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The Bra Is Being Reinvented

Customers determine their cup size by trying on plastic cups reflecting the bra shape and measuring their rib cage

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Photo: Steifer

The bra may be getting a makeover, at least so far as sizing is concerned. The undergarment company Jockey International proposes getting rid of the alphabetical cup size system and replace them with more exact measurements like 1-30, 7-36 and 9-42, reports The New York Times. Although bras have been around for centuries, the A through D system didn’t show until S.H. Camp and Company, along with Warner, first popularized it in the 1930s (around the same time Americans started saying “bra” instead of “brassiere.”)

Here’s the main issue with the old system, according to the Times:

Until now, however, standard sizes have barely changed, although the range has expanded. Cup sizes are based on two measurements — the breast at its fullest point, minus the rib cage measurement. If it’s a one-inch difference, it’s an A cup; a two-inch difference, a B cup; and so forth. That approach, Jockey executives say, doesn’t account for different breast shapes.

Jockey International has worked on its new bra system for the past eight years, coming up with a product that accounts for bust size as well as breast shape. Jockey collected data from 800 women by measuring their torso and breast size. The company used this research to create a new system of ten cup sizes that reflect differently shaped breasts. Potential customers determine their cup size by trying on plastic cups reflecting the bra shape and measuring their rib cage. “Someone with a 34-inch rib cage and medium-size breasts might wear a 5-34 or a 6-34, for instance,” the Times explains.

More from Smithsonian.com:
The Bra Is 500 Years Older Than We Thought 
What Did Playtex Have to do With Neil Armstrong? 

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