Ta-tas of the Times

Alex Kuczynski opens up about her cup size.

Published January 26, 2006 7:51PM (EST)

It has been a week of well-supported bosoms.

First, I happened to spend a half-hour this weekend staring in slack-jawed fascination at a repeat of the famous "Oprah bra" episode, in which audience members were swept into various states of rapture upon finally -- after lifetimes of sagging and pinching -- getting fitted for the right-size brassiere. Oh my God, Oprah, you changed their lives!!!!

Every time I read or watch a story about how most women are wearing the wrong-size bra and if they just invested $80-$100 in one that fit it would boost their boobs, their self-esteem and, hell, probably even their IQ, I sigh mournfully and vow to look into it. And then I forget about it.

But this time, the gods of cleavage had other plans for me. Because lo and behold, on Monday, while reading the New York Times front-page story about female firefighters, there it was again: a reference to the fabled "Oprah bra."

And now, just three days later, the Times' Alex Kuczynski, my favorite reporter who gets paid to go shopping and write about it, is ruminating on it too!

Kuczynski's column is about the Town Shop, a New York institution that often gets mentioned in these odes to the perfectly fitting bra -- along with the Orchard Corset Discount Center on the Lower East Side, where the shopkeepers can size you by eye.

Unfortunately, what doesn't often get mentioned in these "I thought I was a 32A but really I'm a 36C!" stories is the plight of large-breasted women, who've been lugging around double-Ds for 30 or 40 years, unable to find anything more forgiving than rubber-girdle-strength support, let alone a smidgen of lace, an appliquéd butterfly, a rosette ...

Of course, that's not my experience, nor is it Kuczynski's, so it won't get much airtime here either. About her own set, Kuczynski writes, "Surely I had no need for a professional bra fitting" -- oh honey, that's what everyone says before some tape-measure drill sergeant lifts and shapes them to busty perfection! -- "my breasts were as reliable as Old Faithful, waxing and waning through their various cyclical changes with the on-time efficiency of European trains. They were not too big or too small. They liked their homey 36B bras, which after several wearings would settle into a comfortable hammock."

But Kuczynski's satisfaction with her own ta-ta support was shaken the day she -- you guessed it -- turned on "Oprah." As hypnotized as I by Winfrey's mammary makeovers, she writes: "Droopy breasts were transformed into buoyant ones; torsos rippling with back fat became silhouettes as sleek as porpoises." Listen, I saw it myself. The woman does not exaggerate!

So Kuczynski headed to the Town Shop with her mother, who was in town waiting for Alex's sister to give birth. I think it's all very well and good for Kuczynski to apply phrases like "Old Faithful" and "waxing and waning" to her own breasts, but I couldn't help feeling that she had overshared by describing her heavily pregnant sibling's boobs as "so large she needs a shopping cart to leave the house."

What happened when Alex K. and mother arrived for their fittings? Well, you really should read the article to find out, but I don't think I'll give to much away in saying that Kuzcynski introduces Times readers to the term "back fat" -- and even stops to define it! And there are kvelling and hugging and high, proud, firm breasts where once had hung hammocks.

Sigh. I have got to look into this.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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