The Postcard Nipple: 20 Years Later

seinfeld-4-12Today I watched a classic Seinfeld episode called “The Pick.” In the episode, Elaine decides to let Kramer photograph her for a Christmas card. After the card is printed and mailed to hundreds of people, Elaine realizes that her bare nipple is clearly apparent on the photograph.

For years this episode has fascinated and puzzled me. How, exactly, was Elaine’s nipple exposed in the photograph? Nipples do not simply appear out of thin air. They’re closely guarded by layers of undergarments and clothing. Yet one made an appearance in the worst of circumstances on Seinfeld.

Let’s start by exploring the facts:

  1. When Kramer took the photo, he asked Elaine to try on a different jacket. I don’t think this really amounts to much, as he didn’t ask her to change shirts.
  2. Elaine wears a bra. This isn’t stated outright in the episode, but there are other episodes where Elaine goes out of her way to convey her astonishment that other women don’t wear bras.
  3. Elaine states later in the episode that she “must have missed a button.”

The last point is our first clue to the nipple mystery. Elaine is wearing a white button-down shirt in the episode, and it’s buttoned all the way up to the top–this isn’t a case of misguided cleavage. Kramer must have taken the photo from a side angle–presumably to Elaine’s left, based on the direction in which women’s shirts are buttoned. If Elaine missed a button, there could be a prominent gap in her shirt at the nipple level.

But this is where the trail goes cold, because if Elaine is wearing a bra (and she most certainly is), her nipple should be fully covered. In fact, these were the mid-’90s–bras were much more conservative back then. Sure, they had lace and straps and all that back then (based on my extremely limited knowledge of the subject from high school), but compared to today’s Victoria’s Secret bras, the ’90s might as well have been the ’50s.

Perhaps Elaine’s pose caused for an extreme distortion of her chest as to expose a nipple? I’m glad you asked. It’s possible–unlikely, but possible. We’re not privy to seeing the Christmas card in question, so we have to guess as to her actual position. I’d wager that Elaine is standing, facing the camera, looking slightly to her left, her right hand on her right hip. Hardly a distorted position.

You might think we’ve come to a dead end, but my research has come up with a potential answer. I may have been wrong about the bra. There is an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine unknowingly walks down the street with several buttons undone. This is relevant because we learn through this episode the type of bra Elaine wears:

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It’s actually much more revealing than I suspected–revealing enough that you’re probably thinking twice about reading this entry at work. It’s shown here that the type of bra Elaine wears could reveal a nipple if it was shifted even slightly out of place and if she missed the second or third button.

While it’s inconclusive, I think that’s the closest we’ll get to solving this mystery. If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them.