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The Full Bust Debate Society: What Can We Expect From Bra Companies and How Do We Get It?

Parfait by Affinitas 'Charlotte' Padded Bra & Bikini

Parfait by Affinitas 'Charlotte' Padded Bra & Bikini

Life isn't easy for specialty lingerie companies. Those of us who follow the latest full bust lingerie news have seen this in spades this month, as some major players have made announcements that changed the playing field in a big way. However, what's fascinated me the most this month has been the interaction between lingerie super fans and the companies they love. As a copywriter, I get to go behind the curtain and see the business side of things. As a blogger I'm frequently writing from my own perspective or as a consumer advocate, so I experience the same joys and disappointments as everyone else. As me, I'm fascinated by how these two sides of the equation work together or fight with each other.

I'm going to talk about several examples from the full bust world today, but the tips and situations here are relevant for pretty much all companies and consumers. Consumer feedback is valuable if you're small busted, full busted, looking for a great mastectomy bra or just a person who loves lingerie. If we don't productively make our points of view known to the companies we love, how can we expect them to make lingerie that we cherish?

Image via Parfait by Affinitas

Image via Parfait by Affinitas

The first big announcement this month came from Parfait by Affinitas, a company that has built up a massive following among the D to G cup crowd. Customers have been asking about a size range expansion for years now, with very little acknowledgement or feedback from the company or their social media outlets. But then, all of a sudden, it happened! Out of nowhere, the company has announced a major size expansion to a K cup for FW2013 as well as 28 band options. This is a huge move that shakes up the full bust landscape in a big way and people were thrilled. While I don't have any data on this, I'm sure that a large part of their decision was based on the constant feedback that they got from customers who loved their line and were sized out. People were polite, but also consistent in asking for what they wanted. It's this kind of interaction that bodes well for lingerie companies and lingerie fans alike.

Image via Ewa Michalak

Image via Ewa Michalak

On the flip side, this month also contained the disappointing news that Ewa Michalak would be discontinuing all 26 and 28 bands, which caused some difficult exchanges on social media with their customer base. While no bra company is obligated to make a certain size, many women have come to rely on Ewa Michalak for hard-to-find sizes and are even willing to internationally custom order non-returnable bras from them to continue to buy their size. Without getting into the details, in my opinion their response to people's requests on social media and their blog has been less than stellar. While I'm personally disappointed about all of this, it does illustrate a point that is really important: a company can choose who they want to manufacture lingerie for, even if that person isn't you. As a consumer, knowing what you're buying and what the company represents is also really important.

In hopes of furthering consumer/lingerie company relations, here is a quick list of tips I've put together to help us all work together and live in harmony (and well fitting bras!):

For Consumers:

-Don't be afraid to communicate with companies politely about what works or doesn't work when it comes to fit and design.

-Make your feelings and wishes known, but remember that certain size ranges can take a long time to develop.

-Don't be afraid to vote with your money. Ultimately, sales dictate the direction a bra company takes.

For Bra Companies: 

-Create realistic expectations. Not every brand has to work for every person.

-Listen to your fans and ask them questions about their experiences. You don't have to agree with all of them, but they are people who care about your brand.

-Be upfront about development and answering people's questions. You don't have to do everything at once, but being honest about it helps build trust and creates future customers.

Do you give feedback to lingerie companies you love? Do you feel lingerie companies listen to their customers?

Last Updated on

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

16 Comments on this post

  1. Laura says:

    had a huge “wake up” call yesterday…just by chance my local department store had a professional fitter on call…learned that “no sorry girl” you aren’t a 34DD…you are 32DDD…hellllllloooo wth!!! my choices dropped precipitously…so would welcome suggestions from anyone on brands…I have pretty decent separation between my girls and “yes” natural if that helps in the recommendations… :) thanks

  2. Jill says:

    Has anyone tried the Implicite line? It’s billed, in some places, as “by Simone Perele” and it has a good range of sizes and really beautiful, modern designs. A rep from Blush Lingerie said that the fit and price are great and their customers love it, but I can’t find much more information.

  3. UpliftMaximizationTechnician says:

    After years of being “meh” with Panache, I am excited to fit with their product again with the recent style and wire changes. That being said, I still found there was a huge discrepancy in quality of fit between the Marcie and Lucy balconnet styles in the Cleo line. After great success with in a variety of sizes with Lucy, I was so excited for the Marcie (I even ordered a set for myself!), but found there was an excess of material and bunching under the arm across the size range. A HUGE oversight!
    In response to the 28 back issue, I understand it is very, very frustrating for the slim and petite client out there. I do see many 28 bands out there with deeper cup sizes. That being said, for every 28 back who LOVES a firm (I hate using the word tight) back, there is another 28 back who prefers a gentler fit, as slim women with less subcutaneous fat are occasionally more susceptible to feeling pressure from the band. This ongoing obsession about “back fat” is also leading women to (stupidly) request larger and larger band sizes, which could skew a company’s view of what is being demanded by the public.
    For the record, I am NOT a fan of MacGyvering bras. In a perfect world, it is wonderful to be able to purchase a bra and have it fit, as is. But in the real world, bodies are all different and asymmetrical. Occasionally straps must be moved inward, shortened or lengthened for clients with extremely narrow, sloped shoulders or for those who are very petite or very tall. In certain size ranges, given the lack of smaller back sizes available, it is not unheard of or impossible to take a bra in a back size. A. Meaning ONE back size. Just one. ONE, lol. This practice can open up more options, and provide a more comfortable fit for the slim and petite ladies out there.
    That being said, it seems that women on both extremes of the size spectrum are left in the lurch. 26 and 28 backs are hard to find, and many women in the 40+ back sizes also bemoan the lack of pretty options.
    I think it is a balance of maintaining realistic expectations, but also consumers voicing opinions to the companies directly.
    Sadly, from my experience fitters are rarely consulted or listened to by the large companies. I mean, I only look at their product on real world bodies all day, every day. What would I know? lol…But it has always been a matter of the reps coming in, showing us what is coming, telling us what will be discontinued and that’s about that. We are at the mercy of what owners decide to carry. Some boutiques are great and are open to stock suggestions from their fitters…others…not so much.
    So yes, voice your opinions! Make yourself heard! It can only make things better!
    :-) BabsTheBraFitter

    • Holly Holly says:

      Thank you for commenting! I’ve heard from lots of people that retailers and fitters are a big part of this equation, as what a company makes is dependent on what retailers buy. I know this is dependent on how good the reps are, which can be kind of hit or miss.

      I would love to see Cleo do a size expansion, as I’d personally love to be a frequent customer of theirs. I’ve had great luck with some and stuck out with other bras, so it’s been pretty hit or miss for me as well. I also would love to see more 40+ bra backs, as it’s also a severely underserved market.

  4. Cecily says:

    Regarding the social media fumble from Ewa Michalak, I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here. Their response was illogical and intolerant to their consumers’ reactions and I think it could’ve been handled much more professionally, kindly or quietly than it was. However, the public customer reaction — and even from some people who had never been customers! — was horrifying and occurred days before the size drop was announced. I am in no way condoning the actions or statements of the brand, but I’d like to point out that in all of this, the company wasn’t the only one making mistakes. It wasn’t simply that those customers were impolite or impatient and thus, didn’t get what they wanted in the first place. The words and choices from the online community were tantamount to bullying, arriving in waves of vicious aggression and threats. Ewa Michalak is a small brand operating in an economically depressed country, they don’t have the power, structure, or money that Bendon, Eveden, Panache, or Van de Velde command. While that’s not an excuse, we should remember we’re denouncing a geographically distant, independent brand without a team of PR professionals and social media experts. Of course I was frustrated and saddened by the company’s comments, but I was equally discomforted by their “fans'” reaction.

    • Holly Holly says:

      I definitely agree – everyone came out looking bad and I suspect that the consumer group involved and EM won’t ever deal with one another ever again well. It sounds like they don’t want/can’t deal with some of the issues that overseas selling creates and that lots of customers will now be former customers due to size range changes and some of their attitude issues.

      You make a great point that consumers do need to realize that small companies are well…small. They can’t carry tends of thousand of SKUs or make changes as easily and they carry more of a financial risk when they try out a new line/size range. Affinitas is still smaller by most standards, which makes me extra pleased that they’re trying out a new size range. I suspect development was a big deal to them and that some serious money was put into it.

  5. Bra Queen says:

    Great post Holly!
    I completely agree that we all have something to offer and the more we communicate this without judgement the better everyone will be. I think the genuine lingerie labels who love what they do will listen and maybe we are still seeing some old school people in the more stubborn companies?


    • Holly Holly says:

      Thanks for commenting! I think constructive dialogue relies on both companies and the consumer. Consumers need realize that their “wants” may not make financial sense and companies need to be willing to use consumers as focus groups to test new size ranges, designs and to find out about widespread product flaws.

  6. Amber says:

    While looking for new bras this month (After finding out that I’m not actually a 32B, but a 28C) I kept being pointed to Ewa, and kept going, “But there’s nothing here! What am I missing?!” I guess I wasn’t missing anything at all.

    • Holly Holly says:

      Ewa used to be an amazing 28 band bra source, but luckily other companies are picking up the slack. Try Affinitas or Claudette. :-)

  7. MJROFL says:

    I have to admit, I never thought about being vocal about what I wanted…I always figured I can’t expect companies to work with me because I’m outside of the norm (who nurses for this long & isn’t a non-bra-wearing hippy? who wants a ton of babies and doesn’t wear corduroy jumpsuits??). But then after extensive searching for the best option, I thought “wth.” So thanks for giving me tips – I guess now I’ll speak up!

    • Holly Holly says:

      I suspect you’re less outside the norm than you think! Companies love constructive feedback, especially if it can lead to more sales in a new or emerging category.

  8. Ms. Pris says:

    I think some companies are listening and giving us what we want. In response to popular demand, Panache has introduced shorter and narrower wires on some models; they’ve introduced more models with side support, and models with deep cups. Also, I think the Marcie babydoll is clearly a response to customers talking about wanting more babydolls. Affinitas is expanding their size range after a few years of being downright negative about the prospect, so they are listening (and when they do expand that size range, I will be running out to get fitted into a Charlotte.)

    I asked a Panache rep today if Cleo is going to respond to the petition for wider bands, I certainly hope they do.

    How to get it? I think being polite is a good beginning. But you know, people were initially polite to EM and EM started the hostilities over on FB. So we have to be polite, but the lingerie brand has to be polite in exchange.

    I do give feedback, usually via email.

    • Holly Holly says:

      Yes, Panache and their wire changes are a perfect example of this. People documented the problem politely in wide numbers and eventually they changed the design! As someone who couldn’t wear Panache before and can now, I deeply appreciate their willingness to listen and rethink things. Also, if you’d asked me two months ago whether Affinitas would ever expand their size range, I would have said no – turns out they were already on it! All of these are examples of customers being helpful to a company rather than working against them to get things that they want.

      I’m with you on the EM stuff. People documented issues over and over again and their response was to pull a bunch of sizes and tell everyone how wrong they were about their own bodies. In the long run, that’s what people will remember about them instead of how lovely their bras can be.

  9. Laura E. says:

    Ewa’s response was disappointing to say the least. I’m not one of the customers that relied on her company for custom sizing, but I’m turned off nonetheless. There are much better ways to handle customer feedback than, “well, you’re wearing the wrong size and you’re wearing our bras wrong, so it’s your fault, and now I’m going to take away the option of you buying a bra from me ever again.” That makes no sense whatsoever.

    • Holly Holly says:

      Agreed. Disappointing is a pretty polite word for it. It’s not so much the policy as how they expressed it, which I expect will mean a big hit to their English speaking customer base.

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