The Bra

| Jun 20, 2016
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“The bra—the garment that lifts and separates, via cups and straps — became part of the world, officially, on November 3, 1914. That was the day the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Mary Phelps Jacobs for the garment she called a ‘brassiere.'”

Excerpted from The Atlantic

black_braThe Bra

Has there ever been a piece of clothing that has fueled so many testosterone-soaked fantasies, offered to remake shapeless bodies into goddesses, and perplexed, if not totally infuriated, wearers since its creation? For many of us, it was the first or second object we ever tried on. (My second because I went straight for the heels.) They were mystical and magical, forbidden and alluring. They epitomized all that most of us Trans women dreamed of – to have a feminine shape. What we didn’t know, but learned all too quickly, they are also the cause of great discomfort, frustration and wasted money. Mary Phelps Jacobs must have been a devil in disguise to patent such a cruel device.

Finding one that fits

When you first read the sizing information page, it looks like the instructions for building an iron maiden (it’s a torture device, Google it). 1. Take a band measurement. 2. Determine even band size (watch out for the odd number). 3. Bust measurement. 4. Cup size (some charts go up to an ‘M’ cup size). YIKES! After 102 years, shouldn’t they have come up with an easier way to determine which bra is right for us?

The bra fitting expert

When all else fails, find a bra fitting expert. This will either be some kindly, mature, soft-spoken woman who’s seen about a gazillion sets of boobs and can tell your size from across the room, or an energetic, cute, 19-year-old with perfect, perky breasts,  just out of her training bra. If there are five experts at the mall that day, you get five different sizes, none of which matches what the sizing chart says. Don’t they have bra school or something to put a little science in this topic?

Oh, the pain

Don’t you want to know who was the guy (and you know it was a guy) that put sharpened stainless steel wires under the cups? If they aren’t uncomfortable enough, they jab you every time you twist or turn. If you are full-figured, the straps dig into your shoulders. The band is too tight, even on the last set of hooks and by 9:35 a.m., you are sweating in your cups. Living in Florida, there is a constant river of perspiration rolling down your cleavage and into your belly button. Mary, was this what you really had in mind back in 1914?

It cost how much?

Back when Mary got her patent, the price of a bra was under a dollar. Now, agreed, back then a dollar was serious money. Just go into Victoria’s Secret today and try to buy a bra for a buck. No can do, sister. It’s easy to spend one hundred, two hundred or more dollars for a bra that does the same thing the $19.95 model at Wally World does. It’s a basic design that hasn’t changed that much in one hundred years, for gawd sake.

Suck it up, Buttercup

No matter what we really think, we are going to keep buying them and keep wearing them. Every night when we come home from a hard, hot day at work, that $80 Victoria Secret push up wonder, lifts and separates, cross your heart, 18-hour delight is going to be ripped off and thrown on the floor. Then we will all breathe a sigh of relief.

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Category: Transgender History, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

I am Cate, a mature transgender woman. I am a writer, blogger, parent, grandparent, sailor, activist and happy. I am a widow, and live with my yorkiepoo, Belle. I love music, reading, cooking, outdoors, DIY, theater, antiquing and flea markets, home brewing, and seeing what is around the bend in the road or over the horizon. I own the website. It is an outreach, support and resource for mature trans* people and especially for those who, like me, came out after fifty.

Comments (1)

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  1. says:

    Thanks, Cate for underscoring the most contentious part of being a transgendered person. I’ve struggled with the bra-fit issue for more than 40 years.