Small Bust Lingerie Market
“Another group of lingerie consumers still feels neglected. And these smaller busted women (who might be considered the C- crowd) feel they have few choices when it comes to intimate apparel.”
Story by Elisabeth Dale.
Elisabeth Dale is an internationally renowned breast expert and author, and the founder of TheBreastLife.com. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Tyra Banks Show, BBC World News, NPR, and has been featured in The New York Times, Cosmo, Glamour, Men’s Health, and the Sunday London Times.
It might be hard to believe that a market for smaller bust and petite lingerie exists. After all, the trend in intimate apparel over the past decade has been in the expansion of bras sizes to meet the needs of women wearing deep and/or plus sizes.
Many more new full cup brands have been launched. And established manufacturers have extended their ranges up to J and K cups and beyond. Intimate apparel retailers have designated separate full bust or plus size shopping sections, either online or in their brick and mortar stores.
All this attention to the D+ customer was long overdue. They have style, fit, and size issues that needed to be addressed. And rising sales and continued growth in this market proves that a demand for fashionable and well-fitting lingerie across many sizes has few limits.
Above: Bella Petite Lingerie’s Sheer Collection Chemise.
“It’s important for retailers to encourage smaller busted customers to try different styles and brands, as they do with more full bust clients.”
But the pendulum may be swinging too far to one side of the alphabet cup. Another group of lingerie consumers still feels neglected. And these smaller busted women (who might be considered the C- crowd) feel they have few choices when it comes to intimate apparel.
They may be right. A quick search of one popular on-line lingerie retailer shows as many styles offered in 34F as in 34C (approximately 650). The same retailer carries only 220 bras in a 34A, and a mere five bras in 32A and AA, with none in AAA.
According to some small bust intimate apparel manufacturers, the demand exists but continues to be ignored for a variety of reasons:
- First, assumptions regarding petite-busted women undermine the growth of the petite bust lingerie market.
- Second, retailers aren’t aware of the needs of the small bust customer, which translates into a lack of inventory or misunderstanding of specific petite bust fit issues.
- Third, even though brands and stores don’t offer much in petite lingerie sizes, most lingerie advertising creates the illusion that they do.
Both small bust manufacturers and several intimate apparel retailers agree that what’s needed is a change of mindset when it comes to filling this lingerie market gap.
Perceived Customer Need and Desire
Above: Lula Lu Petites Sacha Bra in Fuschia.
Ellen Shing of Lula Lu Petite Lingerie likens the small-busted customer to the unemployed “because, like the unemployed, they have just given up so their numbers aren’t always being counted.” And one of the biggest problems for the smaller busted has to do with the inaccurate belief that such women don’t “need” to wear bras.
Ellen goes on to point out that:
“When girls are going through puberty, they are told they need to wear a training bra or a teen bra. However, if the teen then turns into a grown woman but her breasts have not gotten much bigger, she is later told by friends, family and sometimes fitters that she “doesn’t even need a bra” and/or told to go to the children’s department. The problem is children’s bras do not fit a woman’ body and these women, even though small-busted, want the same choices that other women have when it comes to bra selection.”
Above: Nikol Djumon’s Eteri range produced only in smaller band and cup sizes.
A petite-busted customer may not have the same complex support issues as another fuller busted woman, but she still wants to wear beautiful and feminine underthings. Shing says, “small-busted women go to work, go to parties, get married, etc., and they need appropriate and well-fitting bras for different outfits for different occasions, just like other women.”
Bra Support and Bra Fit Concerns
“A lot of people shy away from stores because they don’t carry smaller sizes.” – Stephanie Ballard, Bella Petite Lingerie.
Small busted women have specific bra fitting issues. For instance, it’s often said by lingerie fitters that most women who wear the wrong size bra usually choose too big a band and too small of a cup size. But according to Shing, smaller busted customers have the opposite problem: “[one] fit issue I commonly see is that our customers come in wearing a smaller band but in a bigger cup because it is all they can find. For example, many women who are 34AA’s come in wearing 32A’s because it can be easier to find a 32A than a 34AA.”
They don’t have the challenge of trying to support a greater volume of breast tissue, but other fit issues are similar to other sizes. This includes difficulties in filling certain types and styles of bra cups, pinching underwires, or simply wearing the wrong brand for their body type.
Above: A selection of styles at Linger.
“In my experience, smaller busted women often don’t believe that they don’t need what they’d call “a real bra.” Many choose a comfort bra or cami. This arises out of a negative body image…” – Kelly O’Brien, Linger.
Often both retailers and customers have a narrow view of small bust customer’s specific bra needs. Stephanie Ballard of Bella Petites feels “stores focus too much on padding. There is a mindset that that a smaller busted woman will want a padded bra. A lot of women don’t feel they need a push up bra to make them bigger.” Ashley Kelsch of Teddies for Bettys adds, “some women don’t want a push up or a contour cup adding an ‘unnatural’ look, whereas others do feel the need to see shape with their shirt on or off.”
As with all women who struggle to find the ‘perfect’ bra, smaller busted women, also need emotional support. Kelly
O’Brien of the New Jersey-baed lingerie boutique, Linger has found:
“In my experience, smaller busted women often don’t believe that they don’t need what they’d call “a real bra.” Many choose a comfort bra or cami. This arises out of a negative body image — I have heard women refer to themselves as being “built like a boy” — or a bad bra experience — “it bagged, it was uncomfortable” etc. They may walk in the shop to buy a panty and say wistfully “oh nothing fits me”. Or “I just wear a kiddie bra.”
You may have to approach a small bust customer from a different angle.
Above: Teddies for Bettys lingerie boutique.
Ashley Kelsch of Teddies for Bettys says, “The idea that a smaller cup doesn’t need support is often embedded in her mind. Sometimes realizing you are investing in the ‘look’ and not the ‘support’ seems less justifiable. At the end of the day, it’ an investment in you and the overall quality of the brand.”
It’s important for retailers to encourage smaller busted customers to try different styles and brands, as they do with more full bust clients.
Advertising vs. Actual Small Bust Inventory
Above: Lula Lu Petites Kallie Iris Set.
Much of popular lingerie advertising highlights thinner, taller, smaller breasted fashion models. But this doesn’t mean greater store inventory in those sizes. Ashley of Teddies for Bettys looks at the small bust marketing problem this way:
“It naturally targets to smaller cup women because that is the majority of what you see in editorial lingerie pictures. It’s already speaking to her. But, that doesn’t mean those sizes are vastly available or that the fit will flatter her. That applies to all sizes.”
Stephanie Ballard of Bella Petite Lingerie believes that many lingerie retailers, in an effort to appeal to a broader base, place too much emphasis on how they carry “all sizes.” When the small bust customer walks in and discovers there are few bras in her A cup, she won’t come back. Even if she finds one or two bras in her size, there are usually no other lingerie pieces, such as camisoles or teddies, available. “A lot of people shy away from stores because they don’t carry smaller sizes. Like Victoria’s Secret – you eventually stop going to those stores,” says Stephanie.
Part 2: Elisabeth Dale gives Retailers 6 Tips to Grow their Small Bust Lingerie Sales. Knowledge you can put to work at your business. Read the full article HERE.
About the Brands Featured
Bella Petite Lingerie was founded by a small busted woman after years of frustration while trying to purchase lingerie. It seems the industry has forgotten that good things DO come in small packages. This company is for women like the founder who knows that NATURAL beauty is the best kind. We will be focused on selling petite lingerie for women with small busts.
Lula Lu Petites. Lula Lu has made it our mission to find the best fitting AAA, AA and A cup bras plus small lingerie for you. Whether you’re looking for a basic T-shirt bra or a sexy bra set, we’ve got you covered!
Nikol Djumon is a lingerie company with a strong family bond between past and present, which is reflected in the company name. The first part of the brand was established on behalf of the owner Nikolay Birkjukov and the second is derived from a family legend, Madame Dumont, who lived in the 18th century in France.
US Distributor, Valens Capital Group