Secrets of the Lingerie Industry

What is wrong with sizing in the industry?

One thing that has always has always been confusing for bra wearers and bra providers alike is the lack of truly universal sizing across brands and manufacturers. For starters, breasts come in such a variety of shapes and sizes, that sizes are a best guess rather than an exact fit. As one woman’s experience quoted in the HuffPost shows:

“I recently visited two high-end retailers and a Victoria’s Secret to get measured. At one of the high-end stores I was fitted for a 32G… At another, I was declared a 30GG. And at Victoria’s Secret, the fitting room associate put me in a laughable 36D” (HuffPost, 2019)

So why does this happen? How can the same woman at the same point in her life be told she is so many different sizes at once. Well as the young lingerie entrepreneur I spoke with, Grace Fishwick, put it:

“sizing is just a complete and utter mess”.

There is no actual industry-wide sizing standard specification upon which manufacturers base their designs. This means that there can be variation between what a specific bra size means for different brands. On top of this, there is just a general lack of understanding and knowledge of the complicated bra sizing system among those wearing them.

The concept of ‘sister sizing’ is something that many are not familiar with, and that I myself didn’t know about until recently. Essentially it means that cup size is not the same for any size with the same letter, the cup size changes as the band size changes too. So for example, a 34C would not be equivalent to the same cup size as 36C. Instead a 36C would be cup size equivalent to a 34D and a 38B, which would be its’ ‘sister sizes’.

So why is all of this important and relevant?

Because it is clear that sizing takes a backseat to design and aesthetics in the industry, which is part of the reason as to why so many womxn are wearing the wrong size and as a result experiencing negative health consequences and comfort issues.

It also means there is a lack of emphasis placed on truly understanding consumer shape and sizing needs in the industry as a whole. And this is what feeds into the crucial inclusion and diversity problem that lingerie brands have.

This oversight is something that begins within fashion education in universities and shapes attitudes that run within the industry. Grace, having just set up her own luxury lingerie business on instagram in December, gave me some important insight into what her own experience had been like.

When asked whether she thought there had been enough emphasis placed on health research and the support and sizing aspect of lingerie in her education she saidNo, I don’t think so at all”.

She went on to explain that focus on support and sizing was reserved for those who were specifically interested in focusing on “bigger busted bras” and that the default was almost to work exclusively on smaller sizes so that the focus could be placed on aesthetics.

No wonder the industry continues to be very far from representing the sizes of its consumer base. She strongly agreed that the predominant attitude in the industry was still far removed from the reality:

“It’s ‘this looks aesthetically pleasing, a consumer will buy this’ but they’re creating a fake person almost, that’s not what someone would look like and that’s not who would buy it”

How everyone could benefit from better understanding of sizing

A lot of these problems would be solved if a better understanding of consumer sizes was made available throughout the whole supply chain in lingerie making. It is pretty commonplace for designers and pattern cutters to give absolutely no consideration to the shape and bust size of those they are designing for, simply because this information isn’t really something that has been given importance before and therefore not available.

But as we are entering a time in which womxn’s health concerns are finally being given the attention they deserve, and brands are beginning to acknowledge the importance of focusing on diversity and inclusion, an understanding of sizing is becoming more and more relevant.

Grace’s enthusiasm for the idea of data on customer shape, sizes and preference for fit being made available shows exactly this:

“For me that would be helpful because you know what to prioritize within comfort, aesthetics etc... You know exactly what the customer wants and needs but you also know exactly what their size is as well”

This would finally mean the end of hearing the words “I really like this design but it doesn’t work for me”. And would put the actual consumer at the center of the product that is being designed and manufactured for them.

Written by our blog writer Carla Mcdonald-H!

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