When bra shopping recently with a friend and her super-smart 10 year old daughter, two questions occurred to me. One, that if a ten year old can learn the basic principles of good fit in ten minutes, why is it taking Simply Yours this long to pull down their dreadful fitting guide? And two, why there are no decent beginner bras for young girls? A request in one of Holland’s largest department stores was met with blank faces, then vague gestures towards padded numbers from Calvin Klein and Aubade. I’m not sure in what reality those brands are style, size or price appropriate for a petite ten year old – but needless to say we left empty handed.
Whether the Daily Mail like it or not, better nutrition means that girls are reaching puberty at a younger age on average than ever before – eleven is normal today – and they need underwear to cover and support them as their bodies begin to develop. I believe very strongly – not least from my own experience – that handling that transition sensitively and appropriately is absolutely essential for building the foundations of healthy body image. Make a teenager feel self-conscious and ‘difficult’ in the changing room, and you’re setting her up for an adolescence of worry. Magnify those effects for a girl even younger, and it’s even more concerning. The lack of options available in this area lets them all down.
And it’s not for want of trying, but for want of trying well. Past attempts by Primark, Matalan, Tesco and Asda – to name but a few – have failed because companies have approached the issue with the sensitivity of a heart surgeon with hams for hands. Push up bras and padding have – perhaps not unfairly – caused accusations of sexualising young girls from groups like Mumsnet and inspired a ‘Let Girls Be Girls‘ campaign to tackle the issue. All products have been hastily retracted, and developing ten year olds go self-consciously without or are judged for going with.
That a brand has responded to their PR fail by enlisting Mumsnet‘s help and advice is really a long overdue no-brainer, but full marks are still deserved by Tesco for making it happen with this Fleur range by F&F. Their collection of simple ‘first bras’ are precisely what has been missing from the market – age appropriate but not huge and repulsive, with no padding or wires to obstruct or irritate the sensitive and developing breast tissue – and all for only £5.
I just look forward to watching the other brands scramble to catch up…
Royce Lingerie do have some first bras. The range is not extensive, but at least they have been available for a while.
What perplexes me about preteen/first bras is how scarce they are in a 28/30 with cups above A (M&S carries more 34Bs than 28Cs in their Angel range…). I would imagine quite a lot of preteen girls need these sizes, but it seems like manufacturers have other ideas.
Yes – I was torn on commenting on the sizing (28-32 is an adult woman’s size to me, not a starter bra size, but I’ve read certainly very first bras aren’t supposed to be too constricting so as not to damage the tissue so didn’t weigh in…) There’s definitely a gap between the crop-tops needed by a girl on the verge of developing and early puberty underwear too. Most of these girls simply will not need a bra as big as a 34B yet that’s all they have to work from. Huge opportunity in the marketplace if someone can handle it sensitively.
It makes sense that a first bra shouldn’t be very tight, and for many girls a tight band wouldn’t be necessary at that stage. My own problem as a teen was that I’d started out in a 34 (when I probably could have worn a 28/30) and continued to believe that was my size until I was 16, a few cup sizes larger, and miserable over my ill-fitting bras. I was in my late teens before I found out there were bands smaller than 32!
I’m really hoping someone fills this gap in oh.. about 10 years. I’d be pretty nervous taking my daughter out today finding bras (and if she ends up being anything like me she’ll definitely need them in the larger cup sizes right from the get go!).
Wouldn’t soft cup or maternity bras be an immediate solution, though? Of course, they don’t always exist in the smaller band sizes but it might work well for girls with larger rib cages.
Soft-cups might be a bit much for a very first bra – they’re quite big and if you are only just starting to change you might have a lot of space in them – but perhaps for the next steps if the design was right. I just seems like such a no-brainer for this to be a bigger industry. We’re not even talking bras for 14/15 year olds, which could potentially need to factor in their fashion/adulthood consciousness in the designs. Their bodies might be growing up but in every other way these girls are children: how did the design team miss that brief when they started sketching out padded bras? I’ve actually been trying to pin the ten-year-old down to chat about her feelings on the matter but you know what ten year olds’ schedules are like!
In the US there are quite a few brands that sell bras geared to younger girls. Justice and Victoria Secrete. I think Royce offer s cheap two pack of pre-teen bras in 28C.
One thing I have noticed is for a lot young women, they tend to get their bras alone or with a friend. It’s no longer a mother daughter thing get your first bra. Most girls will tend to go in a store and just try stuff on until they think the bra fits but they don’t know how a bra should fit.
Most puberty books use the old way of measuring and don’t add anything about fit. I have also seen that a of popular teen sites use the wrong info as well.
I agree. There also should be more bras for teens with big cupsizes. I’m fifteen, my size is 30G and I’d like to have a bra that isn’t made for middle-aged women.
I can totally relate to that – it was all massive beige bras in boxes when I was 15 (and though I was also a 30G, I had to suffer in 34Es). Miserable. Do you know Freya and Cleo? Both bright, colourful brands without (usually) the frump – plus not hideously expensive and you can usually grab a bargain on brastop.com. Good luck! x