Plus Size Bra Shopping: The Good and The Bad of Lane Bryant
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Lane Bryant's Cacique line of undergarments is a mainstay amongst plus size shoppers. They've largely been unchallenged as a primary source of bras in particular because they are the most well known and universally available. My first fully fledged bra came from Lane Bryant many many years ago and I remained a loyal customer through significant changes in band and cup size. Now, at a 44/46 DD, I continue to shop there, and I'm not entirely sure why.
Over the years, despite the fact that Lane Bryant could be considered an institution in the realm of plus size bra shopping, I've become extremely disillusioned with the Cacique brand. It took some time on my part, but I've nailed down the things that present the most problems for me.
The styles have largely remained the same. Cacique hasn't followed many of the trends and the vast majority of bras remain the same from season to season with minor changes in color or print. The exception to this rule seems to be the brand's undying devotion to all things cage bra and strappy detail, which isn't entirely unappealing, but it would be nice to see more diversity in the brand's offerings. I rarely see any innovation in construction or styles outside of back smoothing or cooling technology.
Lane Bryant has the potential to offer plus size customers, especially those in higher band sizes that are frequently ignored even by full bust lines, stylish designs in new shapes that reflect the shifting nature of the lingerie industry. But rather than make advancements on the actual style or primary function of a bra, the brand has instead decided to mostly focus on making plus sized bra shoppers minimize their back fat.
For example, Cacique could easily introduce a bralette, a style that is becoming increasingly available in plus sizes. Cacique could seize the opportunity to introduce trends that are almost impossible to find in plus, like sportier styles. The failure to innovate results in a lack of new and exciting options every season.
Frequent lack of availability in larger band sizes. My primary reason for sticking with Cacique for as long as I have is a simple one. A 46 band isn't the most widely available, even among lines that are considered plus-sized bra lines. I admit, part of Cacique’s appeal is the relative breadth of selection, especially when compared to other retailers.
For example, filtering the results at Macy’s to show bras only in a 46 band size takes me from almost 900 bras to 20. The same filter at Nordstrom takes me from 915 options to 7. Amazon’s vast selection of over 2,000 bras goes to 118. A 46DD filter at Kohl’s takes me from 927 to 106 options and the same filter at target takes me from just over 1,000 options to 21. Even Torrid’s selection is cut nearly in half once the 46DD filter is applied.
Most frustratingly, almost all of the bras available in this size at every retailer are the same type of neutral, full coverage bra that is incredibly unappealing, especially held up against bras in smaller band sizes. Lane Bryant offers several, but not all, of their bras in this band size. Unfortunately, this size is frequently sold out. I'm unsure why this happens as I check the website often and newer items are often completely unavailable in a 46DD. I also notice that only the most basic styles are available in the 50 band size.
Poor website design. Lane Bryant's website is frequently buggy and most annoyingly of all, the search by size function consistently produces results that aren't available in the size I searched for. I'm not interested in viewing bras that aren't available in my size.
Questionable quality. The bras don't seem to hold up well and while they aren't the most expensive items, I have reasonable expectations that a bra that starts at $50.00 should hold up at least a few months. I consistently have issues with straps breaking and foam cups becoming misshapen, even with hand washing. I could very easily recommend a bra, albeit one with a smaller size range, that’s just as good as anything I’ve purchased from Cacique for roughly half the price.
Online Shopping Required. I don't particularly love that I have to shop for bras online, but apparently, I'm sized out of the in-store experience, even at Lane Bryant. I've been told at multiple locations that band sizes over a 44 are generally not sold in stores. While I'm readily aware of what may be best business practices, it isn't exactly ideal to be sized out of a specialty store that's intended to serve you.
Questionable Advertising. This last negative point is purely subjective, but I'm absolutely put off by Lane Bryant's advertising choices. The #ImNoAngel, #PlusIsEqual and #ThisBody campaigns are clearly the result of mining the same radical fat activism they once mocked. Their insistence on co-opting and watering down the work of radical fat activists to celebrate a very specific and narrow representation of "real women" (ugh) is incredibly disappointing.
Much has been written about brands capitalizing on a watered down body positivity rhetoric and Lane Bryant, especially in it’s handling of their bra ads are one of the worst offenders. Additionally, I fail to understand Lane Bryant's refusal to diversify their model selections. All of Lane Bryant’s models are women who represent a very narrow representation of plus size bodies. Seeing bras on women who are larger than a 14 or aren’t hourglass or pear shape would be more meaningful and in-line with their seeming desire to change the narrative around plus size bodies.
Regardless of how you feel about Aerie’s actions elsewhere, they’ve made strides in hiring models that come closer to representing the full spectrum of the brand’s available sizing. Lane Bryant has publicly bristled at inquiries about the refusal to represent their full size chart in editorial campaigns and product shots. Additionally, almost every model currently wearing a Cacique bra is either white or a very light skinned/white passing woman of color. The brand's social media also seems to present a slight fixation on prioritizing the "voices" of their models, rather than a celebration of their actual customers.
While this may seem overwhelmingly negative, I can admit that Cacique has done a few things correctly and it does give hope.
More than one "nude." I was recently in a store picking up a few pairs of high-waisted briefs (I do wish there were more of these in addition to the many bikinis and hipsters), and I saw a brown strapless bra and matching knicker alongside what is traditionally sold as "nude" in Lane Bryant. I appreciate even the slightest acknowledgement that there are many colors of skin in need of flesh-toned underwear.
Band sizing. Although I take issue with the actual availability of the larger band sizes, I do appreciate that Cacique carries band sizes up to 50. There's a great deal of focus on larger cup sizes, and that is an important issue, but I think it's important to realize there's not enough available on the larger end of the spectrum in the context of band sizes.
The occasional find. The vast majority of the offerings are uninspired, but there are definitely a few standout items. I appreciate the unlined sheer cup bras and the more stylish wire-free options. This longline bra is an example of an item that feels really fresh and fun. I also snapped up several pairs of these briefs.
Overall, I'm incredibly disappointed in what Lane Bryant is doing, especially with the Cacique line, but I'm simultaneously appreciative that this has forced me to seek out new options that are more pleasing for me as a consumer. I’m so excited to share the new options I’ll be exploring as a regular columnist for The Lingerie Addict. I’ll definitely be sharing the ups and downs of venturing outside my comfort zone from a shopping and style perspective as well as highlighting some of the amazing options that are available.
What do you think of Lane Bryant? Are you pleased with their product offerings and marketing choices? What, if anything, do you think Cacique needs to do to change?