Today’s guest post is written by Lisa, a TLA reader and Midwestern 20-something with a penchant for lingerie, luxury, and low prices. She is currently working as a retail chain bra fitter and as a bra frame fit tester, with aspirations to win the lottery or pass her board exams, whichever comes first.
I am a retail chain bra fitter. I am tired of using a tape measure to perform bra fittings at my job. And I am tired of hearing horror stories about bra fittings.
Let’s work together to create the best experience for one another at the place that is likely most accessible to you to find bras – the mall.
Let me start from the beginning of my bra fitting journey.
My first introduction was at THAT mall store. I had a negative experience, amongst a sea of positive experiences, to be quite honest. A sales associate attending the fitting rooms literally blocked my path until she fit me. She likely had a goal from a superior to measure/fit so many customers for the day. Back then she measured me as a 32D, which was not far off the mark of a 34C. But she marked it in the cards they provided, handed it to me, and told me that a 32D was my size without checking the fit in their bras across varying styles and with no explanation of how a bra should look and feel when it fits. Long story short – a 32 band for me at that time was too tight to allow the necessary life function of breathing.
Through trial and error on my own, I learned that my bra size was different across various brands and across different styles as well. Using online calculators was a start, but it did not tell the whole story and was more often than not grossly inaccurate.
So why do I hate the tape measure? Customers see it around my neck and want only one thing – for it to be around their body and for me to spit out a size that will be 100% correct in every bra and in every brand that they try. In my experience, using a tape measure to fit will often underestimate the cup size, at least in the brand that I fit. Certain breast shapes will not be assessed correctly using the 2-line rib cage/bust and plus 4 method that my store encourages.
My mall store has a little video that teaches how to perform bra fittings their way: have the customer wear a tank top and a lightly lined bra, gingerly measure them, tell them their size and their sister size, and “check” the fit through the tank top once they have the bra on.
If you can tell that the underwire and gore is lying flat, fully encompasses the girls, and that the band fits well through a tank top, then kudos to you my friend.
I do not want to be the bra fitter that I had who snaked a tape measure around me and declared my size to the whole of the fitting room. There are likely quality bra fitters at your local stores and some not-so-great bra fitters as well. To find the quality ones, I recommend asking the associates at the front of the store how good the current fitter is that is in the fitting room. If they are not gushing about how wonderful they are, maybe take a pass on the bra fitting.
The company I work for just introduced the title of “Certified Bra Expert”. Often if a mall brand has an associate with a title like that, they likely have had either no or minimal further training from their company on bra fitting. And yes, the training was minimal. The best bra fitters at the mall in my opinion are the ones that associates at competing stores know by reputation. I know the best bra fitter at THAT mall store in my mall. When I know that she is working and that my store’s product does not suit the customer’s needs, I send them her way and vice versa.
There are many things that you can do to ensure that you have a positive experience in your mall store fitting. Here are 7 for you and I to keep in mind.
1. First and foremost be body positive. I cannot tell you how often a fittee makes a negative comment about her body, even apologizing to me for feeling that she is small/big/sensitive/pregnant/lopsided/nursing/post-surgery/insert self-body snark here. Do NOT blame yourself if the bra frames in a store, especially a one-brand store, do not work well for you. Blame the bra frame. I will attempt to suggest a silhouette that will work best for you, suggestions of what to look for in your next bra, and brands if applicable.
2. Keep in mind that fittings in a mall store are nearly impossible to truly be one on one. Have patience and block out time in your schedule so that I can spend more time with you. I have to check for additional sizes in the back, open more fitting rooms, clean out the fitting rooms and rehang and refold merchandise in addition to straightening the store merchandise in the room closest to the fitting rooms. Oh, and help you, the customer in the room next to you, and so on. So please do not expect me to be glued to your fitting room door. I strive to be back in the fitting room and spend as much time with you as you need, but if it is a busy day I am not able to provide the best experience for you.
3. Remember that you are not a bra size. Your best fit size will vary from brand to brand, and within the brand itself depending on the bra frame. Please keep in mind that both the cup and the band size of your best fit may change from bra to bra. Importantly, keep an open mind about your best fit size. “I’m not a D! Those are huge!” and “I can’t possibly be an A, that’s so small!” are some of the most awful phrases to me. You are not a letter and a number. I once had a mother who refused to purchase her daughter an admittedly perfectly fitting 30B bra because there was “no way” her daughter “was a B cup”, even after I explained that a 30B was the same cup size as a 32A. Sheesh.
4. On that note, be selective about who you bring to your bra fitting. Someone such as your mother, who is in denial about your best fit size or your best friend, who has a running commentary on everything that you do may not be the best support for you.
5. Measurements do not tell the whole story, which is why I would caution you against using an online size calculator or measurements that you did at home. Sometimes I’ll measure for show, but select the bra frames that will likely fit you best, regardless of what the tape measure said. Do not be startled if your bra fitter does not use a measuring tape. That likely means that they have been fitting long enough to know what might be your best fit size.
6. Expect that you might have to try on several bra frames and styles to get your best fit bra, and that you might have to go to more than one store to find one. Some customers expect that the first bra they try on will meet all their wildest hopes and expectations, and walk out the door confident that none of the bras in the store will fit them, when all they needed to do was communicate with the fitting room attendant about their needs. You cannot tell me too much, or show me too much for that matter. You had a tumor removed from one breast? You’ve had a mastectomy and use a prosthetic? You have scoliosis? You have to comfortably accommodate your TENS unit for your back pain? You’re nursing or pregnant? It’s difficult for you to reach the middle of your back? Your breasts are sensitive? Whatever the case, it’s my job to help you find a bra frame that fits you best and accommodates your needs. I cannot know your needs unless you tell me.
7. Most importantly, if you are not comfortable in any way with the fitting you are receiving, walk away. The experience is all about the fittee, and I am not doing my job if you are not comfortable standing in front of me wearing your bra. It sends a strong message to me, and my manager, that I am not doing my best and that there is something lacking in our service to you. If you feel comfortable doing so, leave the store manager feedback about your experience, so that we may better help you, and everyone that comes in after you.
You should expect that your bra fitter will ask what you are currently wearing, and listen to what you want in your next bra. I should select several sizes and styles for you, and seek additional bra frames if needed. Your bra fitter should teach you how a bra should fit, helping you find a bra shape that suits your breasts best, and provide washing and wearing tips. I’ll also (surprise!) be looking at you wearing a bra and checking the fit for you.
And bottom line, if you are not happy with your bra fitting experience in any way you may walk out at any time. I am not doing my job if you are not happy.
What are your tips for getting a bra fitting in a mall or department store? Any good (or bad!) experiences to share?