Small is beautiful, for a change

April 30th, 2010 by Sandra Barron

If you’re looking for a bra in Japan that doesn’t have enough metal to act as a cellphone antenna, enough ribbons and lace to swathe a bordello and enough padding to stop a bullet, until now, your best bet has been the underwear rack in the exercise wear section.

Look ma! No extra padding!

Look Ma! No extra padding!

This summer, there are a few alternatives, and women seem to be responding positively. Uniqlo has made one of its famously interactive, graphics-heavy Web sites to spread the word about its tank tops, tunics and camisoles with built-in bras. They even have a line of casual dresses with the subtle, built-in support. Last week, Wacoal announced online-only sales of a minimizer bra and, within days, had to tell would-be customers that they were almost sold out and not expecting new stock until July.

In a departure from the usual piles of padding that come in the form of foam, air pockets, gel packs, water cells and some space-agey “marshmallow” concoction, these new undies are designed to make the chest look “compact.” This seems to go along with some of the less-fussy fashions coming out as the temperature rises, especially the wispy maxi-dresses that  favor slighter figures.

The bras are made for cup sizes D, E, F and G. (Simmer down, fellas. That translates to U.S. sizes A, B, C, and D.) The underwire bras still look as architectural as Tokyo Tower and as sweetly decorated as a birthday cake, but appear to have no padding inside.

A short film about a wistful young woman whose cat returns home after she does a good deed (and dons a new bra) on Wacoal’s Web site hints at the change, albeit a bit obscurely, with the tag line “Small happinesses are the cutest.”

Wacoal is reported to have released this bra for the 10.7% of people, dubbed by the company as “the minimizers,” who agreed with the questionnaire statement “I don’t want to force ‘em up against their will.”  For the other 89%, there’s no shortage of uplifting, eye-popping contraptions.

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