Photo by Jara HarrisThe story of Kathryn Alexander's breasts deserves to be told, but not simply because they are pretty and perky and pillowy—not to mention she'll-let-you-touch-'emable—and only partly because they are patented.
"Here, feel these," Alexander says in a Betty-Boop-meets-Bettie-Page voice that sounds like lingerie, spilling over with sweetness and confidence and heart-revving subtext. "Aren't they just absolutely gorgeous?"
She hands you swatches of fabric that seem barely there, then cushy strips of silicone that somehow start your mouth watering, and finally a simple white brassiere with the secret little pockets that you suddenly, quite vividly realize are cupping and lifting and delicately creating the sumptuous cleavage that is peeking over the edge of her little scoop-neck T-shirt at this very moment.
Yes, Kathryn Alexander's breasts are absolutely gorgeous. But this alone is not why their story deserves to be told. It's the pilgrimage she has made with her breasts, the destiny toward which she is following them—these are the larger (and not just larger-looking) lessons that she carries for all of us in her chest-enhancing bra, which she calls her Blessing Bra.
"I want to help women look better and feel better about themselves," she says. "I want them to have what worked for me."
Alexander's breasts didn't always look the way they do now. They used to be bigger, then smaller, then much bigger again, then much smaller again. "Before I had my kids, I was a C-cup," she says. "But after the boys were born, my breasts went from C's to A's. Eventually, I wanted my shape back, so I got implants. But I had problems with them, so I had them taken out. I wasn't bummed about it, but I knew I wanted to be curvy again—and I knew there was something to be learned from all of this."
The new and greater truth about falsies, for so long a subject of derision, is that they are cheaper than therapy. That's the not-quite-stated justification for so much of the personal-appearance business these days. Sex appeal? Sure, we all want it and are bound to pursue it. We've come to terms with everybody's natural need to get a little sumpin'-sumpin'. But we're again tending to relegate it to our lower nature. We've moved to the next level. Now it's self-confidence we seek, the spiritual serenity to make some practical improvements in our quality of life. And ironic as it may seem, a range of options from cosmetics to cosmetic surgery is being pitched as steps toward this goal.
"A woman isn't worried about wearing a falsie—like, if a man finds out, oh, my gosh, is he still going to like me?" Alexander says. "They say, 'No! I want to feel good about myself. I'm going to be the best I can be.'"
This line of thinking motivated Alexander to spend seven and a half years designing, patenting, financing, manufacturing and marketing her own line of intimate apparel, which she believes is the next step in women's confidence-through-cleavage journey. This is why she calls it her Blessing Bra—well, that and as an acknowledgment of her Christian faith. "I've had people ask me, 'You're making a bra, and you're a Christian?'" acknowledges Alexander, who has been a regular at Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana for 20 years. "And I say, 'Hey, Christians have to wear bras, too!' To me, being feminine is curves—that's how God made us, you know? God made breasts."
If you want to play the devil's advocate, of course, you could point out that God also built into some breasts a tendency to sag after childbirth. And you could suggest there is something to be said for being satisfied with who we are.
"I totally understand what you're saying," Alexander says. "But it's not like I'm doing a Frederick's of Hollywood or some slinky, sleazy thing. I suppose anybody can take anything you do and put bad taste on it. But I know what I went through as a woman, with my body changing and stuff like that. And to me, this bra is a blessing. Like makeup, you know? I mean, are we not supposed to look our best?"
Alexander insists she didn't just begin feeling this way. She's sensed it all her life. She's been a model since she was four years old. Her parents owned Merle Norman cosmetics studios in her hometown of Detroit when she was a teenager. Her Midwestern girlish good looks have held up into her thirtysomethings, and her slim, statuesque and evenly tanned dimensions continue to belie her single motherhood of two teenage boys. She has made her living decorating other people's faces, first with regular cosmetics and eventually working in a plastic surgeon's office applying permanent makeup.
"This is honest-to-goodness," she says sincerely. "I've seen women come in, get their eyeliner done, their eyebrows. Maybe I give them a mouth—because as we get older, we lose the color and shape and whatnot—and then these women . . . Well, they lose weight, they cut their hair, they get new jobs, they dump abusive boyfriends. It is, like, amazing! And all because they feel good about themselves—and not because they're all Cindy Crawfords. But you give a woman confidence about her appearance and how she feels about herself, and that's the result I'm seeing."
The Blessing Bra, along with an accompanying line of swimsuits, tank tops and dancewear, is scheduled to hit the market this fall. The bra will cost between $35 and $50; Alexander figures it'll sell in small boutiques, higher-end department stores and on the Internet (www.blessingbra.com). What makes it so special? The patented pockets on the inside of each cup, where strips of silicone are snugly secured by overlapping pieces of soft fabric. "It kind of resembles a pillow sham," says Alexander, "and that's the way they're going to be packaged: in little pillows! But the idea is that these garments can be worn everywhere, from roller blading to the hot tub, from chasing your three-year-old around the park to going swimming at the beach."
There are all kinds of plans for the Blessing Bra marketing strategy, ranging from infomercials to talk-show appearances. Alexander expects to be center stage all the way. With her looks and her enthusiasm, she'll probably be good at it. "See," she shows you, "the bra is made at an angle so it's going to accentuate and give the most enhancement to each of our designs. See, the pillow is just simply placed in here, and this goes over the top so it's secure. Then the bra comes up like this . . . and goes like this . . . and since the pocket is in the bottom, it comes up to . . . right . . . about . . . here. And that's the story!"
Absolutely gorgeous, which was as good a reason as any for it to be told.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Orange County art and theater scene.