Does Your iPhone know your Bra Size Better than You Do? Ask ThirdLove.
Disclosure: This lingerie was sent to me free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Editor's Note: Please also see our earlier review of ThirdLove's bra fitting app here.
What has technology done for your breasts recently? Mine have been enjoying the comfort and support of a ThirdLove bra, all thanks to ThirdLove’s innovative bra-sizing phone app.
I probably shouldn’t admit that I’ve worn the 24/7 T Shirt Bra for five days of the last seven, but I’m willing to accept a dent in my immaculate public image in order to share this evidence of my love of ThirdLove.
ThirdLove, founded in November, 2013, is a San Francisco-based lingerie company specializing in bras (they also sell panties). Their current offering is lean, with six bra silhouettes; three main panty silhouettes, both in various colors and fabrics; and one cami. This tight collection makes sense; their distinction as a company is not based on product assortment, but on sizing. ThirdLove brings two innovations to bra sizing: technology that uses an iPhone app to size customers, and bra cup half-sizes.
In our race toward seamless living, we are led to feel that technology should be helping with all things, and that it ought to be better than we ourselves are at them. In my two years of iPhone ownership, I’ve become a frequent techno tantrum thrower, having lapped up the promise that technology will solve all my problems, only to find that reality delivers far less than Apple ads have suggested.
The fashion and retail industry has advanced in huge leaps from seven or eight years ago, when brands may not have even had websites, let alone webstores. But even though online shopping interfaces have become more seamless and sophisticated since then — now programmed to know before we do what else we might like to add to our carts, which are ready to be bought in just one click! — we’re still missing the vital tactile connection to product that we have when shopping in three dimensions at brick and mortar shops.
Several apparel companies are taking the lead in imagining fixes to this glitch. There’s the Jockey Fit Kit, which has a customer buy a bra cup fitting kit that is mailed to her home.
In menswear, Acustom Apparel uses a 3D body scanner to take custom measurements which are then used to tailor a suit. ThirdLove aims to customize the bra fitting experience by allowing a woman to size herself in her own home with the help of a mirror, a snug tank top, and an iPhone.
During a phone call I had with ThirdLove founder Heidi Zak and head of design Ra’el Cohen, Zak said she was driven to create this company by her “dread of going lingerie shopping” and her recognition that a lot of women don’t have access to bra fitters or they might not feel comfortable with the fit process.
How did my virtual fit experience go? I downloaded the app and followed instructions carefully, ponytailing my hair, changing into a minimal bra and tank, and removing my iPhone case. I then posed facing the mirror first, and then sideways, holding the phone in the predetermined position. Several times in each position I was unsuccessful and was instructed by the app’s voice to tilt the phone a certain direction or move it up or down so that it would be angled correctly to capture the photo. It was a little frustrating to keep getting the alignment wrong and to keep having to try again, but I was spurred on by the novelty of it all, and the optimism that it would eventually do something groundbreaking -- which it did! The technology uses the already-known dimensions of the iPhone as the “measuring tape” for getting the measurements of the person’s ribcage and bust. In the end the app confirmed the size I usually wear, and I went ahead to order the new 24/7 Memory Foam T-Shirt Bra in nude.
It is offered in black and nude for $55. Microfiber jersey wings with hidden elastic are snug and feel seamless at the back; the hook and eye panel is padded so there's no chance of metal digging into skin; straps are set at a width that keeps them from slipping off my shoulders; and the memory foam cups provide smoothing for modesty without creating an overstructured look. Overall, it felt lightweight and supportive, and like it fit to my body without any points of discomfort.
Design details like gold hooks and pleated straps give the garment a feeling of polish which most nude t-shirt bras lack. It is a practical bra that doesn’t settle for looking mundane. This is exactly what I needed, and since I’ve gotten this bra, it’s pretty much all I’ve been wearing.
I think I've grown attached to it in the way people rely on their morning coffee or love their Sunday night TV show. There is nothing spectacular about each individual experience of wearing this bra, but I find it comfortable enough and invisible enough under clothes that it has quickly become part of my routine of dressing. I don't have to go through the morning exercise of picking a shirt and then digging through my lingerie drawer to find the bra that will be least badly suited for it, since many of my bras have novelty details like sheerness or visible seaming or T-back or bright colors. This bra simply integrates into my life, and relieves me of discomfort and decision-making. It's not going to replace all my other bras, which I love for different reasons and wear to evoke particular moods, but it is a great default -- as the best of T-shirt bras should be.
It is good value for the price if you're looking for a bra you can get a lot of use out of. Affordable luxury is another of ThirdLove’s marketing points. Cohen said, “we think that every woman deserves to have beautiful European inspired lingerie that has great fit,” and explains that the company is able to offer more for less because their direct-to-customer sales model eliminates the middleman of a retail store, which would otherwise tag on overhead and margin.
The bra has a hangtag that reads, “Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive.” I wonder a bit at the use of the word “luxury,” which to me is not quite the applicable descriptor of my experience in the 24/7 bra, which, after all, is meant to disappear under a T-shirt and into one's day, not to celebrate sumptuous rare materials. The company has an abundance of marketing angles, as well as great product, and to me, the luxury message was the one that seemed superfluous.
Half-cup sizing, on the other hand, is an offering worth shouting about. I am solidly a C cup, so I’ve never had a need to half-step, but for women who may be in between sizes, this is a great boon in getting a perfect fit. Especially for women in the small size range, where there is less breast tissue, a half size may be the right incremental step. ThirdLove currently offers 32 sizes from 28D to 38D, with more coming soon.
I had a few more questions for the ThirdLove team.
How accurate is the sizing app?
Zak said that it is accurate to under 1/2, as accurate as a measuring tape, and that the majority of women complete the fit process successfully. Customers can call a fit assistant if they have difficulty.
Are they planning to make their fitting technology available to non iPhone users?
Yes, they are working on a version for Android, but it is more complicated because of the variety of Android phone sizes.
What happens to the images we take of ourselves during the sizing process?
ThirdLove's PR contact, Abi O'Donnell, answered, "I’m glad you asked about this, because it’s something that’s important to ThirdLove – they take privacy and security very seriously. ThirdLove has undergone a series of extensive security audits to ensure customers’ information is safe and protected. Customer data moves via the highest level of encryption, 256-bit and Verisign. ThirdLove uses customers’ photographs for internal sizing purposes only. The images do not appear on a customer’s Camera Roll or anyplace else on their iPhone, and the photos are only accessed by ThirdLove customer service representatives if there are sizing issues or problems."
In the end, I'm not sure I particularly benefitted from ThirdLove's two advances, the iPhone fit app, and the half sizes. I am a designer, so I can wield a tape measure with fierce accuracy and find it simple to measure myself, simpler than using a somewhat picky app. I also am not a half size, so I don't have a need for the smaller-increment size offerings. But I appreciate that ThirdLove is proposing answers for all the women out there who are missing the right size bra for them. I imagine that the way fashion companies use technology will become more robust and nuanced in time. Maybe one day we'll be able to home 3D print the perfect bra, molded exactly to our bodies. For now we are just wading into the possibilities, and ThirdLove is well positioned to lead the advance. Plus, did I mention I've been wearing this bra for the past six days out of eight?
Did you try the ThirdLove sizing app? Please share your experiences, as well as your thoughts about technology and half sizing.