Do you remember your first bra fitting? That magical moment when you found out where you stood in the world? 32A, 34AA, 36B – girls know these numbers instinctively by high school, kind of the way boys know the numbers of a car’s rims. The bigger the bra size the more popular you are because every girl in school will be jealous of your figure. Over the course of a woman’s life, her bra size goes through slight or not-so-slight changes – either from weight loss or gain, pregnancy, or other factors that can alter the shape and/or the substance of her breasts.
For many women, especially those who fall under the classification of “petite”, bra options have been woefully limited and limiting. Though the industry definition of “petite” is a woman who is 5’4” or under, that fails to account for variations in frame, e.g., a woman can be 5’8” but wear a size 6 and have a very small frame or be 5’3” and wear a size 10 with a larger frame (Source: petite lingerie at Lula Lu). These “gray” areas are why the bra industry is attempting to reinvent the bra size – and – itself in the process.
Jockey, the underwear company for men and women, has spent eight years developing a new measurement system, to address the issue of variance in the shape of women’s breasts – an unmet need they heard repeatedly as the 800 women they studied found that 34A in one bra meant 32A in another and 34B in yet another. Jockey hopes to capitalize on the popularization of custom bra fittings which take into account the shape of a woman’s breasts, not merely bust size, by offering a mass-market version of a custom-fitted bra. To fit the bras, Jockey uses a kit with 10 plastic cups in varying shapes, along with a measuring tape. Customers are meant to try on the cups and see what works best, and then measure their rib cage. Someone with a 34-inch rib cage and medium-size breasts might wear a 5-34 or a 6-34, for instance. The experiment isn’t cheap. The bra costs $60, despite the fact that it only comes in three colors and requires customers purchase the $20 kit upfront. It remains to be seen if this fitting-in-a-box will catch on, but whether or not it does, it does introduce another evolutionary step in the history of the bra.
Claire Pearl, the author of this article, is a petite lingerie designer and fashion stylist. She has friends and family who found it difficult to find fitting bras for their petite shape so she decided to specialize in designing petite women lingerie. You can connect with her over at Google+ to ask her questions or tips about fashion.