PARIS, January 24, 2010 (AFP) – Bras top the list of fashion items that magically change the way women look. Ask Poupie Cadolle, whose company invented the bra and who has unparalleled expertise in pushing, squeezing and flattering breasts. Or ask Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau or Sharon Stone, dressed by Cadolle for films or magazine covers to bring out the best of their torsos.
“I’m fashion’s top cheat,” says the bright-eyed blonde of 63, the fifth generation of women at the helm of a family firm known for made-to-measure bras at a cool 640 euros (902 dollars) a piece.
“People forget that the whole point of a bra is to provide support,” said Cadolle. “It is there to stop the sagging that comes if breasts bounce about due to poor straps or loose cups and material.”
Leaders of these French corsetry dynasties are true believers in the bra — in its virtues and its quality and cut as well as its beauty.
“We ,” she said of push-up and padded bras and the other tricks of corsetry.
Concern over sagging bosoms is such that British label Freya has extended its cup sizes from the routine A to D right up to a K to give women more depth. It also now has a special fitting expert who travels to lingerie boutiques across Europe to help saleswomen help clients choose the right bra.
“More and more young women need bigger sizes yet four out five women don’t even know their bra size,” said Freya’s Marie-Laure Vasquez. “The right size means better posture and less strain on the back.”
Bras are complicated things, however, made of a total 14 different components — from hooks to lace to elastic — and 11 to 18 pieces of fabric.
“Bras are very complicated and each woman is different,” said Cadolle of her Rolls-Royce-like models made of 16 pieces of fabric.
To sell her custom-made models, Poupie Cadolle nowadays travels to Dubai and New York several times a year, measuring up customers, returning for fittings, and finally sending the finished item through the post.
“They might be expensive but no two women are the same and, if washed properly, a good bra can provide the proper support for a couple of years.”
Though times are hard, France’s bra dynasties remain optimistic for the future.
“France still has a reputation for refinery and elegance, and we are surviving,” says Cadolle, who hopes for a return of the pointy bra, the kind of breast flaunted by Brigitte Bardot in the 50s and 60s.
Says Desjonquieres: “By flattering a woman’s body we help her express her femininity.”