Sisterhood should be more powerful.

Deb pointed me to this story on the impossible business of finding a bra that fits, something you wouldn’t think would be such a big hairy deal, but is, particularly when you get into the larger sizes.

As any man can tell you, every woman is different, and we’re accustomed since birth to telling outselves the problem is not with the garment, but with our bodies, which are too… something. The absurdity of this thinking is pointed out in Jessica Siegel’s story:

The fitter brought out six under-wire models bearing cups big enough to serve a grande latte – 34DD’s and E’s (in some styles, they’re the same size. Who knew?) Most gaped on me. Several fit, but the wires pinched my diaphragm. The fitter’s diagnosis: “It’s because your breasts are too low on your chest.”

“You mean they’re sagging?” I asked.

No, she said, they just sprout lower on your ribs than “normal.” Finally, a lacy Chantelle felt good in front, but the cup rode too high on the side, cutting into my armpit. Her new verdict: “You’re too short-waisted.” More frustrating try-ons provoked the final blow: “Your breasts are uneven. . . . Eeek!”

Her running critique of my body was the patter of someone who believes (or wants you to believe) that the fault lies not in the bra, but in you. I got the same drill from four fitters and two bra designers I spoke with, who all spun their own theories, including, “It doesn’t scratch, you only think it scratches,” and my personal favorite: “Your ribs are in the wrong place.”

Posted at 9:09 am in Uncategorized |

10 responses to “Sisterhood should be more powerful.”

  1. Mindy said on November 10, 2003 at 11:11 am

    Jeans don’t fit most women, either. At least stores don’t hire professional jeans fitters to tell me that my ass is too big and in the wrong place.

    Years ago I read somewhere that the largest and most common source of stress in peoples’ lives is ill-fitting clothes. I’m so there.

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  2. alex said on November 10, 2003 at 2:51 pm

    The flip side of all this is men’s undies. Boxers, like the more traditional women’s teddy, offer no support and you’re liable to squish the hell outta your balls every time you sit down. Briefs can chafe your legpits when the elastic’s too tight. And when you hit middle age and you’ve got no ass anymore, briefs start hanging from you just like boxers.

    Unlike with bras, you generally don’t have anyone helping you to achieve a good fit and the stores don’t want you opening three-packs or leaving a stack of skidmarked garments on the dressing room table. So for guys it’s all trial-and-error, hit-and-miss. You gotta buy ’em first.

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  3. deb said on November 10, 2003 at 5:41 pm

    why, alex, i had no idea! all this time i’ve been envying men because they can go do guerrilla shopping — all they need is a neck size, sleeve length, waist measurement and inseam, and they’re good to go. they walk out with clothes that fit, without even trying them on. i have always considered this hugely unfair. i never dreamed that men suffered so when it came to their unmentionables.

    i can assure you, though, that the vast majority of women have never availed themselves of the services of a professional bra-fitter. as much as we might want to, the potential for humiliation is just too brutal to contemplate.

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  4. Melissa said on November 10, 2003 at 8:12 pm

    I never recovered from my first encounter with the bra-fitter when I was 12, which left such lasting scars that I am still convinced everything about my body is weirdly wrong and out of order and at odds with manufacturing standards. Thank you, Bra-Fitter-Lady, I hope you tripped on that tape measure and strangled yourself.

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  5. Jennifer said on November 10, 2003 at 11:00 pm

    In the mid-80’s I was a copywriter for Sears Catalog. My “beat?” The bra section. This was unfortunate because I hated bras.

    Inevitably the trainee writers were assigned to the “toughest” departments — automotive and ladies undergarments. It was no coincidence. Both sections were full of spec copy and lots of charts with 6 pt. typeface.

    I remember my first encounter with the bra buyer, who happened to look like Captain Kangeroo. Bras were draped over every available surface in his office — including the desk lamp.

    After his first words of introduction, “thirty-four B!” He said, “More engineering goes into bras than into the design of suspension bridges!”

    His enthusiasm was commendable. He led me to a room next to his office where a seamstress and a couple of “fit models” (“perfect” size 6’s, 8’s, 10’s, etc.) were trying on prototypes for the next season’s designs. It was a surreal moment. One minute I was in an office decorated with ladies underwear. The next, I was surrounded by half-naked women trying on bras. It turns out, the only way to make a decent bra, is by designing the prototypes on women, not mannequins. To that end, the models reported what pinched, or was too loose, and the seamstress made the appropriate alterations.

    At the end of the afternoon, the bra buyer sent me on my way with a pile of 34 B’s, and the admonishment to “live in” the product.

    Actually, those were the best fitting bras I ever owned — it turns out, I had been buying the wrong size!

    (Nancy, I heard about your web page from my husband who works with someone who knows you — I just want to let you know how much I enjoy visiting!)

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  6. Tara said on November 11, 2003 at 1:04 am

    Looks like I escaped relatively unscathed from my first bra fitter. The woman decided she could determine my size without me even having to remove my shirt and then she did not even try to fit any bras upon me. At the time I was relieved, but I suppose I should feel cheated as it is extremely difficult for me to find a bra that fits well.

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  7. John Ritter said on November 11, 2003 at 10:20 am

    Did anyone catch Dr. Nili Sachs on Fox last night? She is the author of Booby-Trapped, “the first book that offers alternative thinking about America’s Obsession with females’ breasts.”

    I was shockingly surprised that this thread didn’t degenerate to the sophomoric level.

    My personal views towards breasts run to more of the traditional function for which they were intended and away from the siliconized, Hooterfied icon (icons?) that today’s society has made them into.

    As for undergarment wear, support and comfort should be the words of the day.

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  8. Carmen in UK said on March 10, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    hi having loads of trouble finding a british sise 6-8 mannequin which has a neck, base, stand and delivery price all for under � you have any idea where i can find one please?????……………..

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  9. barb said on April 3, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    I have an idea for a bra design and need to find someone who can design some prototypes. Do you know anyone, i.e. a bra produce developer or a designer specializing in bra?

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  10. Emmelin Golling said on September 18, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    Hi, I would like to provide a much-needed service to large-breasted women and design bras they can wear.

    There are no bras in sizes larger than FF that have underwires, and those are the women who need them the most. There are other niggling things I would change about the bra, but I need to know where to go to get a prototype. Can you tell me the process?

    I appreciate any help.



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