Breast Size Bias? Bigger Bras a Growing Concern

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Back in high school my breasts often arrived in the room before I did. My breast size was a frequent topic of conversation.

I sported a pair of DDs in the 1970s, rare in the decade known for encouraging bra-less freedom. That was not an option for my buoyant “girls.” And their power seemed out of my control. I wasn’t sure how to react to the extra attention they drew, especially from boys and much older men. I didn’t think my boobs were particularly big until a girl in gym class pointed out that I was bustier than others in the crowded locker room. It was then I discovered that there are only two sizes of breasts: either too big, or too small.

Despite the American slogan that “bigger is better,” I didn't consider my super-sized breasts an obvious advantage (except once when I was pulled over for going 90 in a 70 MPH zone and could thank my uber-tight tee for distracting the highway patrolman from issuing me a ticket). There were ongoing struggles to get strangers to look me in the eye. There was an unspoken inference that more than a handful made me sexually available, or a slut. There were the shopping challenges of finding bras and clothing to fit my 5’ 4” top-heavy frame. And then there were the negative comments from own sex. It was assumed I enjoyed and/or “asked for” this superficial attention. It took me years to shake off these labels and accept my true breast self.

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While some things have changed in the boob world, size bias has not. Take this week’s report of a young woman who was refused a seat on Southwest Airlines because of her “excess cleavage.” Ah, yes, bigger boobs are offensive, unless they're on display by the porn industry. Did it occur to anyone that she might have trouble finding undergarments and dresses to fit her ample chest? I can understand a straightforward rule of "no shirt, no service," but it's tough to set immeasurable cleavage guidelines. Besides, unlike in my youth, buxom frames are now the norm---not the exception. Breasts have gotten bigger over the past 15 to 20 years and experts say “E” is the new “C.”

Bra fitters insist this has nothing to do with cosmetic surgery. Those women aren't the ones they’re fitting into the E through K bra range. Yes, some of it can be linked to worldwide obesity, since breasts are mostly made of fat. And a number of plus-size lingerie websites are now targeting this (pardon the pun) growing market. But not all women gain or lose weight in their breasts. Increasing demand for small band and deep cup sizes defies explanation. Some speculate it's due to hormones in the food chain, or environmental toxins. No one knows why because few take breast science seriously. Whatever the cause, larger breasts are here to stay.

Southwest Airlines isn't the only company to be schooled in the state of women’s breasts and normal breast size. Lingerie leader Victoria’s Secret is  adapting to this swelling trend. They're now offering up to a DDD on their site. Ironically, their store racks are filled with cleavage-creating push up bras that might make smaller women feel inadequate about their size.

New and old brands, though, have stepped in to fill the larger cup gap. Even independent apparel designers now make made-to-the-measure-of-your-bust styles. It's great to see retailers embrace the variety of shapes now found in nature. But tired old breast size stereotypes persist. It's time women's bodies were celebrated for their ever-changing feminine dimensions, and without unnecessary and undesirable psychological padding.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced breast size bias? Had trouble finding clothes or lingerie to fit your unique shape?

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