Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
I had so many wonderful comments at questions in my last post that I wanted to address them fully here in a new post. After work tonight I'll be able to respond to each person individually. Additionally, I still have quite a bit of data to weed through so there will be more posts to come.
What some of you don't know is that no only did I post this survey on my blog but I also posted it in a Weight Loss Forum that I belong to where the women would not necessarily have large breasts or small band sizes. Unfortunately, I don't have the data on the percentage of women who filled out this survey because of my blog vs. the percentage who filled it out because of the weight loss forum. However, I do have data on the Bust size of the women surveyed and I will post that in an upcoming post.
Additionally, I found that within the healthy range it appears that my statistics reconfirm previous data. The Marines have published data: http://www.humanics-es.com/ADA316646.pdf from 1995 where they did a study that included taking the underbust measurements of women.
To be in the marines you must be under certain weight (depending on your height) and that weight falls within only the healthy BMI range. According to their data the average female ribcage measurements is 30". That fits perfectly with my data. The owner of bratabase has also agreed to compare the statistics on the site to my data (don't worry, individual data will not be released or posted here, just the averages from that site) and I will be posting that comparison eventually.
If anybody has further information regarding the average underbust measurements of women in the overweight and obese weight ranges I would be very happy to cite them here and compare them to my data. Either post the link in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
Assumption Underbust=Band Size
I stand by my decision to use underbust=band size. I very much agree that on an individual level it is best to try on bras and be aware of what a proper fitting bra feels like. I, myself, need to go down a band size from my underbust measurement so I am quite aware of this. :)
That being said, I would assume on average the the number of women who need to go down a band size are roughly equal to the number of women who need to go up a band size. Thus, I think this is a fair assumption. Realize that I conducted this survey to pass on to bra manufacturers and retailers to point out what sizes are needed vs. what they are providing. Thus, I'm looking more at averages rather than on an individual basis.
Certainly, a better study could be conducted by measuring women in person (I imagine there also is some error built in because women measured themselves and some women will pull the measuring tape tighter than others). However, I do not have the funds for that or the resources and I wanted to get the ball rolling on this. Additionally, this brings up the question of how would you get an accurate measurement of women as a population as a whole? If stores like Bravissimo were to do this they would probably have a much larger sample bias than my study because it would be exclusively made up with women who had at least some concept of proper bra fittings and were most likely large busted. If more mainstreams stores did this you would then have a bias towards larger bands/smaller busts. One advantage of my online survey is that I do get a larger chunk of the population because I have a significant number of international readers and readers who come to my blog for the weight loss discussions/fashion advice not just for having a large bust size.
I made the assumption that my readers understand about proper bra fitting and how essential it is, especially once you go up in cup sizes. If you question about this I suggest you check out:
- my links in Finding Bras that Fit,
-look at this video over at FullerFigureFullerBust,
-Pictures of a Well-fitting Bra vs. Poorly Fitting bra,
- and see the difference here that a well-fitting bra can make in terms of support and uplift.
Personally, I find that a band that is just one band size too big can give me severe back pain and my own mother has had a breast reduction due to back pain. Telling women that they need to add 4/5 inches to their underbust size is outdated advice from a time when bands were not made out of strechy material like they are today and it is not practical as a starting point. While some women may need to go up a band size or two due to having a ribcage that widens from their underbust, many of us need to go down a band size or two due to having a smaller ribcage than their underbust measurement. When you get into the plus-sized range you have further issues because it depends on how squishable your back is (for instance, a women who naturally has a wider ribcage vs. one who has a larger amount of fat covering her ribcage might have very different needs for their band size).
Astrid pointed out that it might be interesting to redo the results with waist measurements and I agree and had already planned this. Typically 35" and above is considered the "unhealthy region" for a waist measurement and below 35" is considered healthy so in this case I split the the band sizes in two groups. Unfortunately, a number of respondents didn't know their waist size (34 to be exact) but we still had a good deal who did.
When talking about percentages, 87.03% of respondents had waists < 35" whereas 12.97% of respondents had waists >= 35". Looking at the data by waist size we see much more of a distinction between the two groups:
In the top figure one can clearly see that, again, most women fit into the 24-36 band size range, 98.8% to be exact, and 88% fit into the 26-34 band size range. The most needed are 28 and 30 bands, which again match the marines' data cited above.
When we go to the >=35" category we can see fairly quickly that 36 band is the clear winner. 87.5% of women fit into the 30-44 band size range. One thing we do see, though, is that when you increase the waist size you also deal with a wider range of band sizes. This does place a lot of onus on plus-sized stores because they need to cover a larger range of bands in order to fit their target consumer. However, like I mentioned in my previous post that simply is not happening. In terms of statistics for the plus-sized women in my survey:
- 20.8% need a 32 band or under
- 33.3% need a 34 band or under
- 60.4% need a 36 band or under
Looking at these statistics, I would guess that most plus-sized stores are catering to the 35" waist women and above. This rings true from my own experience experience when I used to shop at Lane Bryant. However, in doing so they are missing out on a number of women who are overweight or obese. In my survey 176 respondents provided enough data so I could calculate both their BMI and waist measurement. Of those:
- 58.5% were in the healthy BMI range. Of those respondents 2.9% had waist measurements over 35"
- 21.6% were in the overweight BMI range. Of those respondents 0% had waist measurements over 35"
- 19.9% were in the obese BMI range. Of those respondents 42.9% had waist measurements over 35"
From that we can conclude that plus-sized manufacturers are catering to a smaller chunk of the population than just women fitting into the overweight and obese range. Rather, it's more on the order of 43% of obese women (with small percentages in other BMI categories). Lane Bryant, for instance, has its smallest size 14 listed as corresponding to a 34" waist (although, I have to say a 35" or even 36" waist might be more accurate in my experience). So, really, they are only catering to less than half of obese women both in terms of clothes and bras. I should mention, though, that there might be some bias in my survey towards an hourglass frame due to the nature of this blog so that may skew respondents towards having smaller waist sizes. If anyone knows of studies comparing waist sizes and weights I'd be interested in comparing them to my results.
I also want to mention something, though. I wonder if the bias in terms of where a women measures her waist and how tight it is, isn't more significant than weighing oneself (especially since many women have digital scales) and a woman's height does not vary as much as a waist size (personally my waist can go up 1-2" depending on where I am in my cycle, what time of day I measure, and what I have eaten recently). Weight also varies depending on these factors but not as significantly if one measures first thing in the morning in the nude. Again, I think going by waist size would be more effective if we were able to measure women in person.
On a personal note
This survey is NOT meant to be a judgment on women's bodies and I am in no way whatsoever trying to criticize a certain body type. Rather, I have long suspected that bras and clothing manufacturers are not catering to their customer base and I simply want to point this out and provide data for them to see that there are large chunks of the population that cannot find proper bras and clothes.
If you read my blog at all you know that I have been a woman who had a waistline well over 35" ( I believe it was 38" the first time I measured it but that was already when I had started losing weight) and at my highest I used to wear very, very tight 16s from Lane Bryant. The largest bra size that I recall wearing was a 40K. I'm extremely thankful to bra and clothing manufacturers that cover the higher end of the band/clothing sizes and that certainly is needed also. But I want to point out that the lower end also needs to be covered and that there is a good deal of women in that range too. :)