“Why are British women’s breasts getting bigger?”

This week’s Headline of a Past Week honor goes to a May 16, 2010 headline in The Observer (Thanks to investigator Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.):

Why are British women’s breasts getting bigger?

Alice Fisher wrote the article, waxing most analytical in this passage:

Do you know how to work out a bra size? As roughly 50% of the British population wear them, you’d have thought most of them would have an idea. But though a 2009 survey found that the average British woman owns 16 bras at any one time and buys four every year, fitting them is a surprisingly tricky activity. The traditional method reads like an A-level algebra problem. You take a tape measure and wrap it round your chest at the lowest point where a bra sits. You record this figure in inches. You add four to this measurement if the number is even, five if it’s odd – and the resultant number is your band size. Then you wrap the tape round again and measure the fullest part of the actual breasts. Next you subtract the band size from breast size to find your cup size. If the numbers are the same, you’re an A cup. If there’s an inch difference, you’re a B; two and you need a C cup and so on. Alternatively, and many bra experts say more accurately, you can weigh your breasts by dunking them into a full bowl of water and measuring the displaced liquid, with 1 litre of water equalling 1kg. It’s accurate but useless. You can do precisely nothing with this information, as no bra manufacturer measures boobs by the pound….

The typical bra size sold in Britain has increased over the years, as has the range of sizes on offer. Fisher presents differing half-guess explanations from persons who have studied the biomechanics, diet, or fashion aspects of the phenomenon. Here’s just a bit of what Fisher found:

“There’s been a huge growth in the small back, larger cup lady, particularly among young girls,” says Julia Mercer, head of fit and technology at M&S[]the department store Marks & Spencer]s underwear department. “The younger girls just seem to have bigger breasts now.”

The retailers’ findings are borne out by Britain’s breast biomechanics research unit at Portsmouth University.

BONUS: One theory the article only partially mentions: More merchants are catching on to the notion that customers are flattered by being told they have been wearing bra that are too small for them; some of those customers thereupon decide to switch to a larger size.