Ladies:  did you know that when you walk into a store to buy a new bra, the odds are that you’re going to buy the wrong size?  And, if you’ve been buying bras for as long as I have, this is very disturbing news.  Now I stay awake at night wondering how improper bra selection has affected my life.

What triggered this most recent insomnia episode was an article I read in last Thursday’s New York Times about the ignorant and uninformed manner in which we unsuspecting women go about making choices about our undergarments.  Who knew such a topic would be worthy of an entire page?  Right up there with world peace, global warming, immigration, hacked emails, and a shortage of clean drinking water.

While I do spend a considerable amount of time fretting about all of those issues, this new concern really hit home.  It’s up close and very personal.  And directly impacts my life on a daily basis.   How could I not have known, after all these years, that I might be a victim of Ill-Fitting  Bra Syndrome (or, as it’s known in the medical community, “IBS,” which, unfortunately is frequently confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the other “IBS”, which receives a lot more attention).

And, of course, it was a man, a plastic surgeon, who pointed (no pun intended) this out.  He mansplained that 70% of women were wearing the wrong size bra, and suggested a revolutionary method for measuring breasts.  Unfortunately, the article did not report on the specifics of his theory on boob sizing.

In any event, his focus seems to have triggered an entire scientific field of study on the upper female anatomy and the garments which contain them.  Not just here in America, but by our friends across the pond, as well.  One such study cited in the Times article was entitled “Evaluation of Professional Bra Fitting Criteria for Bra Selection and Fitting in the U.K.”   This title brought two questions to mind: 1) who the heck would fund such a study?; and, more important, 2) are British breasts different from my own?  The author of said study was quoted as saying “there aren’t many scientific papers which have effectively looked at issues of bra fit…”  Gee, I wonder why not?

Who took you shopping for your first bra?  It was your mother, no doubt.  And how did she ever manage to be helpful without a degree in anatomy and physiology?  At the time, if you were like me, you were probably barely out of an undershirt, so any Triple A with straps and hooks  would satisfy the emerging pubescent female anatomy.

According to this article, when it comes to understanding the biomechanics of the perfect fit, I have been an abject failure.  Until now, I knew nothing of bands, straps, gores, the precise placement of underwires, something called “breast volume,” or the proper “scoop and swoop” technique of fitting one’s boob into the cup.   How ill-prepared I’ve been all these years.  It’s no wonder that I’ve never been good at sports, have illegible hand-writing, and suck at math!

And men, just so you don’t feel left out of this discussion, think of what it would be like to have to shop for the perfect jock strap!

But there was also salvation contained in the printed word.  The article went on to assure me that if my bra doesn’t fit right, it was not my fault.  It appears that there is a lack of an industry standard.  Shame on you, Victoria’s Secret, Hanes, Maidenform, Playtex!  A 34-C for one should be a 34-C for all!

Fortunately, after all the decades spent in lingerie fitting rooms, I think I’ve found the undergarment that, while perhaps not ideal, works best for me.  So, thank you very much, I will pass on the blogs, You Tube videos, charts, and guidelines, all designed to assist me with my next purchase.

And although I’ve made peace with my IBS, and am grateful for all my good fortune, I can’t help but wonder how much better my life would have been if only I had found the perfect bra!

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