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The push-up bra as economic indicator

If women are buying themselves expensive lingerie, that's a sign of economic recovery, analyst says.

By Teresa Mears Nov 23, 2010 1:11PM

If you want to know how the economy is doing this holiday season, don't even bother collecting all those boring numbers about economic indicators and the Consumer Price Index.


Just check to see how the push-up bras are selling.

Sales of nonessential items such as the Victoria's Secret Miraculous Push-Up bra, which claims it will add two cup sizes, are a key indicator of the health of the economy, analyst John Morris told Rachel Beck of The Associated Press.


We won't get into whether size matters, but Morris' explanation of why the sales of push-up bras that cost $49.50 to $250 matter does make sense. As Beck wrote:


  • If women buy these high-priced bras, they're probably willing to buy other things for themselves, too. That would be a shift from the last two holiday seasons when shoppers mostly bought for others.
  • Strong sales of lingerie would also suggest that shoppers are willing to indulge. That would be a change from last year when they stuck to basics.

"The Bombshell bra has been selling out, and that's not because husbands are buying them for their wives," Morris told Beck. "It's the wives buying for themselves."


Does this mean the recession is over? Don't get out the champagne yet, but keep it chilled. Post continues after video.

Morris isn't the first to look at underwear as an economic milestone. Alan Greenspan pointed to the sale of men's underpants as an economic indicator years ago, though modern views of men's lingerie have called that into question. It seems the prognostication value of the undershirt has not been adequately studied.


Disparate happenings, from the prevalence of mosquito bites to the attractiveness of waitresses, have been cited as economic indicators, but Duke University professor Dan Ariely cautions that all these indexes are inexact at best.


"We're obsessed with measurement, and now, what's happened is everybody has a different easy measurement," Ariely told The New York Times last year. "We look at the sky and see clouds, and all of a sudden they become a puppy."


Still, if you want to look for economic indicators at the mall while you're doing your holiday shopping, Morris and other analysts interviewed by AP suggest watching these signs:

  • Are discounts planned or desperate attempts to move merchandise? An easel outside the store or markdowns on goods near the entrance indicates unplanned discounts, Morris says.
  • Are shoppers buying necessities such as diapers and underpants or gift items such as perfume or jewelry?
  • Even if women aren't getting Victoria's Secret bras, are shoppers buying items for themselves?

"When the economy is good, there's a mentality of 'buy one for me and buy one as a gift,'" Ken Perkins, president of the research firm RetailMetrics, told AP. "We didn't see that the last few years."


How's your economy looking? Will you be buying yourself a few holiday gifts this year or are you buying all your family members plain underwear and socks?


More from MSN Money:

Nov 24, 2010 3:26AM
Sorry folks---Don't care what the economy is like--my wife's rack is gonna look good no matter how poor we are. ;)
Nov 23, 2010 7:37PM

I'm not so sure I agree with this being a good indication things are looking up for the economy unless it means that the pushup bras are cheaper than boob jobs. 

Nov 24, 2010 12:19PM
I COMPLETELY disagree with this article. I think more women are buying push-up bras because they can't afford a pricey breast augmentation surgery. I think it actually shows that the economy is hurting.
Nov 24, 2010 10:40AM
Using a pushup bra as a economy indicator is funny. Push up bras are used to make you think things are bigger and better than they are.  The Government is doing the same with the economy.
Nov 23, 2010 7:23PM

How apt.  In a deflated, if not flattened, economy, the Fed is now under.....taking to inflate the, er, value of, ahem (ooh, this is embarrassing) assets that may not be as attractively displayed as the owners might want.  The Fed hopes that as a result a modest level of price inflation might ensue, speeding the circulation of produced and consumed good and services.  Have I gotten that right?  And the trick, we are told, is to inflate those values just enough to stimulate demand but not so much as to overheat that demand and cause a speculative bubble.  Hmm.


Yep, the push-up bra is a perfect allegory.  Ben Bernanke has a new career opportunity---personal fitter at Victoria's Secret.  Indoor work, pleasantly heavy lifting (and separating) and non-taxable fringe you only dream about.

Nov 24, 2010 12:06PM
Guess what? I'm still just as broke (actually worse off) than I was two years ago... however, I just went out and purchased two new bras from Victoria's Secret last week because after 2+ years of not buying any new bras they were completely shot and causing back pain (I'm a natural 32D - support is a must)! And since I had to replace them... why not get a push-up??? There's more padding and eliminates "showing" and my husband likes how they look - dual purpose, especially if you get the buff colored ones, as I did. Up until now I've not bought ANYTHING for myself since my husband lost his job in 2008 and I got laid off in early 2009. I think more needs to be taken into consideration when thinking that the economy is better off because bra sales have gone up a few notches.
Nov 23, 2010 7:46PM
I think that we are sooooooo stressed with this poor economy, that we need to improve our look. That`s why!
Nov 23, 2010 7:20PM

I've never really liked women wearing push up bras. It's false advertising. The quote was...'Makes you 2 cup sizes larger' It makes you look 2 sizes larger. Eventually you have to take it off. Then it's like a trailer for a Tom Cruise movie. It looks really promising,  until you see the real thing. Then you realize you've been duped and it's time to walk out. 

Nov 23, 2010 4:32PM
It's just another bubble where the trick is to inflate the value of the assets in the public eye.
Nov 24, 2010 11:33AM

I hope you will keep us abreast of any new developments.  In any case, whatever it takes to perk up the economy!  Right now I'd give the current adminstration "D's" but I hope in a year from now they get an A....  and leave me with the D's! 


Nov 24, 2010 11:31AM

I haven't had fellow female students bragging about boob jobs lately, like a few years ago...basically demonstrating they (or parents) had enough $$$ for this meaningless 'enhancement'.....for whatever that is worth as an 'objective' economic measure.

Nov 23, 2010 7:05PM
Push up bra's, gel bra's, fake eye lashes, dyed hair, plastic nails, lypo, spanks, extensive make-up, botox....yup thats a real woman for ya.
Nov 24, 2010 5:12PM

"If women are buying themselves expensive lingerie, that's a sign of economic recovery, analyst says."


It's all hogwash, is my point.  Are people reading this article really expecting a bean counter to understand the reasons a woman spends money on herself?  Do people really think buying personal bras are an indicator of a strengthening economy?


For thousands of years women have indeed adorned themselves with an arsenal of cosmetic enhancements for the sole purpose of competing for males.  Does it make them feel good to look good?  Absolutely, BUT, looking good to who?  Why men of course.  And if those purchases are more for personal use, then it makes far more sense that women are tightening their belts, and spending less on others.  It is simply nature at work, because we naturally take care of our own needs first, and give when we have it to give.


No body knows where the economy is headed, and certainly not the analyst who is banking on pushup bras to enhance his stock portfolio.  That's just speculative nonsense. 

Nov 24, 2010 1:59PM
I love how everyone is saying, "the economy is NOT doing better because MY life still sucks." Yes, the entire economy is based on YOUR life. Ignore the fact that the market went from 6k to over 11k. Ignore the fact that year-over-year sales are up in most industries. Ignore the fact that many companies are now hiring again. No . . . it's YOUR life that determines the economy. *facepalm*
Nov 24, 2010 12:18AM
The rich, who always can afford this stuff, are not the ones who are feeling the brunt of the economy.  So, if you lose $100M of your $500M, you can afford to buy a new bra.  Total BS article by someone writing a BS story to may a buck.
Nov 23, 2010 10:03PM
What is the author of this smoking?  I don't even think that there is a single reasonable brain cell left.  So now, just because there are more expensive bra's being sold... the economy is looking good.  The bra's have been sold out since they came out, the fact that there are so many women that would like the extra bit of enhancement the bra gives.  This is just a very sorry excuse to blow smoke up all or our a$$e$.  For all my friends we are all for the most part in the same boat, not a single hope of seeing end to this nightmare, and no pot to **** in.  Just getting by on less and less, does anyone really believe this....?
Nov 23, 2010 8:19PM
Or it could mean...that we have no budget for plastic surgery...and a good bra will have to do. Duh!
Nov 23, 2010 7:59PM
women buying a bra that cost that much are probably the wives of the people who got us in this mess in the first place!! whoever wrote this article should be fired, my seven month old son has more common sense. I'll know the economy is back to normal when all the people who are unemployed are back to work!
Nov 23, 2010 7:21PM
MAYBE they are just doing more "entertaining at home" ?
Nov 23, 2010 6:06PM

Finally an economic indicator worth watching... however it may be a counter-indicator. During the great depression people would do their best to look their best. Elegant clothing of the period sold well. 

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