Sunday, December 20, 2009

Memo to Bravo (or Lifetime)

I went once more unto the bra-shopping breach yesterday and managed to stump yet another professional fitter.

And that got me thinking . . . maybe there's a reality show in here somewhere?

Like Top Chef or Project Runway, we could start with a dozen or so professional fitters and eliminate one by one until we crowned the Wizard of Bras! (OK, I'm stealing that name from an actual company, but I bet they'd go along for the right price. Or better yet, they could be a sponsor!)

I think this idea might really have legs (or, well, a more appropriate body part).

We could start each episode with a short contest (inspired by the "quickfires" on Top Chef) in which the fitters have to guess the bra sizes of a random group of women, each wearing the same outfit.

Then we could move on to the main challenge, with each contestant paired with a hard-to-fit "model" (aka real woman) who needs a great-fitting bra with some specific characteristic: makes her look bigger, makes her look smaller, evens her out, gives her more support, etc.

Instead of the Top Chef pantry or the Macy's accessory wall, the fitters would have a huge stock room filled with every conceivable size and style of bra—all supplied for free by designers and manufacturers who hope to, um, boost sales.

We could save the hardest challenges for the later rounds: strapless! backless! sports bra!

Of course, the final challenge would be to fit me.

(Cue evil laughter.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Holiday Shopping

Once upon a time, I had two real breasts.

Two real and perfectly symmetrical breasts.

I didn't realize how uncommon this was until I was on the cusp of losing one.

Sitting in my breast surgeon's office, having just been examined, I listened while she discussed my case over the phone with the plastic surgeon to whom she was planning to refer me.

When a breast surgeon tells a plastic surgeon that you have perfect breasts, you don't really need a second opinion on the subject. It doesn't get more definitive than that.

So hooray for me, the soon-to-be former owner of the Platonic ideal of a rack.

Fast-forward 8+ years. Now what I have is less a rack and more an exercise in independent suspension, where one side suspends quite independently—and will keep suspending quite indefinitely, I imagine—while the other is, shall we say, permanently at ease.

This would not be so problematic if Exhibits A and B remained symmetrical in size if not elevation. At least then I might locate a brassiere with the requisite hydraulic system to restore B to its former altitudinal glory, right alongside A.

Sadly, this is not the case.

And that's because of a very strange protocol that plastic surgeons apparently follow when reconstructing the Exhibit A's of the world (at least when the reconstruction involves a breast implant).

They take their best guess as to which size implant will most accurately match Exhibit B, and then, while you are unconscious, they sit you up on the operating table and have someone hold your hands above your head. If A and B look symmetrical, they lay you back down and close you up. If not, they try a size up or down and repeat the process until they're satisfied.

Plastic surgeons are pretty choosy about things like symmetry—as they should be—so you know that they are doing their best to achieve "a good cosmetic result."

But here's the thing:

Most women I know—and I'm betting this holds true even for those I don't—don't walk around with their arms up over their heads all day as if on high alert for an incoming volleyball spike.

So it's cold comfort to be restored to my bygone symmetrical status only on the rare occasions when I have reason to reach for the ceiling—because I know, of course, that imbalance will return the moment I relax my limbs.

And it's colder comfort when I make the inevitable trip to shop for new bras and manage to stump yet another professional bra-fitter, as I did yesterday at Nordstrom.

This poor woman must have made at least five trips from the dressing room to the sales floor to find me different styles to try—15 or 20 in all.

She was more determined than most—trying not only bras but three different bra "enhancements"—inserts of varying sizes and shapes and materials, all designed to help even me out.

We tried more combinations of bras and enhancements than I could count.

Some did wonders for one side but didn't work at all on the other. Some looked okay—not great, just okay—but were unacceptably uncomfortable. And some flunked in all categories. In the end, even the fitter conceded that there wasn't one worth buying.

It's hard to convince a salesperson that she has nothing to sell, but I managed to do it. Again.

For my A and B, there appears to be no corresponding C or D. (Or even double D.)

The bra-fitter couldn't have been nicer. Or more, uh, supportive.

But as experiences go, this one got an F.