Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why I shop for bras online (and you should, too!)

This is a bit of a continuation of my last post on why I shop for clothing online. I've actually been shopping for bras online for far longer than I have clothing (no surprise!) for several reasons - and I think that nearly all of my reasons for choosing to buy my bras online can apply to most others.

Choices Available
I'll admit, what first drove me to shop for bras online was sheer necessity, plain and simple. Back when I was a 30G, I could find a few, expensive choices in certain stores and cities only. Now that I'm a 28H/HH, it's virtually impossible for me to buy bras in-store. Thus, I have no choice if I want bras - I have to purchase them online.

And I'm not alone in this. In the U.S. at least, if you wear a bra size that's:
-Below a 30-32 band
-Above a 40 band, and /or
-Above a G cup,
you're pretty much going to have to order online. There's really no way around it unless you're extremely lucky and happen to live near one of the rare, really great boutiques that offer a large range of sizes (and even then, you may want to order online from time to time just for variety). In some areas, you'll be stuck ordering online if you're outside of an even smaller range, usually 34-38 A-DD (15, count 'em, 15 sizes).

Since a fairly large percentage of women wear or should be wearing below a 32 band, and a large percentage of women need to wear above a DD cup [remember, all "DD" means is "about 5 inches of difference between underbust and bust measurement"], this means in turn that a large percentage of women will, like me, need to order online to obtain their correct size. I know this isn't fair. We all want to be able to just go into a store and buy things that fit well! Unfortunately, this really, honestly will be very difficult or impossible for many of us. The lack of sizes stocked is the store's problem, not a problem with us or our bodies; still, the fact remains that many women really just are not going to get many (or any) options from their local department stores, and there are a lot of really great online stores that offer a very wide range of sizes.

And, if you are lucky enough to fit into the ranges that your local stores carry, you still will get more choice on brands, styles, colors, etc online. You may wear a 32D and have several choices at your local Nordstrom, but then find that once you need a strapless or nursing bra, the choices are much diminished. You might want a certain color that isn't offered in store. You may want to try out a brand that isn't stocked in the U.S. A quick online search will generally turn up what you're looking for pretty quickly.

Even when I was a size that could sometimes be found in Nordstrom or the odd boutique, I would usually have to make a special trip - sometimes on the order of 2-3 hours away - just to try on a bra or two. And then I would have to deal with the (usually misinformed) fitters. Shopping online can save a lot of time and frustration. (Also, as several of my friends with young children pointed out, it's much less of a hassle to be able to shop online from home than to have to keep any eye on a baby or wrangle a rambunctious toddler when attempting to try on bras.)

One big qualm women have about shopping for bras online is - just like with clothing - the inability to try things on. I definitely understand this, and it's a valid concern. However - many of us won't really have a choice. We'll either have to settle with poorly-fitting, painful, unsupportive bras that are available locally, or we can order some bras online, armed with the best estimate of our correct size and the reviews and advice that can be found online for most brands (and many specific bras). If we happen to order the incorrect sizes, it's not much of a hassle to simply send it back for a refund or exchange. In the end, with a little more research and effort, we'll have exactly what we need - we won't have to settle for what may be very limited local choices.

[Note - I think it's great to buy locally, and if you live by a store that stocks your size, you should certainly try on sizes there and buy bras from them. In this post, though, I'm mainly speaking to the many, many women who simply don't have the choices available to them, or who want to branch out a bit from their current in-store options]

Just like with buying clothes online, some women are scared off because they think that shopping online is always expensive. Not true! I spend far less on bras ordering online than I ever have in-store.

Take one example - you can easily go into a higher-end store like Intimacy or Nordstrom (stores that actually sell a decent range of sizes) and see bras ranging in price from $75-$120 (and higher). Just a quick look at some of the online shops, however, turns up quite a range of (new!) bras in the $30-$50 range, and sometimes dipping to the deeply-discounted $20 range. Yes, you'll still usually be paying more for a good, well-constructed, well-fitting bra than you would an ill-fitting, cheaply-constructed Walmart bra. But the well-constructed, somewhat pricier bra will more than pay for itself in terms of longevity, comfort, and fit. And, it's a bit of a separate subject, but you can find great deals on gently-used and even new bras on places like ebay, Bratabase, and swap/sell groups.

Final Thoughts
So, in a perfect world, would I prefer to be able to buy bras and clothing in store? Sure! However, due to better prices, better selection, time saved, and convenience, online shopping definitely trumps a store experience for me.

How about you? Do you shop online for bras? What are some of your reasons for shopping online (or not)?

If the subject interests you, read also some thoughts from The Lingerie Addict on online lingerie shopping.


  1. I'm lucky enough to live near two Local Bra Stores that do carry my size (Just Like a Woman and The Pencil Test, both in Portland), but I prefer to shop online. The prices are better, the selection is broader, and I can wear them around the house all day until I decide. Those benefits outweigh the annoyances of shipping/return costs or waiting for delivery.

    Given delivery times and my boobs' propensity to boomerang in size, I prefer to order from US-based stores like BreakoutBras rather than Ewa Michalak. Figleaves and Brastop are faster than EM, so they're ok.

    I am not going to order from HerRoom ever again though. They're phasing out 28 bands because we return bras too much.

    1. Ooh, I wish I lived near a great local store! I think if I did, though, I would still do some online shopping for the reasons you mention.

      HerRoom has gotten onto my 'naughty list', too, for the phasing out of 28 bands as well as their rather misguided "Know your breast shape" quiz and their response to the criticism. Can't say I'll be recommending them to anyone! :/

    2. Yeah, HerRoom's response to Bras I Hate was just awful.

      When a salesperson invests time in my shopping experience, I have a hard time saying no and walking away. This is especially difficult when I have undressed for them, and easier if it's a technology purchase or something that I feel very confident about my knowledge in the subject. So ordering online has the added benefit of not saying no to a face.

      What can I say? I'm socially awkward.

    3. I guess "and I can wear them around the house all day until I decide" is a little exaggerated, isn't it? I mean, trying it on for several minutes is one thing but acutally wearing the bra?

    4. Maybe not all day, but around an hour, enough time to tell how it settles with my body in different positions. And I certainly don't do anything even mildly strenuous while wearing the bra; I just sit and walk around for a while. My nitpicky issues with bras usually crop up in the time span longer than is possible in the dressing room: underwires stretch and poke under the pressure of the band (Curvy Kate I'm looking at you), my boobs shift after scooping, the fabric itches horribly, etc.

  2. I keep hoping to find my perfect-sized bra either in a store OR online but so far 5 bras into the process I haven't scored perfectly yet an unfortunately, sending these items back would cost me so much in shipping that sending them back is pointless. However, I have hope that eventually what the sites tell me to order in size will pan out in person because finding a 40D5 in a store at least where I'm located just isn't going to happen. It's so frustrating.

    1. Yikes, that has got to be frustrating! :( If you're in the US, have you tried focusing more on US-based sites to help with the shipping issue? BreakoutBras and LargeCupLingerie both have free shipping to the US.

      Have you checked your measurements to help narrow down sizing(/p/bra-fitting.html)? It could be that you're needing a firmer band and a larger cup - sometimes even the sites that offer a good range of sizes don't offer the greatest fitting advice. Many people recommend ordering as many bras as you can in one go, in a variety of sizes, so you can try them all on and compare them, and return the ones that don't fit all in one go. I know it can be especially frustrating initially when trying to determine your size, though!

      If you have bras that don't fit and you can't return, you may be able to sell on or ebay. x Good luck, and don't give up - you're getting closer with everything you try!

  3. I have to shop online as my size isn't available locally and not very many places even sell 34KK or 32LL.

  4. I actually have a store pretty close to where I live, like 10 min away, but I still shop online because the prices here are ridiculous. Some Masquerade bras are marked up to 90€ (WTF?!) and the regular new season Panache bra 50€, it's hard to accept those prices when I know I can go to Figleaves and find the same bras for £30 or less and even not talking about discounted prices...
    However, the store is beautifully decorated and has a great environment, worth a visit for trying on new styles and see the bras in person before buying. Check it out

  5. I have a boutique nearby that carries a lot of Eveden bras as well as Gossard. They are insanely overpriced (like $100 for Freya and $170 for Fauve) and the most sad thing for me: narrow wires. Would be happy to buy Panache for 50€. Returns from here cost about $20-30 for a bra (and this means that it has no sense to sell bras that don't fit other than locally). So I have bras like Freya Ashlee that cost me $90 with bent out wires, Panache Porcelain Plunge with altered cups (still a little bit too small) and so on.
    But I'm not going to give up.

  6. If I hated shopping online, I technically could make an effort with some stores: There are 2 small boutiques who are willing to order certain Freya-bras, in a requested size (they don't have more than H in stock), so I won't get the chance to try multiple styles in multiple sizes (which is the best reason to prefer store over online). Also, they are horrendous fitters and don't know basics of bras (like sister-sizing, and that EU and UK H-cups are very different, never mind how a good fit looks), so I will still only have my own fitting to go by. And, they charge $171 for any Freya bra.
    With online shopping, I can get multiple bras to try, with no buying pressure. I can try them on multiple times over a few days. I can trust my own, or bratabase's fittings. And I can get it all for much less. So going to a store really has no upsides for me.

  7. I've been shopping online for years and thanks to the German online bra fitting community it wasn't a total disaster. ;) But there are many women who do not have the time to read pages and pages of advice, order a lot of styles and sizes, then again look for tips, send in pictures, whatever. So simply going to a shop is great - as long as there's a decent bra fitter and even more important a wide range of styles and sizes. (I've always envied women living near a Bravissimo shop.)

    So I think, it's a good thing to ask for your size in lingerie stores. Especially the smaller ones that pretend to cater for non-mainstream customers. Maybe in time the start rethinking and offer more sizes than they do at the moment.

    Last but not least, some words on the price policy: I don't know how it is in the US, considering taxes, customs and all, but here in Germany prices are different due to distributor charges. Panache or Eveden set the price, for example a Cleo bra is to be sold for 39 euros while it only costs 25 pounds in all British stores, which is about 31€. But let's say you pay at least 7€ for shipping to Germany and back (for other sizes), it's not that much more expensive. The difference in Eveden bras is much more noticible - a Freya Deco is sold for 30£ in the UK and for over 50€ (53, if I'm not mistaken) in Germany.
    Maybe it's about being the only one on the market. Then you do not have to worry about the competition... *sighs*

    However, greetings from Berlin!

  8. It seems that the profit margins on selling lingerie is very low. So if for shop owners have to offer a good selection of lingerie and something more. I've started planning and saving to open up a shop. But I'm not sure what I would have to sell with the with the lingerie to make people come in the shop.

  9. I'm in a major city so have a lot of potential choices (I was at one of the top-rated stores yesterday, in fact) but even they don't have a lot of choices. Everything in my size was a Panache brand and I can't wear Panache (I could maybe get away with Cleo and Masquerade based on what I tried on) and they didn't seem to have any Eveden bras in my size. Boo. I'm in the GG+ range so my choices are, obviously, limited.

    I've been losing some weight so I'm between sizes right now, and I prefer to at least refine my size locally.

    I do buy online though when I know what size I need though. Actually every bra I regularly wear right now was bought online: two from ebay, one from breakout bras, one from Figleaves. I so much prefer to pay 40 bucks to 80 for a bra!

  10. Jame (@jameane)11/8/12, 11:33 AM

    I am headed into bras size purgatory unfortunately. The last few bras I bought?
    Cleo in a 32J, Panache in a 32HH. And I tried on some Freyas, and it looks like I need about a 32HH. :(

    Looks like I'll be writing off Nordstrom. Sadly, there is a store with a decent range of sizes about 1 mile from my apartment, but they stop at H, and sell brands that stop a G or have Hs that are cut small. Horrible fitting advice there.

    I am still looking for the perfect local shop for me.

    1. Hey Jame, I just wanted to ask you "What do you mean by?"-"Looks like I'll be writing off Nordstrom." It seems a lot of women talk negative things about Nordstrom.

    2. For some reason, Nordstrom does not carry the full size ranges in their bras that they carry, typically stopping at a GG or H cup (especially for Cleo bras). It's sad :-(

    3. Nordstrom has done right by some of my friends, but I am too tiny and too busty to usually be in their range. Occasionally I go in there though, and only one fitter out of five has been honest about their limitations. Most recently, I went to Nordstrom with a 34E-ish friend, and was told that strapless bras and bustiers didn't exist in her size.

      I'm also kind of embittered about Nordstrom because they were supposedly this great place where even I, with my boobs so big that VS couldn't cover them, could get bras. And then my only options were these ugly beige minimizer monstrosities that still didn't fit. Part of this was market limitations of the time (mid-90s) but it did absolutely no good to my teenage self-esteem.

  11. I'd love to be able to shop locally for my size, but since i live in a bra desert, that won't ever happen. So online it is for me. :/

    Even though the Cleo and Freya bras i have are no more expensive than what's at Victoria's Secret, they're of way better quality, and a far better value, so i guess it's a pretty good tradeoff.

  12. Everything in my size was a Panache brand and I can't wear Panache (I could maybe get away with Cleo and Masquerade based on what I tried on) and they didn't seem to have any Eveden bras in my size. Boo. I'm in the GG+ range so my choices are, obviously, limited.