Ex-Googler Invents A Better Way To Buy Bras

San Francisco-based startup ThirdLove is trying to revamp the awful bra-shopping experience by letting women size themselves in the privacy of their homes.

Eighty percent of women wear the wrong bra size. That’s partly because getting your bust measured is such an awkward experience: many women would rather suffer the discomfort of ill-fitting lingerie than be assaulted by a 16-year-old stranger with a tape measure at Victoria’s Secret. And it’s also because many women fall in between the current available industry sizes–they might be an A and a half, for example, but such variations are nearly impossible to find.


San Francisco-based startup ThirdLove wants to do away with the purgatory that is bra shopping forever. “I’d rather go get my eyebrows waxed or take out the garbage than go bra shopping,” founder Heidi Zak, a former Aeropostale business director and Google Marketer, tells Co.Design. This dread led Zak and her husband, former Sequoia Capital partner Dave Spector, to develop an app that allows a woman to calculate her own bra size–in the privacy of her own room–using two iPhone mirror selfies.

The app uses computer vision technology, similar to that used by the Mars Rover, which extracts 3-D information from 2-D images. (Ara Nefian, a scientist once contracted with NASA, formerly headed the engineering team.) The technology analyzes body size in relation to the iPhone’s size, a standard unit of measure, with accuracy down to an eighth of an inch. “We couldn’t have built what we’ve built a few years ago,” Zak says. “We leverage all the current sensors of the iPhone, particularly the gyroscope, and plug this data into an algorithm.” The interface has been significantly improved since the app’s phase in private beta–it originally required users to outline their upper bodies on a series of three photos; now the computer vision tech can automatically recognize the outline in just two.

In addition to developing this sizing tech, ThirdLove has designed a line of customizable bras and underwear. “We aim to equal the quality and beauty of European luxury lingerie, but for a more affordable price,” Ra’el Cohen, ThirdLove’s design director, says. (Although with bras starting at $39, they’re still a bit pricier than most fast-fashion lingerie.) “ThirdLove cuts out the middleman, selling directly to consumers,” Cohen says. To top off all this undie-industry disruption, they’re offering bras in half sizes that fit just right, accommodating the many busts of the world.

When I tried out the ThirdLove app, at first I was weirded out by the disembodied lady’s voice (sultrier than Siri, not as sultry as the OS in Her) directing me to hold my case-less iPhone an inch away from my bellybutton while standing in a tight-fitting tank top in front of a mirror with my hair in a bun. Robot lady was demanding. But it didn’t take longer than three minutes for her to snap two photos (which, the company says, are never revealed to human eyes), and direct me to a personalized shop of ThirdLove products all in my newly calculated size. The thought of never again having to set foot in the frilly pink world of Victoria’s Secret sounded like sweet relief.

Most recently, Cohen has designed a line of bras made of Memory Foam, which launches in May. ThirdLove bras are available from $39 to $74 here. Download the app here.


About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.