Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Op-Ed: Uplifted: Pimp My Tits


Emily Alexander

By Amelia Leeah Rossburndt

Brassiere couture is capturing the hearts and minds (among other things) of women of all ages and endowments. Over spring break, a couple of Inprint staffers partook in the bona fide trend of custom bra fitting, and entertained the wisdom of the most vocal champion of the very up close and personal practice: Susan Nethero, owner of the growing Intimacy Bra Fit Specialist chain.

Nethero hawked her wares on Oprah last year and revealed that 85% of all women are wearing the wrong bra size. Surely publicizing this dirty secret is enough to scare any lady straight, but what exactly does it mean for a bra to be wrong?

I already have a handful of fantastic bras—the kind that strike the magic balance of great construction and snazzy appearance. These bras seem to lift not only their contents, but also the spirit of the wearer. On a good bra day, the sky seems bluer, the birds seem to whistle a happy tune and the men seem more handsome. Other bras aren’t wrong per se, just not particularly extraordinary. I don’t feel as though I’m being mishandled when I wear them, only a little less special.

Bras perform myriad tasks. They can lift and separate or they can push up and together. There are convertible models and bras that enhance or compress. Some boast invisibility while others conspicuously flout the good girl’s notion of modesty. They are sporty or sexy, utilitarian or frivolous but rarely any successful combination thereof. According to Nethero, however, the wily mechanisms must do even more.

Counter-intuitively, only 10% of support should come from the shoulder straps. The often-neglected band should bear the bulk of the burden. A bra should fit firmly on its loosest hook so that you can use tighter ones as back-ups for years to come—economical enough, but the idea of ageing with my bras is a little depressing. A seam should run down the center of the bra to prevent “show through.” Your cups should never, ever runneth over. And the proper position of the bra band is . . .well, somewhere I’m still uncertain of, but Nethero would have you know that yours is probably improperly positioned.

Nethero also warns against falling prey to the bra technology profiteers, but her noble work doesn’t seem that much better than the annual parade of Victoria’s Secret mediocrity. The Intimacy stores may even be more nefarious, because initially patronizing one begs a lifetime of follow-up visits. Intimacy’s real hook catches the ego: invariably, what women discover after their custom fitting is that they are a cup larger and a band size smaller. All the new bra really does is augment the ego: the real bust line stays the same.

The nature of sizing—at least off the rack—is erratic. Finding seven different bras of five different makers in six different sizes and having most of them fit essentially the same way is partly what makes shopping for bras fun. Susan Nethero and her army of second-base stealers can kill joy in someone else's lingerie chest.

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