Small Bust Lingerie Market

SmallBustFeature_B650

“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.”


Elisabeth DaleStory 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.
Bella Petite Lingerie Sheer Collection Chemise 1

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

Lula Lu Petites Sacha Bra in Fuschia

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.”

Nikol Djumon Eter range

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

Bella Petite LIngerie at Lingerie Fashion Week

“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.

A selection of styles at Linger

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.

Teddies for Bettys Interior 4

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

Lula Lu Petites Kallie Iris Set

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.

Wholesale Questions?
Stephanie Ballard
stephanie@bellapetitelingerie.com
bellapetitelingerie.com


Lula Lu Petites Essential Tshirt BraLula 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!

Wholesale Questions?
Ellen Shing
ellen@lulalu.com
lulalu.com


Nikol Djumon Eteri rangeNikol 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.

Wholesale Questions?
Tatyana Ponomareva
US Distributor, Valens Capital Group
info@valenslingerie.com

16 Comments on “Small Bust Lingerie Market

  1. Avatar Robin M. says:

    I’d to hear from the retailers focusing on this under served market. Is your focus based on the over saturation of stores catering to the vanity sizing of the USA (ie 2/3 population is over weight–obese), and the interest in establishing a niche.

    I’m surprised the phrase go-global wasn’t mentioned above. Most of us in this “under served market” buy globally for our own personal lingeries collections. A vast # of UK stores and brands serve this customer base- Agent P. probably being the most visible (and a decent footprint in the USA too). Poland has some great brands, that are fashionable. I’d rather pay international ship rates than buy a product that is bland (black, white, nude) and not made for petites.

    A turn off of the USA stores is the USA stocked product… most bras are a cut down in size of the mid range product. Are the designs you make (or lines your carry) as “petite” actually designed FOR petites. Is the pattern selected smaller? Are the embellishments smaller/proportionate to the smaller size? Is the underwire removed, or made shorter with more cushioning? (heavy woman have more cushioning, whereas smaller women have wires digging into their rib cage) Are the cups closer together? In other words, does it fit.

    If you do all these things and still can’t find a market, maybe you need to sell globally (as well as buy the better/global products to carry). There are many non USA populations that have body types traditionally close to the petites of the USA. As both a marketing professional and a high end lingerie collector, I experience the coin from both sides.

    A few positives to my buying and marketing experience within the global lingerie market- I’m learning new languages, have a completely eclectic wardrobe, hear what trends are around the world (both consumers & products), and have an eye for quality and fit that would take exponentially longer to learn if based in 1 geography.

    Lastly, the smaller framed woman appreciates someone to listen to her shape issue and respond with honesty, not just go for the sale. I was once in a Florida lingerie store while on holiday, and horrified to this day that a saleswoman want to make a sale so bad she told me a 36 band could be taken in (ie pinching in the back) to create a 32. You don’t have to be a designer or geometry major to visualize that the cups would then be under your armpits. That treatment alone sends a customer to the bespoke market, from which you might not sway her back to your store.

  2. Avatar Charley says:

    Fantastic post! Completely true. I spent many years being told (and therefore assuming) that I hardly needed a bra. I was once recommended in a store which didn’t stock anything small enough that a bandeau top would ‘be enough’. Very patronising. And I would still be stuck in that rut if not for starting the Big Cup Little Cup blog recently. The trend towards catering for the fuller bust is fantastic but frustrating – I’ve been trying to find a bikini for a winter holiday, and almost every one I fancied started upwards of a D cup – and most of them only ran band sizes as small as 32! Affordable options are a problem – I would love to try the ‘little bra company’ for example, but they’re just out of my price range.

  3. Avatar Violet says:

    Such a great post and so refreshing too! I totally agree with the point that it is often assumed that smaller busted women are looking for a padded or push up bras, and as for being told ‘you don’t need a bra’ How sad! Everyone should enjoy the feeling of wearing beautiful lingerie.
    This is something that Violet’s Knickers hopes to specialise in the very near future and are currently looking into the right brands. But for now however we would urge customers to look at made to measure brands that we support, like eLai and Ludique…small, beautiful and sexy.

  4. Avatar Ash says:

    What a brilliant article!!! So refreshing to see these issues being addressed and giving small-busted women a voice.
    Avariella stocks fashion-led lingerie for smaller-busted women and are working hard to get AA cup production with brands that don’t currently have it. Small boobs deserve to have a wonderfully fitting bra too 🙂 Cant wait for the next article!

  5. Avatar Kelly O'Brien says:

    Great to see passionate responses to this article!

    Any caring retailer wants to delight its customers. This season, I’m trying a bit of a new tactic and stocking more A and B sizes. I want to help my hesitant customers step out off their comfort zone and “go for it.” The look when you see on a woman’s face when she realizes she is beautiful is why I am in this business.

  6. […] recently featured Stephanie’s new styles in our Small Bust Lingerie Market Feature and encourage our readers to read that article. Part 2 debuts later this […]

  7. […] recently featured Stephanie’s new styles in our Small Bust Lingerie Market Feature and encourage our readers to read that article. Part 2 debuts later this […]

  8. Avatar Rozzie says:

    This is a fascinating article!! As someone who was a C cup before I even turned 12, I was always jealous that the A & B cup girls got all the cute bras, while I was forced to wear ones designed for saggy old ladies, because there was nothing else available for me. It very refreshing to see the other side of the size issue that I have so much experience with now, as I am embarrassed to say I had never considered what issues A/AA/AAA cup women encounter once they get past puberty. Of course they want something designed for their age, much like I did and still do. This valuable article has opened my eyes while I research for my own lingerie brand I am planning to launch next year. Looking forward to reading part 2!

    • Hi Rozzie. Glad you found my article helpful and informative. I think one of the reasons that it’s hard to pin down “average” bra sizes for women is that we all wear more than one size during our lifetime. I’ve known women that were C cups before pregnancy, and then A cups afterward. Best of luck with your new lingerie endeavor.

  9. […] Part 1: Elisabeth Dale gives readers an in-depth overview of the Small Bust Lingerie market. If you missed part 1, read the full article HERE. […]

  10. […] Part 1: Elisabeth Dale gives readers an in-depth overview of the Small Bust Lingerie market. If you missed part 1, read the full article HERE. […]

  11. Brilliantly written article that sums up what ive felt for a while. We stock french and italian bras which are very beautiful and suit the smaller bust and we also stock non padded beautiful lace bras for.customers who want a morr.sophisticated and chic look and who prefer to forgo padding and gel bras, however french and italian bras tend to.start at 32.band size. We have found a reasonable.range of 28 and 30.band bras from some uk companies like panache, curvy kate, pour moi and lepel.who provide sizes.like 30b for.instance. the 80%.of.women wearing the wrong size bra definitely fall.into.the A-Dd.category as they have probably felt.a bra fitting is something fuller.busted women do. We have fitted geniune AAA.sizes as well.and although the range we can offer is not as substantial.in quantity as the.faster.selling sizes.they are able.to leave the store with something that will.work.for.them. A common problem that was not mentioned in the article experienced by small bust woman is they find the bra falls away from them when they bend over – it relates.to poor fit but its something small bust women go through for years which erodes thier confidence.

  12. […] well aware, through her own experience, of the discomfort that traditional design can cause on the smaller busted, particularly with firm centre wires that can dig into a sensitive […]

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