Average Bust Size Is DD?

Bra inflation?

Bra inflation?

The average American cup size has gone from 34 B in 1983 to a whopping 34 DD in 2013.

This story was widely picked up.

But is it true?

Media sometimes report faulty findings. Journalists can be lazy, or too trusting. But most times the reason is this:


Sensational headlines get a lot of hits — accompanied by advertising dollars.

So let’s take a closer look at the facts behind the hyperbole.

Bigger busted women were interviewed

Fact: The “research” is not scientific.

The lingerie seller, Intimacy, interviewed more than 60,000 customers at its 16 stores nationwide.

But do these customers reflect the average American woman?

I looked at their website and here’s what I found:

  • The store’s first 5 offerings offered only sizes D-K. Suggesting that they specialize in large sizes.
  • Add two more categories (“Seamless” + “Sports”) and B-cups were added.
  • Only three of ten offerings include an A-cup (“Push-up” + “Strapless” + “T-Shirt”)
  • And nothing for AA’s or AAA’s.

Women with smaller breasts may be more likely to shop with a different retailer, maybe stores that specialize in petite sizes.

So the women being interviewed reflect women with larger breasts.

Additionally, women might exaggerate to make themselves feel better in our big-chest worshiping culture.

Women with bigger breasts also buy more lingerie, so they might be more likely to be selected for interviews simply because they’re more available.

Findings motivated by $$$$

Media make money thru advertising, much more than thru subscriptions. And retailers are more likely to advertise if a site creates content that increases sales.

So, create content that makes women want to buy something: bras, push-up bras, or breast implants, for instance, and you attract more advertising dollars.

And when your magazine is named “Racked” (as in “Check out that rack!”) and is all about shopping, you just know they make money via tie-ins.

Any surprise that news that women now sport enormous breasts was first reported on “Racked”?

Make money by making women feel inadequate

Advertising strategy largely revolves around making people feel inadequate and offering a “solution.”

Intimacy could be motivated to tell women that the average breast size is DD so that they will feel pressured to get implants (because they aren’t normal) and then decorate their new big breasts with lingerie from a retailer that specializes in large sizes.

Plus, women with larger breasts buy more lingerie. Even more sales!

Make the retailer look good

And how does the retailer explain the mushrooming cup size? Better customer service! “Women have begun finding the proper fit.”

Now what would a retailer have to gain by giving that as the reason? It’s not like Intimacy’s tagline is “bra fit stylists.” Is it?

Oh yeah, it is!

Better data

Better data come from the academic UK National Sizing Survey. Compared to 1951, cup size has increased by 1 inch: from 37B to 38C. Weight gain seems to be a big cause since hips have also gained an inch and waists have increased by seven inches.

If you have a choice between an academic study and a “study” by a retailer with something to gain, which would you trust?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 7, 2015, in body image, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. This post was really interesting to me. I could not have guess or known that the average bra size would be a DD! I have always thought that the average size was a B or C — for the longest time ever! The reason why I found this to be very interesting was because I am a DD.
    I find this post to be a little odd because girls who tend to have bigger breast are also the girls who are “thick” or overweight. And that is surprising to me that people know find a size DD to be the “normal” size because I wouldn’t think that people would like a “big girl” just their big breasts.
    Also, I can personally say that when I go into a store looking for bras a lot of times I get told that I am a bigger size than I know. It’s really frustrating because the bigger the bra, the higher the price! That’s another reason why I think that retailers say that the average bra size is a DD. It’s really annoying how expensive bras can get.

  2. It’s confusing to me to hear about marketers/ads/media preaching that the average bust size is a DD, when you have the same media and society telling women and girls you have to be thin. Unless you are bless with the natural born body, most unlikely are you to have a huge bust size while trying to achieve society beauty on a lean, thin body. Yet, I see commercial ads and pictures in magazines with these women with a small body and large breast, which eventually I’ve learned that their body have been photoshopped.

    I’ve met a lot girls and women who want to achieve that ideal body that society/media and marketers portray by losing weight, but they do not wish to lose their big breast size as if that is the only thing that makes them identify themselves as a woman and one of the body traits they do have that society approves. For small breasted females like myself, feel the need to have large breast instead of, what people have called mine, childlike and underdeveloped to be able to buy a bra from, say, the most advertise bras from Victoria Secret to be in the norm.

    I’m only referring to the girls and women I have met in my lifetime because I don’t know if all other women or girls would agree with me and if they don’t, that’s also fine. But there seems to be like a concept that to be a woman you need a pair of large breast( and/or other exaggerated body part like the butt, hips, etc….) and if you’re a woman, you have to be able to buy these high brand lingerie, bras that are ridiculously expensive. Even more spending when marketers play along with this idea to get women to get bigger breast by having implants, push up bra, etc. and make money off them. I could be wrong though.

  3. “Academic studies suggest that overweight is the biggest reason for the bra size increase. I’m sure that implants also play a role.”

    This was my thought, that increased cup size went hand-in-hand with an increase in band size. In other words, weight gain and possibly a shift to a full coverage bra that gathers more breast volume. After all, by ascending proportion a 34B is a 36C is a 38D…

    Smaller band sizes, 36C or less, come in many more styles and decoration (at affordable prices). I know Europe lead the trend to larger cup sizes for small & medium band size women, for an increased price. But could some of these sales be the result of larger band sized women buying the affordable style they desire and using band extenders? Then there is the internet, which through forums for breast enhancement and also feedback from women, particularly in the swimwear sections, might suggest to some manufacturers & retailers that their is a niche market large enough to support larger cup sizes.

    I just wish that manufacturers would make more stylish bras of the 3 column X 3 post variety. They are way more comfortable and don’t shift around as much, plus they present a better line back (less bulge) under sweaters.

  4. I think it’s pretty rare to see a smaller and slender girl with bigger breasts. And I think that the reason why this data MAY or may not be true that the “average” size is 34DD is because we live in a generation where people don’t eat healthy and are overweight.

  5. I don’t understand why you would delete my comment, given that I am a regular user here. I strongly suspect you have labelled me as the ‘marketer’ when I was merely sharing my opinion. I am deeply hurt how you’ve dismissed a legitimate point of view and am really disappointed in the kind of response you show to dedicated viewers.

    When you respond with such vitriol to people who have different opinions from yours, you are only being a detriment to your cause. I will not be following your blog anymore given that there is no scope for honest conversation and debate. Please do look into who you’re replying to before dismissing them off entirely.

    • I’m afraid I don’t hear from you often enough to recognize you as a regular reader.

      But I worry about the pressure that this sort of fabricated “news” puts on girls and women — many of whom will feel like they need breast implants now, because they are so far from what is “normal.” Or if they don’t decide to get implants, many will feel inadequate — between hearing that the average size is DD and living in a culture that worships bigger-size breasts. It is also bad for men to who feel like they should be with someone who is “normal” — around DD. And that combination of female and male perspectives is really bad for male-female relationships. Imagine what it is like for a man and woman in bed if she is B-cup or below and they have those attitudes? Not to mention general women’s self-esteem, and the self-esteem of men who love women with smaller breasts.

      And all of those problems can be created when there is clearly no need to think that DD is the new normal.

      There’s no doubt that there is now more information out there to help women have a bra that fits better.

      But there is no reason to believe that this better information explains why DD is the new normal — because it is not. (See the academic study I referred to.)

      But the way your comment read, it sounded to me like a marketer, so I dismissed it. Sorry about that. I’ve reinstated it.

  6. Although the data was false, it’s almost a self-fulfilling marketing prophecy due to their motivation to sell more. Companies always focus on the profit and would encourage information like this because of the increasing prices of the larger breasts sizes. Not to mention that these companies would make a killing if women needed to buy more bras, which are expensive enough as it is.

  7. Awww, this is just like when I found out Santa wasn’t real 😦

  8. Actually it isn’t surprising. DD Is NOT A BIG SIZE AT ALL.

    This isn’t any marketing conspiracy. The average size hasn’t gone up, it is just that people have started FINDING THE PROPER FIT.

    There is a huge misunderstanding about bra sizes. I used to wear 36C, which is considered small. But afterwards, I found out that 28 G was my actual bra size that fits, which is considered ginormous. It actually isn’t that huge. Look at http://www.bigcuplittlecup.net/think-know-d-cup-looks-like/ I wouldn’t be surprised if the 36c/38dd women here find a 30G bra that fits them better. Most women nowadays are wearing bras that don’t fit. Due to increasing awareness, people are buying bras their correct size and hence this shift.

    • Ah, ya didn’t read the post, did you?

      Including this part:

      And how does the retailer explain the mushrooming cup size? Better customer service! “Women have begun finding the proper fit.”

      Now what would a retailer have to gain by giving that as the reason? It’s not like Intimacy’s tagline is “bra fit stylists.” Is it?

      Oh yeah, it is!

  9. Media persons know what sells…it’s easy to create a sense of insecurity and inadequateness among women by preaching the average size as 34DD…

  10. I like the tagline – Bra Inflation. I won’t comment further 😛

  11. I’ve definitely become more skeptical when I see ads these days- it’s great that there are changes – like the Barbie doll ad with a boy in it or ads supposedly touting feminist values- yet at the end of it all it’s about using what women want to make a sale.

  12. I read a study a while ago that more comfortable “Granny” underwear was becoming popular with women. These older styles are being preferred partly because of comfort, but partly because modern sizes aren’t as accurate as you think. A long time ago, I read that women deliberately wore bigger/smaller bras, depending on how they felt about their breasts. After all, there are girls and women who actually feel more self-conscious about being bigger-sized. Therefore, I think the “research” is even less likely to reflect what the reality is.

  13. In other news, recent studies have highlighted a similar trend in men, with penises going up and up. The average length is now estimated to be eight inches, based on computer analysis of over one million hours of free porn from sites such as PornHub.

    Researchers hypothesise that the easy availability of penis extension kits may be to blame, but note also, “Women are better educated now and demand more from their men – and men, being men, interpret this to mean more inches. Gone are the days when a man could pass a five-inch penis off as ‘average size’.”

    Not all researchers agree with these findings, and are calling for less fortunate men to stand up and be counted.

    • I find it fascinating that “women now demand more from their men” would be interpreted this way. Not surprising, especially given how porn actresses respond to a big penis. But completely wrong. Only about 20% of women prefer a larger penis. The rest think it hurts or they don’t care. Maybe I’ll write about this some day, too.

      • (At the risk of pointing out the obvious, my comment was pure tongue-in-cheek – sorry…)

      • I was surprised that anyone would think that those kits work.* But I do suspect that plenty of men would interpret “women now demand more from their men” as wanting a bigger penis. So I may still write a post! 🙂


  14. Give me academic. I won’t bother puzzling over a ‘manufactured’ headline, though, in this case, I automatically assumed that my generation (boomers) were aging and putting on the pounds.

  15. I would trust what I observe. I do not observe a lot of women with DD’s and up.

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