|Photos by Julie Pavlowski|
Willie Mrasek is a breast man. You could say hes obsessed with décolletage. It would be hard not to be when women are flashing him all the time often within minutes of meeting him. In fact, hes probably seen more boobs than Hugh Hefner, although Mrasek prefers em natural. And in Felina Lingerie, where hes the vice president of administration.
I call myself Cruise Director, says Mrasek, who does a bit of everything, from design and marketing to fittings and photo sessions. His office is in a constant state of colorful uproar: fit models wandering in, fabric swatches everywhere, bra prototypes, sketches, photos torn from fashion magazines, lingerie catalogs, the forever-ringing phone. Yet sitting at his spray-painted, silver polka-dotted desk, he is one serene dude as he puts the finishing touches on pieces for summer 2004 to the songs of Yma Sumac, no less.
Christina (left) is in a
Jezebel stretch jacquard-lace
Princess collection lightly lined
and Ellen is wearing
a semi-demi embroidered
Victoria collection underwire.
Im bringing back Day-Glo, he notes, lovingly contemplating a piece of neon-pink Chantilly lace. Its all about tropical brights, crochets, appliqués. It takes at least six months for a design to be finalized and thats one bra. We begin with figuring out the trends for next years ready-to-wear, so we can see what silhouettes are needed demi-cup, balconette, strapless, push-up. We design our laces, pattern drafts have to go back and forth, and get approved for color and fit. We adjust pieces to make sure that a design for, say, a 34B will also look good on a 40DD.
Looking more like a punked-out escapee from West Side Story than your average ragman, Mrasek, whos from San Francisco, got into the business by accident. He came to L.A. in 1983, and worked for various clothing companies while moonlighting as a hairdresser, styling everyone from the Go-Gos to L7, Exene, White Zombie and Margaret Cho. After a stint at the intimate-apparel company Jezebel, Mrasek realized he wanted to devote his life to lingerie: He was fascinated by the history, the patterns, the technology and the beauty of the bra.
Christina (left) is wearing a demi-
contour in stretch lace from
the Sarah collection; Ellen
is in an Alexa collection
demi-contour with stretch
Eventually Mrasek went to work for the Chatsworth-based Felina (which recently bought Jezebel, although it retains its name), where he was encouraged to put his talents to use. Hes the trend spotter, and the customer-relations whiz who talks to women, finding out what they like or dont like about brassieres. Then he translates this information into designs.
Do you know that most women dont know their own bra size? he asks incredulously. They think they hate wearing bras, but its because they are wearing one that doesnt fit. I got a call from a nun once. She was condemning me for making unnatural garments. I calmed her down, told her she was probably wearing the wrong size, told her how to measure herself, and then sent her a care package.
Felinas unmentionables have been seen on Sex and the City and Will & Grace as well as on rock stars Gwen Stefani and Siouxsie Sioux, who recently rocked one of Mraseks custom creations, encrusted with over 1,200 Swarovski crystals, on a CD cover.
Ellen wears a red Jezebel
Desiree demi-underwire with
embroidery and bead ribbon.
Most people dont know what goes into making a bra, says Mrasek. A pair of pants? Three to five materials. Fabric, thread, findings thats about it. A bra takes 15 to 25. Theres straps, underwire channels, different types of elastic, wire casings, rings and slides, stabilizers, pads, pad-liners, hooks, plush liner for the cups not to mention laces, ribbons, embroidery. And all this has to be dyed to match. Its all about fashion, fit and function. The bras have to look lavish and frothy, but they must do what theyre supposed to add cleavage, support tissue or, in some cases, minimize bust size.
His voice trails off before he adds: You know, it still freaks me out how happy it makes a woman to get a pretty bra-and-panty set. I know were not curing cancer here, but I really think were doing a lot for helping peoples mental and emotional health. And, of course, I get flashed a lot!
Models: Christina Bernal (34B) and Ellen Goguen (34C), both official Felina fit models.
How to Measure Your Correct Bra Size
1. Measurement No. 1
With a tape measure held as tightly and straight as possible, wrap it around your back measuring underneath your bust line. If you come up with a half measurement, round the number up. If less than a half, round the number down.
2. Calculating Band Size
If Measurement No. 1 is less than 33 inches, add 5 inches. If the number is odd, round it up to the next even number. If the measurement is 33 inches and over, add 3 inches. If this number is odd, round up to the next even number.
3. Measurement No. 2
Using your nipples as a guide, measure from back to front over the widest point of your bust line. This measurement can be a little looser, but keep the measuring tape straight.
4. Calculating cup size
Subtract Measurement No. 1 from Measurement No. 2. If it is the same, you are an AA cup; 1 inch larger is an A cup; 2 inches larger is a B cup; 3 inches larger is a C cup; 4 inches larger is a D cup; 5 inches larger is a DD cup; and 6 inches larger equals an F cup.
So, if you measure 34 inches in Measurement No. 1, you add 3 inches to equal 37, then round up 1 to 38 inches. This is your band size. If you measure 41 inches in Measurement No. 2, subtract 38 from 41 and you have 3 inches, which equals a C cup. Hence your size is 38C.