July 4, 2013
Women hate shopping for bras, and there's a reason for that. In fact, there are many. Where to begin?
•Way too many choices; it's overwhelming.
•Absurdly inconsistent sizing (even within the same brand).
•A bra feels comfortable in the store but is torture later in the day.
•If it's the perfect fit, it will be discontinued.
•For the more modest among us, having a stranger tending to our underwear needs when we're half dressed is not pleasant.
I can see you nodding your head in agreement. It's not just me!
How many times have we walked into a bra department, looked around and just couldn't face it? Or sucked it up and been measured by the trained "bra fitter" only to discover not a single bra in the recommended size feels remotely right.
What do women want? How about a bra that looks good, fits right, is comfortable, won't disappear from store shelves and doesn't require hours of try-ons in the dressing room. Is that asking too much?
In my lifetime, apparently the answer is yes.
But hold everything.
When I learned that Jockey — the company I associate with tighty-whiteys and other basic, practical underwear — was claiming it had "reinvented" the bra and the bra shopping experience, I couldn't wait to try it.
I was definitely the target audience — the woman who gets home "and the first thing she wants to do is rip the bra off," as Jockey Chief Marketing Officer Dustin Cohn aptly described the pained scene every evening at my place.
You can buy these new bras online (jockey.com/jockeybra ) or at a Jockey outlet store. The only stand-alone Jockey bra boutique in the country is in Schaumburg, just an hour drive from my apartment. I decided to drop by.
But first, a little background.
For the better part of a century, bras have been sized in the familiar way that produces 36C, 32B, etc., based on measuring the circumference at the widest part of the bosom. Traditional bras have one cup shape that just gets bigger and bigger as you move from A through D and beyond.
For the new design, Jockey International Inc. scanned the breasts of some 800 women and came up with 10 cup sizes based on breast shape. So cup size 1 (the smallest) is shaped differently than 5, or 7 or 10.
Coupled with the underbust measurements, this leads to sizing like 8-38 or 2-32. In all, Jockey is selling 55 sizes in five styles and three colors (white, beige, black) at one price: $60.
With traditional bras, "you either gap or spill" says Miryha Fantegrossi, who managed the design team that spent eight years developing the new bra.
Many women are "left out," she says. "They kind of have to force themselves into a style that doesn't fit them." The new measuring technique takes into account that "life and gravity" change the shape of a woman's breasts over time, says Fantegrossi.
Jockey's research determined that for many women "the whole in-store experience" is unsatisfactory (if not nightmarish). Which led to Jockey's online "fit kit" to allow women "to fit themselves for a bra at home so there's not this whole scary experience," she says.
The online fit kit costs $19.95, and for that you get 10 "volumetric fit cups," a tape measurer, instructions and a $20 coupon to use on your first bra. If you decide you want your money back, you'll get a full refund and still keep the kit.
The other option is to go to any of Jockey's 90-plus outlet stores that have a store-within-a-store and trained staff to measure you (or you can do it yourself there).
I tried it both ways. I went to the store and used the fit kit to measure myself in the dressing room. Then I asked down-to-earth store manager Susan Chamberlain to measure me to see if I got it right.
It took me about five minutes to decide I was a 5-30. Obviously the do-it-yourself system is not foolproof since the expert, Chamberlain, measured me at 6-32.
Then I tried on six bras in four styles in three different sizes.
Bottom line: None worked for me.
Fantegrossi says that the Jockey fit system was designed "to cover 80 percent of the female population." Clearly, I'm in the other 20 percent.
Nonetheless, I think it's worth a try for anyone who hates bra shopping or hasn't found one that fits. If you choose the online route (free postage both ways; a money-back guarantee) you might be in for a lot of trial and error. Going to a Jockey store is your best bet.
Customer feedback could lead to changes and additional sizes, Fantegrossi says. I sure hope so. I would love to finally find a bra that doesn't kill me.
She says that since the launch in May, "Sales are far exceeding our expectations."
Meanwhile, she says that Jockey is considering reinventing other products to make them more comfortable. One of them is underpants. Sign me up.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC