Sized Up

This was the first interview I’d ever conducted with my shirt off. Standing before me in the mirrored pink closet was my subject: Lonnie Eiden, a nattily clad woman of supreme confidence, a professional bra fitter for forty years. “I think I’m a 34C,” I offered, playing right into her hands.

“Let’s see what you’ve got,” she said. She looked me over with the keen eye of a physician. And then came the assessment: “Oh, sweetheart.”

“Am I wrong?”

“We’re going to start with a D, a 34D. Boy, I’m going to see a D on you.”

I grew up believing that C is the ideal cup size, having heard it once on television or something. Undoubtedly, it was a meaningless distinction, sort of like the old claim that a long middle toe connotes royalty. Still, I believed that a woman’s breast should perfectly fill a martini glass. It shouldn’t clog a margarita tumbler. This notion, apparently, had led me to make a very common mistake, which is choosing bras that are too small. “Part of it is that there is a mental illusion about cup size,” said Eiden. “The minute you get to D or double D, people think huge and that’s not true. Cup size really doesn’t mean anything because we can make a person look much smaller in the right cup size.”

A too-small bra causes chest flesh to bunch up and shoulders to roll forward, warned Eiden, a stickler on matters of posture. “There isn’t room for the breast tissue in the cup, and then you start this process of bending over and you look heavier. Your breasts hang down and you lose that waist.” To compensate for undersized cups, she said, women often purchase bras with bands that are too large. These enormous bands ride too high in back, which leads to the snowman effect, something otherwise known as “back fat.”

The best a bra can do, according to Eiden, who was trained at an actual bra-fitting school in Minneapolis, is provide a woman with “breasts of stone.” Such stationary breasts, she said, can be had only after a professional fitting. “I just dread it when I see an article about how to measure because I know that in the next two months we’re going to be flooded with people who say, ‘I know what I am and don’t tell me that I’m not.’”

With Eiden’s estimable guidance, I strapped myself into the D-cup model. I fastened it with the snaps at my back, rather than connecting it in front and spinning it around. I leaned forward before snapping, so that my breasts fell into the cups. “Now what is the step three you forgot?” Eiden asked. Dutifully, I bent at the waist and shook, sending every smidge of chest flesh forward. Then I stood upright and looked in the mirror, newly sculpted, with cleavage like a smile. —Jennifer Vogel