By  on August 2, 2007

Sensing a mounting demand for D-cup swimwear, Raj Manufacturing last year retooled its Next by Athena brand to offer up to a D cup in lingerie-style sizing.

The move paid off, with the D cups comprising one-third of Raj's Next by Athena business. As a whole, the Tustin, Calif.-based company's sales increased 130 percent year-over-year, and a substantial chunk of the increase was due to Next by Athena's revamp.

"It seems like whether you are an A, B or C [cup], it is easy to find swimwear," said Lisa Vogel, co-president of Raj Manufacturing. "It used to be really a specialty store business, where women who were looking for [large] cup sizes had to go into specialty stores, but it has really changed. A lot of the major department stores are asking for them."

For the 2008 swimwear season, Raj's pursuit of the D-cup-and-above customer has heated up even more. DD cups have been added to Next by Athena, and Athena's contemporary sister brand, Athena Pick Your Fit, received a helping of D cups in one- and two-piece suits. Also in Raj's brand portfolio, O'Neill Swimwear and Guess Swimwear have moved into D cups.

Roomy tops aren't new to the swimwear industry, but they've mostly been isolated to the plus-size or misses' corner in the past. However, this season is shaping up to be the D cup's coming-out parade, according to Vogel. The mainstreaming of the D cup is taking place on all levels: Brands from across the swim spectrum — designer to junior — are elevating their size options, and retailers, from online to specialty to department stores, are coming along for the ride.

"D is representing a terrific part of our volume," said Bridget Quinn Stickline, vice president of merchandising at swim specialty chain Everything But Water. "I tend to find that this customer is not as embarrassed as she is frustrated. She is more concerned about the fact that she doesn't have what she wants. We want to make sure she is feeling that she has a really good selection."

She added that five of Everything But Water's top 10 sellers this year are either D or DD styles.

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