A bra fitting is very difficult process. A bra is very small piece of apparel yet the most complex one. Can you believe that it has 20-48 parts? Band, hook, cups, lining, straps, back wings, center panel, underwire and so on.
There are varieties of fabrics, styles, designs and colors. But all those styles, designs and sizes differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. And there isn’t a thing like International Standard for the bra measurement and size. The bra manufacturers have their own standards of measurement hence the variations.
Why are there difficulties in bra measurement while manufacturing?
It is almost impossible to have standard measurement for all women across the world. Women’s breasts vary from each other as the shape, size, spacing, position; symmetry and firmness vary from woman to woman. This makes the process of bra making difficult. The various parts of the bra and the various sizes make it complex to manufacture properly fitting bra.
Adelle Kirk, former manager at the global Kurt Salmon has said, ‘Bras are one of the most complex pieces of apparel. There are lots of different styles, and each style has a dozen different sizes, and within that there are a lot of colors. Furthermore, there is a lot of product engineering. You’ve got straps, there are usually two parts to every cup, and each requires a heavy amount of sewing. It is very component intensive.’ (Sara Lee: Wonderbra)
Now let us look into those difficulties more closely.
- Asymmetrical breasts
Some women have one breast smaller than another, which causes an asymmetric appearance. According to Breast Development, up to 25% of women have a persistent visible breast asymmetry. Breast asymmetry is defined as a difference of form, position or volume of the breast. In an article published in Annals of Plastic Surgery, it is stated that natural breast asymmetry exists and about 5-10 % women have severely different breasts and 62% has left breast larger than the right. Padded bras or simple bra pads may take the asymmetry less of a problem. An augmentation or reduction performed by a plastic surgeon can be recommended for making breasts more symmetrical. Bilateral asymmetric hypertrophy, unilateral hypertrophy, unilateral amastia, unilateral mammary ptosis are some classification of asymmetry.
- Breast Volume Variation
A result of a study showed that the variation in breast volume further complicates the attainment of the correct fitting bra. Statistical analysis (ANOVA) demonstrated highly significant differences in breast volume between the three stages of the cycle (p<0.0005) with breast volume being greatest premenstrually. Hormonal activity causes breast volume to change during the menstrual cycle. Another study found the average difference in the volume of the left and right breasts is 39.7 ml, which is 7% of average breast volume and approximately 50% of the average variation in the volume of the breast during the menstrual. The volume of each breast varies by an average of 76 ml during the menstrual cycle, which corresponds to 13.6% of the volume of menses. Not only the menstrual cycles but pregnancy, weight gain or loss, or other medical conditions can also cause unusual or unexpected change in breast size.
- Increasing Breast Size
We have discussed about the increasing breast size in our earlier post. In a couple decades, American bra size has increased from 34B to 34DD. Likewise; UK average bra size has also increased from 36C to 36DD. Both younger and older customers have now increased bra sizes. Also more women are now wearing the correct size (bigger) after the TV shows like Oprah Winfrey Show and What Not to Wear.
- Large Breasts
Some women have large and pendulous breasts. The larger breasts are more complicated to take the correct measurement as the shape and tissue distribution within them also changes. And it is difficult to get the accurate measurement if the person has a heavy build as the measuring tape sinks the flesh more easily.
Hence, the above factors are complicating the construction of correctly fit bra for the bra designers and engineers. Along with the above mentioned factors, shape and size differs from woman to woman. This difference also does not help in process of making correctly fit bra.
Nowadays the styles and designs of bra are more improved and carefully engineered yet the improved bra engineering has not improved the disparities in sizing between different brands.