Rigby & Peller – A Chest Injection

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!

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79 Responses to Rigby & Peller – A Chest Injection

  1. Roobeedoo says:

    I once got myself measured in Debenhams about 8 years ago, but it wasn’t a resounding success! I self-assessed my size a couple of years ago and bought a couple of upholstery solutions then… but I don’t know if they fit properly or not: they stay put, I don’t fall out or rattle around inside them so I kind of make do… that’s terrible isn’t it?!

  2. Lisa says:

    I went to bravissimo believe you me it is life changing. I went in a 36 C and came out a 30E . OMG !!! The actual fit is so different at first it felt like my ribs were being crushed as it was so tighter than all my previous bras. Feels normal now after all these years.

    • Ooh, it’s good to hear of another place that provides this type of service.

      • Lisa says:

        Karen Bravissimo don’t measure either, they just look at your ribcage and try them until they fit. They are not quite as expensive and more accessible ( mail/ internet order too). They also do swimwear , vests with built in bra’s dresses for the larger bust ( but we sewists know how to adjust those ourselves ) I have had a R & P bra myself and the quality is superb and it lasted a very long time ( hand washed of course)

      • Miriana says:

        I was very disappointed in my bravissimo fitting. The assistant insisted that I was a particular size despite the fact I could barely breathe. I was finally persuaded into the next size up and ended up having to buy bra extenders even for those.

  3. daisydonut says:

    Boy does it make a difference when you’re wearing a good fitting bra, as I found out after visiting Bravissimo! No tape measures, just lovely assistants who find the right underpinnings for your shape. The bras are not cheap, but it’s one of the best investments I make.

    Rigby and Peller sound even more knowledgeable and it’s been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, but like you I always thought it would be an intimidating and prohibitively expensive experience – I shall definitely be visiting when I next come to London.

  4. Clare says:

    I had the same experience in Bravissimo (on a slightly lower budget) and am quite the evangelist for a proper fitting these days. I think it’s common to wear (at least) a band size too big and a cup size too small, but many stores don’t stock a large enough range of sizes (for example, I wear a 30 back, which is really hard to come by!). I think many people just don’t know what it feels like to wear a well-fitting bra, but once you have, it’s really hard to go back πŸ™‚

    Ysolda Teague (author of Little Red in the City) had a great post about this a few weeks back with lots of links in the comments, and I also recently came across http://www.bratabase.com/ which I haven’t investigated in much detail, but which could be quite a good resource for those of us who don’t have easy access to a decent lingerie store. I love bras!

  5. Anne says:

    We had a local lingerie shop which did this kind of fitting – no tape measures, the girl knew my size by just looking at me. I went from a 42B to a 38F and although it felt tight to start with, it was definitely the right size. Sadly the shop is now closed so I’m going on guesswork right now.

    One thing is definitely true – those sums where you measure yourself under your boobs and add 4 or 5 depending on if the answer is odd or even and that gives your size and then you do all sorts of arithmetical weirdnesses to get your cup size is all nonsense. That does NOT give you the right size at all. (Sorry about that run-on sentence!!)

    When I get a new bra and it fits, I’m always reminded of that line in Miss Congeniality – “I’m suddenly very aware and proud of my breasts. ” :oD

  6. shivani says:

    Rigby & Peller are amazing, non? Just one look at the girls and they know the right size (how do they do it?). I go once every 5 years – totally worth it πŸ™‚

  7. superheidi says:

    Never had a proper fitting done. I assume I do take care of a good fit, so no filmsy fashion for me, I do need support. Especilly when dancing. Most of us want support, and age does increase the need for that.
    But after reading an extensive post about slihouettes over at By Gum By Golly I got intrigued by the shape which an old fashioned well structured bra without underwire can create. Now, I’m really not the type for bullet bras, so I was on the look out for a “granny bra”. Wich are hard to find, because fashion dictates otherwise.
    When I finally spotted some in a department store I had to give it a try. You gasped? My mouth just dropped and stayed there for minutes. Shape! Direction! Silhouette! Form! And support, structure and all you want for two individual bazoomas. Not so great are the seams and lacing on my particular example, which is a bit distracting directly worn under a tee. Will ponder about that, but I think there will be a revolution in my wardrobe. I would like to change the look of flatrounded hemispheres for something with a defined shape. Maybe it’s not for you, but if you are interested… hop over to Tasha’s post have a look how the modern shape compares to the oldfashioned one: http://blog.bygumbygolly.com/2011/10/adventures-in-recreating-1940s-bust.html#comment-form

  8. Kerry says:

    That sounds great, I wish they would branch out up north! I really should go for a measure, it’s been years since I last went.

  9. Clare S says:

    Huzzah for wearing the right bra size! And welcome to the big boob club, I suspect! πŸ˜‰ I come from a family of boob-some women, so there really wasn’t ever any hope for me to have anything less than an E. I have to second the other Clare’s frustration at finding it hard to get bras with a 30 back, especially with a bigger cup size – I suspect a lot of women are wearing 32s and 34s simply because they’ve never had a chance to try the smaller back sizes, or, because they’re the smallest back size, think they couldn’t possibly be that small a size!

    I’ve never had a fitting, but I’ve tried to educate myself about how to tell if it’s the right size. I always try different sizes and do plenty of checks – is the band horizontal or riding up at the back and, most importantly, the jiggle’n’jump test! If they stay in place after a few jumps and jiggling about, then you’re on to a winner. It’s worth remembering that you can be different sizes in different brands and even different styles by the same brand.

    The other important thing is to learn what styles do and don’t work for you. I’m a big fan of the balconette, but a full cup bra just doesn’t work for me – I’m so petite (*cough*short-arse*cough*) on the upper half that full cup bras completely swamp me. So, as well as trying different sizes, try different styles of bra.

    And, finally, it’s good to work out what shape you prefer – rounded, pointy, somewhere in between, pushed together, separated … Generally-speaking, different brands tend towards different shapes – I find Panache is quite rounded, whereas Freya is quite pointy, for instance.

    Thanks for sharing this experience – I really want to go to R&P one day! It’s great to hear that they weren’t snooty in there – very encouraging!

  10. Henny says:

    What a fabulously interesting post. I so wished I lived nearer and could have a fitting.

  11. +1 For Bravissimo from me! I went in 2 years ago thought I was a 34B/C – came out a 34E πŸ™‚
    Staff were v. friendly, I could order online, easy returns service – what’s not to love!

  12. superheidi says:

    In addition to my previous post…. I seem to keep going up in cup size for modern bras. So what really surprised me even more about the “granny bra”: I went down a size. Personally, I liked that. That suited my ideas about sizes after wearing them for 30 years. As I fail to understand contemporary garment and bra sizing.

  13. Lene says:

    Thank you for your courage in this post. I have disappointing experiences with ‘professional bra fitters’ who I suspect had little training and were more concerned about what they liked personally than what I was looking for. I wish we had R& P downunder! I suspect I could benefit from a visit there πŸ™‚

  14. Suze says:

    Fab post! I have always wanted to try R&P but was also put off by the fear of snooty shop girls. Now I think I’d like to give it a go, especially as I have the problem of vanishingly small boobettes. A bit of assistance to boost my curves would not go amiss. Thanks!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    You will notice all your clothes will fit you differently now. Check the fit the vintage dress you’re making !!! I have used bra fittings since I moved to NYC and it is eye opening what size you are. But it does wonders for your look and your posture. πŸ™‚

  16. Linda says:

    I’m with Lene – I have had no real success with any bra fitting I have had done. There doesn’t appear to be a specialty shop in my area and the one time I was fitted at Victoria’s Secret in the US, I came away with two of the worst fitting bras (yes, I did buy them!). Yet another reason to travel to the UK, I guess! πŸ™‚

  17. I used to work as a bra fitter in Marks and Spencer, and was taught the M&S way of measuring a bra size. First, measure under the bust (in inches). If this number is odd, add 5, if even, add 4. So for example if you measure 29″ under your bust, your back size would be 34″. For the cup size, measure the fullest part of the breast. If the difference between this and your under bust measurement is 1″, you’re an A cup, if it’s 2″, you’re a B cup, and so on. You can get an ok fit using this method, but it won’t give you the support you really need. Long after my stint as bra fitter at Marks and Spencer, I had a bra fitting at Bravissimo, and IT BLEW MY MIND! I now think the M&S method is complete tripe! Where they go wrong is adding the mysterious 4 or 5″ for the back size. It makes no sense!

    Having used the M&S method for years and years, after my Bravissimo fitting I discovered I’d been wearing bras that were three back sizes too big and about four cup sizes too small. When the assistant told me my size, I couldn’t believe it! That was about 4 years ago, and I can confirm that wearing the right size really does make a difference to your figure and how you feel, and also I’m sure that having the correct amount of support must at least slow down the dreaded sagging that is bound to come with age! Bravissimo has found it hard I think to attract new customers because people assume it’s for ladies with massive bazookas, but they say themselves that most women are a D-cup or above, they just don’t know it! So yes, even those of you who currently wear AA or A cups should give it a try! The bras can be on the expensive side, but not as expensive as Rigby and Peller and speaking from experience they last so well, you’d definitely get your money’s worth!

    • Thank you so much for sharing an insider’s perspective. Fascinating!

      • It’s really interesting reading Tabitha’s comments. I was fitted for a bra in M&S years ago. 36 AA – practically impossible to get a bra in that size that’s feminine, so usually went with a 36A = too big cup size, always went away feeling like a freak – just want clothes to fit. After reading your post, and reading Rigby & Pellers guidance on buying a bra and watching a vid on you tube. I decided to scrap M&S sizing – as it didn’t fit. I went in Debenhams and picked up a selection of 32 B & C cups (A cups would have been too small) and 34B. the 34 B was still too loose on the band. so I went with the 32. and depending on the style it depended on a B or C cup. I tried on about 8 different bras and 6 out of the 8 fitted well. That has never happened to me before. So no more 36A for me. i’ll be buying 32B/C. And the bra I bought is the best fitting bra I’ve ever had. ( and I had loads of choice of feminine and sexy bras – that has never happened for me and i’m so glad you made this post – thank you.

  18. Thanks for sharing your experience with Rigby and Peller. I live in the U.S. and we don’t have a store like them anywhere close. I’m super jealous as I am getting more and more into lingerie sewing/fitting. Because lingerie fits so close to the body, exactly really, I think these types of fittings or sewing your own lingerie is the only way to a good fit. Thanks again lady!

  19. Jacq C says:

    Oh I’m with you, it’s a revelation! I’ve not been brave enough to go to R&P but, having had very poor advice/fitting in 2 big high street stores, was feeling very fed up. I even got remeasured in one well-known lingerie shop and the 2 assistants gave me very different measurements, neither of which was correct! A friend recommended John Lewis and they were brilliant. I had to book an appointment and the assistant didn’t use a tape measure much. I went from a 34DD to a 30F – not even close AND that was after being measured elsewhere! The difference the style of bra made was staggering, I was advised to get remeasured every time I go in, if only for guidance on the type of bra. They cost much more than I’ve ever paid but are the most comfortable bras I have ever worn – there’s no going back! πŸ™‚

  20. i have heard loads of great things about bravissimo but as i’m only a b cup i haven’t ever used them. i do hate m&s fitting and was really interested to read tabatha’s post above! maybe i will try john lewis. it sounds like i have a different problem to most people tho – not massive boobs but wide across the back, so not convinced they will tell me i’m much different to the size i am currently wearing. R&P sounds fabulous!

  21. oh and i meant to add – do you follow dixie’s blog? as she’s been making her own bras and has loads of info on suppliers and patterns here:

  22. Lucy says:

    I had a proper fitting whilst at university in a one-off local shop in Durham, and it was much the same – bra off n’all! Alas when I went back up a month ago the shop seems to have closed down πŸ™

    Revolution much, though. The only problem is that once you’ve experienced a supportive, well-fitting and expensive bra, you really can’t go back…

  23. LinB says:

    Have never lived near a town with a real bra-fitting shop, sigh. Can heartily recommend Beverly Johnson’s Bra-Makers Supply company for technical manuals (I own volume 1), and ease of ordering from their website. This company is in Canada. Have not yet bought supplies from her, but pattern I purchased is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed making up samples to tweak my sewing skills — I wanted a woven cotton full-coverage brassiere, as were widely available in the 1960s. The manual is pricy ($95 U.S.) but contains industry construction knowledge that you won’t find anywhere else — you can engineer a bra to aim your bust points up, down, or sideways! Who knew? Will eventually get around to ordering sewing supplies from them: No fabric stores in my area carry anything but bra repair oddments. No one has proper elastic or lingerie fabrics here.

    • I absolutely second this. It’s a great manual if you want to sew your own and I also agree that finding the right quality of supplies is hard. Our local chain (Fabricland in Canada) underwire is a complete joke, the elastics aren’t as strong as what I want, you really do need to find a place that is intending to sell to bra makers. I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve bought at http://www.sewsassy.com

      I’ve been for fittings twice, once with the intention of getting a strapless bra that worked and then I took a friend who was getting bruises from her ill fitting bra. She had one of those down 2 band sizes up 3 cup sizes where I was wearing the right size. Of course not all styles fit the same and reading in the comments above about full coverage cups vs balconettes, I think I need to think like that, the full coverage always end up with too much fabric in the upper cup and maybe it’s more that I’m just short.

  24. Bold Sewist says:

    I’m glad you had such a good and revealing experience there – I ventured in there once several years ago and felt a bit intimidated too but years later I’m a total Bravissimo girl. Love it! I can totally relate to what you say about going in one size and coming out feeling totally different – it is such a BOOST!

  25. Sewist from across the Pond. says:

    I’ve read about Rigby & Peller before. If I ever visit England and have lots of money, I will pay them a visit. Then I’ll run over to Paris to Alice Cadolle.

    Thanks for the amusing post.

    • Sewist from across the Pond. says:

      I occasionally see posts on home sewing blogs about bra making, but, just as with general garment construction, it’s obviously somewhere between a skill and an art and difficult for a nonprofessional with limited time to master. I imagine it’s not too hard to get so-so results.

  26. Anne W says:

    I’ve shopped at Bravissimo for a long time now, and Daughter no 1 can only get bras there. She is a 30 back but needs a large cup-size. Ordinary stores do not carry the required size ranges. It does make such a difference to the fit of your clothes, not to mention the confidence boost a great fitting bra gives!

  27. But don’t wear your bras till they fall to bits. General wisdom has it that you should get new bras after six months because the elastic will no longer be so supportive after that time. I’d expect that, given gentle hand washing, you could extend that to maybe a year. But don’t hang onto them forever, you won’t be doing your assets any favours. Sounds like a fabulous store and I also wish we had something of that ilk here Down Under (maybe we do and I just don’t know about it).

    • Jenn-NY says:

      I agree – bras don’t last forever and even the best ones get saggy after awhile. When I can afford it I usually buy at least 2 extra bras. That allows for a little more rotation and so as a group they last a bit longer. It’s also good to have a couple of different styles. Another thing, the girls change from year to year, so its important to get refitted every year or so.

  28. raquel from florida says:

    If I ever have the chance to go to London I will pay a visit to this fabulous store! What tips dou you have for uneven shoulders? I have the same problem.
    Thank you for sharing the experience with us!

  29. LLADYBIRD says:

    I actually got a mini bra-fitting while I was on vacation – there was a bra store in the tourist town I was visiting haha! I had fittings earlier this year so I am currently wearing the correct size, but I still wanted be nosey & see what their offerings were… ended up getting a fitting (and you’re right – at first, having something see you nekkid up-top is kind of mortifying, but after a few minutes it ain’t no thang to have their hands all up in your bra cups) and left with a bra that was stupid expensive – but oh so worth the money. It’s a strapless (with convertible straps, that & the fact that it was nude but still super pretty was what sold me) and it is pretty freakin amazing how much I DON’T have to hike it back into place throughout the day.

    Anyway, my difference in size from pre to post fitting isn’t too drastic – a band size down & a cup size up. But dude, it makes such a difference. All my old bras have been kicked to the curb.

    Also, I just love the pictures you post. Your world looks so elegant compared to mine, ha.

  30. Pella says:

    Another Rigby and Peller fan here. Those expensive bras last a lot longer than the one’s you pick up in a chain store (if you follow the laundry advice that is), so it is actually a saving, and not mere vanity. Or so I claim.

  31. Andrea says:

    If you live in the US, Nordstrom does a great bra fitting also. I went in a 36C and came out a 34DD. Life changing! (Or, well, at least shape changing!) I’m so glad you had such a good experience, Karen.

  32. Amy says:

    What a good experience! I wonder if I’d find out something different? I’ve only ever been fitted with a tape measure…

  33. There is a shop here called Intimacy that I’ve always wanted to try, but it’s very expensive. But everyone I know who’s gone there has described the experience the same way: “life-changing.” One day I will go, I vow! I’ve found all sorts of formulas online for how to take your measurements and figure out your ideal size, but I’ve gotten wildly different results from different formulas. I need to just leave that to the professionals, I guess, and keep wearing same (probably wrong) bras in the meantime.

  34. Tanya says:

    I had a similarly shocking realisation in Rigby and Peller, went in thinking I was a 38A and came out a 34C-D (depending on the bra style). It was a watershed moment! I would recommend it to anyone.

  35. I was a bra-fitter when I loved in the UK and I experienced so many reactions like yours. It was one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. Often women would come into the fitting area and talk badly about their bodies or sometimes even cry because they felt so terrible about the way they looked. The happiness I got from making someone feel comfortable and beautiful again was worth so much to me.
    Now that I am back in the States I often help my friends buy bras.

    If you have never had a professional fitting I highly recommend it. If you are shy you will soon find out that the women who fit you are professional and having a fitting is almost like having a doctors appointment, not embarrassing at all.

  36. I hate to say it Karen but we need some pictures! Maybe in your new jumper!!. Get those clangers to attention! Thing with bras is we don’t realise how they change with age and exercise. I went into Leia a couple of years ago (now sadly closed – a shop in Richmond), asked for my ‘normal’ size and she looked at my chumley-warners, looked at me in an unconvinced manner and suggested I might needed a bigger cup. I was all haughty and unconvinced, but tried one on. She was bloody well right – it was the swimming has changed my upper body and hence the cup size. Just hadn’t realised.

  37. “things with ‘bras’s lol with breasts I meant breasts – damn the half bottle of red wine

  38. CuriousGem says:

    I had a simlar experience too. I was shamed into going to John Lewis to get fitted as I was going on holiday with a friend and didn’t want her to see my hideous smalls. I went in one size, came out 1 chest size smaller and 2 cup sizes bigger. I chose JL because I remembered that years ago Which did a survey and they came out top. I was so shocked by the result I went to Bravissimo for a second opinion, not believing I was big enough to shop in there, and they actually decided I was another size or 2 bigger still! My boobs do not look that big but my well fitting (now) bras seem to say otherwise.
    Clare S raises a good point though – the shape, style and brand counts for a lot too. I have a flat upper chest so full cups are no good for me.
    Those shops are expensive but don’t forget, once you’ve been measured you can look for others online for less. Figleaves also does small back sizes. And many of the brands in R&P are French, where they are much cheaper, so I keep saying I’ll go to Paris during the sales to stock up πŸ™‚ Now there’s a nice excuse to go to Paris

  39. Sarah says:

    I just wrote a huge long comment that got lost πŸ™
    I worked in Debenhams Lingerie during my gap year and it really opened my eyes. We used a tape measure for getting an underbust measurement (bra on) and then tried bras until we got the right fit. High street shops vary massively in how they do things and how good they are varies between branches. Our local M&S had some very good people but also some terrible ones, I once refitted a lady who had been told she was a 40AA by them, and I sent her away a 36DD!
    The only place I’ve never heard bad things about is Bravissimo, but they’re few and far between (I live in Bristol and my closest branch is Cardiff).
    There’s lots of debate about fitting methods but the Invest In Your Chest blog covers it all very well http://www.investinyourchest.co.uk
    I think that bra fitting is a thing that should be made a lot less taboo among ladies, and we should fight back against all the godawful fitting shown in adverts, as a trained bra fitter it makes me cringe sometimes! One of the most important things to know is that you aren’t a particular size in every bra, it’s far more important to recognise a good fit and work out what styles suit your bust shape. Too many people have it in their head that they *are* a 34C and will just buy bras without so much as trying them on. But then I don’t blame them, no-one’s saying any different! Trinny & Susannah and Gok generally do a bra fitting as part of a makeover but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually explain fitting on TV, it should be done!
    /semi-coherent rant

  40. Jenn-NY says:

    I heard somewhere that something like 8 out of 10 women in the U.S. are wearing the wrong size bra. I think part of the problem is due to the misconception that band (back) size is related to the over-the-girls measurement (like the +5 method that Tabitha mentioned). That’s a problem because most/all of the bra’s support is in the band and it seems like most women wear bands that are too big. I haven’t had a professional fitting, but I did some research and figured it out myself. I won’t even mention the size I ended up with (so long DD), but my experience fits the same pattern that most women see — up in cup size, down in band/back size. Fantasie seems to fit me best. Bras are so critical with some vintage fashion, especially 50s styles. I wouldn’t do the pointy style myself (scary) but I think many vintage fashion fans could do with just a little more bra structure. Just adding my opinion!
    ~ Jen, NY

    • LinB says:

      When I properly measured, I went up in band size. I had to consider that the underwires that have punished me for so many years did so because they did not have a wide enough circumference. When I make a bra, I have to tweak the cups to accommodate how my flesh is distributed within them, so it’s hard to say if I’ve gone up or down a cup size. Not that I’m complaining! The fit is so much better even in rtw bras when I buy something close to my actual size than what I bought for decades.

  41. Dixie says:

    How interesting to read of your visit to Rigby & Peller, and your bra fitting. I’ve not had such a fitting here in the U.S., but there must be places where it is done. There is a small lingerie chain in the Boston area that is known for their wide selection of sizes, but I’ve not had a fitting with them. Years ago a young woman at Nordstrom steered me into a larger cup/smaller band, and it has made all the difference.
    As for sewing my own bras, I don’t think I will ever do it. I cannot wear lace or seamed cups comfortably, and I really prefer the molded cups. I suppose I could obtain them somewhere, but as long as I can purchase bras that fit well, I won’t be sewing them.

  42. cidell says:

    First, when I was a child, my mom had the most beautiful lingerie. She would always tell me the best stuff came from when she lived in England. So, in my mind, I’ve always thought of English underpinnings as the best.

    Second, when I went in for a real, non Victoria’s Secret fitting, I went in a 34D and walked out a 32E/DDD. I never liked my shape until then. And now I’ve find European swim companies that make my size for swimwear. I was THRILLED. Well worth the money. And now, I make my own!

  43. Lydia says:

    I am from Canada, and when I had my first Bravissimo bra fitting seven years ago during a visit to the UK, it changed my life. All my clothes fit differently, people asked me if I lost weight because I loooked so different due to wearing new bras, and for the first time in my life, I not only had pretty bras in fabulous patterns and colours, but bras that worked, and made me feel and look great.

    Since then, it is always a tradition that when I visit, I buy several bras every year. I want all my bras to last forever as well, but the elastic stretches, not only from washing and wearing, but from actually working to ‘hold up.’ (if that makes sense). Right now I have fourteen bras, but only three or four ‘function’ well –as in do their job. The older ones are pretty, but I wear them around the house, but my clothes fit great with the newer ones, while the older ones just don’t work anymore. Anyway, I can relate to your experience, and you describe it so well. Next time I visit, I will go to Rigby and Peller (it was closed last time…sigh!). Bravissimo is amazing for swimwear, and really pretty bras that fit well.

    One thing other people mentioned though, is that sometimes a bra fitter may want you to wear something that feels too tight. I was talked into a bra with underwire and a back strap so tight, I had to toss it! I returned, and found another brand, in the same size, but where the stretch felt so much better. Listen to your inner voice, and remember some fabrics may stretch more(lace, or sheers) or less (satins) than others — and even with the same brand, you may have to go up or down slightly just to adjust the fit. I acutally own bras with slightly different sizes to suit various outfits, or activities, and I find this works for me perfectly. Sorry, I did not mean for this to be so long, but this topic is close to my heart. I enjoy reading you blog and admire the way you keep taking on more and more challenging projects, and creating amazing things.

    PS — one more thing! By the way, there was post somewhere (I will have to check the link) that explained bra cup volume vs. size — it explained why a 32 H, was the same as a 36 GG — both sizes have the same volume in the cup, but with slightly different sizing.

    • Christina says:

      After having a fitting and starting bras in the right size, I was asked if I’d lost weight, too. I also got much more confident, because my boobs were staying where I put them and not moving around on their own like they did before.
      I haven’t had much luck with sewing bras for my size, though. Smaller sizes, yes, but a 27.5” chest and G cups are hard to fit together.

  44. Gaylene says:

    My husband bought me a session at R & P 2 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Went in a 34C, came out a 30E, but the biggest difference for me was how lifting the bazoombas gave a lovely slimming scoop to the lower bodice, which seems to even make me walk a bit straighter. If anyone is in two minds about getting it done, don’t hesitate..it’s so worth it.

  45. lien says:

    Living in Belgium, I really don’t know anything about Bravissimo or the other London based shops… But, a couple of years ago I went to a local lingerie shop that also sells corsets etc. The fantastic shop owner opened my eyes as I was wearing a wrong size bra (the cup size was too small). She showed me a bra with a kind of air cushions in the cups (Huit). They fit fantastically and gave me such a great figure! For a couple of years I bought almost all my bra’s there.
    Now that I’m breastfeeding (and my boobs have grown – the horror, I actually liked my smallish breasts!) I went to a shop that specializes in breastfeeding bra’s. Another fitting and I left with (again!) two bra’s. I really do value the shop owner’s knowledge and experience as I would never have guessed that the difference in bra sizes between brands was so big! One bra has a B cup and the other a D?! No more ill fitting bra’s for me!

  46. Now may be the time to admit to my out-of-control bra buying habit! I’ve just counted 23….. I love buying them, and all because I finally started wearing the correct size. I had my initial fitting at Rigby and Peller and bought two bras which were AMAZING. My budget couldn’t keep up with that level of luxury though and I soon decamped to Bravissimo. I wholeheartedly recommend them, both for customer service and for the lovely range of colours and styles they stock, at pretty reasonable prices.
    I agree that a well fitting bra makes a total difference to your figure, I’ve since converted several friends too. Glad to hear of your fabulous boost! X

  47. rosyragpatch says:

    This is a really interesting post. I’ve been thinking of trying Rigby & Peller for ages but have been put off by the idea of it being a bit grand & scarey. I will definitely get my nerve up now & give it a try. Thanks!

  48. Tilly says:

    This is really interesting to read that so many women are having the same issue. I don’t have much disposable income for clothing so when it comes to undies I stick to M&S because every so often I find a size 30 back – but sporadically. I have a secret suspicion that I might be even smaller on the back, but I don’t want to admit it as I won’t know where to get such a bra without blowing all my savings! Maybe I’ll go to R&P and put one bra on a credit card or something…

  49. Rehanon says:

    Ooh Karen you’ve given me the bravery to finally to to R&P a shop I have coveted for years. Being large of top I’ve always taken care to buy the best support as when I first got fitted for a bra that fitted me the change in my shape was amazing. I normally go to Bravissimo but to have some undergarms that are fit for the Queen’s is too tantalising a prospect to ignore any longer.

  50. StephC says:

    What an interesting read- and I’m so pleased for you getting fitted properly! πŸ™‚ It’s nice, isn’t it?

    I wonder how hard it would be to get a job there… To learn the ropes, etc. Sounds amazing, what knowledge!

  51. Yet another reason for a trip to London… I can never find a bra that fits ok…they are all too tight at the ribcage!

  52. Just a thought about the actual shopping experience as I don’t have much to add to the fitting conversation (I also went for a fitting in Bravissimo and it was excellent) – once you get into your new size you realise how painfully ill-equipped lots of high street shops are for women’s bodies. So, I’m immodest enough to tell you that I wear 30E/32DD (depending on the shape of the bra) and I find these sizes difficult to find in anything other than parachute harness, and Bravissimo is just too expensive! But I did find that Debenham’s have as good a range of the Freya bras and other brands that are carried by Bravissimo but a lot cheaper. So, it’s worth looking in there!

  53. Angela says:

    Fascinating article! I have only been fitted at a Victoria’s Secret, and that at the ripe age of 45! But what a change! I thought I was a 38A. Came out a 34 C and look and feel ever so much better. I was so impressed that I encouraged my mom to have a fitting. She thought she wore a 46A based on those useless methods. She is now in a much different size and way more comfy.

  54. Kelly says:

    This is very timely for me! I’ve been on a bra size quest since I read recently that so many women are in the wrong size.I figured that must be why mine are so uncomfortable. So, since it’s time for new bras, I went online and looked up bra size calculators. I followed the directions for measuring and used a good tape measure and a mirror. (For reference, I’ve been wearing a 38D. I’m just 5 feet tall and I have nice boobs but they are not gigantic, I swear!) The first bra calculator said I should be buying a 36K. (yes, K!) I tried another one and got a 42B. 36H came up the most frequently so that’s the size I ordered. It will probably fit on my head!! But really, it’s been very comforting to read your post, Karen, and all the comments that said the same thing happened to them. Band size down; cup size up.
    But really?? A 36H vs. 42B? Why so much confusion? So we all wear the wrong size bra?? How are we supposed to fix that, given the information we have to work with? I am a dedicated online shopper, so that’s where I turned first. But all the articles do recommend that you go to a department store and get fitted by a professional, with good reason, I see now! I think the closest thing to a bra fitting professional here is the teenager working at Victoria’s Secret in the mall. But we do have a Nordstroms here, thanks to whoever posted that, I’ll go give it a try.
    Rant over!
    x Kelly

  55. symondezyn says:

    Having worked in a bra shop years ago, bra size and fit is definitely one of those things most women need help with. I learned my proper size working there, as well as the fact that the support strap should be parallel all the way around the body. Many women wear them much too high, like at their shoulder blade area, which affects the posture in a negative way, especially when one’s girls are on the larger side πŸ˜‰

    Then, a couple years ago I was referred to a European lingerie chain here in Canada, as I’d heard the fit was much better on their bras, so I grabbed a couple in my size and proceeded to the change room. When they didn’t fit, I was a bit surprised, but was utterly shocked when the sales lady asked my size and then whipped out a tape measure and threw it around me with no notice whatsoever LOL.

    It was a bit disconcerting at first but the results were intriguing; turns out North American cup sizing is different than European – here I’m a D, but there I’m an E apparently LOL. Perhaps that’s where some of the confusion lies for people who are one or two cup sizes difference but when the cup size is five sizes different, that’s certainly shocking indeed!! Bravo for sharing your story, and giving the women out there courage to find bras that fit and feel good πŸ™‚

  56. allisonC says:

    I’m not surprised so many of us are wearing the wrong size – do you remember all that nonsense that used to be spouted about adding on x or y inches onto your chest measurement to get your band size, the day I ignored that and used my actual measurements was the day I finally got a bra to do what it is supposed to do! Still I think a visit to R&P might be in order next time I’m in London.

  57. Johanna says:

    Hi Karen, it was fascinating to read about your bra fitting. I’d love to go and invest in some good, high quality bras, but am just wondering how much on average they cost there? Wouldn’t want to go for a fitting and then not be able to afford the lovely things!

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  59. Amanda Peters says:

    I would love to go to Rigby & Peller one day, but in the mean time, I’d like to just say that I changed from ill-fitting bras to well-fitting ones without going into a shop. Bravissimo were able to sort me out on the phone. This is useful for anyone who can’t get to a shop. And I, too went down from something like a 40DD (can’t remember, exactly) to a 34GG, which felt tight at first, but now I would not wear anything else. Sometimes the size varies a little, up or down a cup or band size, depending on the make or style.

    Another complication is the relationship between cup size and band size, so a 34GG is the same CUP SIZE as a 36G. I think bra sizes do need sorting out and re-classifying. Also, I think more manufacturers should develop styles for people with big boobs and NARROW SHOULDERS! (Like me!)

  60. Sarah says:

    Oh gosh, I have been dreaming about visiting Rigby & Peller ever since I heard about the shop on Trinny and Susannah many many years ago. Living in Australia, I still haven’t had the chance, as on my working holiday in London I was too broke to buy any extras. I’m planning a trip to the UK later this year though, so my dream might finally come true!

  61. Polly Pierce says:

    Better late than never, I enjoyed this post when it was first written but reading it a year later I’m reminded of my disaster story.

    A few years ago I dropped several dress sizes after a rigorous bout of weight watching & decided that the best thing for the girls would be to get them professionally measured.

    This happened one cold & miserable February morning. It involved all of the above and two hours of me stood in a freezing cubical. The result? I was sold a bra that I hated, it was expensive so I wore it initially but subjected it to every type of laundry abuse known to lingerie…

    The result? a couple of years later I’d gained quite a few pounds, grown out of my pretty, well fitting lingerie & in desperation turned to the ill-loved bra.

    Guess what? The damned thing fit me perfectly! Go figure; like I was nearly 2 stone heavier & it fit! God only knows what my fitter had been thinking/doing all those pounds ago, but it actually fit – talk about shocked. Needless to say, I never shipped in that store again…

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