With the strapless, self-adhesive NuBra being hailed as a miracle bra, we wondered if it was too good to be true.
By SHARON FINK
Published May 29, 2003
If you choose to join the latest fashion fad, be sure to read and follow the instructions.
It's easy to imagine talking about anything but baseball at a Devil Rays game, but bras?
Rows of people talking bras.
This happened at a recent game. And it's not an anomaly.
Tampa Bay area men are talking bras. Tourists are getting off planes and heading straight to a Tampa mall to buy bras. An aerobics instructor stood in the middle of the Neiman Marcus underwear department and gave a public testimonial to a bra.
The Tampa Bay area has become the epicenter of the latest women's undergarment revolution.
The instigator is the NuBra.
Developed by a California company last year, the NuBra is two pieces of silicone shaped like bra cups with adhesive on the inside and connected by a plastic hook. That's it.
No straps cutting into the shoulders. Nothing that binds like a back brace.
Just coverage, comfort and, with the proper positioning (the instructions say), cleavage. No more obsessing over whether bra parts are peeking out of tank, halter, backless and strapless tops.
All for $60.
It sounds too good to be true.
But no promise can be that empty, no sales pitch devoid of truth - and $60 is just pocket change - when it comes to the desperate search for a better bra. From the time the NuBra arrived at the Tampa Neiman Marcus, the bay area's NuBra headquarters, 500 were sold through mid May, a period of about four weeks, store representatives said.
"We're the No. 1 store (in sales) for all Neiman Marcus stores," said Linda Zipkin, public relations manager for the store at International Plaza.
It started innocently enough, as some revolutions do. Buyers for the Neiman chain found the NuBra during their search for new products and shipped it to its stores without fanfare.
An initial shipment of a hundred-plus to the Tampa store sold out with little publicity, save for testimonials from satisfied customers, such as the aerobics instructor Zipkin encountered in the underwear department saying that she wore a NuBra for a class and it didn't slip, shift or otherwise leave her looking like she had four breasts instead of two.
And then came Fox.
WTVT-Ch. 13, an affiliate of the Fox network, did a story story about the NuBra on May 7. It combined with an accompanying radio story to send bay area women into a NuBra frenzy. Neiman was jammed with requests. A waiting list was started.
Then Fox stations around the country picked up the story. And requests started coming in from all over, Zipkin said. Sometimes literally. On the Saturday after the initial stories, she encountered two women in the store who said they had just gotten off a plane at Tampa International Airport and headed straight for Neiman for NuBras.
The waiting list began to shrink after the store was restocked with a few hundred May 12. Boxes with sales slips attached dotted two counters in the lingerie department one afternoon as a saleswoman put together orders.
"We're delighted" by the NuBra's success, Zipkin said.
Because some fashion revolutions just have to be joined, for better or worse, we decided to road-test a NuBra. And, for better or worse, any illusions we had about it were pummeled before we got it out of the box.
Our saleswoman started the assault by saying forcefully that all the instructions had to be followed for best results.
The instructions begin on the back of the box. They detail three steps for applying the silicone cups and are preceded by the sentence: "It is important that you follow all the instructions carefully prior to wearing NuBra" and a "DO NOT USE" warning about what not to put on the skin to make sure that the cups stick properly.
This was already too much thinking for putting on a bra and we hadn't even gotten to actually doing it.
And we still had a ways to go to get there. We had to read the "suggestions" for positioning the cups for best effect and the "note" that said if we were not satisfied with the initial application, we could peel off the cups and try again but that too many tries would reduce the effectiveness of the adhesive.
This was the approximate time of death of our NuBra illusions.
In case we didn't bother to read the box and/or had tuned out our saleswoman, inside the box was a duplicate set of instructions that also included the three steps and five capitalized cautions for washing the cups and a small-print paragraph detailing who should not wear the NuBra.
We were thinking that the road map to Middle East peace is simpler.
On to the application.
Day 1 was done in the middle of a day, which meant we already had violated some of the application rules. So we were prepared for failure (which, given the plethora of warnings and instructions, we knew would be our fault).
Some spots didn't stick like we thought they should have, so occasionally it felt like a small piece of adhesive tape was being pressed on and removed. But after an hour and 45 minutes, the effect was less bothersome than a strap cutting into the skin.
And then a sudden twist of the upper torso made us feel like everything was going to peel off.
It didn't. Until we drove home from work.
During a drive from 6 to 6:30 p.m. we tested the contention on the NuBra Web site that "NuBra is guaranteed to stay securely in place even if you sweat, when instructions are followed carefully." The air conditioning was kept off, and just one window was rolled down in the car. The NuBra couldn't handle the humidity.
And yes, we admit we hadn't followed the instructions carefully.
Day 2 began with an attempt to follow the instructions carefully before applying the silicone cups. We had problems trying to line up each cup so the hook could be hooked. But once that was solved, the only distraction during the day was that occasional "adhesive tape" feeling.
On the drive home, humidity caused a minor version of the previous night's problem, but we admit to a "suggestion" violation: The NuBra had been worn longer than the recommended six hours maximum.
Our conclusion: The NuBra revolution isn't on par with the one that eliminated the corset as standard equipment, but it has its advantages. (Now there's no reason for anyone to pretend that the spaghetti straps on the tank hide bra straps.) There are worse wardrobe accouterments on which to spend $60. And if you can't get the cups to work at their intended purpose, they can serve as emergency knee pads for inline skating.
The NuBra is sold only in cup sizes: A, B and C. The company that makes it, Bragel International Inc., says it is made to fit chest sizes 32A to 38C. The NuBra comes in two colors, nude and clear. A black version is due this year.