The Wacky World of Bras

Statistics are showing that women shop for lingerie (bras, panties, etc.) more than any other type of clothes and at least five times a year. So much so that Mark’s (once Mark’s Work Wearhouse) plans to add lingerie to their line so that they can draw more women into their stores. And to guys bras and bra buying are a mystery.

Some young men work on their technique of undoing a bra one handed and others are befuddled by the fasteners, especially if they’re front fastening. Maybe this is why so many guys go into engineering. Of all garments of clothing a brassiere is the only piece that a man doesn’t wear or have an equivalent garment. Even skirts are simulated in kilts and Uitilikilts. As well a skirt covers the same part of the torso as shorts or pants, and a shirt or blouse cover the upper torso but men don’t wear bras…usually.

So this piece of apparel and women’s propensity for it is hard to fathom for many men. As one male friend told me, “I buy ten pairs of socks and ten pairs of underwear all the same and when they wear out I get more. But women may have from one to twenty bras and matching underwear. Because of the way our tops, blouses and shirts fit with scoops, V-necks, boat necks, square, low or high, it means that sometimes the bra might show and if the color blends it’s better. And if you’re wearing a form-fitting top you don’t want the stippling or seams to show through so you need a smooth cup but if you want something a little sexy (the only aspect of a bra that men might truly understand), you might want lace or ruffled edges.

Then there are sports bras, ones that will hold everything in place when you’re jogging, and strapless bras so you still have support and form even under an evening gown without the gauchness of showing the straps, or bras with crossed straps or thin straps for various styles of top. There are molded bras and ones with removable padding (especially helpful should a woman have breasts of uneven size and we all do to some extent). There are push-up bras and unlined bras, super support for the big busted gals and demi bras for those low-cut tops. So, it makes sense that in fact women don’t just have five white bras but a host of colors and styles and materials.

The opposite side is the women that do only have one or two bras that are older than their college aged children. The purpose of a brassiere is support and cover, as well as fashion and shaping. When I’m at the gym there are often these middle aged to elderly women wearing bras that sag more than their breasts. At that point, they may as well toss them. Their bathing suits often match in the baggy  department. It defeats the purpose on all fronts of having a bra if it’s old and doesn’t fit.

Bras are probably one of the most synthetic pieces of clothing that we wear. There are cotton bras but they’re often padded with something synthetic. You can get shirts, pants, skirts and dresses that are all natural fibers but you’ll be hard pressed to find a bra that is and they have all the forms to shape us and make us more than we are. And as it turns out, 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong size; usually too large a band size (the strap that encircles you) and too small a cup size. I can say from experience that I was doing the same thing.

Part of the problem is, as Wikipedia lays it out, there is no standardization between one brand and another nor on how they size bras. Some companies just add 4 or 5  inches to the band size to make the cup size. Some pad their numbers so that women think they’re buying a smaller band size. The bras of yesteryear, from the 50s and 60s were holdovers from the war era when rubber (and therefore elastic) was rationed. The bras didn’t fit that well. Torpedo bras rarely matched the human form. Sure the nipple might be pointed, sort of, but we don’t tend to have cone-shaped breasts.

With more elastic, polyester and other synthetic materials, bras took on many shapes with pad, water filled pouches and other ways to enhance the female form. Where Playtex bras of the 60s advertised “lift and separate” today’s bras are all about push together and up. Of course our shapes have changed, not because we’re evolving but because we’re having silicon and water and other odd chemicals injected or implanted into our bodies. Breasts are not torpedo cones, nor are they a melon cut in half and placed on the chest.

So, if men are baffled by women’s bras, considered that women have man shapes and sizes of breasts. Some are perky, some flattened by offspring sucking the dry, some lopsided, some full, some pendulous. And breasts change as we age, as we gain or lose weight, as we exercise and during the month. I tend to have different sizes/types depending on whether I’m ovulating or not. As long as bra sizes tend to be arbitrary wish fulfillment on the part of manufacturers women will continue to shop for lingerie most of all, because it really is a guessing game on finding the right fit.

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1 Comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, fashion, sex, shopping

One response to “The Wacky World of Bras

  1. Kevin

    Best way for a guy to unfasten a bra is to use scissors. Some women actually go for that sort of thing.

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