My last post about Brooklyn bra shop The Rack Shack got me thinking about the etiquette of trying bras in stores and actually buying them there. To be perfectly honest, it’s rare that I buy bras in a brick and mortar store, and even rarer still for me to pay full price when shopping online (unless it’s a made-to-order item such as Ewa Michalak).

There are so many massive online retailers that offer regular sales, inexpensive shipping, and easy returns (Figleaves, Bravissimo, and Bare Necessities, to name but a few). And if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that carries full bust brands, you can try on in person then buy online for less later on (this is very much contributing to the death of retail stores in the US). So why would anyone buy in person?

Of course, everyone’s financial situation is different, and most cities don’t even have shops that carry full-bust brands, so my philosophy will not apply to all readers…but what follows is how I decide whether to buy online vs. in person.

Etaín lingerie shop in Portland, Maine. Read my post about this sweet shop here.


First, there’s the ethics to consider. I want to support local businesses. And I’m also uncomfortable taking up loads of time with a professional bra fitter or salesperson, only to walk away without purchasing a single thing.

If nothing I try fits, that’s a different story. But I make it a policy not to try on bras with a fitter or salesperson unless I’m considering plopping down some cash before I walk in the door. I’ll still browse without the intention of buying, but I don’t want to take up a fitter’s time if I know I’m not spending money.

It’s not just a pressure to buy situation, either. If a salesperson or shop owner does a really great job helping me, then it makes me want to support their business, even if it means spending a few more bucks.

Next, there are practicalities. If a bra is a more unusual style, such as the Scantilly and Tutti Rouge pieces I tried at The Rack Shack, I want to be able to try in person so I can check out multiple sizes. It’s also less likely that it’s going to work for me if it’s an unconventional style, so I just don’t want to go through the hassle of online ordering when I know there’s a higher chance it’s not going to work in any size.

Likewise, if I’m shopping for a special occasion piece, such as a boudoir set or a bra to go under a particular dress that has odd requirements (low-back, plunging neckline, etc), then I may want to try multiple styles from multiple brands and compare all of them at once.

Now, normally I have no problem buying multiple sizes online and returning the rejects, but there are certain cases where that becomes cost-prohibitive. It’s fine for sale items from Figleaves, who have a US returns hub and fast refunds, but if it’s a more expensive piece, then I don’t really want loads of money tied up for several weeks while I wait for the items to arrive, return to sender, and finally for the refund to go through.

The Rack Shack in Brooklyn. Read more about this hip shop here.


So all that being said, when do I buy online? It’s pretty easy, and actually covers most of my bra-buying situations. I buy online if:

  1. It’s a brand with consistent fit that I’m already familiar with. I’ll probably never buy Freya in person, for example.
  2. It’s a super basic bra that I buy year after year. I pretty much exclusively buy the beige and black Freya Deco and the beige Fantasie 4510 tee shirt bra through eBay, often lightly used or with a minor flaw such as a thread snag.
  3. The price is too good to pass up. I recently picked up a few bras from Bravissimo and Amazon that were all under $20 because they were from a previous season and had only a few sizes left in stock.
  4. Lastly, obviously I’ll buy online if it’s my only choice! If none of the stores around me carry the bra or brand that I’ve got my eye on, I’m certainly not going to deny myself…but you better believe I will find the cheapest place to get it.