This post is prompted by a visit I made to Bravissimo, the underthings shop aimed at the curvier lady, whose bras start at 28D and end up at a KK cup. I can't even imagine a KK cup. Except that it would probably be bigger than my head.
I did get a free set of underwear out of this visit, as the aim was to introduce me to the brand and their (unique) way of fitting: by eye and using a seemingly different sizing scale to most other companies. But there's an impending can of worms about to be opened when the results of a recently conducted bra sizing survey, commissioned by some British retro lingerie brands (notably What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly and Ayten Gasson), is published. With (hopefully) some interesting results. I shall keep you apprised of that.
But let me state for the record, that though I do enjoy beautiful undercrackers, both modelling them and writing about them for my fabulous client (the aforementioned What Katie Did), I am not as enamoured of expensive lingerie as many girls. I have never been bought it as a present, I don't often buy it for myself; and only rarely have I ever bought any for the benefit of others. Plus, when I have, it's generally just been some shiny, new and pretty but otherwise inexpensive pieces. Usually from that bastion of British pants production, Marks and Sparks. I'll go a step further with the honesty, and confess my everyday wear consists of these pants (which often come in jazzy patterns in-store) and these bras (which I've just noticed they've put up by two English pounds! The swine!). I often just stick with white, so they always match, but I'm not averse to wearing patterned knickers with a plain, coloured bra that tones. I know! I am so daring! ;)
But I have been wearing the same size bra for a number of years now - 34D. I have always been completely satisfied with the support and fit of my favoured style of bra in my standard size. The cups fit with no gaping or 'triple boob' effect, the band fits without cutting in and causing unsightly bulge. Therefore, I'd not felt any urge to get remeasured. But when the email came from Bravissimo, I was very intrigued. I don't know of a single woman who's been to one of their shops, been fitted, and come out the same size. They always, always, get sized down at least one band size, and up a cup size accordingly. I could only conclude from this, that they were measuring people differently; since there is no way, I thought, someone who is two or three dress sizes larger than me could be the same back size. So, consumed with curiosity about both their sizing and the measuring-by-eye malarky, off I trotted to their store in the West End.
I was shown to my fitting room and greeted by a very friendly girl called Sam, who chatted to me briefly about my size, preferred bra styles and also about all things vintage (since she was curious about my look). But when we got down to the tricky business of sizing, with Sam pinging my bra strap (more gently than the boys at school used to) and studying the fit; I was proved right in my theory... instead of a 34D, she declared that I was more like a 28FF: the band should be very snug, she said, and not have almost 6 inches of give like my old one. Though i could see her point, I was extremely sceptical about this, not least because this size doesn't even exist in good old M&S! But I gamely tried on the bra she brought over, and blow me, if it didn't fit like a glove! Well... I couldn't breathe very easily, but breathing is overrated! A double-F! Corrrr! ;)
Chatting to Sam did confirm that the sizing that Bravissimo use for their bras and the other brands they sell is indeed different to that of most other companies. Actually, it makes more sense: because instead of measuring the band and adding 3 or 4 inches (so a 30 inch measurement is a 34 band size), they measure and simply use that number. And it's easy to see why their method proves so popular... who wouldn't rather say they were thinner than they thought, and a FF cup instead of a D? Well, not everyone, but many would! The trouble is, you can only then buy your bras from selected brands, and small shops like What Katie Did get a lot of headaches from women insisting they are a certain size and thus buying a standard-sized bra they don't have a hope of fitting. But it does mean Bravissimo have a lot of dedicated (and satisfied) customers.
Back at my fitting, I did actually ask to be downgraded to a 30F to make respiration a bit easier; but in all honesty, I actually quite like the fit of the bra I eventually took away, which is aptly called the Retro Plunge Bra, made by Freya. When faced with all the lovely lacy, coloured, patterned and pretty bras on offer, I had a total crisis of indecision and instead went the practical route...being in sore need of a new black bra. And it is very nice (if not remotely retro). I really cannot fault my experience there - it was a pleasure from beginning to end. But I don't think I'll be switching to Bravissimo permanently... sizing restrictions aside, they are just too expensive for my cheap and cheerful undies habit!
The moral to my story is what I believe the bra size survey will prove: that a universal standard of bra sizing is probably needed (as well as clothes and shoes... whether this will ever happen seems unlikely). But also that if you want a bra fitting by helpful and competent staff who really know their brand inside out, as well as an ego boost and a bra size that you can feel quietly smug about, Bravissimo is a really great shop to pay a visit. And it is important to get those assets measured, and correctly lifted, ladies. Have you been measured lately, and if so, how did you find it?
I leave you with some smashing pictures of my favourite pieces from all the brands mentioned above, and hope you're all having well-supported and perky weeks ;)
Bravissimo Sally (wish they'd had this when I went in!)
Bravissimo Carly (and this too. Wasn't my season to go in!)
Ayten Gasson Mya set