The Shadow Bra Industry: Direct Sales with Peach

As I write this, I’m wearing a Peach Lovely Full Coverage bra that the company gifted me after a fitting with them at TechStyleNYC last September. The fabric is satiny soft over lightly padded cups, and even though the band provides most of the support, I really appreciate the cushioned wide straps with lace on top but satin next to my skin.

You’ll never guess what size I’m wearing, however.

34-11.

Peach has its own sizing system. As part of its campaign to turn bra shopping into a pleasant rather than painful experience, they’ve abandoned traditional cup sizes in order to quash letter-phobia. Having only worn D cups and higher since I was a teen, this completely baffling concept has been well-documented by others.

In theory, I understand what Peach is doing, but the practical implications concern me. The average Peach customer has had no fit experience. (When I walked into my fitting, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the bra I was wearing, which they said was very unusual.) Adding an entirely new sizing system does nothing to quash the confusion surrounding fit above a D cup. Instead, it may encourage over-dependence on the Peach stylist.

Last week I promised to explore Peach’s business model “for the fit-savvy Hourglassy reader looking for ways to help other women feel as great as she does.” If Peach recruits such a woman, it could go a long way toward building the company’s credibility with bra fit devotees. It’s not that we need to find someone to fit us. We need to find someone we trust to fit our friends, and if we’re afraid that a Peach stylist will put our friends into a weird new size in order to encourage future re-orders without empowering her to shop elsewhere, then we won’t refer them. On the other hand, if we know a Peach stylist who understands the ins and outs of American, British and European brands for the D+ market–even if she doesn’t stock them–we can refer our moms, sisters and friends to her with confidence.

Are you curious about whether your bra fit passion and Peach could be a match? Here’s what I would consider.

1. Do you like their bras?

Surprisingly, my own answer is yes. I’ve already described their tactile appeal, and my Lovely Full Coverage bra is so comfortable that it’s my bra of choice for long flights. As for shape, it’s a basic molded cup with a slight flattening effect, and it is by no means a top performer for lift. However, it’s as supportive as anything else in my lingerie drawer.

peach bra comparisons coral tee

L to R: Empreinte Capucine in 32F, Empreinte Grace in 32F, Peach Lovely Full Coverage in 34-11.

Peach side view comparison with empreinte grace

L to R: Empreinte Grace, Peach Lovely Full Coverage.

The vast majority of American women prefer seamless tee shirt bras, including most of the friends I would refer to a Peach stylist. If a Peach stylist puts my friend in the right size in a Peach bra and she loves it, then I’m happy. I’m also happy with the pretty lilac and grey colors that they offer. Too many times my large-busted friends have been limited to beige and black at the stores where I’ve referred them. Finally, the center pull straps are a giant bonus for those of us with narrow or sloping shoulders.

2. Does Peach offer enough bra sizes?

Peach bras come in 32-40 bands. Even though I prefer a 32 in most brands, the Peach 34 band is both comfortable and secure on the middle hook with no riding. This makes me think that women who typically wear 30 bands may be able to wear 32 bands in Peach.

Peach cup sizes extend from 5 to 16. A 5 roughly corresponds to an A cup, which mean that Peach cups run to a respectable British HH. It makes sense that my 34-11 bra would translate to a 34F because I’m between a 32F and FF in British brands.

Since even the highly respected full-bust-focused Erica of A Sophisticated Pair finds that most of her customers wear 30-40 D-G, it’s a good bet that the friends we need to refer will also fall within that range. However, if you want to be prepared for the customer who falls outside the range, CEO Janet Kraus assured me that stylists are free to sell other brands. Peach currently also offers Chantelle bras and will eventually offer its own cut-and-sew and unlined molded bras.

3. What is the fitting process like?

It’s unusual, but for bra geeks it will be fascinating. The stylist has a client put on an unlined bra-like contraption that gives absolutely no lift or support. My guess is that this “fit bra” helps ensure consistency of measurements across fitters and clients. The stylist then takes 10 points of measurement, including the typical rib cage and over bust, but also nape to waist, around the back, across the front of the chest, and apex to apex.

The more data that Peach can collect, the more accurately they hope to predict the best style and fit for each customer. Interestingly, in Peach’s previous life as the startup Zyrra, COO Derek Ohly used these measurements to create custom-made bras. Eventually, Janet Kraus convinced him to use his algorithm to fit bras rather than custom make them.

Surprisingly, most stylists do not carry a complete range of sizes. Instead, after a customer is “measured to order”, three bras arrive in the mail with instructions, diagrams and tips. The stylist can then follow up in person or via Skype or FaceTime. Stylists who want to invest in all the sizes can “fit to order” at the first appointment.

The process isn’t fool-proof yet. At my own fitting in September, I liked the fit of the 32-12 better than the 34-11, but when the 32-12 arrived, the cups were so shallow that my breasts looked like apple pie spilling over the side of the pan. Peach sent a follow-up shipment with a range of sister sizes for me to try, and I loved the fit of the 34-12 cup, but going from a 34-11 to a 34-12 seemed to cause everything–not just the cups–to grade larger, and the shoulder straps couldn’t be adjusted any tighter. Initially, the 34-11 gave my larger breast a pronounced pillowing toward the center of the bra, but the pillowing didn’t show up under clothing and has since evened out. I would have loved to have tried a 32-13 or 32-14, but they weren’t included in the second shipment.

I think that Peach has giant potential for bra fit enthusiasts who want to help other women find their best size. I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you’re a New Yorker who’s reading this and decide to try it out, please let me know so I can refer my friends to you!