Whilst fitting my toile, Beth suggested I might need more – ahem – support. I decided to take heed and visit Rigby & Peller in Mayfair. (There are several other stores, listed here. Mainly London based. I’d love to see them open a store in the north of the country. People would flock to Harrogate or York, for example!)
Rigby & Peller’s heritage is built on being bra-maker to the Queen, and for having a great fitting system and exhaustive supply of underpinnings. People talk about this place in whispered tones of awe, which meant I’d never visited – it all sounded a bit intimidating and expensive.
Well, it’s not intimidating!
I arrived early for their walk-in fitting service. I was slightly braced for snooty shop girls, but in fact they were all fabulously welcoming and within moments a latte had been put in the hands of this latte addict. As I waited for my fitting, I gazed at the drawers and drawers and drawers of underpinnings. Like a child in her parents’ bedroom, I seriously wanted to ease a drawer open and poke around the hidden mysteries it contained! I managed to hold back.
Soon I was led into a changing room, and I had a sudden moment of nerves. Would I be getting undressed in front of someone? Like, duh! I’m so glad I’d worn the sagging skirt that was two sizes two big so that the waistband of my tights visibly stretched proudly over my girth! Not a good look as I was about to strip to the waist with someone watching.
My lovely assistant asked me what I was looking for – day-to-day practical wear in neutral colours – and then we got on with the job in hand.
Rigby & Peller don’t use a tape measure to assess your bra size. The assistant taking the sizing service takes a look at your bare torso, your bazoomas and has a prod around – though nothing too invasive! That part of the process was over in about 30 seconds, to be honest. We then had a really good chat about my body – about the small upper chest and thick-ish torso my dressmaking has already taught me about, but she also told me about other things I didn’t know. The phrase ‘high breast point’ was used. She told me why I didn’t have one of those visible cleavages that I envy in other women, but I can’t really remember and didn’t really understand at the time why I don’t have one of those! These ladies know a lot about the female form!
‘What bra size do you normally wear?’ she asked in conclusion. I told her and she gave a small smile. ‘I think you’re in for a nice surprise.’ Then she gave me a black satin gown for my modesty and whipped out to collect some bras. I texted my sister whilst I waited and had a gulp of coffee.
My lady returned and eased me into a bra. (Having another woman’s hand inside my bra cup quickly became utterly normal!) I gasped. It looked so pretty! It fit so well! My figure was visibly transformed. Then she told me what size the bra was. I didn’t just gasp, I yelped. I covered my red face with my hands and tears of surprise leaked out of the corners of my eyes as I laughed. What? I’m…? You’re telling me what?
In a sudden fit of modesty, I won’t share my exact bra sizes past and present on t’Interweb, but I’ll tell you that my cup size was five sizes different and my band size was three sizes different. That’s a really big difference, I’ll think you agree! I just couldn’t believe how, well, different I looked. Everything felt so … well-structured! I snapped up two on the spot and left the shop wearing one of them. With my clothes on top, obviously. As I waved goodbye, I spotted a painting that seemed to confirm the rumours I’d heard of royal engagement.
I strolled up Regents Street, waiting for men to fall off bicycles and for women to run over and hug me at my gorgeous new silhouette, but I guess they were all busy that morning. I did notice that now the Jubilee weekend is over, all the decorations and bunting have finally been stripped back…
I’m really staggered at what a difference this bra-fitting service has made. The staff were superb – discreet, supportive, full of knowledge. I’m slightly worried that I signed up to the shop’s newsletter – so much temptation!
Rigby & Peller isn’t cheap, but I see this an investment. I’m going to wear these bras until they crumble in a pile of thread and underwires! And then I’ll buy some more. I noticed some fabulous beach wear in the shop. If I was going on a beach holiday and wanted to feel confident, I’d seriously think about investing in one of their swimsuits. I’m sure this set of shops is also a god send for anyone who’s had reconstructive surgery. They seem to have engineering solutions for absolutely everything. When we chatted about my ‘one shoulder lower than the other’ issue, the assistant mentioned several solutions if the bra I’d just bought had a strap that wouldn’t stay put. (As it turns out, I don’t think even an act of God would see that bra strap slipping off my shoulder. Unless I wanted it to!)
The cleverness of the engineering I saw here did lead me to ponder whether or not dressmakers have the full knowledge to make serviceable bras. What do you think? I know some people have had a lot of success making underpinnings. And do you have a shop in your part of the world that provides this type of service? I’d love to hear about other underpinning institutions with admirable heritages!