The past six years of my life have been plagued with anthropometric research¹, excel spreadsheets, data analysis, geometry, and plenty of self-doubt. I am a bridal and eveningwear designer who has gone rogue into anthropometric research while my lovely fabrics lay unattended to. As Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Let me attempt an explanation.
There are two types of designers: illustrative and geometric designer. An illustrative designer translates their visions to eloquent sketches that could become framed artwork. A geometric designer translates their visions to geometrical shapes that will conform to a body. I am a geometric designer. My love of bridal and eveningwear design stems from watching a client’s face light up when they like their reflection in the mirror, sometimes for the first time. I’ve done runway shows and been left feeling empty. With runway, a body is chosen for a design. With custom, a design is chosen for a body. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate runway like few others. I delight in the obscure where others are left with the question “Who would wear that?” I GET the art of fashion. I revel in fashion that is pure art but THAT is not what I do.
My art lies in clothing a body such that the wearer feels their own beauty. When a person is satisfied with their mirrored reflection, my art is complete. In order to create the type of art that I do, you must understand the geometry of bodies and fabric. You must understand how fabric drapes, clings, caresses, moves and accentuates a body. You must understand the math behind both. I have worked very hard to hone this understanding. In 1992 I began developing a new method of pattern drafting that included customizable darting. In 1996 I set out to computer automate that proprietary drafting method. In 1999 I began using this software in my custom design shop. By 2004 my research had helped me understand bodies such that, for most clients, I could use made-to-measure rather than custom. Throughout it all, however, bra fit and its effects on bust girth remained an issue.
My first attempt at understanding breast fitting was while drafting a bra for my sister’s wedding in 1994. I had designed a backless gown that required custom lingerie ill-suited to pattern drafting methods of the time. I hand-draped the bra and vowed never to draft lingerie again. I have since learned to not challenge the universe with a defiant “never again.”
My second attempt (NEVER say never) at understanding breast fitting was in 2005 for a Denim and Diamonds collection. One of the gowns in the collection had defined bra cups. It was a nightmare to draft and worse to grade into sizes. None of my training had included bra drafting and I couldn’t find a book that made a correlation between the bra and garment anywhere. Any available information was vague and incomplete. Further, I could find no method for calculating cup size that was accurate or made mathematical sense. How was the lingerie market being ably served without a dependable way of calculating bra size or a mathematical foundation for design? This question plagued me for years until finally it became the starting point for a quest.
In the Spring of 2012 I had surgery that required bed-rest. Three days into the rest period boredom was driving my insane. Desperate for an alternative to drugging me for the duration of my rest period, my husband suggested I research the breast fitting problems he has heard me incessantly rant about.
Giving myself a five week deadline I set out to simplistically calculate breast volume, assign an industry bra size, and mathematically calculate the effect of bra design on bust girth and garment fit. My pledge of never became ironic foreshadowing as five weeks turned into five months. My pastime to overcome boredom had become an obsession that I both despised and loved
Just over a year later I published “Calculating Bra Size – The New Way.” A few months later I published “The Bra Fitting Bible – Calculating and Understanding Bra Size.” My research, however, was far from complete. I had successfully reverse-engineered global bra size but I had not developed an algorithm that could predict the effects of breast mound containment on bust girth and garment fit; how and why did different bras create different bust girths. There was a disconnect between the lingerie and garment industries. I pulled my books from publication. The information I had published was correct for the industry rules but the rules were wrong. How could I see what industry insiders could not? I had a college diploma and limited lingerie experience. As I fought self-doubt I relied heavily on the support of two my research companions.
Many times I was told by industry that the correlation I was looking for did not exist. Sometimes you must believe in something so strongly that you are willing to walk alone for a little while. By the Spring of 2015 I was detached from an industry I adored, frustrated, and sorely missing my design work. Fortunately I had stubbornness and research companions to see me through; ever ready with comfort and ever eager for a mind clearing walk. With my faithful companions I trudged forward to a successful December.
Finally I had found the mathematical link between the breast, bra, and garment. Someday a book with that title will be published. 2016 was spent merging breast research with my customizable darting methods. In January of this year I began reconnecting with the world. In August my research companions passed away within two weeks of each other. It has taken me a bit to say a formal good-bye. Loosing both so close together was definitely hard on my heart. I was prepared to loose Isis² because she had been sick for the past year. Rover’s loss was a shock. Perhaps they saw their job well done.
This story is to say goodbye and to thank them for their friendship during what would have otherwise been a very lonely journey. I don’t think I would have had the tenacity to take this unplanned journey without them. Rover was always the first up the stairs to the studio with a gentle yip to remind me when I had lingered over breakfast too long. Isis was the one who monitored the daily walk schedule. She would begin a gentle pace around the studio within a couple hours of sunset. She was understanding of long workdays and somehow knew which days she should head back upstairs after supper. Rest in peace my dear Rover and Isis. I miss you dearly but have no regrets. Thank you for your friendship and companionship. I truly couldn’t have done it without you.
1 Anthropometric research involves the study of human proportions. Anthropometric research is used anytime it must be considered how the human body interacts with manmade products such as vehicles, furniture and in my case clothing.
2 The name Isis refers to the Egyptian goddess of fertility. Our beautiful girl was bestowed the name long before it became tarnished.