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Bigger boobs on the rise as average UK bra size climbs to 36DD

We need to talk about boobs. Because they’re getting bigger… a lot bigger, apparently.

The average cup size in the UK is now a 36DD and it’s on the rise. So much so that the likes of Marks & Spencer and Debenhams now offer bras in up to a K cup. Meanwhile, online lingerie retailer Bravissimo goes up to an L.

Soozie Jenkinson, Head of Design at M&S, explains: “We recognise that women’s body shapes and sizes are changing, and frequently review our size offer. That’s why we now offer 113 sizes across backs and cups. It’s not that many decades since small, medium and large were the standard in bra sizing.”

My cup has been spilling over for years but, like most women in the UK, I’m in denial about it. I think I know what size I am and I’m not prepared to be told otherwise.

It’s a well-known fact that 82% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, so where are we all going wrong?

According to Josie Fellows, Lingerie Styling Specialist at Rigby & Peller: “It’s often a big shock in the fitting room. People think E is the biggest size there is and they’ve been buying a B for 20 years. To compensate for the fact that their cup’s too small, they go up in the back and think they’re a 36. But really they need a 32D.”

Rigby & Peller’s best-selling sizes are F, G and H.

Sarah Tremellon was one of the first women to see the gap in the market for women with an average body size who couldn’t find a bra to fit them on the high street. She founded Bravissimo in 1995, providing lingerie for larger busted women and she’s never looked back.

As our boobs boomed, so did her business and what started out as a relatively small online company has grown to include 21 stores.

Debenhams, number two in the D+ market, has experienced growth on an ongoing basis for the past 10 years. This year, it has seen significant sales growth in the D+ market with sales of its G+ bras now representing 32% of bra sales.

Head of buying and design Sharon Webb says: “We sell more units of the strapless bra from our Gorgeous range that goes from a D-H cup than any other bra.”

So this is clearly a young market. “Our customers with bigger busts are looking for increasingly sexy bras,” Sharon adds, “with sheer cups, strapping details etc. Getting the balance right between the visual aesthetics and support is challenging but it’s key for us to meet the demands of our customers.”

So why are boobs getting bigger?

The boom could be attributed to the fact that women are just getting bigger in general. The average dress size is now 16 and we’ve seen a big surge in sales for plus size and curve clothing ranges in sizes 18 to 32. But that doesn’t explain the growing number of teens and women not in the plus size market with bigger boobs.

Julia Mercer, Technical Manager and Bra Fit Expert at Marks and Spencer, explains: “The shape of the nation has changed. It’s a combination of factors – we’re eating more, our diets have changed, we’re exercising less, and the pill and hormonal factors also play their part.

“On average, most women can expect to be one cup size bigger than their mothers.”

Julia agrees that most of her customers, instead of going up a cup size, increase their back size. Liz Stone, 63, a nurse from Manchester has been buying a 40FF for years and is happy with her bra. But under the close scrutiny of Julia she quickly discovers she’s really a 38G. In her new bra, her bust is lifted, her waist instantly looks smaller and so, interestingly, does her bust.

“Who would think that by going up a cup size your bust actually looks smaller,” Liz says. “I thought my old bra was comfortable but this one is a whole new level. The biggest surprise is that this bra is only £20. I’ve been spending a lot more than that until now.”

So why are 82% of us still wearing the wrong size? Julia explains: “Our research has shown that 23% of women would never use a fitting service. Some are simply too embarrassed to come into store to get measured. So they end up wearing the wrong size for years.

“We’ve developed an online bra fit calculator on our website so our customers can measure themselves at home. But I still advise getting a proper fitting.”

Although Julia uses a tape measure to check a customer’s back size she can size up a woman simply by looking.

“I think you should consider going down a back size and up at least a cup size,” she told me. “I’m going to send a few bras to try – they’ll give you a much better shape.”

There are 5 key checks to the perfect bra fit

1. Underband: Should be parallel to the floor and secure enough that only two fingers can fit under the elastic.

2. Centre front: Should sit completely flat against the sternum.

3. Side wire: This should be flat against the ribcage and never digging into the breasts.

4. Cup capacity: Breasts should sit fully into the cup without any spillage.

5. Straps: These should be adjusted to just fit two fingers on top of each other, which will give the right pressure for your shoulder.

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