The Shadow Bra Industry: New Options, New Issues

Throughout the Shadow Bra Industry series, you met two New Yorkers, Jessica and Anina, one Chicagoan, Adrienne McGill, one Californian, Lisa Cole, and two direct sales companies, Peach and Essential Body Wear. Today I wrap things up with some final thoughts on the subject.

As you read the articles in this series, did you sometimes feel like you were reading infomercial scripts? I certainly felt like I was writing them! I think it’s because I was introducing you to individual women who work from the shadows to bring good fit to their clients. It goes without saying that each fitter in this series is human, so I decided to go without saying anything critical. None of the private fitters has a huge marketing budget or much time to promote herself on social media. She simply cares about other women feeling great in their skin. By agreeing to be interviewed, she gave Hourglassy readers one more answer to the question, “Where should I go for a fitting?”

When I began this series, I also didn’t anticipate the need for discretion–not discretion about celebrity clients (although these fitters have them), but about trade secrets! There may be a limited universe of bra fitting techniques, but when a fitter has spent years tailoring her approach to the way that her clients think and feel, it isn’t fair for a blogger to swoop in and tell everyone exactly how she does it.  I also didn’t think it was fair to include their fees in my posts because what may look expensive on your screen will seem insignificant when you meet the fitter in person. In my opinion, the women who have decided to build their livelihood on private lingerie fittings are the biggest argument against free bra fittings. It isn’t only the time involved for each appointment, but their determination that every client will walk away satisfied (and lifted, supported and comfortable!).

Although I knew better, I naively hoped that a magical solution to every big bust bra fitting issue would emerge from the shadows through this series. Instead, I learned more about the challenges in the industry.  For instance, there’s a reason that you probably know more about big bust bra fit than many department store fitters. In the past, bra manufacturers held early-morning training sessions for department store employees in the hours before the store opened to demonstrate how their products were supposed to work. Today, the bra companies still want to train, but the stores don’t want to pay their employees to show up.

The ability to carry multiple styles in many sizes remains a major challenge.

  • I thought that partnering with an online retailer would be the perfect solution, but online stores haven’t yet learned the value of having someone on the ground to fit their customers for them. One fitter worked closely with a large online seller, only to be told “You’re no longer an affiliate,” when her main contact moved to a different company. She moved her business to another big online store but has never been acknowledged for the giant orders that she brings them.
  • One private fitter confided that she runs into the same dilemma I had hoped to resolve with this series: To whom can she refer women with the largest bands and/or cup sizes that she doesn’t carry? If we’re picky about finding fitters we can trust, you can imagine how a professional fitter must feel!
  • Although the direct marketing model is a great way to offload inventory risk, focusing on one brand can be limiting, especially if the brand doesn’t work for you.  I have to admit that my Peach bra is now my gardening bra. I wore it on my flight to Paris last month and couldn’t wait to take it off. My Essential Body Wear bra continues to perform well, but it’s a basic that isn’t my top choice when I get dressed in the morning.

Finally, while writing this series, I learned about a DIY option from Ali Cudby. Having trained hundreds of bra fitters, Ali has a good idea of who the good fitters are. But even those fitters can have an off day. After a friend of hers had a bad experience at a reputable store, Ali decided it was time to train the customer. For the price of a Victoria’s Secret bra, she teaches all the basics and some of the finer points of bra fitting in three modules that last a total of one hour. Ali’s goal is to empower the customer to be able to find what she needs no matter who the fitter is or what the store’s inventory is like. It’s great to have one more way to help our friends find their fit!