"Does this... look right?" I asked, cupping one of 10 flexible, vaguely boob-shaped plastic bowls against one naked breast, while the other dangled there.
"Whichever one feels comfortable and covers you," the sales associate, Whitney, reassured me. "But yeah," she said, pointing under my arm, "you wanna get that in there."
"Right. Yikes." And I reached for a bigger bowl.
For my entire adult life, I've been a chronic in-public bra adjuster.
You've likely seen women like me before, restlessly digging around inside their shirts to fix what's gone wrong below deck, or jamming their thumbs in just below the armpits for a quick everything-back-in-place shakedown. The habitual tugger of underwires, the indiscreet scooper-and-tucker of stray underboob. My mother calls this habit "unbecoming."
An expert would probably call it evidence that I, like an oft-reported 8 out of 10 American women, wear a bra that doesn't fit. But as an annually fitted, routine buyer of D-cup bras, I've always called it the small karmic price I pay for being able to wear strapless dresses, or for having a surefire strategy to catch a lazy bartender's attention in a pinch.
When I saw a story in The New York Times recently, though -- "A New Step in Wrestling With the Bra" -- I couldn't help but feel a little wistful. Undergarment emperor Jockey, according to the story, was reinventing the bra with the goal of creating the ultimate comfortable garment that could perfectly fit and support a woman of any shape.
After screening hundreds of women and listening to women's complaints about their bras -- about their uncomfortable or unsupportive fit; their inconsistent sizing; their jabby, constricting underwires; even their favorite manufacturers' habit of discontinuing their favorite styles -- Jockey spent eight years engineering a new product called, creatively, the Jockey Bra. Now available for purchase, the it looks identical to a conventional bra, but it aims (and claims) to be much more: According to Jockey, the "reinvented" bra solves these assorted problems by offering consistent sizing in styles that won't be discontinued, plus a flexible resin "3-D contour" piece instead of an underwire ("Because we're not flat," as Whitney explained). And perhaps most radically, the Jockey Bra has thrown out the traditional sizing system in favor of "volumetric sizing" -- that is, a larger variety of cup sizes and shapes designed to more securely accommodate a larger variety of breasts, which could keep women comfier and even potentially healthier.