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The Lingerie Addict is currently away on medical leave

What is an 'Average Bra Size?' (And Why Does It Mean Nothing Ever Fits You?)

Today's guest post is by Catherine Clavering of Kiss Me Deadly. For more on stats and bra fit (and why you can't trust every press release you read), check out one of her earlier articles for TLA: "Bra Fit Science: Why Sampling Methods Matter for Lingerie Research."

catherine kiss me deadly

Catherine of Kiss Me Deadly



Stand back everyone, we're about to commit MATHS (Or MATH, if you're in the USA).

I know this is a lingerie blog and usually quite arty, but sometimes we need to talk numbers. Sadly, many people are allergic to numbers, possibly due to horrible teachers, terrible cultural expectations, or just sheer boredom.

This is an unfortunate situation since mass manufacturing - the method of production that has brought the price of clothing and undergarments down so much in the last century or so - relies heavily on a good understanding of numbers. Specifically, it relies on statistics, a word that tends to make people flinch and sometimes even cry.

When you get taught stats, it's all cards and coin tosses and fish, rather than anything you might need a in a career outside of a casino that serves seafood. This means most people fail to pick up anything useful, and then get into some major misunderstandings. How do these affect the lingerie industry? Let's start with one of the most popular statements.

Kiss Me Deadly Alouette in Red - 2006

Kiss Me Deadly Alouette in Red - 2006

"The average dress size is a US18/UK14 so why isn't every lingerie company a plus size company?"

Cora and I see variations on this comment all the time. It stems from serious confusion about what averages are.

If, like most people, you didn't really follow the whole “means, medians, and modes” section at school, then this next thing Will Blow Your Mind.

The average is NOT the same thing the size most people wear.

Yes, I know that sounds wrong, but let me lead you through it via the grisly medium of fingers.

Imagine you make gloves. Would you make gloves for people with hands that had 4 fingers and a thumb on each? Yes? OK, but the average number of fingers and thumbs is actually less than that.

Some people get born with extra fingers and some with less, but it's much more common for people to lose their fingers and thumbs to accident or illness. So the average number of fingers is less than 5.

Similarly, bras are usually made for people with 2 breasts. You don't really see anyone with more than 2, but you do get plenty of people with less than 2. Yet it wouldn't make any sense to produce bras with 1.85 cups just because that's the average.

This is because, when you do an average, its an “arithmetic mean." In other words, we take all the people, add up the total number of fingers, and then divide all the fingers by the number of people.

The problem with this is it gets skewed – pulled upwards or downwards by people who are unusual. The technical term for this is “statistical outlier." This is how you can end up having an average size that isn't the size most people wear. Size is notoriously skewed, so that the most often worn size is almost always less than the arithmetic mean average (wages also follow this pattern).

What you want in products is the thing that the most people can use, which means going for the mode – the most frequent value. Here's a graph of UK dress sizes from KMD fans.

You can see that even though yes, the average UK dress size is a 16, the most frequently worn size amongst KMD fans is a UK 10. Which brings us to the next topic:

How Your Customer Group Affects Averages and Sizes.

The “average dress size” includes everyone from about age 18 to 100 and whatever. But even my extremely cool grandma isn't out buying fashionable undergarments (though she does appreciate a nice sparkly applique on a jumper). So if you're making lingerie, you probably want to size it around what's most commonly worn by women in the age range who buy from you.

Most companies won't release that sort of data, so here's ours. KMD has a pretty good spread of fans, from under 18 to over 80, but the people who actually buy regularly from us at full price (look, someone has to pay the bills... so fond as I am of the students buying on sale, I'm also basically waiting for you to grow up and get better jobs) are about 25-40.

Kiss Me Deadly Vargas - 2007

Kiss Me Deadly Vargas - 2007

As far as I can tell, given commercial secrecy, that age range of magic full price buyers is pretty typical. For cheaper brands, it can be more like 18-30. For mastectomy brands, we're talking 50+. As each decade passes, our bodies change, and generations as a whole often differ considerably (generally speaking, people get taller....by the time I die my 5'1 stature will be very peculiar indeed). All of these factors are taken into account when brands decide on a sizing range.

Customer group sizing needs also change by area. There's considerable variation even within Europe (we need to do taller garments for the Northern Europeans, the Netherlands and Germany - particularly longer bra straps), and we can't sell anything in China or Japan because everything we make is enormous by their standards.

So, back to the technical terms. The arithmetic mean is what most people do when asked for an average. The median is the middle (i.e. 50% of people are above, 50% below). The most frequent value is the mode. The mean is the average of all the numbers. It's the most affected by skew.

And that is why brands don't make for an average dress size – they make for the mode of dress sizes for their customer group.

How do averages and bra sizes play out?

A.k.a. "The average bra size is X so every company should automatically make this size/debut with this size/purchase more of this size!"

I started writing this a few months ago and got completely stuck on bra sizes. That's because you can't DO an average bra size.

Bra sizes are not sensible. Your cup size depends on your back size, so the same volume cup has a different label depending on what back size it's stuck on. Under these circumstances, how is anyone claiming to make an average? Do they add up all the back sizes and then divide them, then do the same to the cup sizes? Cup sizes aren't even a number, so how does that work? Also, that ignores the fact that they are related. Perhaps they average out the underbust and overbust measurements of women, and then work it out from them, but with half the UK using  the +4 method and the other half using the +0 method, which are they using to do a theoretical average from? ARGH!

I am genuinely baffled. I strongly suspect that all the average bra sizes statistics are basically total rubbish. And that's before we get into the fact that there's even less consistency about what counts as a 34 band than what a UK size 16 really is. I've seen 34 bands with as much as 8 inches difference between them...and that's in a garment that's supposed to be much more technical about fit.

Kiss Me Deadly Van Mimi - 2008

Kiss Me Deadly Van Mimi - 2008

So let's ignore all of that. Let's imagine I hid in under the sofa, and let's imagine “the average bra size is 36DD” or whatever else you've heard.

Again, just because it's the average doesn't mean it's the most commonly worn size. And it doesn't mean it's the size bought most often by your customer base. To make the most money, you want to find two things: 1) a range of sizes the factory is happy to make and 2) the range of sizes you can sell at full price the easiest.

So, even if the average is the most commonly worn bra size for a country, is this relevant to individual brands? How many brands really provide bras aimed at every single woman from age 18 to 100+ with every body type imaginable? Are the other commonly worn sizes grouped around that size or are they all over the place?

You see, most brands and retailers will start instead from a size base that they know covers a reasonable range of their main customers, based on criteria like age range, geography etc.

Even if your customer base is large, it might not make sense to cater to all of it. For example, if you have four customer groups, some core sized, some plus size, some petite, and some small back/full bust... which will you choose? Because doing ALL of them will cost you a bomb. You need four different patterns for each bra style you do, plus fittings and samples, plus you'd have to grade (and possibly make) all the sizes in between for the factories minimum amounts, even if actually you knew only three sizes would sell .

Or... you might know that (and this is a magic stats thing) that 70% of folk fit within the 12-15 core sizes, and that 30% are in the rest of the sizes, but those 30% are spread out across more like 30 sizes. Which of those 30 sizes are worth doing, if any? How many more people of those sizes can you get to buy from you? Then remember to factor in that people who are in those sizes stop looking, and they especially stop looking in brands that are known for doing core sizes.

This is why bra sizes basically give everyone a headache and are made of wrong. Seriously, the whole thing makes me employ rude words.

Hopefully, all of you can now see the difference between the mean (the average) and the mode (the most often) and how that affects things that are made in bulk. I can honestly promise that this is a valuable piece of learning, and that next time you inevitably try on something that doesn't fit, you can blame it on skewed distributions and a mismatch of sample population and your tastes... rather than your body!

Ever done sizes stats before? Ever thought about them in relation to fashion? Let us know in the comments!

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Cora
Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

32 Comments on this post

  1. Rei Hino says:

    As much as I appreciate this eye opening article backed by statistics and an expert in the field, I also dislike its condescending tone which is borderline rude. No, I am not good at Maths and I was certainly among the people who believed the same mistake about average bra size that the article discusses about. However, as a reader I think there was too much condescension in the tone of the writer. I am lucky enough to be more or less within the core size range. Nonetheless, I believe that if I am outside the range I have every right to voice my desire about lingerie companies to cater to my needs, as much as they have to to sell sizes that will be profitable for them. The lingerie consumers of today’s age are more aware and demanding. We are getting to see many plus-sized brands that creates beautiful lingerie and a few mastectomy brands that are creating gorgeous swimsuits for women. All these would not have been possible if the consumers did not grow in awareness. Lingerie industry is a dynamic one. Its trend will always change and evolve. And all this will depend on how we consumers give our feedback. Today, the pattern in lingerie manufacturing has closed the opportunity to include all sizes. But who knows things will start changing in the future?

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment – apologies I didn’t spot the reply earlier, I don’t check my old writing often. Happily Cora employs a wide range of writers with a wide range of tones so you shouldn’t be stuck for choice, and I’d certainly agree that I’m a love-or-loathe type, but perhaps you could help me by pointing me to where I in any way said people who wear lingerie couldn’t express their desires to suppliers?
      Absolutely things are changing, though most niche brands are run by people who have personal experience of an issue they then tackle, and whether people are prepared to pay for that, rather than feedback, at least in the indie sector.

  2. sol says:

    Whilst this post is interesting, i’m just sad that it means that i’ll never fit into a KMD bra, so i’ll stop waiting for them to increase their size range….and i’ve been waiting for years now.
    Laurie do you have any plans to revive Vanjo?

    • Catherine says:

      Actually, I just requested a full bust sample in a remix of the Van Mimi. I can’t fund it and we can’t find any retails who will . . . but it struck me that with 60k plus fans and so on . . . a crowdfunder could work!
      We’re also doing a suspender and pantygirdle that mix and match with some of Miss Mandalays bras.

      • Stephanie says:

        Catherine: thank you so much for this fascinating, in-depth look at the numbers behind it all. As a 28FF who works at a lingerie retailer, I’m finding that my perspective on this is developing in nuance the longer I work there and see everything that goes into running a business, so it’s so interesting to hear how it works from the side of the designer. What I also love about reading it is that to me, it seems very clear that you do care about the harder to find sizes, even though you’re not able to produce them (the Miss Mandalay collection!!), and it’s much appreciated. Not to discount anyone’s perspective (everyone is different!), but I didn’t read or feel any bodyshaming here.

        As a side note, my very first introduction to your line was the Van Mimi back in 2008 during college, and though I wasn’t able to get it at the time, I’ve never forgotten how beautiful it is. I would love, love to have another chance at it. I also have the Jolie set in Peach, and though it was my first clue that I didn’t actually measure a 32DD, I still wear it, just because it’s so lovely. Wish that I’d gotten the garter belt, but I wasn’t quite advanced enough for that at the time. ;) Have ordered one of your printed girdles on clearance, though, and just can’t wait to wear it!

        Thanks again – love seeing all your interaction here!

  3. Having worked in the lingerie industry for nearly 15 years, i’m inclined to agree with Catherine in that the big companies do make their clothes for profits there by selling the core sizes that they know will sell, and it’s actually the smaller companies that set out to offer the less offered sizes – i have been one of those lingerie labels. When i studied lingerie in 1997 I asked the tutor why there was no 30 backs and was told that nobody needed lingerie that small. In 2005 my best seller with my brand was a 28FF – had body shapes changed? No, I was just tapping into a market that wasn’t well catered for.
    I have also worked for a supplier for UK high streets – one high street store, core size they ordered was a 34B – is that the UK average size? No, but they are just tapping into the market that at one point most people will be a 34B at one point in their life (and this was the buyers generalisation).
    Also different stores use different shape models and different base sizes so each bra has started out a different size to begin with. Then you factor in different countries working on patterns – a company I worked for in Australia used a 1950s fit guide, so I had to design my patterns to correlate to that, which was way off from the patterns i designed for the UK market.
    Then of course there’s your body type – now when I started my label I was a 30DD and back then, found hardly any non padded non rigid bras in that size, which was one of the reasons I started my label. Now though since having my son and hitting the weights, under and across my boobs measure smaller, however I wouldn’t wear smaller than a 30 back as I no longer need the tightness in the bra to support the boobs, yet if you were to go by the tape measure then it would tell a different story yet I can wear a 32C now and it will fit. The truth is that there is no standard in the lingerie or even clothing industry, and when you go into larger lingerie, its no longer about just the look you are dealing with it’s the fit and what each fabric does, and in a price driven world of fashion, sadly I don;t think that the mass producing retailers have the time or margin to make a workable bra across a range of sizes for the return that they will see, because at the end of the day when fit is needed it becomes the most important thing and for that to occur it can take years to get that right.

  4. Catherine says:

    I’m afraid I don’t know how I could write about how businesses determine sizing in order to make a profit without being clear that business are, by definition, trying to make a profit. If you think that’s body shaming, well, OK – that’s your opinion.
    My personal experience is that I’m fairly cheerful in my now plus size body ,surrounded by indies whose styles I can’t fit into, because I know it wouldn’t make any sense for them to extend their sizes to where I am. I know that’s not because they dislike my body or don’t want to see me in their stuff – it is, pure and simply, because they can’t afford to pay for the product development costs would be plus whatever the MOQ is for extending the size range. To my mind, running a business on the basis of making a profit is expected, whereas being, say, the owner of Abercrombie and Fitch and announcing that you don’t want to see your products on certain body types is a judgement. But if you think the (admittedly brutal) mathematics of choosing sizes to make a profit is a judgement call on body types, then nothing I can say is going to change your mind. Businesses need to be profitable; this is one of the ways we do it. Most of them never discuss it in public, precisely because there are people who don’t like being reminded that a business is not all fun and games.

  5. jessa says:

    Catherine, I’m not trying to score points with/against you. I have no issue with the level of stats used in the article, and I think it’s great to educate people on these things. My concern is that the tone of this article feels a lot like body shaming to me – some bodies are more profitable and we want to serve these ones, not the unprofitable ones. It feels very much like someone saying some bodies are “better” than others. I am not arguing with the economic facts – it is surely the case that some sizes sell better than others, but the way this article was written makes me uncomfortable.

  6. jessa says:

    That was exactly what I was referring to – the product used to be made to suit the customer, rather than the expectation be that the customer suit the product, which seems to be now standard in the industry, based on the article. Pricing has certainly changed – it used to be the norm to buy far less, and of a higher quality. Can you clarify what you meant when you said we spend less on clothing? While it is certainly the case that the per item cost of clothing is now much lower, I am not convinced that overall expenditure has decreased with the rise of fast, disposable fashion. Anecdotally, my parents have certainly said that it has not, but I have neither the numbers nor the time to source them just at the moment. Mass production creates other problems that are paid for by the tax payer – loss of jobs through manual labour, environmental concerns and so on – and maybe we should be factoring these things in when we talk about costs.

    What I really wanted say is that markets are really controlled by the consumer, not by the producer. Some small brands may be struggling, but there are lots of large companies making very large profits. There is no reason why such companies could not take a hit in profits to service a larger range of customers, other than that we, both as consumers and citizens, don’t require it of them. It could be as simple as an in house tailoring service – this is often already part of the service with smaller lingerie designers, and sometimes in boutiques too
    .
    This is a complicated topic, and it hits on a lot of different issues around sustainable lifestyle and ethical purchasing, supporting small vs large businesses and so on. I don’t have the time or space to give a proper discussion of all these things, but I think it is now generally accepted that the way many of our industries operate is not sustainable and will have to change. I think it is important to remember that as consumers, we do have a great deal of power – and we can have a lot of input into what changes we want to see.

    • Cora Cora says:

      The Atlantic has stats on how people spend their money today compared to in the past and you can see that clothing expenditures have dropped from around 14% of the budget in 1900 to 4% of the budget around the year 2000. Based on that figure, yes, the actual expenditure towards clothing, expressed as a percentage of one’s budget, has absolutely decreased. And no matter what else may be said in this discussion, I don’t believe a return to custom made clothing for everyone is a feasible solution, in terms of either time or money.

      I actually do agree with your statement that it’s the consumer who determines what gets sold and not the producer. And one thing consumers have made brutally clear, especially in the last decade or so, is that low prices are among their chief concerns. Not ethical manufacturing. Not the return of factories and labor to more industrialized countries. Not better made, higher quality garments. But low prices. As a result, many clothing companies are involved in a “race to the bottom” where customer demand for trendy garments at low prices is setting the stage for everything else. Unfortunately, lingerie is no exception.

      In addition, in terms of the actual production of garments, lingerie is very different from the rest of ready to wear in that it’s extremely specialized (this is why, for example, underwire bra production will probably never move back to America) and has very low profit margins (especially compared to the rest of fashion). While it’s easy enough to expand the size range on a shirt or dress or coat, doing the same for a bra represents a tremendous investment of time (it takes around 2 years to develop a new style and bring it to market) and money (as much as tens of thousands of dollars…if not more). And all of that is without knowing if you’ll get a clear return on that investment (there are any number of reasons why a bra might not sell, after all). So there are plenty of reasons for why a company may not vastly expand their size range. Whether or not those reasons are valid, I suppose, depends on your perspective.

      I do agree that the way a lot of larger companies operate isn’t sustainable, but I don’t agree that profitability should be taken out of the equation. One of the things that’s most distressing to me in conversations about lingerie, especially as related to size and size expansion, is the idea that companies should just make these garments to be nice and because they want to help people. And, to be fair, many lingerie companies do. But profitability, loss, risk, investment costs…all of that has to go into the conversation. These are for profit businesses so a discussion of profit is entirely appropriate. After all, a company that fails to make money will eventually not be a company at all.

      P.S. I just noticed the bit in your comment about tailoring services. While such a service makes sense for small companies operating on a small scale (in the dozens or hundreds), that kind of customization is not feasible for companies operating on a larger scale…especially if that company is not vertically integrated – and most aren’t. The economies involved (added communication with the customer, paying someone to make the adjustments by hand, resolving customer complaints, etc.) start to unravel when you’re working in the thousands or millions of pieces. It would be nice if tailoring was something more boutiques offered, but bras are complex and finicky items of clothing to fit, so I can’t say I’m surprised if most choose to avoid it. Luxury companies often do offer tailoring, but again, it’s a luxury label, so the added service is part of the cost and the luxury experience.

  7. jessa says:

    “I’ve spent far too long working in industries that think that being creative or being good with people means you can’t possibly be good with maths or IT . . . it sounds like you might have some experience of the frustrations of that notion :)”

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here, you’ve come across people who think it’s impossible to be both good with people and numbers, so you’ve decided to perpetuate that myth? It is possible to be sarcastic without being condescending. Also, it is well known that there is a correlation between musical and mathematical genius, so I don’t know where that business about creativity comes from.

    Quite aside from that, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make – regardless of statistics put out by PR, I think we are all aware that most people’s bodies do not adhere to any average standard – you might wear different sizes on top and on bottom, you might need the waist taken in, you might need trousers taken up, and so on. We are all aware that clothing is made to fit a body that the vast, vast majority of us, in one way or another, doesn’t have. That doesn’t require any knowledge of mean or mode. You go on to explain that this happens because it is the most profitable way for businesses to operate. Again, not much of a surprise, but also not much use to a consumer who simply does not and cannot, barring major surgery, have the body that would fit perfectly in a core size. We know we are not the “norm”, but it is really quite galling to read someone explaining that, as someone outside of the norm, your body will not be catered for, because of the bottom line (yes, we already knew that thanks), and then go on to lecture to people as to why the numbers completely justify that. Guess what? This is not how the clothing industry used to work. This is not how the clothing industry has to work. This is just how the clothing industry currently works. There may be a case for explaining to the public exactly why sizes are produced in whatever quantities, but the tone of this article is completely inappropriate for any kind of educational purpose.

    Finally, this is a small point, but statistics is really not mathematics (apart from probability), it’s a science. Just because there are numbers in it does not make it maths.

    • Cora Cora says:

      “Guess what? This is not how the clothing industry used to work. This is not how the clothing industry has to work. This is just how the clothing industry currently works.”

      I thought this was an interesting sentence and I hope you might expand it.

      Prior to the rise of mass production (which has kept clothing prices incredibly low…accounting for inflation, we spend far less on clothing now than people did even a generation ago) all clothing was made to order. Women who could sew would custom make a dress for themselves from a pattern, and women who could not or did not would go to a dressmaker or seamstress and have clothing made for them. Even when mass production became more popular, tailoring was the norm because people understood that expecting a custom fit from mass produced garments was unreasonable.

      In that way, you’re absolutely right that the clothing industry did not used to work the way it does now. However, for most people, sewing their own clothing or having all of their clothing made-to-order is not an option. With that said, when you mention that today’s clothing industry is not how things have to be, what alternatives do you have in mind? What other way do you think the fashion industry could work? I’m genuinely curious as several things have come together (customers’ obsession with low prices being one of them) in making things the way they are now.

    • Catherine says:

      I’m glad that you already knew everything – and sad that you seem compelled to point score with me rather than just read something more at your level and to your taste.
      As you probably know, on the rest of The Lingerie Addict, there are scores of articles on brands and products that cater for fringe sizes, niche sizes, unusual issues, and pretty much everything else you can think of, plus it sounds like you can, as Cora suggests, expound yourself here on new ways of working that avoid the limitations of mass manufacturing. Personally I’m looking forward to 3D printing being widely available as I think it will revolutionise the sizing problem. Perhaps you have some thoughts on that?

  8. Catherine says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever written for a mens blog, but I can sincerely assure you that I am very consistently sarcastic, and you’re absolutely right that it’s a marmite trait.

    I’ve spent far too long working in industries that think that being creative or being good with people means you can’t possibly be good with maths or IT . . . it sounds like you might have some experience of the frustrations of that notion :)

  9. Christina says:

    Did you mean to insult half of your readers with your tone? You basically insulted everyone in each of the opening paragraphs. I can’t help but think that you wouldn’t have taken the same sardonic tone when writing for a men’s blog.

  10. L says:

    Thank you for this article! It was an interesting read and I actually enjoyed the maths/stats involved.
    As someone who is an outlier as far as clothing/lingerie sizes go in the country I am in, I am so glad I know a bit about sewing and can simply tailor things to fit better.

  11. Rose says:

    Thank you for such a clear and useful article! I found the example of KMD really helpful as an indicator of how brands’ own stats need not be expected to fit national norms. (And I’m forever weeping that I didn’t know about KMD until after the 2008 van Mimi. So, so gorgeous.)

  12. anon says:

    I know I’m being silly – but I DO understand statistics (I have degree in economics) and that outliers can skew the average vs. the mode. My point is that we don’t have any evidence that is really true in the case of average vs mode sizes (except for your small and not representative sample).

    • Catherine says:

      I’m sorry, I really don’t know what to say – if you’ve decided that an absence of data means you can assume that it *should* be a more symmetrical distribution, this flies in the face of both the reality of the asymmetry of sizing possibilities (the distinct limit on the lower end of sizes) and would mean that pretty much every core size brand was doing something incredibly stupid. I’m also unclear as to why that would mean that the mode of each brands customer base is actually likely to be close to the national average for all women across all ages and groups, unless you think size is independent of class, ethnicity, age etc (it’s not, and there’s the some serious research on this, happily, though it generally hinges on concerns around obesity).

      On the upside, I tracked down a link for the minimal data sizeUk released for free here if it’s of interest:
      http://www.arts.ac.uk/media/arts/research/documents/SizeUK-Results-Full.pdf

  13. anon says:

    Maybe I’m too much of nitpicker, but is misleading and I think sloppy to use data unrelated to your point to make your point. I took your point as: the mode size of women in the US/UK is actually much smaller than a size 14/16 because a few very large people are skewing the curve. Then you use a chart unrelated to the general population as evidence to prove your point.
    But i would guess that the mode size is actually probably is a 14/16 or much closer to that than a size 6. The most I take away from this is that manufacturers are loathe to make larger sizes because they don’t sell well. Which is fair enough I guess, but I still doubt that the mode size is very different from the average. (KMD customers not withstanding)

    • Catherine says:

      I’d have loved to use a large scale survey data graph. There’s a really simple reason I could only use our data, and that’s the pure and simple reality that no-one else releases theirs. There are literally zero brands who release their size survey results.
      All the average figures released are part of press releases, usually from people who make their living selling the detailed data:
      http://www.size.org/

      I can tell you that when we’ve done surveys with multiple brands and larger numbers (up to about 800 people, which is not terrible), yes, you get a small percentage of people in the upper ranges who skew it. That’s not surprising, because it’s nigh on impossible to be an adult woman and be significantly smaller than about a UK6, maybe 4, before you die, whilst it’s perfectly possible to carry on living up to well past a size UK 26, so a skew naturally develops.
      Additionally, the mode size of a brands customers might very well differ enormously from the mean for a population as a whole – as you can see from KMD customers, who are, for example, skewed massively younger than the population as a whole. There’s no obvious reason why that would be true for just the KMD customer base and not fashion shoppers as a whole.

      • jessa says:

        Is TLA still an anti-body snark blog? Because you surely could think of a less offensive way to say that adult women are more likely to have significantly above average measurements than significantly below average measurements? Some people are short, some are fine-boned, some are just naturally very slim. Granted, there are less of them, but by no means are they all about to die.

  14. Laura says:

    I loved seeing this post! Outside of being generally interested in lingerie, I work for a company that deals with business intelligence so getting some insight into how KMD uses data to make better decisions for the company was great.

  15. anon says:

    36% of Americans are clinically obese and 60% are considered overweight. I find it VERY hard to believe that 6 is the mode dress size in the US. It might be the most sold dress size, since we know smaller women buy more clothes than larger women, but no way is it the most common dress size.

    • Rebecca says:

      No one said 6 was the mode dress size for ALL WOMEN in America. 6 is the mode dress size for KMD CUSTOMERS. Kind of a big difference there.

    • Cora Cora says:

      Just as a quick note, Kiss Me Deadly is not a US company.

    • Amaryllis says:

      As Rebecca said – and also, KMD makes primarily for a UK market not an American one. The core statistics might be slightly different to the ones you’re quoting. But the article is all about why the national averages AREN’T what a brand makes most of, and why.

    • Catherine says:

      It’s hard to get an idea of what the mode for dress sizes in the USA is since; those figures are only available in the UK for a price. So, since most folk are opaque about their figures, all I can do is show you ours. The figures the size survey in the Uk release show and average UK dress size of around 16; our average would probably be a 12-14 – but our mode is a 10. That’s limited by a small sample, by our customers being skewed towards younger women, and our customers being predominantly British (who tend to be smaller than the average American). But all these limitations apply to large brands too – Victoria Secrets has 40% of the US market, but do they design for ALL women, or do they design for 18-30 year olds?
      I’m sorry that that wasn’t clear, as this is exactly the sort of issue I was trying to convey.

    • anonymous says:

      Where did you get that statistic? It implies that only 4% of the US is at a healthy weight or is underweight, unless the 36% is included in the 60% (which isn’t clear). Also, obesity statistics are derived from BMI, which is highly unreliable in representing what kind of weight someone is carrying or how they’re carrying it. Not all women of the same height and weight will be the same.

  16. TBonz says:

    All I know is that I’m too a bit too large (band-size) for most regular bras in stores and online but too small (cup-wise) for plus size. I’m mismatched. My mom is mismatched the other way and I know we’re not alone.

    So my bra buying is rather limited and I’m rather frustrated. Seems to me that most bra sales now are aimed at the young and small or women who are a small band and a large cup (like a 34 F or something similar).

    Online buying is hit or miss. With return fees and postage, I’ve found it to not be worth it.. Even when measured properly and buying what should be the right size at a company, more often than not, it doesn’t fit the way it should. So I’ve kind of given up.

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