I’ve written about lingerie for years, and this is still one of the most frequently asked questions that I get: why don't brands make bras above a G Cup?
In part, I think this question is common because it's evident whenever you look at a site that carries lots of lingerie brands. There’s tons of choice up to a G cup** and then it all just seems to dribble away to nothing but beige t-shirt bras that look like body armor.
Multiple issues affect the great bra sizing gap. Some are construction based while some have more to do with retailers and the perception that by creating bras above a G cup you’re catering to the plus size market rather than the core size market. If this all sounds complicated, I’m going to try to break it down so everyone can finally have a complete explanation of why we see this giant glaring size gap.
Problem #1: Breast Weight
The amount of weight a bra has to support and lift up is directly related to how large a cup size the bra is. When you look at the D to G market, this weight is all easily supported with standard designs and materials. Despite being in the full-busted category, someone who is a 28D won’t have breasts that weigh a lot. Someone who is a 28J will, even if their body is still smaller.
Weight effects both construction techniques and materials used to create the bra. Ever wondered why when a place like Bravissimo shows a sheer bra they also note that it comes lined after a certain cup size? That lining isn’t about covering up or aesthetics: it’s about supporting more weight in that size range. Bras above a G cup can cost more in materials (non-standard underwires, power mesh linings, etc.) and construction techniques necessary to create the same amount of lift as a design to support breasts that are lighter. All of this adds up to a much higher total manufacturing cost per bra, which not all companies feel like they can manage financially.
Problem #2: Shape, Size, and Weight Distribution
Everyone’s breasts are different, but in general, a woman who wears a G cup and below will have relatively similar breasts to another woman in that size range. One design can be scaled up with the knowledge that similar sizes, shapes and weight distributions will hold true for the whole range. This cuts down on expenses like samples and fit models.Panache Jasmine Balconette Bra Available in Bands 30-38, Cups D-K via HerRoom
Once you go above a G cup, the way a woman’s breasts are shaped and how their weight is distributed becomes much more dramatic and much less predictable. Two women can have the same measurements and not fit the same bra, which makes it harder to scale a collection up or down and have it work well for your entire customer base. There are some ways to work around this, but they’re all expensive and time-consuming. You can create a ton of samples and use a ton of fit models, or you can create each bra by hand the way some indie lingerie companies do. Even so, your product will probably fit a lower percentage of your customer base than if you only made sizes up to a G cup. In general, companies see this as more risk for less profit.
Problem #3: People perceive cup sizes over a G cup to be plus size, even when they’re not.
In general, both lingerie consumers and companies still associate larger cup sizes with being fat. Obviously, we know from experience this is not the case. You can be a size zero with comparatively large breasts or a size 22 with small breasts. However, to most of the world, bigger breasts = a higher body fat percentage.
Daisy Bra by Bravissimo Available in Bands 28-38, Cups DD-K via Bravissimo Tutti Rouge Fifi Bra Available in Bands 28-38, Cups D-J via Tutti Rouge
While this shouldn’t make a difference in why companies expand into some size ranges and not others, it does. Plus size advertising comes with its own can of worms, including the risk that your business is accused of supporting unhealthy lifestyles and the “obesity epidemic”. In most cases, it isn’t worth the money and time a size expansion would take when it comes with increased risk of negative associations.
Problem #4: Retailers won’t always buy sizes over a G cup.
Many companies are fighting the good fight and want to expand beyond a G cup, but can’t get past the blockade of risk-averse retailers. Ultimately, a size expansion has to be profitable to justify the money for samples, research, development, and production. Lingerie companies will only go ahead with the process if they have the prospect of sales in the future - and it’s not uncommon for retailers to make it clear that they have no interest in spending their money on “risky” stock if a company goes ahead with the process. With no sales on the horizon, the company is forced to shut down the expansion process and sell what already works.
That said, it’s not all bad news if you’re in the dreaded H+ cup range. Polish brands like Ewa Michalak and Samanta are putting out great bras in a variety of sizes. European-based companies like Bravissimo, Panache, and Elomi are expanding even further into that size range. Giant online retailers like Figleaves have great house brand lines like Lulu Tout that go up to an H cup. While I’d love to see more luxury brands go there, I suspect they will end up following the trends of larger retailers in the long run. If there is a luxury full-bust brand offering stuff in your size, the best way to vote for more options is to buy something.
Do you have any more questions about this gap in the market? What lingerie lines would you most like to see expand beyond a G cup? Let me know!
**This post uses the UK bra sizing system, which is distinctly different from the US bra sizing system. A UK G cup (the standard divide utilized in this article) equates to a US I cup. Most US brands stop at a US G, which equates to a UK FF. To help this make sense, try this bra conversion chart.