I spotted this pair of vintage crochet (or knitted?) potholders at one of the local antique shops and I had to go back to snap a pic of it because it drove me that nuts. I know it’s a small thing, a petty thing — and, since this about little underthings, perhaps a petty-coat thing, but the fact that “his” is embroidered on the “men’s underwear” but only “her” is embroidered on the pair of “lady’s bloomers” just, well, gets my panties in a bunch. It should be “His” and “Hers.”
Also, underthings as pot holders just makes me feel like it’s all about negative body issues…
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.)
It wasn’t that long ago that companies provided calendars and other promotional items featuring scantily-clad and even nude women to their clients. This is a classic example of one of those advertising pieces from the 1980s: a lingerie wearing lady on the glossy surface of a clock promoting Snap-On Tools. (See also: Vintage Risque Pin Up Calendars.)
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.
As a burlesque performer or even an enthusiast you may have seen the old photos of Bettie Page in the “Guide for Strip-Teasers.” It was published in 1953 as a guide to show how much a stripper could reveal depending on what US. State she was in. Burlesque has changed a lot since 1953, most especially the underwear! Let’s take a journey through the ages from the beginnings of burlesque onwards, as a whole, to see how the last few layers of a showgirls costume have changed.
See on www.burlesquehall.com
Because (nearly) every little girl loves horses (I sure did!), it shouldn’t be surprising that a shelf full of horse figurines would be among the decor shown in smut to designate the juvenile status of the woman. However, in this case, one would be pretty hard-pressed to suspend their disbelief that this “babe” disrobing to her stockings and suspenders is an innocent teen; she looks a lot more like a mom in her daughter’s room — perhaps there to dust the Breyer horses, nodding dogs, and 45 RPM records. For more thoughts on this: When Lollipops Make Us Suckers (NWS).
I don’t agree with Oprah about many things; among them her attitudes about domestic violence (which Alessia articulates so well) and “mom jeans.” So while I was not thrilled only to have copies of People Magazine to flip through while in a waiting room recently, I was thrilled to see female celebrities rocking the “mom jeans.”
“Mom jeans,” you may or may not know, are jeans that go up to your waist and, so, actually fit. Some of us have to go out of our way to find these jeans — but if People is any indication, soon we will have them back in ready supply.
No matter what Oprah and others might say, pants that fit your curves, rather than being slung around and beneath them, are sexy. Just not having your unmentionables (or actual body) on display and ready to be discussed is a comfort that adds confidence; am I right, ladies? In fact, one of the best things about these “high-waisted” jeans, is the inability to spot whale-tails. And this also means the so-called mom jeans allow a woman to wear underwear that fits.
The combination of modest in public “mom jeans” and skimpy in private “grannie panties” quite suits the way I prefer to live my life.
The Retro Sheer Panties are made of 100% nylon, come in five colors (Beige, Black, Pink, Red, White) and seven sizes (S,M,L,XL,2X,3X,4X) — and they are only $11.99.
Secrets In Lace also makes other full-cut panties, including sheer ruffled and embroidered varieties, as well as slinky satin ones. Go ahead, get your sexy grannie panties on. And your mom jeans. If you can find them.
But instead she lost her panties. (Insert bawdy laughter and snickers here.) A vintage naughty novelty chalkware ashtray which, if money were no object, would be added to my collections (both the “women’s” collection and my chalkware collection. Signed and dated copyright 1952, J H Fuller. Available for sale here.
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.)
This four-page vintage advertorial article, War-Time Corsets, in the Picture Post (March 2, 1940), isn’t just more corset history, but rather shows what life was like on another WWII homefront — not the USA, but in Europe.
Below I’ve transcribed the scans from Vintage Chic; the third page was near impossible to read (somehow scanned/posted at a smaller size), but I’ve done the best I could.
In the last war, women came to look less womanly as time went on, In this war, corsets have established themselves early. A token that feminine lines are to be preserved. Or even accentuated.
According to Mr. James Laver, war should cause women to discard their corsets and cut off their curls. That was the way it worked out in the last war. But that was twenty years ago. Whatever else has been lost or gained since then in Europe, women, at least, have gained — they have gained appreciable figures. Gone are the boyish contours of the ’20’s. The modern woman is as feminine as she has ever been in history, and she goes not propose to allow war to deprive her of her figure at this stage. She’s too well trained in figure-culture. She takes her figure seriously, trains it, exercises it, diets it. soothes it with delicate creams and lotions, and corsets it.
The War Office, also, holds a watching brief for the modern woman’s figure. And well it may, since so many women have enrolled for service in the A.T.S., the W.A.A.F., the A.F.S., and the W.R.N.S. “These women,” said the War Office, “must be corseted, and corseted correctly.” They therefore applied to British corset manufacturer Frederick R. Berlei for designs that would preserve the feminine line, and at the same time be practical under a uniform. The problem was to design a style that would control without restricting. It was solved by eliminating bones, and working solely with elastic materials, firm lace and net, satin and baste on the principal of “directional control” — that is, the line and cut of the garment itself gives sufficient control.
But there was more to it than that. A woman commandant pointed out that girls in the Forces can carry no handbag, nor do they feel it safe to carry valuables in their tunic pockets. Often they doff their jackets to do a job. So, taking a hint from grandmother’s corset, one of the features of the new styles is a pocket tucked inside the girdle waist. If you see a member of the A.T.S. discreetly unbuttoning her tunic, you will know that she’s only getting her bus fare from her corset pocket.
For the A.F.S. and ambulance girl, there’s a special design. It’s a pantee-girdle of elastic and satin, with zip fastening, intended for wear under slacks. It gives perfect freedom of movement and — especially important for the ambulance driver — supports against the danger of those spreading hips that may come from long hours of sitting.
So much for the practical side of these new corsets. What of the artistic? Are they feminine? Certainly. Mostly, these garments are two-piece affairs, girdle and brassiere. They are built on the latest lines to give a slight waist, uplifted bust and controlled torso.
Consider, moreover, that corsets designed for off-duty hours or for civilian women. When you are given a day’s leave and get into an evening frock, long and sweeping and off-the-shoulder, you’ll be wearing underneath it an odd little corset that might just as well have been worn by your grandmother at her fist ball. It will be made of taffeta and will be boned and laced. It will give you a 22-inch waist and pronounced bust and hips. According to the designer F.R. Berlei, it’s called “Gone With The Wind,” modeled on the garment worn by Vivien Leigh in the film of that name. You won’t be able to get into it yourself, so, if you can’t afford a lady’s maid — and in price these corsets are intended just as much for those of us who can’t — borrow five minutes from a friend or your husband can lace you up.
[Bottom Caption: JUDGEMENT DAY IN A WEST-END SALON: Fashion Experts Scrutinise a War-time Corset
Pencil in hand, notebook on knee, sit the fashion experts. Their eyes on the model, who is displaying a garment designed to safeguard women’s femininity for the duration. On the left, commentator points out the particular advantages of this style. It’s a decisive moment in the history of the corset.]
[Caption: The Experts Go into Detail: “Just let me see how that diaphragm control is cut”Balancing their teacups on their laps, the fashion ladies make a closer, individual inspection. Control without restriction. Beauty of line, combined with practical usefulness. To attain these objectives, designer F.R. Berlei eliminates bones, uses elastic material with lace, net, satin or baste.]
In present circumstances, the “Gone With The Wind” style is clearly a luxury, to be worn only on those occasions when it is permissible these days to go dressed up for the evening. Had the war not arrived, however, there is the possibility that the hour-glass figure might have come into ordinary everyday use. We had had Victorian hats for quite awhile, and Victorian lines had been creeping in among our dress designs, even to a slight degree into what we traditionally called “classical tailor-mades,” to say nothing of its influence on our jewelry. It was becoming inevitable that figures themselves could not escape altogether. From the flat figures of the ‘twenties had emerged the busts of the ‘thirties. The ‘forties were definitely threatening hips as well. Now we have them — but only as a luxury.
Women have always delighted in constricting their bodies — save for the Grecian women, whose grace and beauty is legendary. So long as shapely lines and slim waists have been admired, there have been corsets of some kind. Time was when they were made of coarse linen, so coarse that we to-day would call it hessian, stretched taut over bands of iron so rigid and so heavy that to bear both weight and restriction of the garment was a physical ordeal only the
strongest could sustain. It was a highly progressive step when whale-bone came to be used in place of metal for stiffening and shaping. Even then, young girls were put into corsets at as early an age as ten because, said the mothers of the day, it was good for their figures and poise.
[Bottom Captions: Safe Pockets in Corsets…
You can’t carry a handbag. Your outside pocket is unsafe. So you have a pocket tucked inside your girdle waist.
…For Smart Girls In Uniform
If you change into overalls, your money is still on your person. And the whole design has the approval of the War Office.]
[Photo Captions: 1 How To Put On A “Gone With The Wind” Corset: Pull Hard 2 Get a Friend, or a Husband, or a Dresser to Tighten You Up… 3 …And Thank Your Lucky Stars That You’re In!
Go and Show Yourself to the Experts…
She is displaying the “Gone With The Wind,” A corset modeled on the garment worn by Vivian Leigh in the film of that name. A smart off-duty corset.
…And See What “Vogue” Thinks
Miss Penrose, editor of “Vogue” (right) and her colleague, Mrs. Pidoux, reserve judgement on the effect that the war has had on corsets.]
Young bodies were sore and bruised by these ugly abominations, but fashion declared that Nature demanded it — regardless of whatever harm might come either to the wearer or to the future generation. Not content with corsets alone, these early eighteenth century Mammas would buy “figure improvers” on their shopping expedition to the nearest town — canvas pads, which they slung around their own and their daughters’ hips over the firm [?] of corset. The sole object was to emphasise the smallness of the waist and all dresses were designed to the same end.
When we first felt ourselves emancipated after the French Revolution, we at once dropped the heavily corseted styles of the Louis XVI era for the straight line of the Directorie mode. A century later, when we had apparently lost our freedom to the bearded and dignified fathers and husbands who ruled our Victorian households, we found ourselves encased in corsets once more, the only difference from the old corset being that the new one held us stiff and straight all down the front and stuck us out in bustle-like indulgence behind. We were shedding these contraptions in the early years of the present century,
even before the Great War was thought of. It only took the conflagration to make us throw them off completely.
Now we are getting back to shapely corsets again. Are we, therefore, less emancipated? Not a bit. But this time, after all our experience throughout history, we are trying to combine feminine freedom and feminine beauty. We are trying to be practical and artistic. That is the point of our latest corset styles. It won’t be long before they are on sale in the shops. They have already been displayed at a private showing for London’s fashion experts. In a graceful West End salon, these well-dressed women gathered in an atmosphere of warmth and perfume. Clad in fox and ermine, they arrayed themselves on spindly gilt chairs and settled to an afternoon’s concentration of “figure foundations,” as many of them prefer to call corsets. A commentator described each model, pointing out its special features. The mannequin paraded between the chairs, stopping here and there to answer spectators’ questions. For an hour, the study continued, till there wasn’t a question unanswered, and the fashion experts’ notebooks were full. It had been an afternoon of work for these women. Even when the hosts served tea, a few had still not finished inspecting and questioning. But others, for the moment regardless of figures, indulged like schoolgirls in chocolate cake. The fashion experts liked these new corsets. So will you. So will the people who see you wearing them.
As noted at Vintage Chic, the war would restrict non-war use of elastics and thus constrict corsets and lingerie manufacture, advertisement, and sales. Which explains this vintage girdle ad promoting the “new line for ’49” and boasting of an “end to figure austerity!”
I’m not sure if we’re supposed to sing it… But this is how the sales “poetry” reads:
How dear to my heart is the “Comfort Hip” Corset,
A well moulded figure ’twas made to adorn,
I’m sure, as an elegant, close fitting corset,
It lays over all make I ever have worn.
Oh, my! with delight it is driving me crazy,
The feelings that thrill me no language can tell;
Just look at its shape, — oh, ain’t it a daisy!
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The close fitting corset — the “Lock Claso” corset–
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
It clings to my waist to tightly and neatly,
Its fair rounded shape shows no wrinkle or fold;
It fits this plump figure of mine as completely
As if I’d been melted and poured in its mould.
How fertile the mind that was moved to design it,
Such a comfort pervades each depression and swell,
The waist would entice a strong arm to entwine it,–
The waist of this corset that fits me so well.
The close fitting corset,–the “Lock Clasp” corset–
The “comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
Of course I will wear it to parties and dances,
And gentlemen there will my figure admire!
The ladies will throw me envious glances,
And that’s just the state of affairs I desire;
For feminine envy and male admiration
Proclaim that their object’s considered a belle.
Oh, thou art of beauty — the fair consummation —
My “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The Five-Hook corset — the “Lock Clasp” corset–
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
If this is to be sung, the reason I cannot sing along isn’t because I don’t know the melody; the phrase about desiring “feminine envy and male admiration” coupled with referring to one’s self as an object makes me gag.
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.
The “Me Jane” spread-legged plastic clothes hangers.
Sorry, ladies, these vintage novelty hangers were “for men.”
Because nothing says, “I’m secure in my masculinity, my sexuality, my self, and my life,” like a closet full of these gems. The reason these are the ultimate bachelor pad item is because they help guarantee a man remains a bachelor.
What I don’t get is the leopard print bikini panty. Why pretend modesty now? …Maybe the makers didn’t know what it looks like under there. (Makes me want one so I can peep beneath the fabric panty to see if it’s like Barbie. Or Ken!)
Kitten hips. No, not the furry kind — the “lithe young American” kind, as described in this vintage girdle ad published in Harper’s Bazaar, 1946.
You feel and look as if you’d just stepped out of a success course when you step into Carter’s “Mouldette.” The entire beautifully molded back is made with new synthetic elastic. Carter’s own Sweetheart panel flattens the tummy. Every seam’s a scheme to give you that lithe young American look.
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!]