Friday, June 21, 2013

You Are Wearing the Wrong Bra Size

 How I learned to rebel against the tyranny of small cup sizes.

Before, I was one of the 80-85% of women who wore the wrong bra size. Talking to my friend recently about bra fit, I explained to her that I was a cup size C. She called me a liar. I explained to her that since my band size was so small, I had to go up a cup size. We have had at least two more conversations about this, and I still don't think she believes me.

I was the same, before (maybe not quite as stubborn). I had been raised, by society, to believe that I was a small-breasted girl (which I am) who would never wear more than a cup size A bra (which I don't). Who knew that what letter your bra size was could be so tyrannical?

Whenever I went to Victoria's Secret to try on bras, I always stuck to size A or even AA. That's how small my breasts are. I can easily go bra-less, unless I'm going running.

But one day at Victoria's Secret, I got measured and was told that I was a cup size B. "That's weird, " I thought. "I'm not sure if I believe that." But because the bra seemed to fit, and because I usually defer to authority, I started wearing a cup size B.

One day, while on vacation in Taiwan, I went with my mom to get measured for bras again. I bought some bras in the Taiwanese/Japanese system, but they felt uncomfortably tight. So I started researching bra size again.

It turns out, just as 80% of women wear the wrong size bra, 80% of the weight of your breasts should be supported by the band of your bra. So if your bra straps are always digging into your shoulders, you are wearing the wrong size bra. However, the band should not be tight enough to dig into your skin.

Then, I found out that if you go down a band size, you must go up a cup size. I'm not making this up. I didn't come up with this system, but if you go down a band size, you must go up a cup size.

Exhibit A: See how a size 34A and a size 32C are both size "S." Even a DD can be considered "M" if your band size is 32" or smaller. Bra size is an interaction between band and cup; it's not just about the cup.
Exhibit B: Notice how a size 34AA, 32A, and 30B are all in the same column. That's because the cup sizes for all of them are equivalent.

So now instead of wearing a 34A, I'm wearing a size 30C (cup sizes equivalent). My bras fit me very well, and I don't have trouble with my shoulder straps anymore.

There are plenty of resources to help you find your proper bra fit, whether you run large, small, or medium. Wearing the right bra size can not only help you look better, but can improve your posture and is better for your health. Here are some resources:

Look and feel better!
Guide to Proper Bra Fit and Measuring

Monday, June 17, 2013

Capsule Wardrobe by Math: Can You Actually Get Away with It?

Can you get away with it?

I've been fairly obsessed by capsule wardrobes lately. It started with Putting Me Together. Then I started thinking about how to pack lightly. Somewhere along a Pinterest board I came across it. A quick google search led me to this minimalist website.

There's two main arguments about why you should adopt a capsule wardrobe. One is the idea of the signature look. Most likely you already have one, but just don't know it yet--hence all of the clothes that you like, but never wear because it's not you or just doesn't fit your lifestyle. While it's fun to change it up, if you believe in personality, as in a pattern of traits stable through time, then it makes sense that one might have a fashion personality. We usually call it style. After all, isn't the main point of fashion to express our identity? If so, you might want to give a stable impression.

The second reason is minimalism. Minimalism does a lot of things. It makes your closet easier to navigate. It makes your bag easier to pack. It makes you spend less money, but it makes you buy higher quality items (supposedly you save on cost per wear). It forces you to wear those high quality items instead of saving them for a special occasion. It's good for the environment and all those kids in India sewing their hands bloody factory employees working in unsafe conditions in Bangladesh. It also makes you happier because you have restricted choice. Your boundaries make it easier to make decisions, for example, about what to wear.

The downsides of a capsule wardrobe are that you might run out of clothes or get bored with what you have, or people might start looking at you weird.

No, you can't wear the same thing every day. Not even if it looks awesome.

Also, looking at a lot of capsule wardrobes online, I found them to be unrealistic. For one thing, they didn't take into account exercise attire. For another thing, they seemed to be limited to cold weather.

Then it hit me: these capsules are only meant to last one season. Now I understood how any red-blooded woman could stand to only have 10-30 items of clothing. They really had 40-120.

Either this person doesn't have summer where she lives, or this capsule wardrobe is just for winter.

It seems like most capsule wardrobes are 10-30 items including shoes, but not including accessories and essentials such as socks and underwear. There are some nice examples of 9 pieces 14 ways and whatnot, but it's not really that impressive. It's simple permutational math, as my high school calculus teacher pointed out. Except, as my calculus teacher's wife pointed out, most women are picky about what shoes can go with what outfit, so the real trick is to make sure everything can go with everything else. Still, can you get away with wearing the same 30 things for three whole months?

Enter my nerdy spreadsheet:

Okay, so it's 32 items, but notice that it includes a category for exercise. I decided that I had 4 dimensions in my life. Depending on your lifestyle, you may have more or less. For each dimension, I had 8 items of clothing. While there are specific exercise items that I would not want to wear for any semi-formal public place (sweat pants probably are a no-go), it also gives me a chance to cheat (I'm never going to wear a dress while working out--but it's great to have four different types of dresses).

Scarves are an accessory, but I decided to include them because I want to cut down on my scarf collection since I always wear the same ones again and again anyway. It might even encourage me to use the ones I'm too afraid to wear for fear of ruining them. Also, scarves are great wardrobe expanders. 

Wendy's Lookbook

So would this get me through winter?

Disclaimer: I only really care about tops. I don't care if you wear a shirt with jeans one day and with slacks another--to me it's still the same outfit. But if you wear slacks with one shirt one day and then another shirt another day--to me that's a different outfit.

Assuming that your casual shirts, fancy shirts, and at least one of your exercise shirts can be worn to work, then you have 8 different outfits including your work dress. Let's see how many times we can repeat these tops without getting boring.

1. Plain
2. Work cardigan
3. Fancy cardigan
4. Thick belt
5. Thin belt
6. Work scarf
7. Fancy scarf
8. Casual scarf

More tips from Putting Me Together here.

That's 64 combinations right there. Also, though I don't consider wearing a top with a different pair of pants a new look, skirts are a different matter. So if you can wear all of the tops with a skirt, then multiple that times 2. So these 32 pieces will take you through winter and fall easily. Also, to be honest, I'll wear some of the tops from my Summer/Spring capsule as well. Technically I have 64 items, but it's for the year.

With this type of logic, you can do the 33 in 3 challenge in no time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Women's Work Is Still Work

 There are many reasons why women only earn 75% of what men make.

All of these are more interrelated than you think.

Women tend to go into fields such as media (which we all know is fucked), education, health care, and administration (i.e. become secretaries). Men go into fields such as finance, technology, engineering, and construction. I'm not saying these fields are not important, but I think that education and health are pretty important. For that matter, I think childcare is important. But society doesn't. We don't even pay most childcare workers. And when we do, we pay them less than we pay parking lot attendants. We are willing to pay people more to look after our cars than our children.
Childcare has traditionally been free, and despite many studies showing the importance of a child's early developmental years, it is considered a low-status job that needs little to no training. Really, as most parents will tell you, it's one of the most demanding jobs there is.

So how do you juggle the demands of being a parent with the demands of your job? People who can afford private nannies and people in New York State spend a lot of money on childcare. That's just the average. There is a nursery at UCLA where my developmental psychology professor sent her child--for $17,000 a year, but she said, "You're smiling when you sign the check, because you know your child is going to be well-looked after." More and more people are willing to spend a reasonable amount of money to have their children well looked after. But what a "reasonable amount" is actually very high. So high that some women quit their “hard-core corporate life” jobs to take care of and educate their kids themselves. Some women choose to be the child-carer because they were making less money than their husbands anyway (such as in social services). Even women with a “hard-core corporate life” do so though, possibly because childcare, not earning money, is women's work.

Of course, if you're going into a job such as education, the idea is that you'll automatically have more time to take care of kids (whether or not this is true is up to debate), which may be one of the reasons women go into these fields in the first place.
Education has always had a low status in the United States. It was traditionally performed by recent (male) college graduates, before they could move into more profitable, higher-status jobs. As more and more children started getting educated, more and more women entered the field. Sometimes there were not even high school graduates. Many were required to be unmarried. In this way, education was not only feminized, but treated as a young person's temporary job.

To a large extent, this has not changed. Educators are mostly women, and educators stay in the field for an average of 11 years. Women are also paid less than men. Primary school teachers (and as a previous TA for elementary school students, I say that their job is not any easier. Think you know long division? Try explaining it to a 7 year old), make less than secondary school teachers. Teacher make less than administrators, who are mostly men.

Why is this? Education is a government-subsidized career, but so are certain astronomers, and teachers in the private sector are, if anything, being paid less. The real reason is this: we as a society deem women's work less valuable. The more women are in a field, the less money we think people in that field should make. What's the lowest paying field? Household work. Why pay anyone to do it when your wife will do it for free? Even if she has a job. Especially if her job pays more than yours.

Just as men are a majority of educational administrators while women make up a majority of teachers, 93% of executive chefs are men, but women cook 78% of home meals, make 93% of food purchases, and spend 3x as many hours in the kitchen as men. Is this because women want to stay at home? Because they aren't ready for the rigors of executive cooking? Maybe. Or maybe because A) it's difficult for women to become executive chefs because of discrimination B) aforementioned work-life conflict and C) men are less willing to work for free.

I think our society needs to reevaluate its values. Larry Summer basically got ousted as president of Harvard because he claimed that women didn't put in as much work in the STEM fields. But women do just as much work as men, if not more. Maybe instead of women leaning in at work, men should lean in at home. It's not just about work-life balance. Rearing children, taking care of your home, educating children, taking care of the sick, the poor, the abused--this is work. Noble work. We need to start valuing it as such.