Bra sizes balloon: Blame obesity!

It's convenient to assume our expanding waistlines are causing our expanding bustlines. Too bad it's not true

Topics: Body Wars, Broadsheet, Obesity, Love and Sex,

Bra sizes balloon: Blame obesity!

Earlier this week, Women’s Wear Daily gave “breast men” (and women) everywhere something to celebrate: Bra sizes are up! Way up! While the median size just 10 years ago was 36C, the median American rack now fills a porn-ready 36DD!

But don’t throw a party yet: As basically everyone who’s covered the spike so far has pointed out, this is not a good thing. In fact, the consensus is that we’re buying larger bras because — you guessed it — we’re fat. Amy Odell at The Cut is so sure of this that she treats it as a foregone conclusion: “Our boobs are bigger because we are more obese, of course.” Of course! Wendy Atterberry at The Frisky spins the news as a silver lining to the puffy cloud that is our national weight problem: “It’s no secret that Americans are getting fatter each decade (obesity rates have doubled since 1980), but the news isn’t all bad. The upside to our bigger waistlines? Bigger bustlines to go with them!” At least Margaret at Jezebel is onto something when she points out that obesity alone is unlikely to have caused a “sudden 7.7 percent increase in sales last year.”

Huh. Could it be that obesity isn’t the sole — or even the primary — factor here? Considering that in the past decade, cup sizes have ballooned while band sizes have stayed static at 36, it seems likely that this isn’t just about weight gain. Sure, when we put on a few pounds, we’re liable to store some of that fat in our breasts. But doesn’t it stand to reason that bulking up would also make us at least a bit bigger all the way around?

Thankfully, British tabloid the Telegraph actually asked an expert when a similar stat arose across the pond earlier this month in conjunction with a piece on London stores beginning to stock size-K bras. That’s right: It’s not just U.S. fatties who are busting out of their undergarments. The most common U.K. bra size has jumped from — brace yourselves — 34B to 36D in only 10 years. That’s two cup sizes and a band size! British women must be gaining weight even more rapidly than American women!



Except that they’re probably not. As Dr. Joanna Scurr, a biomechanics lecturer at the University of Portsmouth tells the Telegraph, “Breasts are getting bigger but it’s not just because we are getting heavier.” In fact, in a four-year study of 300 women, the university discovered that ladies’ breasts are, on average, increasing independent of weight gain. “We don’t yet know the reason but it has certainly made women much more aware of the need for correct support,” says Dr. Scurr.

So, there you have it. Bustlines are increasing, but not necessarily as a result of fat. But could there be other, non-biological reasons behind the upswing? To their credit, WWD and the other publications who picked up their story did look at one other factor in the bra size increase: The Oprah effect. Odell explains: “Oprah brought full-figured bras into the spotlight when she introduced Bra Fit Interventions to explain the joys of properly fitted bras to women across the nation, and began highlighting Bra Fit Tips for fuller-figured women on her website.”

While I’m sure Oprah has had no small effect on women’s bra-buying habits, I don’t think her audience merely suffered from a lack of information. For one thing, it’s much easier to buy a non-standard-size bra online now than it was at the turn of the millennium. Plus, all the media attention may also have had the effect of normalizing something that once felt freakish and shameful: Who knew there were so many other women out there who truly should be wearing a 34F or 32H? It’s much easier to admit to ourselves that our chests cannot be contained within the 32A-36D universe when we realize that our predicament isn’t so rare, after all.

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>