A post for all y’all who wear bras

NOTE: From a purely mathematical standpoint this is all very interesting, but this post may contain a biiiiiit too much information about my rack for my dad’s tastes. Be ye warned!

This came up on my Tumblr dash a few days ago and while watching I had one of those “Aha!” moments. She says that what she is telling you may sound nutty but to me it made perfect sense. Why in the world would the measurement of your “upper bust” (the circumference of your chest under your pits and above your boobs) have anything at all to do with the fitting of a garment that is sized based on the circumference of your chest under your boobs and the (gasp!) actual size of your boobs? My wild guess is that this erroneous (and sadly common) method of “fitting” bras was developed by lingerie department sales women who belonged in some other department because they were leery of touching other women’s breasticles.

Whatever the reason that we’ve all been lied to for all these years about what size bra we should be wearing, we are now free! But I should warn you: many of you will balk at the results of your self-fitting as guided by this video. I have been told by salesladies from JC Penney to Victoria’s Secret that I am a 36 C. Ever since graduation (both from high school and B cups) that’s what I’ve been buying without fail. If it was too tight, rode up, or gave me double boob (also known as “quad boob” or “spillage”) I blamed the manufacturer, not the size. This seems so silly to me now – it’s like I had been told 15 years ago that I had size 6 feet and I have spent this whole time stretching out shoes, cursing brands, and crumpling my toes without ever questioning the size I had been arbitrarily assigned.

According to this system I am a 32 F. Does that sound completely insane? 36 C to 32 F? If so, then lemme ‘splain you another thing that the great and mysterious “they” don’t seem to have passed on to the salesladies that have ill-fitted us: cup size and band size are dependent on one another. The cup size is not a constant (mathematically speaking). There is no standard measurement for an “A” (for instance) all by its lonesome. Cup size is meaningless without band size because you are not (as I always thought) mounting standardized boob-holders (cups) on varying lengths of band. Cup size is determined by the difference in circumference of your rib cage and actual boobage. Thus, in my case, 39 – 32 = 7″ difference. 7″ = F (or DDDD or G, depending on manufacturer, but let’s keep it simple for now). In the (correctly sized) bra I purchased today the cups do not look Dolly Parton-sized. They are markedly larger than the cups on the C I wore to the store, but they would never garner a double-take on my clothesline. (Seven inches of bust does not actually stick straight out from one’s rib cage like torpedoes, you know. There is a fair amount of distribution . . . bilaterally speaking.) As I suspected (and saw on the rack in the store) the F cups on a 38″ or 42″ banded bra are bigger again than those in the 32″ that I brought home. Not necessarily deeper, mind you, because there’s still the same amount of (ahem) protrusion, but they are much wider to accommodate the much wider mammaries that they must support.

Confused? No matter. Just follow the instructions in the video and take your new size to the store and experience a life-altering moment. Try not to scream in the fitting room. A silent freak-out dance will suffice. When I got the right bra on my chest it felt like that moment after you’ve gotten off an international flight (that’s been delayed on both ends) and slogged through the warren-like bowels of a strange airport for another several hours and have just flung yourself face first into the(comped) mattress of a queen-sized bed at the Hilton. Sweet, beautiful oh-god-imma-stay-like-this-forever relief.

(Please do peel it off yourself before you attempt to ring it up, though, or things will get a little strange for the sales staff.)

— Amanda


Video review: Frontier House

frontier House
Inspired by the success of a British public television show, 1900 House (don’t worry – I have it on order from the library), a group of PBS filmmakers got together to make a uniquely American version of the show that took a modern family back to the year 1900. For the American version, Frontier House, the filmmakers chose the year 1883, 12 years after the enactment of the Homesteading Act, and Montana, the most homesteaded territory of the West.
In the time that the three families travel back to, homesteading meant coming west, signing a claim, and then “proving” the claim by successfully living on the land you’d claimed for five years. For the purposes of Frontier House the three families must remain on the land for five months and prove to a panel of experts that they have stored away enough essentials to get them through the winter.
I was surprised by the choice of families: they weren’t like me and Matt. Having a vested interest in self-sufficiency, gardening, farming, animal husbandry, and all that would really have been cheating on this program. The point was to put three modern, normal, American families in the shoes of their frontier predecessors and see how they fared. Three families accustomed to shrink-wrapped meat, supermarkets, shampoo, hot running water, electricity, malls, cars, and television must contend with building a log cabin, cooking and heating with wood, shopping from a merchant who can only be reached by a two-day ride on horseback, hand washing clothes, daily milkings, and a whole lotta haying and wood chopping. Their reactions to the project (and each other) before, during, and especially after, are fascinating.
This is my kind of reality TV: a game of Oregon Trail meets a sociology experiment meets living history research. You should be able to find this at your local library or on your local PBS station.
— Amanda

Video review: Alone in the Wilderness


In 1968, Dick Proenneke built himself a cabin in the wilderness of Alaska, 170 miles from Anchorage. His original intention was to see if he could endure the harsh winter (and to see if he liked Alaska as much then as he did during the summer he had spent in his friend’s cabin nearby). He didn’t return for 30 years. While he wasn’t self-sufficient (he had supplies like spices, beans, toilet paper, and the like flown in by a bush pilot) he certainly had the right mindset – and I’m sure he would have grown his own beans and spices if the climate had allowed – heck, he hand carved the hinges and lock for his cabin and made himself an entire set of kitchen containers from old tin cans. He came to Alaska not with the conquering-pioneer come to master the land kind of approach, but more as a new neighbor moving discreetly into a quiet but eccentric neighborhood where all the other residents just happened to be animals.

He built his handsome cabin, with dutch door, storage shelves, double bunk, and river-rock fireplace all by hand over the course of the summer and still found time to tend a tiny vegetable garden, construct a privy, erect an elevated meat cache, dig and insulate a small root cellar, fashion furniture, fish daily, hunt when meat was needed, explore the surroundings, canoe the lakes, and generally get lost with his camera. He recorded the year in journals that became the book One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey and on 35mm color film. He filmed every bit of his fascinating daily life: fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing, building, carving, putting up blueberry jam, foraging, scoping the slopes for game, scavenging frozen wolf kills, and checking the ice depth at his water hole in the lake.

My folks recommended the film and book to us after they had watched Alone in the Wilderness several times on our local PBS affiliate and liked it enough to send away for a copy. Mom described it as restful, and I can confirm that – it’s restful in a sort of reassuring way while being fascinating enough to keep it from being soporific. It’s also kind of hypnotic. Dick Proenneke was busy as a beaver, practical but poetic, good-humored about setbacks and bear attacks, and bore a passing resemblance to my maternal grandfather. It took me back to the John Muir wildlife specials I used to watch as a kid – it has the same kind of pacing and reverence for the wildlands – but it is quirkier, with it’s grainy, gently washed-out, slightly over-cranked footage and out of synch foley. Narration is provided by the filmmaker, Bob Swerer, reading Dick Proenneke’s choppy, zen-like observations from One Man’s Wilderness.

I do have to warn you of two side effects of this movie: 1) You will be gripped by a strong desire to catch the first ferry to Alaska, and 2) You may begin to drive others crazy. Mom and dad have passed the Alone in the Wilderness bug on to my brother Einar, who has reportedly been using it as the latest method in his vast repertoire of ways to test his wife’s patience. When asked a direct question, like “Wouldn’t it have been easier to have the repairman fix the dryer?” he will strike his thinking-deeply-while-staring-into-the-middle-distance pose and intone a random line of narration from the film, like “Too many men work on parts of things. Doing a job to completion satisfies me.”

You can find the movie or the book at your local library if they’re worth their salt, catch the film on public television, or buy either at http://www.dickproenneke.com/.

— Amanda

Video review: Victory Gardens


This 1942 short film produced by the USDA is available for free download at the Internet Archive (one of the places Amanda wastes her precious time at the library). It follows a Maryland farm family, the Holders, as they plan (with the help of the County Home Demonstration Agent), plant, maintain, and harvest their Victory Garden.

The Holders horse-plow an area that looks to be about a quarter of an acre and succession plant it with early and then late varieties of common home garden vegetables. There is some mention of cold frames, crop rotation, chemical use for insect control (some scary, as you’d expect and some accepted organics like rotenone and pyrethrin), high-wheel cultivators, and even a few references to phenology (“Plum trees are in bloom – time to plant sweet corn.”).

My favorite part is the segment where the whole season is shown in miniature on a model of the farm. It looks to have been built by someone who rightfully won awards for their model railroad landscapes. For those of you who like to watch for continuity errors, you will enjoy watching the bicycle (or cultivator, it’s hard to tell) magically teleport all over the garden during the model planting sequence.

– Amanda