Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bra Shopping: Why I still don't love it

(I wrote this a while back and then debated about posting it - it felt too much like a rant. But after rereading it and seeing a recent post on The Lingerie Addict along the same lines, I do feel like it has a point to it and might spark some thoughts/discussion...)

When I was a teen, I loathed bra shopping. Desperately. Passionately. Nothing seemed to fit me right - and no wonder, as I was squeezing myself into ill-fitting and painful 36DD soft-cup and sports bras.

Now that I'm wearing the correct size, I don't have the same passionate hatred and fear of the bra department that I once did. I do feel more empowered because I know what I'm looking for and not just blindly trying to figure things out. I also do feel that there are more options in general now than there were even a few years ago. And, yes, I can now even say that I love bras!

But does this mean that I love actually going bra shopping now? Sadly, not really. And there are a several reasons why.

I haven't yet found a store in the U.S. that carries my size.
I'm sure that bra stores that carry 28H-HH bras exist somewhere in the US, but unfortunately, I've never had the pleasure of shopping at one. The best I can do in stores is look for sister sizes to try on to see if I can get something close so I can either alter it or order the correct size online. But even the sister sizes of 28H/HH (30GG/H) can be difficult to locate.

When I do go into a store to check it out and try on bras that are at least close to my size, nearly every bra fitter has tried to convince me that I am a size that they carry rather than the size I actually am.
Fitters, please - admit when you don't carry the size that your customer needs, especially if the customer is able to tell you what size she is and that she knows you don't carry it! If I knew nothing about bra fitting and left it in the hands of fitters from Victoria's Secret, Nordstrom, or even most bra boutiques, I would be miserably squished into sizes like 32DDD, 36DD, 32FF, 30G - or worse. Nordstrom fitters still invariably bring me 32 bands and try to put me into 30G's, and they don't seem to realize that the bras are ill-fitting until I point it out (this happened just last week). I generally have to be very insistent to even get 30 bands and above a G cup to try on.

I've yet to have a truly great experience with a fitter.
The closest experience I've had to a great bra shopping experience was at a Bravissimo in the UK last year - but even then, the fitters seemed a bit rushed and, frankly, I didn't feel that the store lived up to my high expectations. I was pleased that they didn't insult me or get "weirded out" by my "strange" size (as happens often in the US). But they could've been friendlier; they could've told me what my options were instead of agreeing with me that certain bras didn't fit and then moving on without giving me other options or suggestions. I left one Bravissimo store in tears because I wasn't able to find a bra that worked for me; the next store was a bit better as I found one bra after over an hour of trying on bras (mostly left to my own devices).
In regards to the US, while I've had nice and personable and even understanding fitters before, the vast majority of them have bullied me into trying on (and even buying) sizes that I know won't work for me, made comments on how I was wrong (about my size or about the fit of a bra), and even insulted my body/breast type. I'm a fairly quiet person, but I'm by no means painfully shy or adverse to being helped in fitting rooms. But I also hate feeling rushed and pressured to buy something, and I'm not keen on being insulted.

I often feel like I know more than the fitters.
I frequently come across fitters (even in "good" stores) who don't know that certain bras run big or small, don't know what size range certain bras or brands come in, don't understand how sizing works (US vs UK, or larger cup sizes in general), and even don't know that bras in a 30 or 28 band exist. In my mind, this is fairly inexcusable for any fitter who is at all educated in bras.

In short, I wish bra shopping could be a fun and enjoyable experience for me. But in more cases than not, I've ended up being mocked, insulted, pressured, ignored, and ill-fitted. There have been the handful of decent and even pleasant experiences, sure, but more often than not I leave a bra store feeling discouraged and embarrassed. Shopping for bras online is definitely easier and less painful in more ways than one (I can actually find my size without being insulted about it!).

Now, I truly understand that my bra size is fairly uncommon and thus will be carried in few stores. I don't mind (and even enjoy) going to bra stores/departments and just looking at bras close to my size, learning about what bras and styles are available, and perhaps trying on a few in my sister sizes. What I do take issue with is those fitters who spread misinformation about how bras are supposed to fit, are unaware of what sizes exist, insult me and other customers, and pressure me and others into buying ill-fitting bras. And believe me, I would not be complaining if these were isolated incidences. At least one of these things happens to me nearly every time I set foot in a bra department or store. (But yet I still keep going back... I guess I either really love bras or I'm a glutton for punishment! :P)

What have your experiences with in-store bra shopping been like? Is bra shopping something you enjoy doing?

27 comments:

  1. I am so sorry you still haven't found a great place to go bra shopping. :( I (personally) think that many fitters have an idea in their head how a bra must fit and often disregard the personal preferences of the customer. Additionally, I've been in the same position you have been where you can feel bullied by a fitter trying to sell you a bra in the wrong size simply because they have it on-hand. As a store owner, I will be honest that we do not carry your size in stock. I don't consider you to have a weird size or abnormal body, and I'm shocked people would be so derogatory toward you. However, as I mentioned to June of Braless in Brasil, we really do not see many 28 or 30 bands here, and I've never had anyone come in higher than G cup in those bands—an ironic fact given I'm a 30H/HH myself. This is the reason I created our store's special order policy where customers can try styles/sizes risk-free AND get a 10% discount as our way of saying "Sorry we didn't have it in stock for you." Our store is only 1500 square feet, so I don't have the space (or budget) to carry as much inventory as I like, which sometimes means I have to make decisions about what styles I will carry in the store, hence why our special order policy was born. Additionally, I do not try to sell people bras that don't fit because I hope to make a sale. In my opinion, boutique owners need to recognize what it is about them that makes them special and constantly find ways of improving it: customer service. Otherwise, why not order online and save yourself the trouble?

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    1. Thanks for your comment! You and others like Claire from Butterfly Collection and Linda give me hope that great fitters DO exist! :)
      I wasn't necessarily trying to complain specifically about my situation, but just that I think many girls have a hard time shopping in stores for some of the reasons I mentioned as well. I really hope companies and fitters overall gradually gain more knowledge, and learn that insulting and bullying customers is never okay!

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  2. My experience mirrors yours in a lot of ways, except that my boobs are small enough to not warrant insults (fortunately). I do get pitying looks when I insist that I would rather try on a 30FF rather than the 34Cs, and the fitters try to explain that I cannot possibly be more than a 32D at the most. I always feel like I'm overestimating my breast size, until I actually try on the bras they fit me into and I fall out.

    I have had one great experience with a fitter (she works at the place I'm trying to get a job at!), but you'd hope it was a good one because at that particular store you aren't allowed to try bras on without being fitted.

    I get disappointed almost every time I go bra shopping, especially since one store carries bras that fit me by the numbers but are so poorly/weirdly made that I can never get them to fit! I keep going back too xD

    I hope you can start shopping in stores properly soon, but I think it's probably a fair way off yet :(

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    1. I've gotten a few comments about my breast size, but overwhelmingly the insult-type comments come from me asking for a 28 or 30 band size. I remember once asking a clerk at Dillard's for a 28 or 30 band size and she looked me up and down scathingly and said, "For YOU??"

      I've honestly come to accept that only a very few stores will actually carry my size in stock (though I hope that may change in the future), but I could do without the insults, pressuring, and trying to fit me into 32FF's when I just want to see what a store has to offer!

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    2. Being in my mid 40s and finally wearing correctly sized 28G bras, I have hated bra shopping for years. It has only been in the last two years that I figured out my correct bra size and it was only after reading several blogs(thank you ladies) and doing my own research. I will never forget the time that I told a Victoria's secret fitter that I was looking for a 32dd bra (what I used to wear) and she looked at me as if I was crazy. After measuring me (why would someone use an above bust measurement as your band), she somehow came up with 36B. I am 5'2"and 120 lbs; even my hips are less than 36". Of course, the band was way too big and the cups way too small and eventually I got the 32dd that I was looking for (which of course still did not fit right, but at the time, I was not aware that anything else existed). I remember the fitter making a comment about the bra band on the 32dd being way too snug. However, the center gore did not stay down and if I lifted my arms the band rode up. This was one of many horrible experience.
      Since learning my correct size, although I have tried shopping at Nordstrom and a lingerie boutique almost an hour away, I do most of my bra shopping online. The boutique fitter was very friendly, came up with the correct size, and actually talked me out of one bra because the shape it gave me was unflattering, but they only had 2 bras in my size. The Nordstrom fitter tried to sell me a bra, in a "sister" size that did not fit and I did not enjoy the pressure.

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    3. Oooh yeah I totally forgot about band size. I get people eyeing me suspiciously when I mention that I wear a 30 band, because although I am little, I don't look skinny enough in most people's eyes. When I got measured into a 36 like Carolina, I was astonished!

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  3. Christine I've also had a horrid time with bra shopping in person. I went here awhile back and it was a disaster. That being said, the customer services was AMAZING so I think if they had the proper training Brazil could having the perfect fitters. ;)

    It's weird, I really don't think my size is that odd, when I look around me I see women with similar boob sizes (granted most do tend to have larger backs) but I definitely see A LOT of women who have to have smaller backs than me so it can't be that uncommon to have a 28 or 30 back. I think the bigger issues is that most of these smaller back women can shove themselves in the the Victoria Secert's size range and don't think much about it. :(

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    1. June, you know, I don't really think my size is that "odd" either - it's just that most stores seem to! I would bet there's a lot more women out there around my size, it's just that they're wearing 36DDD's or some such thing :/

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  4. I have to say I have never had any bad instances when I have gone bra shopping. The ladies who fitted me were always polite and quite helpful. I have noticed over the years that they have become more knowledgable with fittings and in suggesting bra styles to wear and really recommedding pretty ones.
    The only frustrating thing about bra shopping is never finding my size living in Perth. I caould find it a bit more frequently when I was living in Melbourne.

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    1. Sia, that's really encouraging to hear that you've had good experiences overall! I wonder if it's partially because of location (the US seems to be notoriously bad!), and partially because of size. I think back when I was more of a true 30G, I had a slightly easier time because at least stores like Nordstrom carried several options in that size and most employees had heard of that size. But I still got flak for asking for a 30 band back then, too... I just think that there's a lot of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about small band sizes in the US still.

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  5. For years now I've wished I could visit brick-and-mortar stores that carry my size. Having never visited the UK, I've never had the chance to do that. Based on your Bravissimo experience, now I'm not sure my experience will live up to the hype. Online shopping seems awesome now, with no "fitters" to doubt you, look down on you or intimidate you into buying a bra that doesn't fit.

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    1. Online shopping is indeed handy, but don't give up on Bravissimo! I still think it's a great place to be able to go and shop, and they do have a much better range than any other store I've seen. I would definitely go again with a little bit more of a realistic and aggressive mindset. I got easily discouraged when the first several bras I tried didn't work for me.

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  6. I've always had fairly good (though mostly fruitless) experiences bra shopping in my home city of Brisbane, Australia. I hear you about knowing more about bra fitting than most dept store fitters!

    I've received really good fitting advice and suggestions from boutiques (and I expect more from them in that regard too). I get really upset when I see brands stocked in half the manufactured range - I see Fantasie and Freya frequently but only in sizes 32-38 d-f.

    I always make a point of saying "I'm a size 30g, you don't stock my size but you stock my brands - when's it coming in?" and I've been told 3 times "there's no need/market for that size here so it's prob not gonna change". Makes me so mad!

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    1. Oooooh! I've been wanting to head back to Brizzie but couldn't think of anything I'd do there. You just reminded me that I could bra shop while there! But disappointing that I probably wouldn't have any better choices there than over here in NZ.

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  7. Sometimes the fitters at Bravissimo just get busy/tired! Although they do have a great range of sizes and styles, few will suit any individual woman. At my first Bravissimo fitting I tried 15 styles but only found two I liked- so I bought several of each. It isn't always wonderful here in the UK, outside a few shops such as Bravissimo and Leia. I have had an assistant actually laugh in my face at one high street store when I told them my size ( 30h-hh). Plus I have been repeatedly told there is no demand for my size - umm, I am the demand!

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    1. I totally understand that no fitter is always perfect! I think I had a very high ideal in my mind when going to visit Bravissimo, and I certainly could've been asking for help more than I did. I still think Bravissimo is a really great option, and I'd love to be able to go there again (now armed with even more knowledge about what works for me and my size)!

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  8. I have only gotten fitted a few times:
    First time in Sweden when I was 13 and fitted into a 38D, and I remember it as being an alright experience, though I was quite unhappy with bras at the time (This was my first bra besides training bras), though I do think they fitted me to the wrong size: At 13 I was almost 4" shorter, and many many many pound lighter, and I am a 34band today. (but, being shy, I hardly let them look at me, so I don't blame them)
    My next bra fitting was at Victorias Secret 3 years later: I was fitted to a 38DD, though I kept complaining that it felt like it was only sitting at the tip of my boob only (I literally had nipple-slip where the strap was attached to the cup!), but I reasoned that I was just 'too fat' to expect a bra to look good on me: I opted for sports bras for anything more than going to class, because obviously I was so un-fit that I needed sports-equeptment for everyday activities (it really is sad what a bad bra can do to your self esteem, isn't it?)
    2 years later I was fitted at Hunkemöller, who taught me many helpful things about bras (First time I even heard that you have to position your breasts in the bra), but informed me that I was out of range, as they only had up to FF! This was quite a shock to me, and I left with a 38FF anyways! Later I dared to get a fitting at Change Lingerie, the only store that sells beyond FF here in Denmark (and they have a very good calculator on their site, depsite only up to GG, got to give them that), and tried on their 34H and 36GG -surely that must fit, the fitter said (despite not really believing the 34)! Despite my concerns that the center gore on the 36GG was as far from my body as the tip of my breast (you could actually see it on my shirt!), I was told that was just how bras fit on bigger breasts. Very quickly these bras turned into embarreshments for me, literally my niples were slipping out!
    So I went to get fitted again, and was told a 38FF (she had a tape-measure that did the math for her)! They didn't have any in stock though, so I suggested the lost-looking fitter to bring me a sister-size with a smaller band, and she proudly brought me a 34GG - When I showed her the obviosuly too small result she said "Oh yeah, that deffinitely looks wrong. I don't know why though, because that is your size. Sorry! Goodbye." I am done with Change Lingerie! Besides these bad fittings, their bigger bras a poorly made: They tend to just make the cups wider, rather than adding projection: Already the GG's, they see ½-1" too wide, though way to small otherwise. And I also hear that they don't make cups 1" bigger for each size, but only 2cm, so I would need a something a bit larger than KK rather than a small J-cup.
    Online for me, then! I have read so much bra-fitting advice by now, that I think I could fit better than any fitters I've met, so now it is just ordering in to find the best fit for me. Which has yet to be found!

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    1. Wow, sounds like you've had a tough time of it from fitters! Do you know your correct bra size now? I do know that Bravissimo carries some K+ cups, and Curvy Kate bras go up to a K cup, and I know there are others! Also, there's the option of Ewa Michalak custom order.

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  9. Ugh, sounds like we all have experiences...

    I'll only recount my last experience with bra shopping. I'm a 75L (EU size; that's US 34J / UK 34K)
    I went to the shop to try and buy a new bra. Unfortunately my size was sold out (Yes, sold out, she does have 1 in stock normally! Good sign!), so I agreed to try on a few bras so the lady could 'verify' my size. Fine, whatever, I know my size but if you want to check... We then looked through the brand's book of designs and I chose 4 bras to be ordered in my size, hopefully to be bought. The lady told me she was one of the 'good' ones, and did not sell bras if they didn't fit.

    Good, I was feeling confident about returning there to get new pretties!
    Then came the return visit... ohmygosh that was terrible. She had ordered them in my size and a size smaller, not convinced that I needed the larger... and I had total boob spill. The first one I tried on was the worst, and she agreed it was bad.
    Then came more... and after one bra actually fitting, there were two which were obviously too small, there was spill. And then she said 'go put on a shirt, this is good you won't see it'. So I put on my shirt. It was visible. 'no, no, I'll get you another shirt and you'll see it's invisible.

    I ended up buying the one bra that fit good, and am NOT going back...

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  10. I have never been fitted before, which is why I found your blog in the first place. The whole idea makes me uncomfortable since in my family that kind of thing was shameful. My mom was a very open minded lady but she never wore bras because she was a hippy and eschewed all things she perceived as too feminine. I think she shared the same shame as I do because her mother was very catholic and not at all helpful in the woman department. Those sort of things got talked about in hushed tones.

    The stories here have only made it worse for me, though! I figured out my own bra size in high school and have largely not changed it because I thought "puberty is over, my boob quest is complete." Only recently, after my boobs were starting to get sore, that I realized I needed something bigger. I have always worn 32B or 34B bras which mash my boobs together like a 4 year old would with playdough. I just had it in my mind that I had a small bust because my mom was flat. I know now I have pretty average sized boobs and the calculators linked on your site I'm somewhere around a 32DD.

    Even so, that sounds nightmarishly huge to me, even though I have googled pictures of 32DD and I know they're not ridiculous, I think we've been brainwashed to believe anything above a C has to be Jessica Rabbit sized. I'm actually afraid to go into a bra shop and say I need something in a D cup -- I don't want to be laughed out of the shop!

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    1. Wearing the wrong-size bra is really quite common - in the US especially, there's just not a lot of good bra-knowledge or teaching going around, not to mention the fact that it's hard finding any places that sell anything over a DD! Also, boobs can definitely change after puberty - I experienced recent boob growth again, and I'm in my 20's.

      Have you seen The Bra Band Project yet? http://www.flickr.com/photos/76304212@N06/ Although it's just for band sizes under 32, the relative proportions remain similar for the same cups throughout different band sizes. There really is so much stigma around "D" or "DD" cups and how they must be so "huge", but really, all those really mean is "about 4-5 inches of difference between bust and underbust measurement." Hardly massive proportions!

      You should be able to find 32DD bras at places like Dillards, Nordstroms, or any bra boutiques in your area. Good luck! :)

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  11. May I ask which Bravissimo stores you went to? Were they in London? I've been going to the Newcastle store for years and the fitters have always spent at least 40 minutes with me, up to an hour at times.

    So sorry you didn't get to have a good experience. :(

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  12. I've actually had some pretty great experiences at Nordstrom (and some bad ones), including a fitter who suggested I go down two band sizes to a 30 from the 34E I had been wearing. In the end, I was too nervous about the 30 band and I ended up with a 32FF, but I kept her advice in mind and was happy that she cared about what I was comfortable with.

    But my worst experience was probably a combination of experiences at Victoria's Secret. They had always insisted that I was a 34C. When I asked why my band rode up to my neck, they told me that I needed a "low fitting band" and sold me a convertible bra with a low back attachment in a 34C. When I finally protested that my bust was less than half in the cup and that I had really awful quad-boob and that wearing the bra was less comfortable than going braless, they tried out a 34D... it was still at least two cup sizes too small, but they said it was fine. When I insisted, they let me try a 34DD. I had the same quad-boob issue and the fitter didn't understand why I wasn't happy. A different fitter told me that the next size up was a 36DD. A few months later, one of their fitters admitted that I was a likely (US) 32F, that they did not carry my size, and that I should try Nordstrom. She was wrong about my cup size, but I was amazed that she was willing to be honest with me. (I went once a few months ago, just out of curiosity... and they fitted me as a 36DDD and suggested I wear their 38DD bras. Eek.)

    I would love bra shopping (I love bra-trying-on), but 30Gs are hard to find and, even worse, all the bras I can find are way out of my price range.

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    1. I had the same thing happen at La Senza! My entire brick-and-mortar-store experience consisted of me going for the bra with the smallest band and largest cup. I was told to try on the 32D in La Senza years ago when they didn't have the 30 band. When I complained that it was too small, I was told to try on a 34D, even though the 32D was already riding up my back!

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  13. I went to a local boutique that specialized in fashion bras and carried brands like Freya. The fitter was very good and was able to guess my cup size just by looking at me--but she continued to insist that I was a 32 even after I proved the 30 fit very well on me (though still not good enough). I'm confused as to why this happened. She pressured me the whole time to go for 32 and not 30 even though they had 30s. But I've been wearing a 32 for years, in the correct cup size, with back pain.

    I always have people telling me how small my bones are and how tiny I am so I don't know why she did not think I was even a 28, but whelp. It made me afraid to go to other boutiques because I feared they wouldn't understand my need for a tight band.

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    1. I've had similar experiences, sadly, Erica. I really don't know why this is, especially when stores carry 30 bands! Maybe it's a throwback to the +4 era of bras, or maybe some fitters just don't know about 30 bands? I definitely get pressured to buy 32's and 30's even at boutiques and Nordstroms unless I'm very firm about needing a 28 (and sometimes even then)!
      Don't give up on boutiques entirely, though! There are some good ones there, few and far between though they might be!

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  14. Unfortunately here in Michigan I have only ever found one place that knows what they're doing with bra fitting: Intimacy. Still forget them if you're a 28 band and they're selection of 30 bands is abysmal.

    Bravo Intimates in Royal Oak: Don't go there for a bra fitting! That lady in there knows nothing about fitting bras. I have no idea how these people have managed to stay in business! They carry the UK brands but only stock 3 different models in a 30 band; no 28s. On top of all of this the lady there uses the +4 method and firmly declared me a 32 band! LOLOLOL. (I'm typically a UK 28DD) I walked in and was wearing a 30D Calvin Klein seamed cup underwire model! She relented to my smaller request; I'll grant her that. Probably because the suprised "What?!" that came out of me was so forceful at her 32 band pronouncement. So then came the 3 padded bras they had. Then the lady looked surprised when I asked for a non-padded bra. So I walked out with nothing.

    The one thing that really bugs me over all of this was when I was trying on the 3 bras they had she did come in to check the fit. When she was doing this she kept pulling the bra down my chest so the underwire would sit about an inch under my boobs. I'd put it back up and she'd pull it down again. I still have no explanation for this. It was and still seems very strange to me.

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