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C-Ing Is Believing

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ONE OF MY COWORKERS HAS ACCUSED me of making mountains out of molehills,” says Jackie Bronson with a laugh. But to beach-going females who want to emulate such voluptuous role models as Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, the inflatable bikini bra Bronson designed for her employer, Cole of California, is an invention of potentially Everest-like proportions.

Bronson, 41, conceived the expanding top earlier this year after the Food and Drug Administration curtailed the use of silicone breast implants. Aptly named Top Secret, the device increases a woman’s measurements by a full cup size. “If you wear an A, it will make you a B. If you wear a B, it will make you a C,” says Bronson. “If you already wear a C, you don’t really need it.”

The secret is a built-in plastic cushion inflated by a pump concealed in the lining of the suit. A former swimsuit model herself, Bronson, with 10 other Cole staffers, subjected the top to trial by beach, pool and hot tub. They found that it went bust only in pressurized situations. “You can’t wear it in an airplane or scuba diving,” she says. “It won’t explode, but it will deflate.”

So far, reaction from stores, in which 4,000 Top Secrets will be on sale this month, has been so favorable that Cole of California not only has applied for a patent but is also looking ahead to a line of inflatable lingerie. “This will not become the Pet Rock of swimsuits,” vows Bronson, who grew up observing bathers in Anaheim, Calif., and still pays attention in Seal Beach, where she lives with her husband, Kevin Fabrit, a chef, and their three children.

The Top Secret’s only drawback may be the suggested price: $72. “If that seems like a lot to spend on a bikini,” says Bronson, “just blame it on inflation.”