At last! The half-size bra we've all been waiting for


Last updated at 09:10 01 March 2007

As Playtex announces that it is to make bras in half-sizes, JILL PARKIN explains why half an inch makes all the difference:

Women have always known that extra half-inch can make all the difference. It's a small thing, but in the right place it's hugely important.

And you never really know if you've got lucky until you're finally in the bedroom, just the two of you - you and your lingerie.

All too often you wish your bra cups were just a little bit smaller or a little bit bigger. But until now, all you could do was simply shrug your shoulders - always assuming you're well anchored, of course.

Now everything has changed and we women have been rocked to our illfitting foundations by this week's news. It's what we've wanted for so long.

There was a song we used to sing on the back seat of our school bus: 'Oh, you'll never get to heaven on a Playtex bra, 'cos a Playtex bra won't stretch that far.'

But now it seems we can really get to bra heaven because Playtex has brought out a new line of half-size cups. There's a good joke somewhere in there about whether your cup is half-empty or half-full.

It means that those of us who are between a C and D can get a C12, which sounds like one of my old maths grades, but is much better than that.

That means no more gapping under the arms or spillage at the front, which one of my children when tiny once charmingly referred to as 'mummy's double chest'.

Apparently, the MySize line is going to be very popular with women aged 35 and over who want the better support of a bra that fits properly.

So - sorry, these phrases keep popping up - Playtex really does have the bra for the way you are. And I thought it was only Isambard Kingdom Brunel who could do that for me.

And the manufacturers say it could 'transform the silhouette of women across the UK'. That's a big claim because there are so many different bosoms.

My own favourite is the uni-bust, typified by Alastair Sim (I know he was a man, but he had fantastic female foundations) as Miss Fritton, headmistress of St Trinian's. Instead of separate breasts, the uni-bust is a one-piece, low-slung and large, a speciality of unmarried ladies.

My headmistress had one, clad in a silk two-piece. Arms folded under it, she would move it about for end-of-sentence emphasis, in much the same way BBC reporters on location move their hands about.

Then there's the high bust, which always looks low-class. This is sometimes pushed out and up in a full cleavage display, a la Victoria Beckham.

Even so, it's considerably chirpier than the woefully undersupported bust, which just looks depressed. Meryl Streep was sporting such a frontage at the Oscars. She's obviously given up everything - hope, joy and men - for Lent.

Half-sizes are a step on the way to the bra we all want - one that flatters without flaunting and fixes without flattening. But there are several other improvements we could do with.

Do men, who struggle with aprons, have any garment that fastens behind them? Would they put up with it? Yet no one has invented a front-fastening bra that doesn't collapse under the strain of anything bigger than a B-cup.

And every now and again, usually when I'm in a restaurant or doing an interview, I'm aware that, somewhere below my chin, I have sprouted an antenna-like thing which is heading for my nose.

It's my bra underwiring, which has popped out of its mooring and is coming at me through my jumper. The same underwire can sometimes set off airport security alarms.

Bras need to be structurally firm without looking as if they come with planning permission.

Good bras are an ambiguity - delicacy with grip. Playtex used to be especially white and worthy. All that cross-your-heart stuff was too obviously the work of skilled engineers. So, I'm rather hoping MySize will do lace with comfort and wispiness with strength.

My father once had a terrible experience with an unstable bra. Aged 17 and desperate to impress my mother before he got his callup papers, he took dancing lessons from a local teacher, a tall and stately woman in a ballgown.

He was doing fine until the music speeded up and the teacher suddenly and inexplicably rapped out the instruction: 'Feather!'

Not knowing what she meant, he fluttered his hands - sweatypalmed and resting on her back - madly like a bird and inadvertently undid her bra.

Too flustered to foxtrot further, the teacher left the floor, and the pupil left the dancing school, never to return.

They say that the half-size cups will bring in a new era of foundation garments tailored to individual needs. Of course, these are things women rarely talk about, but which are a daily trial, rather like tights which won't stay up.

I once overheard a woman in the ladies saying to her friend: 'I know. It's a friction problem. I have to say, nothing beats a good gusset.'

You see? We have let these very important things become shrouded in mystery and silence. Helen Mirren described her gorgeous Oscars dress as 'a marvellously assembled dress with bits I just could never tell a man about'. Whatever those bits are, I want them now.

In fact, when I looked at her Christian Lacroix creation, I would willingly have given the age difference between the two of us for it.

So, if there's any chance of all these made-to-measure undies, could someone come up with something pretty which flattens the bit between bust and waist, but lets you breathe?

Yes, yes, I know it's called exercise, but I want something which comes in a box. And I want it in half-sizes, with a choice of colours. Then my cup really will overflow.

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