I wrote about why I had a serious problem with bras back in April. Now, we’re Bra Theory, a small team in NYC dedicated to saving the world from bad bras. We take a mathematical approach — and there’s some 3D stuff involved, too!
Caution: there will be tasteful photos of our hardware, bras, on fit models. Nothing you wouldn’t see at a beach, but read however you feel comfortable.

Last week was Bra Theory’s one year anniversary, and we are happy to share that after one year, we finally have it: one bra that fits one person.

We know, we know. You’re probably thinking, “One year? One person?! …and do you really need all that math for a bra?”

…Or maybe not.

Maybe you’ve been thinking all along that you’re a multidimensional human being with multidimensional boobs, which can’t possibly be described in a two measurements like 34B.

Maybe you’ve been secretly wishing that you didn’t have to compromise between a bra that doesn’t bother you, a bra that provides enough support, and time spent trying on bras that could be spent elsewhere in your life— that you could have something that fits and does heavy-lifting if necessary, all without spending hours in the fitting room.

We’re here to check in with you and let you know: you’re not the only one. We hear you, and we’ve decided to do something about it. We want to solve your problems with bras.

We’re going for the moonshot.

Here are the problems you — and all of us — probably have with bras, and what we’ve been doing about it for the past year ( — and if you’re suffering bra woes that we haven’t mentioned below, please share so we can get on the case!) Stick around until the end to see our moonshot bra.

Problems you probably have with bras, and what we‘re doing about it

Problem 1. Your underwires like to stab you in the back, side, front, and everywhere.

Formula for underwire troubles: same under-bust circumference in blue + same over-bust circumference in pink + different distribution of breast tissue in yellow + one set of wires for them all

Here’s how the industry currently categorizes boobs in fitting rooms: two measurements, over the bust and under the bust. All of the boobs above will measure to the same size. Only one will survive the underwire.

This is because the shape of your breast root, where breast tissue begins and your rib cage ends, matters. Underwires don’t have to hurt. In fact, they help by directing the tension in a bra, so long as they’re not sitting on something they shouldn’t be.

Boobs, unfortunately, are less malleable than cats. That, or cardboard boxes are more forgiving than underwires. Credit: /u/pzycho

When deciding the piece of steel hardware that encircles your breasts for at least eight hours a day, you need more than two measurements. You deserve more than two measurements.

Our approach? Take a lot of measurements and start narrowing them down.

Don’t you want to channel your own Han Solo?

We still have a lot to figure out, like how to map the root on pendulous breasts or bodies with less defined roots. Some roots aren’t semicircular at all — whereas most underwires are! — and probably need a custom wire solution.

Until we find a solution for root-to-underwire, please have a conversation with your roots today and ask:

How are you, Roots? Do you like this bra?

If not today, do your boobs a favor the next time you find yourself rushing to take off your bra. Check for red marks — that’s usually where the metal sits on you all day — and see if it’s soft tissue or rib cage. They’ll thank you one day.

Problem 2. You can’t fit your orange into a glass.

Bra-fit enthusiast /u/t_maia described this syndrome as “orange-in-a-glass”.

One bra might not fit one pair of breasts not because the volume or wire isn’t right, but because the cups were built for another shape altogether.

More than two dimensions matter. You deserve your orange modeled in 3D, in all its glory, whatever it looks like.

We know your boobs probably don’t look like the first, second, and third from the left. Boobs are complex, beautiful creatures, elusive to your attempts to mathematically define them.

In the process of trying to model the boob, we discovered that a lot more matters in the quest for your holy grail— curvature, elasticity, malleability, only to name a few. We’ll probably need a physics engine to fully answer this question, which is a pretty exciting thing to break open since boob physics has thus far been mainly developed for video game breasts.

While we’re working on it, take note: if your boob becomes a quad-boob or gapes at the top of the cup, know that it’s not necessarily a story of volume. There’s a lot of reasons behind your cup looking funny, and it all comes down to not capturing your unique 3D shape.

Always remember: it’s not you, and it’s not even necessarily the bra. It’s the bra not being designed for you.

Problem 3. Your bras force you to ask the everlasting question: do you want to feel supported, or do you want to be able to breathe?

You need a band that supports without restricting your ability to breathe or eat, and to do that, you need to solve some physics problems.

A bra needs enough tension in the band elastic to produce the effect of a cantilever.

Your bra should be firm enough to produce the effect of a cantilever. But you, like all human beings, probably want to breathe, because you are not a cantilever. You don’t want a bra bolted into your rib cage.

Our approach was to find a Goldilocks solution that’s just right. We ran some tests and discovered that we like 15 Newtons of force on a snug, supportive band. That’s like someone giving you a really warm hug.

If you want to try replicating it, you can grab a spring scale and your favorite bra and do this at home! Let us know your results. 15 Newtons is definitely not for everyone. Some of us like it tighter; some of us like it looser. If you have less mass, you likely need less firmness in the band to support the force of the mass downward on the fabric, and can afford to breathe a little.

Problem 4. Let’s say all of that works, and you have a bra that fits — and only fits.

There’s more to life than fit. There’s function, too. The whole reason why we wear bras is because they’re a highly functional piece in our wardrobe that helps support and stabilize otherwise mobile breast tissue, as well as shape malleable breast tissue into whatever shape our heart desires.

Here’s a demonstration of why it’s important that “fit” becomes “function.”

What was once a docile hat, is now a badass bra.

Still, it’s not entirely clear what the shaping function of a bra is. We can talk about the “ideal boob shape” all we want, but it’s different for everyone.

Maybe you want minimization. Maybe you want max cleavage. Maybe you want duck-billed. Maybe you’re happy with a secure boob hat for everyday life. Maybe you want a rounded silhouette.

Our approach right now? When boobs go low, we go high.

So far, we’ve managed (1) Ice Cream Cone and (2) Rounded. It looks pretty great in a t-shirt, but pretty funny from the side.

Ice cream or rounded with a hint of gravity? You decide!

There are complicating factors, of course, like how much your boob will fight fabric to sit where it wants to sit. Our ice cream cone was an attempt to maximize lift, but at some point, something’s gotta give. Our rounded silhouette compromised for more fullness on the bottom of the breast, where it happened to sit best on our fit model.

We believe that the world would be a better place if everyone were the writer of her own bra destiny. So think about it: in a perfect fitting, functional bra, what’s your ideal silhouette? Let us know in a response.

Problem 5. Your bra seems to fit! — until you start speed-walking or going down staircases.

We like to think of this concept as the “watermelon in a spandex bag” problem, first introduced by Beverly Johnson, the fairy bra mother. We bring to you a seasonally-themed reproduction of this experiment: A Squash in Spandex Bag.

Comparison of stretch between fabrics. The left fabric in white stretches less than the black fabric on the right.
Comparison of bounce between squash in fabrics.

Conclusion: your bra needs enough structural integrity to withstand anything that’s thrown at it. When all else fails, the fabric of the bra should stay in place. A bra that does not fit in motion, does not fit.

You’d think it wouldn’t matter, especially for those of us with smaller breasts — but power-walking and staircases can be a trying experience. That being said, one of our top priorities is to design a bra with enough structural integrity to help you with the vicissitudes of life.

We proudly rock our #bellyjelly! But we don’t have boob bounce, because sometimes that’s uncomfortable and our boobs want some support. Bra Theory on the left, Other Bra on the right.

Problem 6. Even you didn’t have any of the (99) bra problems above, there’s more to a bra than fit and function.

There’s more to a bra than fit and function. You can’t have it feel like sandpaper, and sometimes you want to look pretty or sexy or confident in a bra, and that involves some aesthetic flair.

This is what we call “Prototype Fashion”, when we run out of fabrics and start hustling. Would you wear this? Leave us a response!

Still, regardless of your aesthetic preferences in a bra, we have a theory.

Our guess, our theory, is that we mean what we say when we say that all we want is a bra that fits and functions (and doesn’t feel like sandpaper). And until something meets our most basic needs in a bra, as much as we can like feeling sexy or pretty or special in silk or laces on occasion, we first and foremost want something for ourselves. We want a bra where we can be ourselves.

There’s a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Boobs, and we have to start with the foundation. The order may differ from person to person, but we need foundational needs met before we can reach boob actualization.

We’ve been building that bra since November 2015, keeping in mind all the problems above with bras that we’ve mentioned (and then some). We’ve gone through a lot of prototypes…

and ended up with one bra that fits one real person.

And you know what? We kind of like it. It may show through a see-through shirt (white shows our mistakes the best, which lets us iterate the fastest), but what we call Bra Theory possesses a pureness of spirit and function.

Here’s what we experienced with a bra that finally fits.

The feeling it gave, I think, is what we want to aim for — it felt like the temperature of a room when the heater is set just right. It felt like the touch of someone you love who you aren’t conscious of because they’re so familiar, and feel so right. It felt like I was home, in my body.

Thank you for sharing your problems with bras back in April when we first embarked on this mission. Thank you, today, for sharing this year with us. Many thanks to the many people who sent us feedback on our mission, the industry professionals who gave us the time of day when we came to them with a moonshot, and the lovely folks at the Bra Making Forum, the open-source bra-making community.

We’re back to getting heads down into problem-solving so that we can build more bras for more people. If your boobs happen to be available in NYC for measurement, send an email to mona@bratheory.com.

And if you’re in pain right now and on the hunt for a bra, check out A Bra That Fits. While we’re not there yet with making a bra for you on the spot, there are some serious bra whisperers out there who can help you out online!

Feeling strong, safe, sexy, and all those wonderful feelings from Boob Actualization.

We want to hear from you!

There are loads of things we don’t know about boobs or bras because we don’t talk about them that often. We’d love to hear more about your unique needs in a bra! Feel free to leave a response to this post, or email mona@bratheory.com.

  1. What problems do you have with your bras? Are we missing any?
  2. How firm do you like the tension in your band?
  3. What’s your ideal silhouette in a bra?
  4. What are your fundamental aesthetic needs in a bra? Is “Prototype Fashion” enough?
  5. Anything else?Read more from Bra Theory!

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