If you run into Myron Kolski at J.C. Penny’s, it will most likely be in the ladies underwear section. He’s the tall, unassuming man in his mid-fifties, with a button-down shirt, pocket-protector, tech glasses and a kind face on a balding head. He’s so completely absorbed by the stitching of the bra he’s holding that his wife, Rea, has to yell three times before the words compute: “Time to go, Myron!”
Parents of two, Rea and Myron live in a quiet New Jersey suburb. They have two cars, a nice lawn and a basement that floods. And every day for the last eighteen years, Myron’s thoughts have been consumed by bras and ladies’ underwear. It makes sense he’s the Production Engineer and Director of Quality Control for a major bra manufacturer.
When I pick Myron up at his home, the first thing I notice are his humble eyes and, behind them, a sense of humor that keeps to itself. It’s Rea who begins to tell me a bit about what Myron does for a living: “Working in the industry is a totally uplifting experience,” she says, “but you need a lot of hands-on experience. Some days it’s a total bust, especially if you don’t keep abreast of the situation.” She just can’t help herself.
I take Myron to the local diner, where he has some soup, I have some yogurt and we talk shop. Ross Martin
Which is it, “bra” or “brassiere”?
Eighty percent “bra.”
I can’t spell “brassiere,” can you?
Probably not. I’d need to write it down.
Describe your office.
It’s an office!
What’s on the walls?
Promotional photos. I used to have some old pictures of women in bras and underwear. One woman was wearing a fur coat, one was wearing a cat suit. Major turnoffs, I took them down.
Where’s your office in relation to
I’m two doors down from the design room, where the naked bodies are, if that’s what you’re asking.
Tell me your best day at work.
The day I proved you could save significant money combining raw materials more efficiently.
In the recent history of bra-making, what’s the greatest advancement?
Nobody’s doing anything new, everybody’s copying or I should say, emulating. I guess maybe the biggest advancement in the last twenty-five years is how “forgiving” bras have become. It used to be, either it fits or it doesn’t fit. Now we use material that’s more elastic. It’s more rocket science than it ever was . . . not that it’s rocket science.
NASA could learn a thing or two from you guys.
Actually, now we use digitizing, digital cameras, computerized cutters, some of the same technology used to make the graphic portions of fighter jets.
How many breasts do you see a week?
Three to four, usually in the mornings.
The biggest you’ve seen?
My friend makes Double G’s. Breasts that are bigger than my head!
[Note: Myron’s head is sizeable, and he’s holding it in his hands like a basketball.]
Ever designed a bra for men?
I never heard of that.
How about women with implants, do you consider their needs?
No. Their breasts do different things, but those women find bras out there that work for them.
What’s the biggest problem facing the bra industry today?
Jennifer Lopez wearing an open-front dress at the Oscars, that’s a threat to us. But she couldn’t wear that to work. And she ain’t gonna look like that forever!
Describe the perfect breast.
38C, twenty-eight to thirty-two years old, with a nice tan.
Are any two breasts the same?
Some. When you design a 34D, say, it’s different for younger and older women.
What are the models like?
They’re all different. My first job, I was in a fitting room with designers and there were three women completely naked. One was a 38D, in her sixties and very attractive, and there was a 34C and 34D, both younger. I couldn’t hack it. I turned crimson red. My boss, a woman who was VP of Merchandising, said, “Myron, you’re all red, what’s the matter?” You can imagine.
A good, reliable model makes between 80 to 180 thousand dollars a year. They’re only in the room with you for twenty minutes, but they travel a lot. Some start travelling to jobs at five in the morning. These are not the women you see in the catalogues, but some are very attractive.
A good model is . . .
Punctual. And her body’s consistent. Most of the models are on the pill because it regulates their cycles. And you know, a lot’s changed. There’s less inhibition, more flesh visible without any fuss. Sometimes models will wear panties underneath the underwear we’re fitting, just so we don’t see pubes. Some don’t really care. In the old days they used to take white bread and shove it up there.
Did you just say white bread?
Yeah, if the garment was too tight and might reveal something, a fold of flesh, they used some bread in there.
I imagine their nakedness is not an issue for you anymore.
Well, it’s rare, but there are some men who I’ve seen tug and look, or actually put fingers in places they don’t belong. Even if it’s just a pinky. I know people who’ve been reprimanded. I’ve seen guys sniff underwear. Some of the stitching is irritating and coarse, and one way to test that is to rub it against your lower lip, and if it irritates you there it’s going to irritate a nipple. I’ve seen a few guys perform such a test right after a model takes the bra off. But so what?
Do you spend more time on bras or underwear?
Bras, by far. The profit margin is so small for underwear.
What’s the worst material used to make a bra?
Corded and sequined-embroidered lace: you can’t wash it, you can’t dry clean it and it can only be worn so many times . . . unless you spray it with a lot of perfume.
When people ask me what I do, I usually start by saying that I peddle smut. What on earth do you tell them when it comes up?
It’s always a topic of conversation, people make jokes, my wife and her friends. My next door neighbor knows. One time, we were having a problem with flooding, so I used a planimeter to calculate the amount of water runoff in the area around our house. I’d used the same instrument a week before to calculate the area on some paper cutouts for bra patterns. When I made my presentation on the flooding problem to our local officials, the town engineer perked up and the mayor laughed when I told him what I do.
Let’s do some word association. I’ll name a woman and you tell me, as a bra engineer, what comes to mind:
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I like her.
A familiar face.
Kathy Lee Gifford.
I can’t talk about it.
Whose were the first breasts you ever saw?
Ask my mother.
Ever raid your mother’s underwear drawer?
I don’t recall.
Do you ever get sick of breasts?
Not at all. I guess it’s just a psychological reaction.
You studied industrial engineering at NYU. What does it take to be good at what you do?
Engineering is educated common sense. What I do, it’s the same old analysis, over and over,
but it’s always a challenge. To be good at it takes a lot of energy and focus. I had to learn how to concentrate on demand.
I’ll say. Would I make a good bra engineer?
What are your spatial visualization skills?
You’re saying a fine artist would be good.
Yes. And you need a mathematical intellect.
Are you looking forward to going to work tomorrow?
Any models coming in?
Tomorrow’s Tuesday. Yes, probably.
Can I come to work with you tomorrow?
I’d have to ask.
Ross Martin and Nerve.com