Saturday, July 21, 2012

July's Peculiar Person: Editor Leah Hansen

Editor and columnist Leah Hansen is a student of journalism. Her work can be seen in her column on a website devoted to the social issues related to women with large busts and the integral workings of bras that suit them. Leah's editorial contributions can be seen with such groups as Romantic Times Book Reviews, Pronto Comics, and formatting and editing a music column on HuffPo written by musician Danielle Evin. Find out what this up-and-coming editor thinks as she straps us in for a firm look at comics, travel, editing, and the rituals of bra wearers around the world.

T.P.L. NYC: You are a columnist on, can you tell me a bit about the site and what it offers readers?

Leah Hansen: is a blog that focuses on big busts and hourglass figures. It was started by Darlene Campbell, founder of Campbell & Kate (, a line of white button-up shirts sized for women with a large bust. Hourglassy focuses mostly on fashion and lingerie, but also some social issues related to breasts. The site is one of many, many blogs that make up a huge, international online community of women and girls with large busts. These sizes are not catered to by mainstream clothing manufacturers at all. It is so difficult to find clothes and bras that fit right when you have a large breast size to rib cage ratio. This community has sprung up so we can help one another find clothes, advice, and often just a sounding board for body-related frustrations.

T.P.L. NYC: What is the column about and how long have you been doing it?

L.H.: My column is called “Off the Rack.” It started with a focus on sewing and altering clothes to fit an hourglass-shaped body; but just as often it consists of me ranting about something boob-related. I’ve been doing it for almost a year.

T.P.L. NYC: Where you assigned to it, or did you come up with the idea yourself and pitch it to the site owner? How does it feel writing about bras? Was the opportunity something that surprised you, or were you in from the start? Did you ever think this would be something you would end up writing about?

L.H.: I found Hourglassy through another forum, when someone linked to a series Darlene had published by another writer, who wrote about her breast reduction. Once the reduction was over with, the writer stopped contributing to Hourglassy, and I emailed Darlene to see if she was interested in a replacement columnist. I had been wanting to pitch an article about bras to a more traditional publication for some time, but never really got around to it. In the end, I feel that a blog is a better fit anyways because it’s less formal and allows me to write about personal experience.

T.P.L. NYC: Between the right breast and the left, which one do you think is the more difficult for women to deal with? Which one do they have the most problems with?

L.H.: First, I think the idea of “dealing” with your breasts is a very unhealthy attitude. Breasts are just another part of the human body. That’s like asking which testicle men have difficulty with. Or, I guess, it’s more like asking which nipple men have difficulty with. There’s no one side that women have more trouble with than the other. That being said, most pairs of breasts are actually not symmetrical. One breast is almost always bigger than the other by at least a fraction. Sometimes there can even be a whole cup size difference between each one. Women should always choose bras that fit the larger breast, because you can use a little padding or a “chicken cutlet” (tan silicon bra inserts) to fill in the other. But there’s nothing you can do to fix quad boob (when the bra cuts into the breast tissue creating the illusion of a double boob) or side boob (when the cup is too small, and breast tissue squishes out under your armpit) on the bigger breast, if the cup is too small.

T.P.L. NYC: What is the biggest misconception about bras?

L.H.: That the letters mean anything at all! Particularly in America, most men and women, and even lingerie retailers, don’t know how bra sizes work. Most important of all is that the letters are variable. When your band size changes, in order to keep the same cup volume, the letter must change too. So if a woman is wearing a 34C bra, and decides the band is too big but the cup is fine, she would need to switch to a 32D to maintain the same cup value. People always assume that A is tiny, DD is huge, and F or up can only be fake. But if the letters are variable, then an A, DD, or F doesn’t mean anything unless you know the band size too. Take the size 28G. Sounds crazy, right? How can someone so thin have such huuuuuuge breasts unless they’re fake? Well 28G would be the same breast volume as 30FF, as 32F, as 34DDD (sometimes called E), as 36DD. And supposedly 36DD is the average American bra size. And consider even bigger bands. 36DD is the same breast volume as 38D or 40C. And since when is a C cup so big? Bras actually go as small as 26 in the band (and some women even need 24, though nobody makes them yet) and as high as N in the cup. And all these sizes are perfectly natural. Women come in all sizes, and trust me when I say that the alphabet does not stop at D. The really frustrating thing is that you read statistic after statistic claiming that the vast majority of American women are wearing the wrong bra size, yet major manufacturers refuse to create bras with bands below 32 or 34 and cups above D or DD. The result is that women have no choice but to wear the wrong size, and have no idea how the sizing is even supposed to work.

T.P.L. NYC: How many bras will a woman go through in her lifetime?

L.H.: Dozens, at least. Possibly up to hundreds. Bras don’t last all that long. The elastic breaks down over time, the bands and straps stretch out, and women’s bodies change enough through a lifetime that they have to refresh their bra collection pretty frequently. How many pairs of underwear will a man go through in his lifetime? It’s probably not that different. Additionally, the way you care for your bra affects its life span. Handwashing in cold water with gentle soap, hanging to dry, and skipping at least a day between wearings (to let the elastic bounce back) will prolong a bra’s life. Don’t ever put a bra in a clothes dryer!

T.P.L. NYC: Do all those expensive bras live up to their hype, or will the ones from K-Mart be better?

L.H.: It really depends on your size. If you wear a 34-38 band and an A, B, or C cup, you can probably get away with cheap department store bras. But most of those kinds of stores don’t carry a 32 or smaller, or a D cup and up. So if your size falls outside that very narrow range (even Victoria’s Secret, the supposed “bra experts,” only carries 32-40 A-DDD, and those DD and DDD’s are very rare—some of their bras don’t even go above C), then you can’t buy cheap bras. You’re stuck with the expensive ones. That being said, in my personal experience, the most expensive bras are not always the highest quality. However, you can often get those expensive bras for less if you know where to look— and (two online stores that cater to large cups and small bands), for example, offer excellent sales if you sign up for their mailing list, and eBay is full of great deals.

T.P.L. NYC: What do you feel the best kept secret is concerning bras? Fill us in for men and women?

L.H.: The internet is a bra shopper’s best friend! Women shouldn’t feel bad or fat for having breasts that go above a D cup. Yes, it is difficult (sometimes truly impossible depending on where you live) to find those sizes in retail stores, but stores will only increase their offerings if consumers demand it. So stop squeezing yourself into the wrong size just because it’s all you can find in person. If you require a band smaller than a 32 or a cup above DD, shop online! There are multitudes of brands and online stores that cater to these sizes, and they don’t only offer full-coverage “granny” bras, either. If you need help figuring out the right size, you can do a free fitting over Skype with Canadian retailer Butterfly Collection (, or find advice in any of the dozens and dozens of bra blogs. Some of my favorites are,, and (and, of course).

T.P.L. NYC: What bra do you think is the worst?

L.H.: Anything from Victoria’s Secret! Sure, they look pretty, but the company fits such a narrow range of sizes that they’ve really drawn the ire of the big bust community. Plus, VS does a terrible job at fitting women properly—they’re known to put women in the wrong size just to make a sale. If you look at VS catalogs, even their own models are usually in the wrong size, and nearly all are sporting some seriously laughable Photoshopping.

T.P.L. NYC: I have been hearing that women are getting breast jobs more and more, tell us, what is the future for the A and B cup size?

L.H.: It’s true that surgical breast enhancement in the U.S. has increased in recent years (by about 40% over the last decade, according to a 2011 study from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons). However, America is not a litmus test for the entire world. Most women on earth don’t even have access, nor care, about such a surgery. Note, also, that in the world of high fashion, large breasts are not acceptable. So there are still large swathes of people who appreciate or prefer small breasts. So even though the popularity of large breasts may feel pervasive thanks to mainstream pop culture, small breasts aren’t going anywhere.

T.P.L. NYC: Since many women get breast jobs, does that change how bras will fit? In essence, does that make your job harder?

L.H.: Yes, it absolutely changes the way bras fit. Silicon doesn’t move the way human tissue does. There are actually lingerie brands out there that create bras especially for fake boobs. It has no bearing on my job. Whether breasts are fake or real, women still face similar problems with regards to finding clothes for their big-busted body shape.

T.P.L. NYC: Do you ever travel and do demos with models? If so, to where do you go?

L.H.: No, though I occasionally attend lingerie trade shows, such as the yearly Curve Expo.

T.P.L. NYC: When people don’t wear underwear they call it going commando, is there a more technical term for going without a bra other than braless? Do you think you can trademark a word here?

L.H.: Nope, it’s just called “braless.” And since I would never dream of dressing as such (boobs flopping around are painful), I have no interest in coming up with a new word.

T.P.L. NYC: How do you feel about man boobs? Do you think you could write a column on helping men out?

L.H.: Breast reductions have apparently been growing among men in recent years. But even men who have “moobs” do not face the same stigma or clothing problems that large-breasted women do. So I definitely could not write a column for men. I don’t even know what kind of help they would need. Plus, man boobs are usually the result of being overweight, whereas women can be perfectly healthy and very skinny while still having naturally large breasts. And men don’t get catcalled on the street, groped on the subway, or called a “slut” by complete strangers just because they may have larger than average boobs. There is simply no comparison.

T.P.L. NYC: What do you feel is the biggest mistake women make when putting a braw on?

L.H. Well buying the wrong size is the biggest mistake. But another mistake is that many women don’t do the “swoop and scoop.” In fact, many women smush their boobs down into the cups, often because they're wearing the wrong size and this is the only way to get the bra to “fit.” Once a bra is on, you need to use your hand to scoop up all the breast tissue from the outer side and pull (or swoop) it into the center of the bra. Once you do this, you may notice that you’re getting quad boob. This means you have the wrong size and need a bigger cup.

T.P.L. NYC: Is there a bra that men prefer more than women?

L.H.: Men seem to prefer when women wear bras that are too small, because it squishes your boobs together and makes them look extra cleavage-y. However, an improperly fitting bra can lead to breast tissue migration, back pain, bad posture, quad-boob, and just plain discomfort. So I don’t recommend it as a routine choice. It must be noted, though, that not all men prefer big boobs. Some do like small ones, some like medium ones, some like fake ones, and some don’t care at all as long as they’re there.

T.P.L. NYC: How do you research new topics for your column?

L.H.: Since a lot of my columns are about sewing, I just photograph all the sewing projects I’m doing anyways, and turn them into an instructional blog post. If I get a new product or bra, I write a review. I don’t really do a ton of research, I mostly just notice something and file it away in my brain for a later post. Like a few weeks ago, I was window shopping in the cheapo clothing stores on Broadway between Canal and Houston (Amsterdam Boutique, Necessary Clothing, Chill, etc), and found a bustier top covered in spikes. It was so bizarre and out of place in the store, and got me thinking about “dangerous” breasts. So I ended up writing a column about that.

T.P.L. NYC: Of all the columns you’ve written, which one do you remember, or stands out, the most to you?

L.H.: The ones that get the most comments and discussion definitely stand out the most. That’s how I know it was a good column. I recently wrote a post about how annoyed I was that is selling a bra from the line Parfait by Affinitas. That brand specifically caters to women who have a small band size and large cups, but Modcloth doesn’t offer the full range of sizes and lists useless fit information, which is completely contrary to the whole point of the brand’s mission. I thought it was kind of a throwaway column, honestly. It was just me ranting. But it generated a ton of comments and good discussion. So maybe I should give myself more credit!

T.P.L. NYC: How many different types of bras are there for women to use now-a-days? Which one do you think is the best…is it lace, sports, pushup or those diamond beaded ones from Victoria’s Secret?

L.H.: Again, nothing from Victoria’s Secret. They sell a one-of-a-kind bra made of precious gems (diamonds, sapphires, etc) every Christmas for a million dollars. But it only comes in one size—a 34 or 36B, I think. It’s just so ridiculous! But seriously, there are dozens and dozens of different bra styles these days—balconnet, molded, push-up, seamed, plunge, wire-free…the list goes on. There is absolutely no “best” type of bra. It all depends on the woman’s size, shape, preferences, and the clothes she happens to be wearing that day. A slinky tee shirt needs a seamless bra, a sleeveless top needs a strapless, exercise requires a sports bra. Plus different boob shapes simply fit certain bra styles better than others. For example, plunge styles (a low, plunging center) tend to be better for full-on-bottom breasts, while full-on-top breasts may be more comfortable in a balconnet (which is more horizontal and open at the top of the cup). There are also bras meant strictly for the bedroom, with all kinds of frills and charms and things that would show through clothing. It’s never-ending.

T.P.L. NYC: You mentioned that you like to edit material, what made you want to be an editor? What kinds of things do you like to edit the most – books, articles, etc.?

L.H.: I graduated from college with a degree in English and art, but had no idea what I wanted to do or even what options were out there for me. I just knew I wanted to do something with writing and art. Luckily, the university in my hometown (Syracuse) had just started an arts journalism masters program in their journalism school, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Thank goodness I got in, because it not only improved my writing skills and taught me how to research and write journalistic stories, but also helped me figure out what I wanted to do and how to get it. The career development center at Newhouse was really amazing. They helped me get internships, and focused so much on teaching students about resume-building, networking, and job-hunting. I would’ve been lost without it. Anyhow, I discovered that I’m not so much cut out for long-form articles, but I love working with the written word and am really anal about grammar, punctuation, and that kind of stuff. I think I’m best at editing articles and shorter pieces because I tend to have a hard time focusing on the big picture (as you need to do with a book) compared to details. But I think I’m getting better the more I do it.

T.P.L. NYC: You are also a book reviewer, how did you get started with that? Do you pick the books or do they give them to you?

L.H.: I write book reviews for RT Book Reviews magazine. The RT stands for “Romantic Times,” but I actually review mainstream fiction, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and a little bit of contemporary romance (chick lit). I got into it because RT was a client of the computer consultant for whom I work as a part-time assistant. When I had to drop something off at their office in Brooklyn, I just asked about reviewing books for them. Many of their reviewers are just fans, not necessarily professional writers, so I basically just joined the ranks. I sometimes pick the books if the editors send out a list of available titles, but most of the time I just tell them to send me whatever. I really enjoy reading and always need something to read on the subway, so I like doing it even if I end up not liking the book.

T.P.L. NYC: You work so many different jobs, does it feel overwhelming or do you enjoy the fast pace of working with different creative people?

L.H.: There are things I both do and don’t like about freelancing and working lots of different jobs. The freedom is great, and at this point I have enough regular, long-term gigs to add up to a salary that affords me a pretty comfortable lifestyle. It’s also never boring, because I get to do lots of different things. But it would be really nice to have health insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and more co-workers. But I’ve applied to literally hundreds of full-time, traditional jobs in the last few years, and only gotten a handful of interviews and no offers. So unless the economy magically turns around, I don’t see myself getting a “real” job any time soon. It’s become clear to me, though, that even if the economy weren’t doing so badly, traditional applications are just not the way to find a job anymore. Literally every job or gig I have right now is from knowing the right person, putting myself out there, and making sure everyone I work with knows I’m on a constant hunt for more work. It’s kind of unfortunate, because if you’re shy or just starting out, it can be extremely difficult to find work in a creative or humanities-related field.

T.P.L. NYC: You will be working with the Huffington Post, tell us how you landed that? What is it like inside the Huffington Post?

L.H.: Well I’ll really only be working for HuffPo tangentially. One of my old co-workers from a previous job helps edit and format a music column on HuffPo written by musician Danielle Evin. My friend needed a new partner for that gig, and suggested me. So now I’ll be doing the work with her. Since it’s all done online, I don’t know anything about the inside of the Huffington Post. But I’ve been reading the site for a long time and really admire Arianna Huffington.

T.P.L. NYC: You are also a big comic fan, and you edit scripts for the New York City-based Pronto Comics? What do you like about editing comics?

L.H.: I like that editing comics is so different from editing articles or books. You almost get to ignore the minutiae of line-editing and have to focus more on the big picture—characters’ motivations, dialogue, and even the visuals. It’s up to the writer to give enough guidance to the artist. So as editor, I have to imagine what the writer is trying to describe. I often do little thumbnail sketches as I’m reading a script, and if I can’t figure out what the writer is trying to explain, then I assume an artist won’t be able to either. Everything has to be clear, but leave room for creativity at the same time. It also has to be a good, compelling story overall, whether the writing is up to par or not. I think it’s harder than traditional editing because there are no hard and fast rules.

T.P.L. NYC: You also speak French, how did you learn it? You also like French comics, how do you feel their comic books differ from American books?

L.H.: Well my mother is French. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. after getting married, and my mom and her brother attended the Lycée Français in New York, so they had a very European upbringing. They all spoke French to each other, so I picked up a little bit of the language as a kid, then took French in middle school, high school, and two semesters in college. Unfortunately, my high school teacher was so bad that my language skills are not where they should be. But I can certainly hold a conversation or get around a French-speaking city no problem. I also make a point of reading books in French (especially comics!) and watching French movies, to keep my language up to par even though I don’t speak it that much. As for the difference between French and American comics, I think the greatest difference is how much respect the medium gets in its respective country. Unlike the U.S., comics in France are not considered “kids’ stuff,” and adult women are not completely ignored by the market. For more analysis, I’ll point you to my recent post about French and Belgian comics on the Pronto Comics blog (

T.P.L. NYC: What French comic books do you like and why?

L.H.: There are sooooo many French (and Belgian) comics that I love. I grew up with TinTin and Asterix, for starters. Now I read the hilarious and somewhat dirty children’s titles Petit Spirou and Titeuf, as well as anything I can find by the amazing female comic creators Madeleine Martin, Pénélope Bagieu, and Margaux Motin. I also read a lot of manga in French, because so many more series are translated to French than English, particularly titles geared at adult women, which are almost nonexistent in the U.S.

T.P.L. NYC: You do a lot of traveling, you were recently in Belgium. Was that your first time? What other countries have you been to?

L.H.: Yes, that was my first time in Belgium. I really want to go back some day, especially to the city of Ghent. Other countries I’ve visited are Canada, France (lots of times), and Costa Rica. I’ve also spent just one day in London, Nicaragua, and Spain, as day trips while I was on vacation in other countries.

T.P.L. NYC: So what is the most peculiar thing you have encountered while in Europe?

L.H.: Definitely some of stuff you see at the markets in France. Whole, disembodied calf and sheep heads in the display case with charcuterie are a little shocking. The most peculiar thing about Belgium was the city of Brussels’ obsession with urinating art. They are really into the “Mannequin Pis” fountain, which is a statue of little cherubic boy peeing, and the fountain water actually comes out of the statue’s penis. It wouldn’t be so peculiar if not for the fact that there is merchandise, murals, and all kinds of imagery all over the city featuring this little pissing boy. It’s basically the city’s mascot.

T.P.L. NYC: You have a busy freelance life, what are some of the projects that you have coming up? (This is where you can promote yourself shamelessly. Tell me anything new you have coming up- columns, comics, trips, your own art endeavors, a website that people can go to find out more about you, or anything that you might be doing that you feel would be interesting to readers.)

L.H.: Nothing really specific, as I have all these ongoing gigs now that take up pretty much a full-time job. If people want to keep up with my work, they can follow me on Twitter @twingomatic, my blog,, or my new Tumblr,, where I write reviews of Hale & Hearty soups (my coworker and I order it for lunch every single week).

T.P.L. NYC: So the blog is about peculiar things, what do you feel is the most peculiar thing you have experienced while living in NYC?

L.H.: Where to begin? Mostly I would say the people, I guess. Last week I saw a girl on the subway platform carrying a little rainbow-colored parrot, and she kept kissing it over and over until the train came. Then a couple days later I saw a guy on the street with a small boa constrictor draped over his shoulders, and another one in his hand. Who walks around with a snake, much less two? If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see something peculiar every day in this city.

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