Algorithm helps you pick right bra

Chennai-born, San Francisco-based software engineer Aarthi Ramamurthy is the talk of the town for creating an algorithm that helps women find the right-sized bra online.

Indian women are no different from American ladies. At least, not when they step into a dressing room, and strip. While expert studies claim 80 per cent of American women wear the wrong bra size, in India, the numbers stand at a more disappointing 90 per cent. A Chennai-born, San Francisco-based software engineer decided to do something about it. Aarthi Ramamurthy used her talent for coding to help women find the right bra fit online, using an algorithm.

Ramamurthy and business partner Michelle Lam set up a website called True & Co, surveyed hundreds of women who narrated arduous tales of squeezing or floating in ill-fitting lingerie, and did a bit of Math. "Bra sizes across brands were inconsistent. A size 34C in one could be equivalent to a 34B in another. As a user, I not only have to know my exact size, I also have to know how that size maps across various brands. There had to be a better way to buy bras online."

Ramamurthy and Lam's algorithm predicts the exact fit, and suggests models you can buy. "That way, the user no longer has to worry if the bra will fit her; she only needs to pick those she likes and we guarantee that they'll fit. The goal is to make bra shopping a delightful experience without breaking the bank," she says.

The young entrepreneurs say a bra is a complicated piece of work, fitted with over 20 components. Every bra fitter has a set of heuristics or unwritten rules in his head when searching for the best-fitting bra for a woman. "We baked these unwritten rules into a code and created a system where, when the user shares specific details through a quiz (eg: what breast shape are you?), we are able to determine which set of bras work best for her."

The questions, says Ramamurthy, are straightforward. In fact, users enjoy taking the quiz, comparing it to a process of self-discovery, curious to see the final set they are recommended. Each bra on True & Co costs $45 ( 2,300 approx). And since the encoders are women, they know the ladies like to try on stuff before whipping out the cash. Before you seal the deal, True offers to courier a selection of bras over for trial, against a refundable deposit.

Coding is not new for Ramamurthy, who in 2010, created the Bubblegum photo-sharing application for Microsoft phones using Windows, along with techie husband Sriram Krishnan, while on their honeymoon. "We fine-tuned it over the Christmas holidays," says the gold medallist from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, who got featured in The New York Times for the invention.

Measure your bra size at home

I Measure your band size. Run a tape around your body just underneath your breasts and note measurement in inches. Your arms should be down. If this measurement is an odd number, you should try out bras in the size below your measurement and the size above (If you measure 31, try size 30 and 32). If it's an even number, that's your size. A good test is to check that you can fit no more than a fist under the back of the bra.

I Figure your cup size. The best way to do it is by using the bra you currently wear. The cups are sized relative to the band, so if you were to try a smaller band size but keep the same cup size, the cups would be too small. For every band size you decrease, increase the cups by one size (If your current size is 34D, and you measure 28 inches as band size, you should wear a 28F). Check around the cups, in front and sides, for bulging. Make sure the underwires under your arms on the side are sitting on your ribs. If they cut into the sides of your breasts, go for a larger cup size.

I Take the mirror test. Put on the chosen bra, turn to one side and check if your bust stands half way between your elbow and shoulder. Put on a T-shirt because it will display any bulges from cups that are too small.

Coming soon fitting video guides

Half the customers at Straps & Strings, a premium lingerie portal that Saurabh and Deeksha Dadu launched in 2010, are men buying lingerie priced between 2,000 and 11,000 for their wives and girlfriends.

Internationally, lingerie is one of the most shopped products online. In India, the market for premium and luxury lingerie is nascent, but growing fast. It was after surveying 3,000 young Indian women that the couple launched their portal to retail Lise Charmel, Simone Perele, Chantelle Christies, Mimi Holliday, among other international labels.

To help women shop for lingerie online, they offer fitting literature and plan to launch video guides soon. There is a 14-day return and exchange policy. Customers in Delhi can visit their office for a fitting session, or book an appointment with a fitter trained by French specialists, who is available for an at-home consultation.

What is your shape?

Round: Your breasts are equally round all over.

Bottom: Your chest is flatter at the top and wider at the bottom of your breasts.

Sides: Place three fingers in the centre of your chest. Your breasts are more than three fingers apart.

Sides+bottom: You have wider set breasts that are heavier at the bottom.

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