I was recently asked by a popular on-line bra shop to perform an undercover mission to challenge the fitting services of high-street shops and department stores. Below I have given a brief review of my experience, naming and shaming companies (because hey, I can!) and describing my experience in my cross-section experiment. Please feel free to share your own experience after reading mine; and take a moment to invest time, effort and… to a certain extent; money into your assets.
Here’s a picture of me in my (borrowed) Debenham’s brand 34D bra:
Bravissimo Covent Garden and Leamington Spa:
Size Measured: 28F/FF.
Completely spot-on with their fitting and customer service. Cannot fault their fitting really it is of course world renowned and considered by most to be one of the best for an accurate fit. I would rate their customer service and fitting experience as a 10/10 with no doubt and I am constantly trying to get my friends to go along to get fitted because there is simply nowhere like Bravissimo on the high street. Their only negative is that the bras are all the current season stock for brands like Panache, Clio, Freya, Fantasie so are all rather pricey for my liking! What I have found myself doing is going to Bravissimo and trying on different shapes and brands to see what styles suit my tastes and my figure. Then I go to a website like Brastop.com and get something similar (varying sometimes only by colour-ways or slighty in style as brands often keep the same shapes but change their designs merely aesthetically.) Bravissimo fit by eye as a ‘guesstimate’ and then follow up with a ‘trial and error’ approach. Whenever I have gone they fit me into each specific bra as of course (they advise) all bras are different and no one size should be taken as verbatim… they can only give you a ‘size’ based on your average bra fitting. Some will differ and they make this completely clear and stress the importance of trying bras on. I was advised that balconette styles suit me best, as well as the shape of Freya and Panache which was very helpful. Also I really enjoy their fitting methods, They are very sensitive to the customer and as you are changing they leave the fitting room to allow you to change in privacy. When changing a bra on you they do it very discreetly. I’ve been fitted there four times now in total and all girls were lovely and chatty and made me feel completely at ease and under no pressure to buy a bra on the day; so you don’t feel awkward at all about just going in for a fitting. They know what they are talking about and recognise that some people need to wear a back size smaller than a 32, and teach people how their bra should fit and feel so that they know how to assess for themselves if something fits right.
They fitted me in to the Freya Arabella, 28FF.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Mystique Lingerie in Windsor:
Size Measured: 32D.
This shop can only be described as overwhelmingly pretentious. I walked in and the one member of staff when questioned about a fitting service replied ‘we fit into bras for the customer buying’. All the bras were in the region of 60-80 pounds and they do not seem interested unless you are definitely intending on buying. The girl did say to me, however, that she could tell just by looking at me (I was wearing clothes, an ill-fitting bra AND a coat) that I was most likely a 32D. Just awful!
Overall Rating: 1/10
House of Fraser, Westfield:
This department store is beautifully laid out with gorgeous displays and decorative fixtures and fittings. The fitter was a very kind girl who fitted me as a 32E after using a similar method as Bravissimo. She started by finding a basic new bra in the size I was already wearing to check that it hadn’t simply become ill-fitting with age. She recognised I needed a smaller back size and larger cup size, slowly increasing and trying on all sorts of shapes and styles until she decided on my size. She advised me that balconettes suit me best… with which both I and Bravissimo agree. One negative thing other than the obvious fact of the non-accurate measurement was the fact that the fitter stayed with me in the changing room which felt a little awkward… and a lot more so I’m sure for the more shy and body conscious women out there! The girl was helpful despite her ill-advised training as she did attempt to fit me well and took time to decipher what was (according to her training) correct. The E cup she fitted me into was giving me the ‘double boob’ effect but she seemed happy with this. The best thing about House of Fraser is that yes, there are some more expensive and upmarket brands but there is in general a range of prices to suit. Whilst none of the bras were cheap as such there was certainly a variety as they stock Wonderbras, Freya and Elle Macpherson which are all really lovely bras to invest in if you want to treat yourself. There was a small sale area however with a range of sizes if you are lucky! Another bad thing about House of Fraser was their lack of bras in 30 and 28 back sizes… which perhaps explains why they fitted me as a 32… House of Fraser, along with most other high street shops, are ignorant to the fact that 28-30 back sizes are far more common and in-demand than statistics reveal… Well my fitting experience review alone reveals that!
Here’s a picture of me in my newly fitted Elle Macpherson 32E (please excuse peekaboo nip…yet apparently this was ‘perfect’ for me) it is safe to say I did not make a purchase…:
Overall Rating: 7/10
I was really disappointed with this fitting service. As one of the country’s leading, most trusted and used fitting services in the UK, I was horrified that they actually gave me the most inaccurate advice with the most ill-advised and ill-trained assistant in the whole of my endeavours. I waited quite a while to get fitted with a queue of 4 or five girls waiting. (Scary that people seem to go here to get fitted and there was such a high demand for their service when they were simply terrible!) M&S don’t have the best selection of bras, as they stock only their own designs and have no other choices. The are, however, due praise for their recent introduction of bras up to a G cup and back sizes in 28-30. No wonder, however, that their sale range is so full of 28 and 30 back size bras when they are telling people like me to wear 34C’s! What a waste of an initially promising investment! I did, however try on their ‘Limited Edition Satin’ bra in blue which (according to the Bravissimo/Brastop.com’s guide and requirements in needed a 28FF or a 30E to have a comfortable fit. So they have the bras to fit me but won’t make the most of their new stock and actually sell it to people who could potentially be buying it and be very happy with the fit and size! I believe it is down to laziness and M&S not wanting to spend money on revamping their highly flawed fitting training! Most of the bras are also only available in up to a DD, with the ‘push up’ threshold being capped at a DD. Well, sorry M&S, but I and many other of my larger-breasted contemporaries want to push up our assets too! Balconettes may, in general, suit me best but I want to have the choice just as much as anyone else. However, the nail in the coffin for M&S was when the assistant told me to use the middle fastening hook to get an ‘even average back size’… Shocking!
Overall Rating: 1/10
La Senza, Westfield:
Size Measured: 32E/F/FF depending on bra type (I was E for plunge F/FF for balconette).
Despite what would seem a very inaccurate size, I need to point out that La Senza back sizes are and are very well-known to be really quite small. For this reason the 32 back was no where near so bad a fit as in other places…and seemed to fit me in the way you might expect a 30 back in (for example) Freya to fit…so not bad at all. Saying that, this was one place which used the flawed ‘tape measure’ method. When she took it out I dismayed a little, however she did continue to use a ‘trial and error’ method so she only used this as a start-off. The assistant was very friendly and chatty and made me feel completely at ease. She, similarly to Bravissimo, left the changing room to leave me to change myself into the bra which I feel is the most sensitive and pleasant way of being fitted. It makes the whole process a lot less awkward. The assistant advised me to use the loosest hook and to tighten up as the bra ages. This is a indicator of good training but as I was doing the bra up comfortably on the smallest hook I would have thought she would think about taking me down a back size… but since La Senza only have 30 backs in certain styles and only usually on the website anyway, this didn’t seem an option despite her struggling to find me a size! She did get frustrated as I went from a 34C to a 32 (extremely ‘gappy’) FF and still not fitting 100% all over she seemed to give up. She did, however, take a long while beforehand to attempt to fit me before this. I personally thought the best (of a bad bunch) fit that she gave me was the 32F in a balconette, however still had quite bad ‘semicircular ride-up’ at the back. Start stocking smaller back sizes La Senza!!
I believe this is me in their 32F:
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Size Measured: 32E.
This fitting room had a bit of a queue to get into but nowhere near as much as M&S. The assistant used the ‘tape measure’ method. The store itself was quite messy and poorly laid out. There was however a large sale section with a large amount of stock and a large array of sizes and brands. Debenhams have a good sized variety of ranges with a large Gossard, Ultimo, Wonderbra and their own label ‘Gorgeous’ sections. I really like the ‘Gorgeous’ range as it is good quality lingerie at a reasonable price and often very cheap and they have a ‘buy one get the knickers free’ offer, or you can often find bargains in their frequent sales. ‘Gorgeous’ stock my size which is fantastic, however I was denied the opportunity to wear it as I am according to them a 32E. It is also difficult to find a 28F in store and usually I have to resort to buying on-line. I wonder who they sell their 28 back bras to; as like M&S they stock them but do not fit people into them. At least they recognised that I needed a smaller back size which is more than could be said for M&S. The staff were very helpful and friendly however training of course needs improving. I had quite prominent ‘semicircular ride-up’ at the back which I was shocked that the assistant didn’t pick up on. The E cup she fitted me was also quite ‘gappy’. Their overall service however I do commend as if you know your actual size you can often pick up something from the Freya (amongst others) or the ‘Gorgeous’ range in the large ‘Fuller Bust’ section. The bras they sell seem to be catering for the fuller bust but the fitting service is letting us down! They did not seem overly pushy for me to buy something and I felt fairly comfortable to just go in for a fitting. After fitting me she simply said if I find anything I like and need any further help to let her know.
Here’s my double-boob… I mean, 32E:
Overall Rating: 8/10
Selfridges, Oxford Street, London:
Size Measured: 28ff/30f
Really impressed with the store, really beautifully laid out with lots of choice and selection of sizes. After getting fitted went onto the shop floor to find a vast array of bras in my size and their recommended size on the shop floor which I believe for me is a first. Really great fitting service done by eye and trial and error, really polite helpful girls well trained and very accommodating. Plus Agent Provocateur! Win!
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Rigby and Peller, Westfield:
Size Measured: ???
I was completely shocked by their service! The girl told me they fit by eye (fair enough… three cheers for fitting by eye!) and went on to fit me in a 30D bra… and it goes without saying my rack was not happy. I had more tit out than in the cup… but the fitter said it looked ‘fine’. I suggested trying a larger cup size as I said it was uncomfortable so she returns with a few 30Es. Between trips to the stock room I was standing there in the fitting room for what seemed like hours just waiting. I have no idea what she was doing but it took SO long. I say that these Es were still far too small so she goes and finds MORE 30Es and a 32E… when she even said herself that the 30 was ‘perfect’. I was even putting the hook and eyes on the smallest hook every time to see if she would comment but she would simply say the back was ‘fine’. I am guessing she was just fitting me into what they had… After a tedious few attempts I suggest (I the fittee!) suggest to try a 30F to which she replies… ‘could do…’ CONGRATULATIONS GENIUS. The 30F was actually fine but was an awful brown lacy full-cup bra… not my thing at all. She says of all the bras I like they go up to an E cup… back to the stock room she goes for ages (this happened about 6 times) After a long 55 minutes I had to walk out… she would have returned from the stock room to find an empty changing room because I just felt I was getting nowhere!! Shocked as they have such a good reputation with fitting…
Overall Rating: 3/10
It seems obvious that more stores need to recognise that most people in the UK are wearing back sizes that are too big and cup sizes that are too small. My median size was 32E which to me I feel I could wear but there is no way I would feel the same support as I would in say a 28 F/FF. There is no way I could run for a bus in a 32E! And as for my 34C…this is just ridiculous as after wearing a 34C all day I had back pains and soreness which I have not suffered with in a LONG time. It is scary that people are blindly going to get fitted in places which could seriously affect their health and comfort. All my friends who I have forced to go get fitted in Bravissimo or who have used the help videos from Brastop have been so elated and ecstatic at the difference a good-fitting bra can make to their comfort, posture and appearance that they have ALL without fail never gone back to their old sizes. Also the huge diversity of sizes I was given on my trip reveals that something is very flawed in the UK fitting system! There definitely needs to be some kind of stabilisation of fitting services so that, like when getting fitted for shoes or rings, wherever you go gives you not necessarily the same numbers and figures but the same fit and comfort that we all deserve!