Whether or not “you’re with her,” you have to recognize the historical step of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female presumptive presidential nominee for a major U.S. political party. However, she was not the first woman to run for president. Rachel Maddow covered the titillating news (and nervous giggling that ensued) when other women ran for president of the United States of America. Maddow’s coverage includes vintage news clips reporting on Maine Senetor Margaret Chase Smith’s run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 and when Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman from New York State, ran for Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
Thankfully, there were no advertisements, real or parody, featuring any of the candidates in their underthings. A sign of minimal respect, perhaps. But then, the Maidenform “I Dreamed I won the election” ad from 1958 must have brought many a chuckle & guffaw. (More on the classic vintage lingerie ad series here & here.)
The prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood levels.
The aim was to find out if wearable technology could help prevent stress-related over-eating.
Mood data was provided to the wearer via a smartphone app in order to highlight when “emotional eating” was likely to occur.
A team from Microsoft’s visualisation and interaction research group embedded an electrocardiogram and electro-dermal activities sensors as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer in the bra.
In their paper, the researchers say using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [electrocardiogram] near the heart”.
As if women don’t hear enough messages about our moods, behaviors, and weight; we now must hear directly from our clothing. And not just when they tighten around us.
Once you spend the time necessary for the equipment to learn all about you and your emotional eating habits, find correlations between your heart and skin activity, and you take the time to participate in the food & mood logging, the premise is rather simple. The sensors, custom boards called GRASP for Genitic Remote Access Sensing Platform (That name was by design?!), will then transmit the mood data to a mobile phone application using Bluetooth — then the messages from the “EmoTree” will begin to “suggest interventions” — i.e. nag the crap out of you.
One such intervention is to remind you to relax by taking some deep breaths — instructing you to tap on the little bird on the screen with every slow breath you take. Sounds a lot like it’s going to turn into Angry Birds, right? I can only imagine how stressed me would like to tap the hell out of some bird willing to tweet, however politely and privately, that Fatty-McFat-Face-me had better concentrate on her breathing & stay away from the fridge.
There are also plans for the bra & app combo to offer other “distracting interventions”, whatever those are. What could be more distracting than your cell phone telling you to calm the hell down and not to eat? …Maybe it will play a humorous video clip or something nice. Or maybe it will be something more shaming. Like maybe it will it communicate with your friends and suggest they provide a personal intervention: “Jackie, your fat friend Deanna is stressed and heading for the ice cream again! Wouldn’t it be nice if you called her and listened to her bitch about her mother for awhile?”
What obviously springs to mind with this whole thing is the butt-load, err, bra-load of potential uses and abuses. What about hacks? Will there be bras to assess and monitor our other moods? Like one to tell us about our sexual arousal — with an app to alert our partners, of course. Perhaps it will even be like those hook-up apps, telling any stranger who signs up (or hacks into the program) that a randy dame is nearby. “Your honor, she was asking for it — she was wearing that bra app!” Whatever info is collected, maybe the NSA will need that data dump too.
The researchers don’t want us to think this whole idea is sexist. They noted that “efforts to create a similar piece of underwear for men worked less well, largely because the sensors were located too far away from the heart.” Well, jeeze, scientists, don’t fat men have those man-boobs? They surely could benefit from a bro, no? And don’t men wear something else everyday — something above the waist, like, I don’t know, a shirt?
Naw, that wouldn’t make any sense; we must focus on how women look because that’s what they are here for. And notice, there’s no mention or suggestion regarding anorexia or other health disorders. Fat — women’s fat — is the health issue to focus on.
The good news here is that this mood-bra isn’t ready for market just yet; users in the study found the device “tedious” as the GRASP boards had to be recharged every 3-4 hours.
Then again, that’s about how long some of us can bear to wear our bras.
As for me, if I’m going to invest in any new tech bras, it might be the bra that can detect cancer. Let’s see if that one actually makes it to market.
Further analyses showed that men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women.
Having spent most of my adult life in the “large to very large” categories of breasts, I can attest to some of this in a personal sense. The very fact that I know the category of my breast size is due more to male attention than bra shopping. Really.
Food for thought in terms of beauty standards — and I wonder how this fits in with masochistic “women’s magazines” which push not only the standards but beauty products as well.
Where I live, Lane Bryant is the only store which carries bras over the size of DD cups. Supersillious of the majority of stores to stop at the very size of the average American woman; surely there are great numbers over that size. You can’t open a browser window to a health site or news page, turn on TV or radio, or leave the house and not know how big we American’s are; myself included. It’s not just the USA, and weight isn’t the only reason for the overly-developed bosoms in developed nations either. If I were a CEO of an apparel manufacturer or chain, I’d find limiting bra sizes to exclude such a huge part of the market not only worthy of eyeball rolls, but I’d roll some heads too. It’s unacceptable. But the fact is, there is only one store in the whole metropolitan area which sells bras larger than double-d cups; and that store is Lane Bryant.
So I’m shopping for bras at Lane Bryant, which means finding one that fits. I can’t just use the size that’s on my current Lane Bryant bra, because it no longer properly fits — in fact, none of my Lane Bryant bras seem to fit after say a dozen washings. The center piece pulls away, no longer sits flush against my breastbone. I know from Ali Cudby, and the aches and pains in my own body, as well as how my form looks, that this is no good.
Maybe this is all just a result of the cheapening of clothing, thanks to WalMart. But I hope not.
There are two sales associates at my disposal, one presumably training the other in this nearly-empty store. I try to ask them for some suggestions. I know from decades of previous retail work, that they aren’t really trained for much past working the register and meeting sales quotas, but I figure they know from their own figures and customer comments or complaints which bras are least likely to have the problem.
I describe my problem and the clerk-in-training eagerly replies that her bras all do the same. Rather shocked, I begin to explain that that is not how a bra is supposed to fit — that’s when the more experienced clerk interrupts me.
“When you’re talking about an E cup or larger, that’s an awful lot to ask of a bra,” she says.
Now I’m even more shocked.
“Yes…” I begin, “But the bras aren’t just supposed to ‘be larger’ but actually fit. When bras don’t fit right, there are aches and pains… Plus the rest of your clothes look sloppy.”
“Yes,” she replied, with a tense smile, “But at that size…”
“Well, if you wear a size 26 pants, they still have to fit, right?” I challenge her. “I mean the crotch is where it’s supposed to be, not at the knees. The pants are larger — but not just larger. They have to fit.”
In that magical retail blend of “the customer was always right” and “if you have nothing nice to say…” she had nothing to say in reply. The other clerk kept a smile on her face, but, taking her clues from her superior, she too was silent.
Now I was more than shocked; I was disturbed and saddened. Here’s a plus-sized lady working in a shop selling plus-sized clothing, and she’s making excuses for accepting clothing that doesn’t fit.
I don’t know whether the clerk’s stance was some reflexive act in defense of the company she works for; or if it was a sad commentary on average-sized women, working in a fashion store or not, who are told they are “large,” “plus sized,” or even “fat” who feel they aren’t worthy of clothing that actually fits them.
In any case, all that was left for me to do was to try on bras until I found one that I could pronounce “fitting” and worthy of purchasing; then take it home and see if it fares any better than the others had. (My fingers are crossed that it does; but the past few years has taught me not to hold my breath.)
There are plenty of reasons right here in this one shopping experience to explain Oprah’s claims that 85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. (There is some confusion regarding the Oprah statistic and the much touted 80% figure which may have started with a Wacoal study in 2005. Also, here’s a medical study regarding women with thoracic spine or posterior chest wall pain which says of the 80% who wear ill-fitting bras, 70% are wearing bras that are too small, and the BBC reports that 100% of women going into a hospital clinic for breast reduction surgery were wearing improperly fitting bras. Clearly this is an issue!)
The reality is that ordering dozens or even a handful of bras to try on is not an option for the majority of women in this country. WalMart may have cheap bras (both in terms of quality and price), but even online, the largest size they have is a 48DDD and only in one bra. Most bras over a DD cost $30 to $45 (and, of course, much higher). Few women have hundreds of dollars to tie-up in ordering bras — even if they are returning most of them. We are the 99%, or the 80%, if you prefer; not the 1%. So we remain held hostage by the inaccessibility.
What worse, we are women who already held hostage by our breasts. Along with our vaginas and uteri, our breasts are legislated. We dare not bare our breasts in public, not even to feed our children. Many school and employment policies have dress codes which require female employees to wear bras. (We make 77 cents for every dollar a man does, and we are required to wear garments with a heftier price-tag than men too.) Gawd forbid we show a bra strap. All because breasts not bound enough can be too sexy or whatever; especially larger breasts. As if there weren’t enough judgements from pigs, we as a society allow judgements about female breasts.We’re supposed to blame and contain breasts as opposed to make men responsible for their silliness or worse. It’s all the American versions of the burka and sharia law.
As if having larger breasts weren’t problematic enough, just finding the right bras to do all this — as well as prevent the pains that insurance typically won’t cover — is thwarted by not having access to bras in our size range.
You (and I) can talk about the difficulty of finding fashions that fit women ’til we’re blue in the face. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these vintage Berlei lingerie “Figure Type Indicators” can save us some breath — and thereby our complexions, right?
These “Type Indicators” were like slide rules for the female form, used to assist in the proper fitting of foundation garments. I’ll let the Powerhouse Museum, where I found information in and additional images in their Berlei collection), explain:
It enabled a fitter to determine the client’s precise bust, waist and hip measurements so that she could be fitted with a foundation garment. The chart featured a moveable disc for indicating bust measurement and a moveable pointer for indicating waist measurement. Hip measurement sizes were printed on the border surrounding the moveable disc. An instruction sheet with illustrations was pasted onto the back of the chart and is headed, “How to Use The NEWMAN – BERLEI Type Indicator”.
Overall the chart is very similar to P3645-28/2, Berlei’s first version of The Berlei Type Indicator, with some slight variations. The names for the five body types vary slightly, in this case “Type L.H (Large Hip) Type S.B. (Sway Back) Type L.A. (Large Abdomen) Type A (Average) and Type S.B.W. (Short Below Waist)”, as do the colours for the silhouettes and corresponding areas on the moveable disc. They are pink (Large Hip), green (Sway Back), yellow (Large Abdomen), orange (Average) and grey (Short Below Waist). On the instructions sheet it also states that clients would need to consult the P.N. Fitting Guide.
While the curator at the Powerhouse mentions an earlier version — and by collection artifact number (P3645-28/2), I could not find it on their site. However, I think the point about the complicated nature of fitting the female form has been made. Even if you simplify all women down to five types.
And say what you will about these five types of women’s bodies; they are better than the usual foundation garment fit guides which list us by age and wear, i.e. “matronly.” Should you require proof of that too, let me know and I’ll see if I can stomach scanning those. (Heh, “stomach” a girdle post.)
A link round-up of what I’ve been reading and writing — not all of it, just the stuff I think you Kitsch Slapped readers might like.
What I’ve been writing:
I wrote about the Girl Scouts celebrating 100 years, which reminds me of this graphic some anti-Girl-Scout, control-all-the-wombs, misogynistic self loathing person made. It’s supposed to make me not buy the cookies. But in fact, had me double my order this year. My hips can totally carry the extra weight; I can’t bear any more attacks on women and women’s rights.
This I actually read in hard copy — belatedly. Having grabbed a copy in November when I was seeing family for the holiday, the paper remained tucked inside my suitcase until I got home and after unpacking it, plopped it onto the magazine pile. Anyway, it’s still a fabulous read: Daughter Thinks It’s Time To Have Sex Talk With Parents.
As a researcher *, I disagree that corsets were as restrictive as the roles women had in society. Because women controlled how tight they laced, could remove stays, etc., there was far more control by the individual over her corset than her culture. Culture has been far more damaging, suffocating, than any corset.
There were actually significant health issues directly tied to corsetry, as well, particularly when the fashions dictated the smallest possible waist. Women did permanent damage to their lungs and even rearranged their internal organs to accommodate corsets! Plus, it was (in my oh-so humble opinion) a lovely turn of phrase…and I love a good turn of phrase. :)
In that sense, women today who are not wearing a properly fitting comfortable bra are doing far worse things to themselves and their bodies than corsets, really. We are imprisoned by the places and times we live in, yes, but our ignorance of our bodies, our bras, is some sort of self-inflicted madness at this point…
Agreed, especially as society is less rigid today and women have much more opportunity to make decisions for themselves about how to dress, especially underneath their clothes.
To that extent, I see your book as a companion piece to the iconic Our Bodies, Ourselves. How can we be the action figures we need to be in our lives without knowing this fundamental functional part of our lives? That question may be rhetorical… (Feel free to comment though!)
Naturally, I love the idea of being a companion piece to the seminal Our Bodies, Ourselves! When it comes to bras, specifically, the thing I love is how empowered women feel when they figure out how fit works on their bodies. It’s fantastic to help a woman feel better in her skin and move past the negative body image messages perpetrated by the media.
I’m glad you mentioned body image messages in the media… Fundamentally, we women think we know our breasts. But we really don’t. I think we more about how our breasts are “supposed” to appear, clothed or not, and we certainly have feelings about that… But we really don’t know our own breasts, do we? How does this compound the matter of fit?
I don’t think I’ve said that women don’t know their own breasts, but women certainly get mixed messages about the role of breasts in society.
No, you didn’t say that bit about women not knowing our own breasts; I did. *wink* It seems we don’t know as much as we should, or we wouldn’t suffer with bras that don’t fit!
If you’ve never been taught how a bra should fit, and you may not even be aware of brands that are designed for your specific body type, it’s like trying to hit a moving target with a blindfold on!
In Chapter Two, in Once Upon A Time, When Fit Was A Fairy Tale, you discuss the fairy tale of fit:
Bra fitting can be confusing because there are so many pieces to literally fit together, and it’s not something most American women are taught — not at home, in school, or anywhere else. There’s no real mechanism for that education. It’s not taught in high school health classes. Many mothers overlook the chance to help their daughters get fit correctly, perhaps because they never experienced the benefits of the right fit themselves.
So poor bra fit is literally passed down through the generations!
Historically, speaking, what’s to blame for this? How much of women’s ignorance to the issues of bra fit are our fault? How much do we, must we, hold others accountable for? How do we take back our breasts, our health, our lives? Is there anything we can do at the consumer level?
I think economics and the bottom-line thinking that has been so pervasive in America is the culprit. Customer service has left the building in a lot of areas of the department store (except the men’s suit department…hmmm).
The good news is that I see a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction. There are an increasing number of fit-based boutiques out there. Right now, most of them cater to the high end of the market, but it could be a beginning of a movement. I’d like to think so, at least! The product is there, the message is getting out…so I’m optimistic about the direction this industry is going.
We’ve all heard (and quite possibly ignored) the percentages of women who are not wearing a properly fitting bra; what does this percentage mean in terms of number of women?
The numbers are staggering. Between 80-100 million American women spend several billion dollars each year on bras that don’t fit and cause them physical and emotional harm!
And that’s just women over the age of 18 — the youngest group of women are actually most likely to wear bras that don’t fit.
I know you’re not a doctor; and neither am I, but I’d guess this phenomenon of poor fitting bras and the increase of medications for depression, anxiety, aches and pains, lethargy, et al. is likely related. My readers might think I exaggerate — do you have any comments on the links between poor fitting bras and the things that ail us?
I know that women who have gotten fitted report that they no longer have daily headaches, shoulder aches and back pain. They stand taller and feel better — both physically and emotionally. I know that was true for me, and my experience is what led to me writing this book.
To say that proper bra fit can be life-changing may sound overblown to some, but I’ve seen it happen way too many times to question the phenomenon!
The reason I find your work, your book, so amazing is that women spend how many hours a day in their bras? I mean, even if we take them off the second we can, it’s a lot of hours to be miserable! Like that seminal feminist work, Busted! is based on the principal that we can be instruments of change — for ourselves, personally, and for society itself. In order to do that, we need to be educated. Did you have any idea when you began your work as a bra coach that you’d be writing such a book? Did the connections between bras and health, society, etc. surprise you?
First off, thanks! I really appreciate it. My work has evolved very organically. It started with my own moment of realization, when I found pretty bras that fit and were comfortable. I started talking to my friends about my discoveries and began helping them. Then friends started bringing friends, and the seeds of my fit methodology began to gel, and I started talking to industry experts and blogging about my experiences. The more I learned, the more I realized how pervasive this issue is, both from a comfort standpoint and also that connection to self-image so many women face.
Bra coaching goes way beyond bras — it goes to the core of how we carry ourselves as women. I didn’t expect that, and every time I hear back from someone who has benefitted from my fit methodology, it’s incredibly fulfilling. Helping women feel better about themselves is rewarding on so many levels.
Is this an American problem; are things better in the UK or elsewhere?
Culturally, women from the European countries seem to value buying fewer items of better quality more than in the US. And in the UK there is a wider array of product available in more places, it’s just easier to find stores that carry a variety of sizes. But availability of product doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence of fit. Fit is a challenge worldwide, simply because there are so few standards for sizing within the industry.
I would love to see American women placing more value on finding a quality garment that fits, versus going for the least expensive, or only buying on promotion.
Since you work with bra designers and other in the manufacturing industry I have to ask, how much of the problems regarding limited bra sizes begin there? Or is it the retailers who are the biggest problem?
I think there’s a ton of great product out there in a huge range of sizes – like I’ve said, 28AAA through 56N. The challenge is finding what works for you.
There are real issues for retailers when it comes to stocking that wide range of products, the amount of inventory required is mind-boggling. So (as with most things in life) it’s more complicated than it seems and I honestly believe that most manufacturers and retailers want their customers to be thrilled with their purchases.
Rather than focus on the inherent problems, I see a great opportunity for women — own the solution by understanding fit on your own body and finding the products that work for you, either in local stores or online. It’s very empowering!
Now go forth, ladies, empower yourselves with Busted!
* In fairness to Ali, and for clarification for you readers, I should note the following. Ali and I had a bit more of a discussion about corsets and history. She is operating off the more generally accepted wisdom about corsets, yet when I proffered her my research (What If Everything You Knew About The Corset Was Wrong?, Corsets Are Too Sexy?, Corsets Bound To Stay Suffrage), she not only read the posts but called them “fascinating!” We happily agreed to the following: Corsets, while restrictive, may not have been AS restrictive as women’s roles in society. That is probably more than a humble research obsessed feminist historical blogger can really ask for.
Ali Cudby is American’s #1 Bra Coach, the founder of Fab Foundations™ — and one hell of a great woman with a mission I adore. I was introduced to her by my friend and lingerie blogger, A Slip Of A Girl — who is, by the way, currently running a contest where you can win one of five copies of the book signed by the author. Go ahead; go enter the contest now. I’ll wait.
When Slip told me there was a book which could actually assist me in finding a bra — or even several bras! — which would fit while looking good and feeling super, I was skeptical. It seemed like the cosmetic ad promises: hope in a jar; hope between the covers. But quickly I found that Cudby’s book was more than hope and promises — it was a plan that works!
It was then that I became smitten with Ali Cudby, starting a dialog which was so long and insightful, that I’m breaking up the interview into two parts. We begin with the personal…
Ali, your story, like mine, begins with the problems of big busted women — but that’s not the only women who have difficulty. Were you surprised — horrified? — that smaller-busted women also suffered from the insanity?
In the very beginning, I started with the idea of covering only full-busted women in the book – it never occurred to me that petite women had similar issues. I was shocked when I started hearing the stories from smaller-busted women. We all deserve to feel beautiful, and when you’re told to shop in the children’s department, or told you don’t even need a bra, it makes petite women feel like they don’t even count among the ranks of women. That’s a huge barrier to feeling feminine, so it makes sense that this book is for everybody…and every body!
There are 16 questions in the Personal Assessment at the end of Chapter One — I’m too embarrassed to admit how many of them I had the positive-sounding, but negative-in-reality, response of “Yes.” (In fact, I found myself starting with an emotional “Yes! She gets me — this must be common!” but after so many, my ego deflated…) How many of the 16 problem symptoms do you think the average woman has?
Great question! The intent of the Personal Assessment is certainly not to make your ego deflate — sorry! — but hopefully to help you realize that all of these issues will be addressed in the book. They are common!
I would say that the majority of women I fit (if they’re being honest) would be answering “yes” to at least 10 of the 16 questions, and oftentimes more like 13-14. The idea of the Personal Assessment in the beginning is to make it clear that there’s an issue (guess I did that!) and have the book guide you through turning all of those issues around by the final FabFit Assessment at the end of the book.
Obviously, the best way for a woman to get a bra that really fits, is to go into a store and try them on. But what about the times where literally, you cannot find a store with bras larger than 38DD — and those are, in fact, too small? (Yes, this is personal experience! Every clerk I asked about the possibility of bras in larger sizes, of hidden stock consisting of the less-flattering-on-display bra sizes, was shocked — as if I belonged in a circus!)
Are we really forced to order a bunch of guessed sizes in several bra styles and brands, have them shipped to us? I mean even if these places have easy return/exchange policies, this wreaks havoc with a lady’s finances! How do we at least narrow down such a big search so that we have less up front (so to speak!) investment in bras?
Hearing your story makes my blood boil! Too many women are made to feel like THEY are the problem and it’s absolutely NOT TRUE! The good news is that there are great (and gorgeous) bras out there, in a variety of price points and in sizes that range from 28AAA all the way to 56N!
In the book, I go through specific steps to help make Internet shopping work for you. That should cut down on both the confusion and the outlay of cash.
I also have a secret website only for people who buy the book, and not only is there great information on the site, but there are exclusive coupons as well. And I’m in conversation for contests and other goodies for the page. Heck, the book practically pays for itself! :)
In your book, you talk about the prices of bras. While you are clear to say that you don’t have to buy the most expensive bras, there is some truth in getting what you pay for as well… What’s a respectable, reasonable, price to pay for a decent bra? What’s the average lifespan of any bra? A properly fitting bra?
I think there’s a balancing act when it comes to price. Some of the most expensive bras out there are pieces of art, but not designed with fit in mind. Then there are very expensive bras that are absolutely amazing for fit, and are made from the finest materials, have incredible hand-stitched embroidery, lace, etc. You absolutely get what you pay for! But do you need to spend that kind of coin to get a bra that will fit properly? No, you don’t.
You are asking a bra to do a job, and for some of us, it’s a big job. You want a quality bra that will last without stretching out or falling apart.
Unfortunately, you can’t depend on price as a good indicator of quality, and that’s why I break down the quality indicators of a bra in the book — from construction to embellishments — to help you get the most bang for your buck.
How you take care of your bras will also have a HUGE impact on how long they last. There are a lot of numbers thrown around the industry for the lifespan of a bra, but I say it should last around 6 months of wearings, or until it’s no longer doing the job of supporting your bust.
[Breaking down the price of “expensive” to the ridiculous… Ladies, if you buy a $70 bra, that’s like $11 a month. If you even wear that bra 10 times, that’s just over a dollar a day. Remember those old “less than the cost of a cup of coffee” commercials, designed to make you weak with the need to help a stranger? Why aren’t you moved to help yourself first? Tsk Tsk Tsk Charity begins at home! In this economy, can you afford to waste money on disposable cheap bras each month?]
Aside from the obvious changes in our bodies, such as weight changes, pregnancy, etc., how often should a woman go through the bra assessment? What are the average number of times a woman’s body changes enough to warrant a bra check?
You should reassess your fit every six months, plus any time your body undergoes a weight fluctuation of 5 or more pounds. Let’s say you get this book when you’re 20. If you use the information you learn to buy bras, you’re looking at 50+ years of bra purchasing. That’s around 100 times that you need to reassess your fit. And you need more than one bra, so figure you have at least 3-5 bras at any one time (the barest of minimums, including sports bras.) That’s a lot of bras over a lifetime! I think every woman deserves to look and feel amazing, and shouldn’t waste money on bras that don’t work for her body. (How many ill-fitting bras are collecting dust in your lingerie drawer?)
You know the old adage that you give someone fish and they eat for a day, or you teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime? Well, this book is all about teaching women to fish, so to speak. :) That’s why I call myself a bra coach – because I want all women to learn how to understand fit for their unique bodies, for the rest of their lives.
[That means, ladies, that Busted! is a book that pays for itself — and quickly. That’s even before you get to the secret goodies stashed on Ali’s site. Get this book before you even get the aforementioned quality bra and that bra will fit!]