By  on May 8, 2006

NEW YORK — The foundations industry is addressing a growing demand for an underserved classification: fashion bras for women in the DDD to G cup range.

There are three main reasons, industry executives said, for the trend to bras that feature fashion colors, specialty fabrics and trims, and sophisticated styling for busty women: exposure over the past year on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which has aired segments on lingerie and finding the right-fitting bra; the focus on Hollywood celebs and red-carpet cleavage, and the growing popularity of breast augmentation, especially among younger women.

"There's a whole shift in size selling and thanks, in part, to Oprah, a lot of women are going into stores knowing they will have to invest in a $65 bra," said Victoria Vandagriff, president of Elle Macpherson Intimates. "Almost everybody went down a band size and have gone up in cup size. In reality, a lot of women have discovered that once they are properly fitted, they are not a 34B but are really a 34D."

Bob Vitale, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Wacoal America, said, "We've had great interest after being featured on the ‘Oprah' show. After the last couple of years, there's been growing interest in our full-figure DDD bras, and last fall showed us an even greater opportunity for G cups."

Wacoal will introduce three new styles for spring that go up to G cups.

In response, specialty boutiques that cater to customers' needs and offer bra fittings such as Intimacy, Bare Necessities and the Town Shop, as well as major stores, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard's, are bolstering fashion assortments in the full-busted range, said a number of industry executives.

Since 2005, a number of bra resources such as Wacoal America have launched fashion bras that go up to G cup sizes. Elle Macpherson Intimates has introduced Fayreform, a fashion brand bowing for fall for full-busted women that features G cups, and other makers specializing in cup sizes that go beyond a DDD range include Panache, Prima Donna and Lunaire.

"We came out with a bra called Tisha and sent it to Oprah, but she found it wasn't for her," said Michael Rabinowitz, president and chief executive officer of Le Mystère. "So we came out with another version, a full-fit bra that offered more coverage, and we changed the fabric from micro nylon to Tactel and Lycra. She liked that. It comes in sizes 32C to 44G."Maidenform, Lilyette, Felina, Jezebel, On Gossamer and Le Mystère are exploring the expansion of fuller-cup bra assortments that are what the industry calls full-support or full-figure classifications.

Rabinowitz added that a luxe line of deeper-cup bras called Le Mystère Doré will be introduced in August. Cups sizes will be DDD to F and G.

The Warnaco Group will launch a line of bras by Olga's Christina with Macy's in July that go up to DDD. The launch is exclusive to Macy's for 90 days, said Anne DiGiovanna, vice president of marketing at Warnaco.

Meanwhile, the growing demand for fuller-cup fashion bras is reflecting an evolving consumer base that represents two consumer segments, both of which want merchandise that reflects an attitude of empowerment, well-being and sex appeal, industry executives said.

One segment represents the under-40 consumer who is proud of generous cleavage and eager to flaunt it. The other group is primarily Baby Boomers whose waistlines and bust lines are spreading with middle age and who are clamoring for youthful-looking undergarments that offer lift and support.

Linda AuBuchon, vice president of sales for the Felina and Jezebel brands at Felina Inc., said, "It's a great specialty store business, but it requires professional fitters and knowing what the customer is looking for. I know Nordstrom is starting to go beyond DDDs. I think that customer has always been there, but now she's younger, more affluent and willing to pay for bras that are prettier and more fashionable in a DDD or G cup."

AuBuchon noted that the company's bras are generally sized C to DDD, but G cups are being considered.

"Bigger breasts are now fashionable," said Connie Elder, president of Lipo in a Box, an e-commerce business that launched the Smart Bra in April. "You see the trend in magazines, everywhere. I worked in the plastic surgery business and am larger-busted and I'm seeing more and more breast augmentations out there."

Elder said she introduced the C to DDD cup line of four bra styles for women who are "size six or 16, young or aging, with what I call homegrown breasts who want to look pretty and have a bra that holds them up. Business has been great."For decades, manufacturers and retailers have churned out fashion offerings for what are considered average-size consumers in the 32A to 36C range. But little thought and design creativity has gone to larger-cup bras that typically are basic, commodity items for women who are generally perceived to be full-figured and overweight. Since 2000, the average bust size of American women has increased to 36C from 34B, bra specialists said.

"We are expanding DDD assortments in our Lilyette brand, and DDDs now represent close to 30 percent of our Lilyette C to DDD cup style business," said Maurice Reznik, president of Maidenform Inc. "It's one of our fastest-growing segments and there's been a lot of demand for pretty, low-plunge bras in deeper cup sizes. As a company, we are intensifying DDD sizes in Lilyette and will be introducing DDDs in Maidenform in 2007."

Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of merchandising for bras bearing the licensed Liz Claiborne Intimates and Eileen West labels at the Chelsea Group, said the perception of deeper cup sizes is gaining wider acceptance from retailers and consumers.

"I was thinking, how high can cup sizes go?" Garfinkle said. "Now people are talking G cups and the average dress size is a 14 or 16. That interest is being driven by stores like Nordstrom and Dillard's that service customers and know what their needs are."

Garfinkle said bras by Eileen West are sized up to DDD, while bras by Liz Claiborne go up to DD. There also is a Have to Have Value Collection by Liz Claiborne that ranges from B to DD cups and retails for $16.98.

Dressing up large-size bras is another area that has potential for growth.

Ann Deal, president and ceo of Fashion Forms Inc., said, "For fall '06, we came out with detachable, clear, wide bra straps for full-busted women who wear strapless bras underneath sheer tops. The straps offer support and will fit bras up to a G cup. It's selling like hotcakes."

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