If you’ve read this blog much, you know that I tend to talk about how bra-fitting methods used in U.S. stores are all too often grossly inaccurate. Almost all stores use the incorrect and outdated method of adding inches to the underbust measurement (anywhere from 2-6+) to get a starting point band size, or they take an “overbust” measurement, which virtually does the same thing (adds 4-6 inches to bandsize).
One of the biggest “problem stores” in regards to ill-fitting? None other than that lingerie-giant Victoria’s Secret (surprise, surprise!). June of Braless in Brasil recently followed the bra fitting advice on the Victoria’s Secret website with less-than ideal results (the measurements put her in a 36C rather than her usual 28J). Maddie did a guest post where she (a 32JJ) was fitted as a 40DD at Victoria’s Secret. And quite a while back (when I was wearing a 30G), I went and “got fitted” at Victoria’s Secret into “a 34C or possibly a 34D”. During that fitting in 2010, I expressed throughout the fitting that I didn’t think the bras they gave me were fitting well at all in the cups, and I pulled on the bands to show how loose they were. The fitter back then gave me 32DD’s to try, indicated they were mostly okay, and said I could try a 32DDD if I wanted (still way off, but anyway). However, I suspected that had I not sort of guided the fitting, the fitter would have simply just told me I was indeed a (horribly fitting) 34C.
But, after all, that was about 2 years ago. My size has fluctuated a bit since then (from a 30G, to a 28GG, to almost a 28G, to my current 28H/HH). Surely getting sized again at Victoria’s Secret will indicate that I’ve at least changed sizes according to them, right? Surely they’ve learned something about proper fitting in the last couple of years? Maybe they’ll tell me that I’m out of their size range and that I should look elsewhere for a bra that will fit me?
Measuring at Home
First of all, I decided to follow the bra measuring advice on the Victoria’s Secret website. The instructions tell you to take an “overbust” measurement to get your band size. I’m not sure how taking an overbust measurement relates to anything since the band of a bra sits under the bust rather than over it, but here goes:
The website says “The resulting number is your bandsize. Hint: if the number is odd, round down to the closest even number.” As you can see, I get a measurement of 35, giving me a band size of 34. Well, that’s a full 7 inches bigger than my underbust measurement of 27 inches, and 3 whole band sizes up from the 28 band I usually wear, but Victoria’s Secret must know best, right?
Next up, cup size.
“Measure completely around the fullest part of your bust. This is your bust measurement.” I get a measurement of about 37.
Now, the website tells me to “subtract the bandsize from the bust measurement” to get my cup size. So, 37 – 34 = 3 inches of difference, which, according to Victoria’s Secret, would make me a C cup. A 34C, to be exact.
Wow! And all this time I thought a 28H fit me pretty well! But, it is Victoria’s Secret after all… and they must know best! But still, after all, a 34C has a cup volume of five sizes smaller than I usually wear. Maybe there was some user error here in regards to figuring out my bra size? Let’s see what a fitter at an actual store measures me as:
Well, I guess I was right! The girl there measured me pretty much exactly like I measured myself. She then asked me what kind of bras I was looking for (I said I wasn’t sure, but probably unpadded) and told me to go ask for some 34C’s at the fitting room.
I chose a fitting room (which, by the way, had unideal lighting for pictures, sorry) and pondered this sign whilst I awaited some bras in my “new size”:
Okay, Victoria’s Secret, I’m ready to be shown what the right bra can do for me!
[Pictures are over clothing because I couldn’t get a “decent” picture in just the bra]
As you can see (using for comparison the well-fitting altered 30GG bra I’m wearing underneath):
-The cups on this 34C VS bra are FAR too small to offer any sort of support (they were floating off my body and basically only served to cover the front of my breasts)
-I am getting all sorts of spillage out of all sides of the cups (falling out the bottom, top, and sides)
-The cups were so small that I had to lengthen the straps all the way to even get the bra on
-Even with the cups so small, the band was still so loose that I could pull the bra far away from my body
-The center gore had absolutely no hope of sitting flush with my sternum as it should in a well-fitting bra, and it stuck out several inches from my chest
-The wires were not touching my ribcage anywhere (they were sitting on breast tissue instead).
Honestly, none of the pictures I took (wearing a well-fitting bra underneath or not) could illustrate just how terrible the bra was fit-wise.
And yet, this bra was declared a “good fit” by the Victoria’s Secret fitter. I dutifully tried on the 34C and showed it to her. She saw the spillage, the way the center gore was inches away from the sternum, the way that my breasts were bulging out on all sides, and the way that the wires were sitting on my breasts, and said “That looks good!” She only offered to bring me a different size (34D) when I expressed some concern about “it feels a little loose” – I was trying not to “guide” the fitting too much, but I wanted to see what the fitter would say about a different size. I’ll also note here that I did not “adjust” my breasts around in any bras to even better show how horrible the fit was; I simply sort of placed the bra over my breasts to see if the fitter would pull on and adjust the bra (as a good fitter should) to see how the bra was truly fitting.
Well, I felt pretty UNsexy in the 34C bra with all the spillage going on (and wondering what would happen if I actually tried, say, walking briskly or wearing a fitted shirt over the bra). But since Victoria’s Secret knows what’s best for me, the 34D should work much better, right?
…Unfortunately not. The fitter said it “looked good.” Again, she didn’t pull on or try to adjust the bra at all to better determine fit, and she only offered to bring another size when I pointed out how the center gore was still “floating” away several inches from my chest (I didn’t point out the painfully obvious bulging out of the cups, or the much-too-loose band that was riding up, or the wires sitting on and cutting in my breast tissue and not sitting against my ribcage anywhere, or that the bra offered no support whatsoever, or that I was getting “underboob” from my breasts falling out the bottom of the bra).The thin straps were the only thing keeping my breasts up – the band was doing nothing to support me. The fitter said that the center gore floating “must mean it’s too big for you” (what?) and offered to bring me a 32DD to compare (which, by the way, has the same cup volume as a 34D, but a different cup shape and a smaller band, but the fitter didn’t seem to know this).
Now, the 32DD looked perhaps the worst of them all. That’s because the band was not *quite* so large for me, so the cups were brought a little closer to where they should sit. Instead of floating/sagging quite so much off my breasts, the cups were held a little firmer against them (the wires still sitting on breast tissue instead of against the ribcage as they should, and the center gore still “floating”), which exaggerated that I was spilling out all sides (bottom included) of the cups. Despite the fact that the cups were so massively small that the band had to stretch to make up for it, the band still managed to ride up and I could still pull it away several inches from my ribcage both in back and in front.
It seems that logically, an educated bra fitter would see that a 32 band was at least better for me than a 34 (since I could get it on with no trouble) and would bump up the cup size until there was no bulging. Instead, the fitter looked at it and declared that “The 34C was a much better fit for you, so you’re a 34C.”
…What? A 32DD cup is obviously far too small, so a 34C cup is somehow the “right fit” for me? I don’t even understand the logic in that, even without the visual aid that the fitter got of riding bands, overflowing breast tissue, etc etc. But logic didn’t seem to pervade in Victoria’s Secret. A 34C I was doomed to be!
The thing is, if I knew absolutely nothing about bras, I would be defenseless against the terrible fitting advice. I would remember that the 32DD felt tight and too small to me, but I would assume that it was a band issue like the fitter implied rather than a massively small cup, and thus think that “a 32 band is too tight for me” (even though I could pull the band several inches away from my body when I tried). I wouldn’t know that I should adjust my boobs into the cup to see how the fit was. I wouldn’t know that the function of a bra cup was to support the breasts.
Victoria’s Secret, you are doing a huge disservice to women with your “fittings.” I am forced to conclude that you teach your fitters methods that make the fitters unable to correctly fit women. There was just no logic to this fitting at all.
If I followed the fitting and measuring advice of Victoria’s Secret, I might not even know how to wear a bra at all. I mean, if the band size is determined by the overbust, why not just wear the bra like this?
(And, lest you think that this was just a fluke fitting or a bad store, tune in soon for a follow-up guest post I’ll be doing for Braless in Brasil!)
Have you ever experienced unknowledgeable fitters, or felt like you could do a better job fitting yourself than salesgirls at certain stores?
What are your thoughts on Victoria’s Secret and their methods? Have you ever been fitted there?