Pity the women with the big breasts. They are screwed. They have been throwing their tits hither and thither across the city for years in search of good bras — supportive, chic, strong enough to withstand a nuclear blast — but have come away from the experience feeling rather deflated.
“Big-bra stores? There are a handful out in this area,” Jenette Goldstein says. “Oh god, the puns.”
Goldstein is fussing about in her shop, Jenette Bras, newly opened in the middle of fake-boob territory, that is to say, Hollywood. The bras she sells cater to “the overdeveloped and underserved.” In her opinion, bra mistakes — and they are ample — can be boiled down to one central issue: a band that’s too big and a cup that’s too small. It’s a question of science. As far as engineering feats go, the bra is up there with the suspension bridge. “An engineer from the 1960s or something figured out that the equation of a bra is the same as that kind of bridge,” she says. “The straps are the wires and the band is where all the support is. ‘You’re holding a semi-liquid mass,’ as one bra wonk said.”
It has been tough for the big-chested to assemble an ideal bra wardrobe. This, according to Goldstein, consists of: a bra to wear under T-shirts, balconette for evening, a plunging version, and a strapless. Wait, they make strapless bras for top-heavy women?
“Ahh,” she says, “They do make a strapless bra that goes up to G. Beyond G, you tend to have a problem with gravity. Or actually, you always have a problem with gravity.”
Backaches. Straps digging into shoulders. These are the signs of a bad bra. “The bra should be low and level. It’s like a seesaw. Women do this horrible sort of yanking.” She catalogs problematic boobs: The “quadri-boob,” where the breasts leak out the sides of the armpits or gush over the bra’s front edge, giving the appearance of four breasts instead of two; the dreaded “uniboob,” bane of tube-top wearers; the unfortunate, lopsided “side-boobs”; the odd, rearview lumpiness particular to D-cup women stuffed into C’s. “That’s not your back fat,” Goldstein says. “That’s your boobs.”
Then, to confound matters, breasts are slippery suckers. Depending on your time of the month or salt intake, or whether you’re pregnant or have gained weight, a 32 FF can swell to a 30 G.
Hence, the bra wars have been raging ever since the brassiere took an evolutionary leap up from the corset in the 19th century. What came first, the unhappiness or the marketing strategy, is hard to say. Things got hot and heavy in the 1990s when the Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bra launched a volley against the Playtex Wonderbra. Next, the Water Bra (a bra with chest-plumping gel in the cups) saw a lot of action, followed by the Air Bra (with pump mechanism).
Goldstein’s friend — a woman with small perky breasts — is sitting in the store’s lounge area. “I definitely had the water bra,” she says.
Goldstein looks her in the chest, then the eye and says, “That’s my next store, for the other end of the spectrum.”
“Remember the chicken cutlets?” says the friend.
“They provide what?”
“They provide cleavage.”
The small chested always get all the attention. But what of those formidably endowed? Of the “minimizer” bras peddled to this demographic, Goldstein scoffs, “If the bra is built correctly, your bust will be minimized.” When people ask for a minimizer, she whips out a utilitarian bra called The Twin. “You put it on and it feels like someone’s done this to you,” she says, grabbing her chest, one boob in each hand.
That move is not unlike the maneuver (a patented one, Goldstein suspects) called the “swoop and scoop.”
“You lean forward until everything lands,” she says, demonstrating. Goldstein is naturally gregarious, with wild curly brown hair and intense eyes. Before becoming big in bras, she made her name as an actress. You may recognize her D-cup breasts pulled taut under a military tank top in Aliens. “You center the boob into the cup of the bra. See? Suddenly you can see your waist and rib cage.”
In her experience, what happens more often than not is that a woman’s cup size — “her letter” — goes up. Some are absolutely pleased. Others are dismayed. “A lot of young girls feel they’re too big,” says Goldstein. Like the 19-year-old she recently put into a FF who cried, “No, I can’t be.”
“The letter is arbitrary. Why did U.S. manufacturers decide that D was the last letter? An English D is smaller than an American D,” says Goldstein. “The Germans use a different system. Here, in America, every chesty girl wears a D. There’s DD, then after that you’re a circus freak or something.”
In fact, there are many different categories of big boobs. Connoisseurs will note the transcendent heftiness of the G cup. The pneumatic splendor of the H, I and J. The gargantuan depth of the K. The massive glutinousness, the beastly bulbousness of the true M cup, which despite its magnitude still doesn’t approach the world record currently held by 30-year-old Norma Stitz (“enormous tits,” get it?) — real name Annie Hawkins-Turner — whose breasts are so large, they blow all attempts to size them out of the water. For her, the size 102 ZZZ has been proposed. They dwarf even porno actress Maxi Mounds’ fake 42 MM breasts, each of which weighs twice as much as a human head and is filled with polypropylene string.
“I have fitted ‘augmented women,’ as they say in the trade,” Goldstein continues. “But it’s not the same issue because there’s no semi-liquid mass. They’re not moving around. Clearly I’ve got boobs on the brain. My husband does, too.”
It’s tough not to have boobs on the brain when you have a giggling five-year-old running around the store wearing her mother’s bra as a hat. Or when the new nursing bras from New Zealand are named “Hot Milk.” Or when a woman comes in requesting a molded cup bra, “the kind you wear when you don’t want to broadcast the weather,” and guess where she works? In a store that sells air conditioners. Or when the Orthodox Jewish woman, covered wrist to ankles, puts on a low-cut sports bra, and Goldstein’s sales clerk says, “You could even wear this one out as a shirt.” Without missing a beat, the Orthodox woman looks in the mirror and says, “Not in this lifetime.”
Resisting the urge to laugh is useless. Goldstein walks to the back of the store to fold bras and says. “This is Pollyanna, for when you’re milking your cow.”
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“Jenette, how many bras do you have?” interrupts her small-breasted friend.
“Oooh, I have about 10. You should have at least three that you rotate every day. I was taking a survey. I was asking women when they would buy a matching panty.” She holds up a beige bra with pink straps. “It’s cute, but you’re completely contained. It’s so French maid. May I turn down your bed?” The Freyas, the Tishas, the dainty Arabellas, all obey the one mandate for the store: “No grandma bras.” Goldstein does, however, keep a photo of her grandma hanging over the counter. “That’s her. A tiny waist and a mountain of bosom.” Talk of mothers reminds her of a pregnant woman who came in in need of a 36 G, kvetching about how big she’s become.
“Honey,” said Goldstein, “It’s gonna get a lot uglier.”
Jenette Bras, 4308 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. 323.665.7490. Wed.- Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sun. 12-5 p.m. www.jenettebras.com.