For many women, purchasing a bra is about as pleasant as getting patted down by a TSA agent.
While the glamorous models in lingerie ads are ogled for their perfect cleavage in colorful, lacy brassieres, most women struggle just to find a properly fitted bra. In fact, eight out of 10 women — or some 90 million women over the age of 18 — are wearing the wrong bra size.
A possible solution: Instead of working within the standard measurement system that leaves many women frustrated, Jockey International has unveiled a completely new line of Volumetric Fit Kit System bras that come in strange new sizes like 1-30 and 9-42.
As Stephanie Clifford explains in the New York Times, since the 1930s, bras have followed the conventional measurements of A-B-C-D cups, which are determined by measuring the difference between "the breast at its fullest point minus the rib cage measurement." This letter measurement is then paired with an under-the-bust measurement, such as 32, 34, and 36.
After eight years of research focusing on 3D scans of more than 800 women's breasts, Jockey has come up with a system centered around the volume of a woman's breasts, creating a more three-dimensional measurement. As Jockey says in a press release, "Would you measure water in a pitcher with a tape measure? No. So why would you measure a woman's breast with a flat measuring tool?"
But how exactly does this new measurement work? First, a woman needs to order a "Fit Kit" with 10 "volumetric fit cups." Then she tries out different cups until she achieves "full coverage with no gapping or spillage," and takes the traditional under-bust measurement. This produces new sizes like 5-34 or 7-36.
As Clifford says, these new "bras are a mass-market answer to custom fittings that have become increasingly popular in boutiques and high-end department stores." And women are prioritizing tailoring and size. As Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology, says "People are becoming more knowledgeable about fashion minutiae, and they're focusing on things like fit."
But don't count on all women embracing the volumetric fitting system. For one, it costs $19.95 just to order the fitting cups (though women do get a $20 rebate later on), and each bra costs $60. "Jeez," says Drew Grant at the New York Observer. "How much would it cost to switch all your bras over to this new sizing system?"
Moreover, Jockey will be the only bra maker utilizing this measurement system. As Ellie Krupnick at the Huffington Post writes, Jockey "may change their bra sizes, but the majority of bra companies still use the classic A-B-C cup sizes" In fact, Jockey's change may ultimately cause more confusion for women because "they now have to contend with multiple sizing systems."
Even without cost and exclusivity concerns, some observers aren't convinced that Jockey's new system will actually solve the problem of ill-fitting bras. Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic Wire is among the skeptical: "Of course, there is a good chance that none of the 10 sizes perfectly encapsulate your boob shape because even the 800 women Jockey scanned to get 'data points' might not look like you."
Of course, if all else fails, frustrated (and bold women) can ditch the bra altogether.