When Breast Size Meets Society

Copyright to Butterfly Collection

A few nights ago I found myself having a distinct sense of deja vu as I tried to explain bra sizing to my mother over the phone. My mother had asked a question about the full busted market, and about halfway through my explanation she burst in with the dreaded question: "But doesn't it just mean that you're fat if you're full busted?"

And there's the rub if you're full busted --- for every pretty bra in your size, there will be a person who believes that just because you have breasts means that you're fat (and occasionally slutty). For every one person who believes you're automatically fat because your breasts are larger, there will be at least three who tell you how your breasts must be such a burden to you, you poor thing. It's like when well-meaning people concern troll you about dieting, except this time they are talking about breast reductions. The worst part is the people saying these things aren't even trying to be mean, because they honestly believe these assumptions are exactly like facts because they are so widespread.

Part of the issue is we internet writers spend lots of time marveling at how breasts are getting bigger and bigger without delving into the issues of why. Is it hormones at earlier ages? Is it something in the air? I know I've seen at least three articles in the last two months marveling at "the largest bra ever made" like a K cup is some kind of super bra that can destroy whole cities.

The other type of article involving larger cup sizes you see on the internet is the kind where women talk about how much they hate their breasts and how they're such a burden. It usually is accompanied by some horrified talk about how women are getting large breast implants in droves. The one that broke my heart the most was a relatively recent article on Jezebel, where the author lamented what her breasts had done to her: "When you have large breasts, you're constantly aware of them, just hanging out on your pectorals, waiting for a baby to feed, slowly, slowly, slowly dripping unstoppably downward, victims of gravity. The happiest times in my adult life have occurred when I wasn't laden with too-big breasts. The only thing they ever helped me do is get honked at by guys in pickup trucks with sexy lady silhouette mudflaps."

Here's the problem with all of these articles: they paint women with large breasts as outliers. We're either people to be ogled or people to be pitied, but either way we're not normal.

So what can we do, dear full busted ladies, to combat these frustrating assumptions?

1) We can be open about bra sizing in conversations and try to educate others. Many people don't understand that a G cup on one person can look wildly different on another, and that larger cup sizes are quite normal. I'm not saying you have to wear a tag with your bra size, but do try and educate your friends and family members who care! There are lots of bra calculators and other resources online now that can help people learn about bra fitting even if you don't have a boutique near you.

2) We can advocate for bras that fit rather than reduction surgeries. One of the things that scares me is how young girls are being told about reduction surgeries rather than being fitted properly for bras. I'm not against reduction surgeries, but I believe they should be something that comes after trying well fitting bras and seeing if that solves some of the discomfort. If you feel like you are literally lugging bowling balls around, your bra probably doesn't fit right.

3) We can insist that our breasts are merely that, rather than personality traits. I have big breasts, but they don't define me. They don't make me hate myself, they don't make me fat or lazy, and they don't make me less or more attractive than I would be otherwise. Until we stop associating cup size with different levels of attractiveness and personal characteristics, we can't really make progress as a society.

I know these kind of assumptions aren't restricted to full busted women, but I think breaking down stereotypes benefits us all. After all, if the world could see us instead of just our breasts, wouldn't it be a nicer place?

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

38 Comments on this post

  1. Denise says:

    Since we’re talking about misperceptions and pet peeves, I’d like to add that I’m waiting for at least one bra manufacturer to put two and two together, by which I mean:
    most women are wearing the wrong bra size + the wrongness is by far bras that are large in the band and small in the cup = a lot more women exist that could/would be wearing 28-/30- bands than are currently accounted for in the market
    The bias of the wrong fit MATTERS. I hate, hate, HATE that a lot of full-bust manufacturers don’t even do 28-bands, and all of them talk about how there’s not enough demand for them. (Bra size education is really the key.) And meanwhile here I am with my ribcage that hits 24.5″ or 25″ at full exhale, stuck with a bra that necessitates frequent rescooping throughout the day because it can’t keep my boobs in place. I KNOW I’m not a freak of nature because I’ve never felt skinny in my life, having always looked towards far skinnier people that I encounter on a daily basis, so it’s almost insulting to be told I’m too skinny for even niche manufacturers to cater to. …On second thought, scratch that “almost.”

  2. Ellis says:

    Can we talk for a minute about how not all A cups are perky and teacup-shaped? As a non-teacup-shaped buyer in the 36A-B range, I’ve found that a lot of the bras out there are designed with that particular stereotype in mind, and it can really limit your choices and inspire a maelstrom of self-shaming, which plagues the petite gals just as much as our bustier sisters.

  3. Ali says:

    Thanks for this article Holly. You can tell your mother I’m a petite girl with bra size 30FF-G. I look ‘larger’ because of my breasts, but without them I’m actually quite skinny. Everybody’s different and everybody’s beautiful in their own way. I love my breasts and my body just the way they are :D

  4. Isis says:

    Great article. I have a 34HHH and my breats size keeps very constant regardless of weight- at 10 kilos less than I weigh now I wore a 36HH. Big breasts runs in the family, even my mother who is very petite, has always had big boobs.

    I find that sooner or later people I meet WILL talk about my breasts, and that means both sexes. Quite recently I realized that I have developed the defense strategy to treat my breast size as a joke. It truly annoys me that I do that and try to work the habit away. After all, if I have learned to not aplogize for my breast size, why should I treat them like a joke?

  5. Adena says:

    Oh my goodness, this is great. When I was 14-16, one of my counselors nagged me endlessly about getting a breast reduction once I was done growing. For being someone paid to help people, I really think she did more harm than anything. Of course, at this point in my life, I was only aware of DD bras, and I only ever got bras from Wal-mart. No matter how many times I adjusted myself, I would always spill out of the front and my back band was always up by my shoulders. After I became more learned about bras, I tried explaining them to my mom, which didn’t go so well. I tried explaining about sister sizes and sizes varying among brands and styles to someone who most easily grasps concrete concepts. “44DD must always be a 44DD and only a 44DD”. >.>

  6. Frank says:

    a) What’s average?

    Probably whatever you’re most likely to see. That has to vary for everyone, doesn’t it?

    b) My ex-gf was quite chesty, shorter, rounder. All in good ways. My wife is taller, thinner and .. not chesty. All in good ways. Both attractive, but I’m obviously heavily biased between the two of them. ; )
    Based on life experience, I’ve come to expect certain guys to say some pretty uncool things.

    What I haven’t gotten used to yet is what one woman or women will say about another.
    I’ve overheard – by mistake or design – things I just figured any woman with empathy wouldn’t say.
    On-line is bad enough, but IRL it amplifies the comments. I thought maybe it was all based on my ex’s having more than some. Yet if a woman’s built like my wife, there’s just a different set of comments.

    Aside from the impulse of wanting to ask some people ‘who asked you?’, I sometimes wonder if it isn’t just a really unattractive side of people thinking their own opinion is the most valid.

    So I’ll add an observer’s disclaimer that I could be very wrong.

    I like a good observation, but snark about some things gets very old and tiresome very quickly..
    A little more Golden Rule and giving space to what you may not understand seems desirable these days.

    Nice article, especially point 3.

  7. Ksenia says:

    Agh, what a nightmare for me, they hurt like crazy sometimes, hormones or something I don’t know. Only recently found out I’m not a c cup anymore. More like D but a calculator says H or I because of my tiny flattened rib cage, 28-30 in ribs, 38 in bust . Last few hunts have been extremely depressing, all of the nice sportsbras on sale were b or c cups. It’s even harder to find a nice wireless bra, my high ribcage can’t handle any underwire, it lands right on my ribs. I also have a condition (normal? doctors said it was okay for some reason) where my right rib sticks out from my left, so I don’t think any bra will fit right. Always my ribcage! And my shoulders hurt from the slumping to hide my breasts, ouch. :(

    • Angela says:

      Oh hon, that does not sound comfortable at all. Have you got a store near you that stocks the larger cup sizes you stated there to try them out? If you are unable to wear underwired bras, have you tried looking at maternity bras? There is a brand named Cake Lingerie which make adorable maternity bras in large cup sizes. I know I’ve found it difficult when looking for wire-free bras and have actually resorted to those before. Check out brastop.com (UK website), their sale assistant ladies are brilliant and they have a good range of stock by Cake. I’ve had no issues with ordering (and returns) with them and I’m in Australia.

  8. Mimi says:

    I remember how difficult it was to find a push-up bra in a 38D (US). Everywhere I looked, bras for D-cups were minimizers, not maximizer. Screw that—I’m really proud of my girls, and I wanted to show them off, darnit! Finally found cute pushups, plunges, and even dainty balconettes in my size at A La Folie (www.visitalafolie.com). I’ve been a regular there, ever since. I wait for the sales, and don’t mind spending $100–200 because of how well made and comfortable they are—when I think of it, I’m actually breaking even, as these bras last so much longer. Last time I was at A La Folie, I saw an M-cup bra is the most lovely lace. I don’t mean to sound like a shill for this shop—my points are that cute, sexy bras that make your girls stand proud (and, therefore, you) *are* out there; you get what you pay for; and when you feel good about yourself, it really doesn’t matter how anybody else thinks.

  9. June says:

    Holly, great article and you probably know already that I agree 100% with it! I’m so sorry that your mom said that to you and as you know when I lost weight, I lost mostly band size and very littte in my actual cup size! Speaking of which, I’ve been digging through my old maternity clothes and found my nursing bra from the time I was at my highest weight. The crazy thing is the cups aren’t *that* big on me but the band is HUGE. Just more proof that major weight loss doesn’t equal smaller breasts!

    One way I’ve found that works well for demonstrating the irrelevance to breast size and weight is by pointing out to friends and sales clerks the backs on my shirts. It’s hard to argue with a seriously baggy back when I have to size up so much to get my bust to fit in. I also talk a lot about ratios try to put it into that perspective.

    I will say I have been lucky and never been treated as slutty due to my breast size. I’m not sure if it’s the vibe I give off (I know I can be stand-offish at times) or the way I dress or what it is exactly. I haven’t really found a good reason for it but since many people tend to describe as a “preacher’s daughter” (absolutely no reason for it considering that I’m not one) then I must be giving off some vibe that I can figure out the origin for.

  10. Jame (@jameane) says:

    I am hovering around about a 32HH at the moment. THe other day I went to SOMA looking for something. I remarked that they don’t have my size. The clerk was so sure that there was something that fits! She had sized someone who was “bigger than me” into something that “fits”

    I had a few minutes, so I humored her. She measured my underbust over my clothes. She did not pull the tape measure particularly tight. And she measured me at 38DDD. As you’d expect, the fit was terrible. Too big in the band, too small in the cup.

    I showed her how the underwire did not lie flat, and the bad was too big, but I don’t think she was convinced the bra did not fit.

    Sadly enough, the mainstream stores, see someone like me and say “oh she’s not that big in the bust.” But it is even harder them to believe someone like me, who wears a 14, needs a 32 band.

    We have a long way to go.

  11. Mrs B says:

    Ouch, that comment from your mom. Mine is the same way, I avoided telling her my post-pregnancies bra size for years (currently mostly 32GG or 32Hs). I finally had to confess (she tried to get me to wear the complimentary bathing suit with no bust support provided at a spa, instead of my own lovely Panache Holly that I had brought) and she was so shocked.

    She kept ranting about some friend of hers who had just gained a lot of weight (and has had severe health problems for years before that so not the best combo, poor woman) and how “massive” her breasts had become, and that she had found some kind of pads to “stop your bra straps from digging in” that could maybe help me too. The underlying assumption of course being that I have a problem needing to be fixed.

    I try not to let it get to me, but it’s extra hard when it’s your mother isn’t it? I also try to keep in mind that this is the woman who was shocked to find out that Christina Hendricks is considered attractive, seeing as she is “both big AND had big breasts”.

    • Holly says:

      I wish I had the body that Christina Hendricks does! I hate how she dresses sometimes but she’s amazingly attractive and a great example of someone who works her body type and isn’t ashamed of it.

      It’s really unfortunate the way weight and breast size are associated. I haven’t found a way to combat it among my family and friends other then repeating the facts very loudly over and over and trying to ignore the rest of what they say.

      • Mrs B says:

        Completely agree about Christina Hendricks, not only is she beautiful and stylish, but I think she is setting a wonderful example by projecting such confidence in herself and her body. I really admire her refusal to be labeled as any certain body type. Maybe if we all were less inclined to label ourself into groups (slim, curvy, full-figured, full-busted, etc. ) our diversity – and similarities – as individuals would be more apparent, shine through the stereotypes.

        Still, sometimes it is good to be able to identify with others. Especially when friends and family don’t seem to get it. Me, I just try to avoid the topic most of the time since I tend to find some comments (like the one your mother made) so hurtful. Sometimes I do feel guilty about not spreading the message. Just as you said in your (brilliant) post, if those of us wearing bigger cup sizes were more open about it it would probably reduce the negative stereotypes.

  12. Nikki says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that 32ff seems to fit me best, it’s the most comfortable and gives me the best shape. The weird thing is I don’t consider myself big breasted at all. I feel like my boobs are small/normal. I’m absolutely terrified of telling anyone that isn’t on a site like this my size though. I don’t want people treating me like I must be nuts because they think anything over a D must be noticeably huge.

    • Holly says:

      There is a huge mental block for women when they get to the DD cup range. Bravo to you for getting past it! I wish we could all learn that bra sizes are just a letter and a number, without adding all these other assumptions into the mix.

  13. Miss Vidal says:

    Thank you for writing this! I sometimes feel like my breast it’s all people see in me. its offensive, because there’s so much more to me than a pair of boobs. I can deny the fact that I’m big busted, it’s just the way I am.

    I’m normally very happy and comfortable in my own body, and try to brush off the negative (or some time unsolicited “positive” comments) that I get about them, but it sometimes takes a toll, and I won’t deny it… comments and stares had made me feel uncomfortable, bad about myself. Specially when people assume because I’m showing my breast it’s because i’m seeking “that kind of attention” when is not the case!

    I’m not naive, I know that (wrongfully) society immediately associate big breasts with some sort of overly sexual woman, and (in all honesty) I don’t think my personality or the way I carry myself is that of a “va-va-voom” person. I think of myself (and I try to reflect this to the outside) as more of the cute-quirky- kinda dorky girl… and if you get to know me you’ll see that that’s me… and not so much the sex-bot that people think I am just because my boobs happen to be big.

    • Holly says:

      I agree — your breasts are the size they are, and people need to get past it. This goes for any size range! I actually gave up wearing turtlenecks since everyone always assumed I was trying to show off my boobs, so I feel you there. I miss being able to wear turtlenecks and halterneck tops in the summer so much.

  14. Hannah VB says:

    GOOD LORD thank you for writing this. yes, the UK is so enlightened. Lived there for 5 years and what a damn relief, as someone in a 34F – G, depending on make. I am overweight by about 20 pounds, but as I lose weight, I do not lose cup size. Tits are tits are tits and OMG this makes me so crazy! And such a “punch your mom in the mouth” moment! Jeez people need to have their heads checked!! Sorry, this inspired a bit of a rant, obviously, and I really just wanted to thank you for writing it.

    • Holly says:

      I lose band sizes when I lose weight, but not cup sizes. I can’t imagine living in the UK — you can walk right into department stores and buy bras in a huge range of sizes! I buy lots of bras online from Bravissimo now as it is.

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad it resonated with you!

  15. Sarah says:

    I agree with this article for the most part. I am a 38-40 H-J (UK sizing). While I am a chuck girl I also have extremely large breasts. The fact that they are large is something I am comfortable with and accept. I do not like how much pain I am in because of them. I live with constant upper back pain & often have back spasms for whole days. I know this pain is the reason I hate having a large chest and I would love to have a breast reduction.

    • Holly says:

      I’m definitely not against breast reductions! I just think they should come after people find their bra size and try supportive bras that fit. I know several women who have had very successful reductions and are glad they went through with it. For some people, they can be a miracle solution.

  16. Jenn Nadal says:

    Thank you SO much for writing this! I’m a 32G (UK) and I sware that people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them…quickly followed by the “How do you find bras? Isn’t it uncomfortable? I feel so sorry for you!” I’m glad that people are finally coming around to realizing that there are cup sizes above a DD.

    • Holly says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jenn! And it’s awesome that you are willing to talk about it. The more people who talk about bra sizes about a D cup means that more people will learn how normal it really is.

  17. Bonnie M says:

    The real determiner (to me) of whether one is fat or not is not cup size, but BAND size. By that measure, I’m fat (I comfortably wear a 40, but can go down a bit to a 38 if necessary). It’s hard to find bras above a 38.

    It seems that the market is slowly realizing that bigger cups does not mean fat, although there is still very limited selection in the US compared to Europe, but if you’re over a 38 band size, good luck finding anything other than an “industrial” bra in white or beige, perhaps black if you’re really lucky. And this is even if you’re in the supposedly golden cup size (B or C).

    Americans don’t get a lot of choice – unless they’re a 34-38 A-C. Then there are tons of bras – from cute to industrial.

    One thing about reading this blog – I’ve come to realize that someone can be a DDD, E or higher and not look like they are super busty. And that a woman can wear more than one cup size depending on the band size.

    • Holly says:

      The market above a 38 is pretty awful. I feel for you. Luckily I’ve seen lots of brands now going up to 50, which is a nice change. Everyone should have pretty bras, no matter their size or shape.

    • Heather says:

      I have searched high and low for a 38A and all of the stores I go to say they don’t make them…it’s brutal. I can’t afford $150 for a bra at a specialty shop, and even the specialty shops around here don’t carry that size.

      • Jodi says:

        Heather, try looking online. Sites like Herroom and Bare Necessities have a much better selection, and carry your size.

        Holly, what your mom said was rotten (sorry). If it helps you, I’m full busted and I am a size 4 dress; definitely not “fat.”

      • Sarah says:

        Title 9 Sports has a bra website called Bounce, and I found some pretty ones when I did a search for 38A bras. (Apologies: A couple of them go up to a 36A but not a 38A, but it’s a place to start.)

        And at the Title 9 site itself, their highly rated Not A Bomber For A and B Cups bra (touted as good for both all-day and sports use) is on sale for $19, and it’s still available in white in 38A.

      • June says:

        Check out Ewa Michalak too. They definitely make A cups in larger band sizes.

  18. Jessica says:

    A friend of mine recently told me she wore a 34G expecting shock and awe–the only sort of pity she got from me was how expensive those bras are in our area, and then I told her about this blog.

    I also read that Jezebel article and found it strange, since at least some of their writers read the Lingerie Addict, as they’ve featured Treacle before on body positivity when it comes to the lingerie industry–and body positivity in all areas.

    • Holly says:

      I thought the article was odd for Jezebel as well. I’m actually a huge fan of their site and was sad to see those kind of opinions up there.

      Has your friend discovered places like Brastop yet? They have a ton of 34G bras at very nice discounts, although they do focus heavily on Curvy Kate.

      • Jessica says:

        She said she likes Wacoal a lot, and I told her about a few brands from the UK that I like (Freya, mostly). We are both baristas, and she’s a full time student, so I’ll definitely pass that on!

  19. anon says:

    Beautiful article. It’s aggravating/amazing that with the plethora of bodies in all shapes and sizes in the world there are precisely two socially acceptable cup sizes: B and C. Bonkers!

    • Treacle says:

      I don’t even know if cup sizes B and C are acceptable anymore considering the slew of body snark that appears on the Facebook page and in my inbox when I post women with smaller breasts. It’s very a much a case of damned if you are/ damned if you’re not.

    • Holly says:

      I think lots of different cup size ranges suffer from bad stereotypes, but I do think the stereotypes are different based on cup ranges. I’m not sure what normal even is anymore. Maybe it’s just some made up thing that we all picture differently.

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