Getting the support we ladies need

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

We get all manner of news releases over our newsroom fax machine, many of them merely advertisements disguised as news.

But the fax from J.C. Penney's Manhattan public relations agency -- asking the Southeast Missourian to put the chain's Nationwide Bra Fit Event on our calendar -- had something the others didn't. It had the statement, "Eight out of 10 women wear the wrong size bra."

Holy guacamole! That's 80 percent!

I've had many bra-related catastrophes that would "support" that figure. (Ha ha!) My favorite: I am interviewing a source for a story six years ago and notice that he can't seem to stop looking at my chest. Wavering between flattered and disgusted -- he was fairly hot -- I go back to my car and hit the ignition when the glint of metal catches my eye.

I look down to see that my underwire has poked through the bra and worked its way well past the V neckline of my shirt. My source probably thought I was half robot.

But wait -- there's more! There was the time my right strap kept falling down to my arm. My female boss said, in public, "Have you ever considered tightening that?"

What can I say? I'm built like a coat hanger.

So I had to know more about this bra fit event. On Tuesday, I e-mailed the two listed media contacts:

"I am sorry that I missed the bra fit event at J.C. Penney. I wanted to go and have it done and write about it in my column for the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Mo., but simply ran out of time.

"I still want to write about it in the interest of helping women get a better fit in such an important area of their bodies. Get a good bra now and you won't sag later, my mother always said!

"... I wondered if one of you, or both, could answer these questions:

"1. Have you had the process done and what did it entail?

"2. How do the J.C. Penney workers become 'certified fit specialists?'

"3. What are some things women can look out for to be sure they are wearing the right size?

"I'd appreciate an answer today as I am on deadline. Thanks!!! -- Heidi Hall"

Diane Pizarro, a J.C. Penney national fit specialist based in Dallas, gave me my answers plus a lot more information.

Here's the deal: You go in, get measured around your chest above the breasts for the band size and then get measured right across the breasts for the cup size. Every inch difference between the first measurement and the second represents one cup size. (The "certified fit specialists" know this because Diane has traveled the country training them.)

The sales lady asks you some questions about ayour wardrobe, job, lifestyle and fabric preferences, then disappears and comes back with several bras for you to try.

The goal is this: no jabbing underwire, no falling out of the cups, no straps digging into the shoulders and no desire to rip the bra off and burn it even though we are three decades past the time that was acceptable behavior.

My favorite part of the interview was when Diane explained women's reticence to say what they're looking for in an undergarment.

"Women want coverage," she said. "They won't say that, but they say, 'I'm a teacher.' Or 'I work in air conditioning all day.'"

These are euphemisms we ladies understand.

In short, it was an education and pleasure talking to Diane.

On that note, where's my tape measure?

Heidi Hall is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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