Byline: Natasha Courtenay-Smith
WITH their dark hair, strong noses and refined chins, it is immediatelyapparent that women of the Clark family are related. Each is a feature that hasbeen passed through the generations, and will no doubt appear in their childrenand children's children for years to come.
But there is one part of their bodies that does not appear to have been handeddown the family line: their breasts. The matriarch of the family, 69-year-oldYvonne Clark is a 36B, while her daughter Angela Stanton, 51, grew into aC-cup. And the pattern of increasing breast size continues into the nextgeneration: Angela's daughter Tracey's breasts are a 32G.
'I got my first bra when I was 11I was a 32A and one of the first girls at school to need a bra,' says Tracey,who lives in Buckinghamshire with her mother. 'After that, I developed at anunbelievable rate. At 15, I wore a 32E. It seemed unusual considering my motherand grandmother had never been that big, and most of my school friends werestill wearing B-cups.
I'm now a 32G and have been this size since I was 20.
'I love having big breasts. When I get dressed up to go out in the evenings, Imake the most of it. It makes for a great neckline and my friends associate mewith my big chest. I wouldn't want to be known any other way.' Some might callTracey lucky, but, in fact, she is part of a quantifiable scientific reality:British women's breasts are getting bigger with each generation. The averagebra size in the UK is now 36C, whereas just a decade ago it was 34B.
This week, it was announced that in response to demand, Marks & Spencer's is tostock J-cup bras for the first time. Previously, its lingerie department wentup to G, but it will now offer GG, H, HH and J.
Earlier this year, Bravissimo, a bra company that specialises in larger sizes,introduced three different K-cup brasin response to customer demand. At this rate, we'll all reach the nextmillennium with figures like Jordan's, except our breasts will be natural, notsilicone.
'Since the first Bravissimo shop opened in 1999, we have seen a steady flow ofwomen throughout the UK who need a K-cup bra,' says Jacqui Geraghty, ofBravissimo. 'There is nothing unusual in this bra size any more.' Looking ather family line, 67-year-old grandmother Barbara Haywood, a ballroom dancinginstructor, is a little taken aback by the increasing size of breasts througheach generation. Her 22-year-old granddaughter Miranda's 30G breasts swamp herown 36B bosom.
'In my day it was only old, stout ladies who had big bosomsthe sort who might lean over the garden fence and talk to the neighbours,' saysBarbara, who lives in Nottingham. 'But today it's young women, such as mygranddaughter Miranda, who seem to wear the biggest bra sizes.
'My friends and I still had the underdeveloped bodies of children when we were18. I wore ankle socks and plimsolls until I left school at 15, and wore myfirst bra some time after that.
'Diet and lifestyle are so different these days. When I was growing up we ate abasic diet of meat, game and vegetables.
Chocolates, sweets and puddings were a treat and we'd spend our time riding ourbikes and playing outdoor gamesnot sitting in front of computers. I'm not surprised the young generation arebigger all overI probably would have been if I'd consumed all that they do.' ContrastBarbara's experience with that of her daughter Denise, 42, who is a 34FF andher granddaughter Miranda, a bra-fitting consultant, who is a 30G and wore herfirst bra a B-cup at the age of 11.
'I really notice the difference when I look back at old photos of generationsof our family,' says Miranda. 'The women of my gran and great-gran's generationhad very slender figures with small busts and minuscule waists. That couldn'tbe further removed from the figure I've landed up with.
'I love my big breasts now, but I hated them when I was at school. I dreadedsports lessons because my breasts would bounce around during netball androunders and all the boys stared at them. Now, although my chest is often thefirst thing men notice about me, they soon realise I have a lot more tooffer. I used to think about having a breast reduction because I feltselfconscious.
Now, having big breasts makes me feel womanly.' So why do women today havebigger breasts? Some experts say the boom in bust size may be explained by thepopularity of cosmetic implants: 10,000 breast implants are carried out everyyear.
Significantly more women have breast enhancements than they do reductions: 2004figures from a BUPA Hospital in Edinburgh show that of the 21-30 age group whohad cosmetic surgery, 60 per cent opted for breast augmentation and only sevenper cent wanted a breast reduction. Other experts highlight the effect ofhormonesbreast tissue is extremely sensitive to these, with some women finding theyneed a bigger bra in the week leading up to a period. This is a major reasonwhy the contraceptive pill which also leads to fluid retention in the breasthas been linked to the increase in breast size.
'There is a tendency for the pill to stimulate breast growth,' says ProfessorPierre-Marc Cilles Bouloux, a consultant endocrinologist and physician at TheLondon Clinic. 'However, modern versions of the pill contain far less oestrogenthan their older counterparts, so it is not fair to attribute this shift in itsentirety to the pill.' The residual oestrogen that gets into the water supplyfrom people on the pill is also thought by some to be a factor.
Other speculative theories include the suggestion that levels of artificialhormones in the foodchain could be affecting breast sizes, though there is noresearch to back this up. Foods from baked beans to almonds have also beentouted as factors in increasing breast size, but this is speculative.
In fact, it seems that the most significant and likely explanation for ourgrowing bust size is the simplestbigger breasts is a result of weight gain all round. Since the 1950s, theaverage female waist has risen from 27.5in to 34in. So, is it any wonder thatbreasts are getting bigger too? 'It's well known that as a population, we'veall been getting bigger,' says Dr Joanna Scurr, a principal lecturer inbiomechanics at the University of Portsmouth. 'The larger we become overall,then the larger women's breasts will become. There is not any evolutionaryreason breasts are getting bigger: it's simply a consequence of us all becominggenerally bigger.
'Breasts are increasing because women today have a higher proportion of fat intheir breasts than they used to.
The structure of the breast is divided into the functional glandular elementcomprising the milk ducts and support tissues and fat.
'The functional part of the breast changes size at certain points during awoman's life. It will get bigger when 'Having big breasts makes me feelwomanly'
she's pregnant and breast-feedingthis is why women's breasts generally get bigger at this time, and smaller whenthey're going through the menopause. This is because the body no longer needsthe breast for milk.
'But otherwise this functional part of the breast doesn't change. So theincreased breast size is due to the increase in fat that women carry.' TheMail's nutritionist Jane Clarke agrees that weight gain in general is a majorfactor in the increase in women's bust size.
'We're eating moreand of the wrong sorts of food such as crisps and chocolate,' says Jane. 'Allthose calories end up on the hips, and breasts. Women are also drinking far toomuch alcohol, which is not only unhealthy but highly calorific.' Like Miranda,Jane-Louise Atherton, a 22-year-old fitness instructor, is also significantlybetter endowed than her mother and grandmother.
'My breasts suddenly appeared out of nowhere as A-cups when I was 13 and didn'tstop growing until they hit a FF at 18,' says Jane-Louise, who lives with herparents in Macclesfield and works as a part-time model.
'I actually used to be called pancake at school before I wore a bra. I'm only asize eight, so I can't blame my large breasts on being overweight.' 'But bigbreasts aren't all they are cracked up to be. It's true that men zoom in onthem, but I can't wear fashionable backless tops or boob tubes because theydon't offer any support.
'When you've got large breasts it's incredibly expensive to buy wellfittingbras because they cost at least [pounds sterling]30and that's without the matching knickers. I look at the older generations in myfamily and I'm envious of their figures..
'My grandmother has an amazing figure for an 80-year-old. She's only a size tenand has tiny feet and slim ankles. She wears elegant heels and co-ordinatesjewellery to wear with her clothes. Mum looks great, too, and has a very slimwaist which accentuates her curves.' Certainly, Jane-Louise's grandmother BettyCox, 80, does not feel she has missed out by having a smaller, 34B breast.
'I was a skinny little thing when I was young and didn't need a bra until I was14,' says Betty, a retired tap dancer who lives in Macclesfield.
'I'm happy with my body and especially my breasts. They are a good size and inproportion to the rest of me. I love the fact that dancing has given me a leanfigure, even in old age, as well as graceful posture.
'It's strange how bust sizes are getting bigger, although it's difficult totell which breasts are natural and which are false. Women are taller, curvierand even their feet are bigger.
I only take a size three-and-a-half shoe, whereas my granddaughter Jane-Louiseis a five.' Jane-Louise's mother Linda, a 34DD, also envies Betty's silhouette.
'I would love to have a figure like my mum's,' says Linda, a sales assistant,who lives with her husband Keith, 56, and their other daughter Lauren, 22.
'I've always been a C or a D, but being smaller would make it easier to buymore fitted clothes.
'I admit I was a bit surprised when I took my girls to Marks & Spencer's tohave bras fitted and they ended up being more buxom than either my mother or I.But that is just the way things seem to be going.
'I think it must be down to all this processed food and sugary sweets thatyoung people eat today. I have lots of friends who look at their daughter'sbreasts and wonder where they have come from.' It is a sentiment with whichYvonne Clark, 69, agrees. She admits to being entirely flummoxed as to theorigin of her granddaughter Tracey's G-cup breasts.
'The funny thing is, I've been a 36B all my life,' says Yvonne, who lives inBuckingham with her husband, William. 'Young girls wore vests, not bras, whenwe were growing up and I didn't buy a bra until I was 15.
'But in my day, we didn't look at every single girl's weight, or bust size.Being healthy was the main thing and it still is. That said, I have definitelynoticed that young girls today are lucky enough to have the sort of ample bosomthat my generation could only have dreamed of.'
* Additional reporting by Mishaal Khan, Sadie Nicholas and Anna Hodgekiss..…