Friday, July 02, 2010

New Adventures in Retail: the Trust No One Edition

Today I finally had some time to myself, so I decided to go bra-shopping while I'm in a real city. You may have read the Bitch Ph.D. bra shopping posts, but those only apply if you wear a normal size.

So I have a personal rule: I won't pay more than $10 for a bra that fits poorly, and I won't spend more than $20 for a bra that fits mediocrely. The department stores where I live have zero bras in my size. A few weeks before I left town, I went to the one specialty lingerie store in my city, and I learned some things about bra sizing.

Here is the secret to sizing, folks: You wear whatever size is in stock. If they are out of stock of what you think is your size, then they will tell you that some other size fits just as well. It doesn't. It is too big or too small or too whatever, and the saleslady will send you home with something that is in stock.

Back in May I emailed and called the one lingerie shop where I live. It's in a weird little shopping plaza with a beer-making supply store and a medical devices shop. They don't have a lot of selection. I'm not really sure who their intended clientele is. I asked if she stocked my size. She assured me that she did, and I went to the shop. She measured me, frowned, and brought into the fitting room bras that are not any size that I have ever worn before -- but she assured me that it was close enough because they didn't run true to size. One of them fit mediocrely and was about $20, so I bought it in two colors.

So today I decided to take advantage of living in a major metropolitan area for the summer, and here is my tale of shopping.
  1. I call a fancy boutique in Harvard Square. I ask, specifically, if they have particular sizes in stock. Oh, yes, they reply, so I walk over to Harvard Square, head into the shop, and two women who look sort of like Lisa Kudrow start to help me. I explain that I'm looking for a bra that fits. They tell me that they don't do the whole measuring tape thing. They give me a guideline for where to start. Then I tell them what size I'm looking for and they change their mind. They don't have any in stock (even though they said so on the phone), so they recommend a bunch of $62 bras in a different, non-fitting size. Not surprisingly, bras in the wrong size don't fit. They tell me that they do fit. Clearly they do not. I buy nothing. They promise that if they order anything in my size that they will be in touch.

  2. I find some wifi and get out my phone and search for other stores. I call one store and leave a message asking them to call back if they have anything in my size. I call another store and ask if they have anything in my size. They say yes.

  3. So I head to Store #2 by taking the red line to the green line. This is a store populated mostly by elderly Jewish women. I am not optimistic, but I give it a try. I get measured by an elderly Eastern European women. She mutters the size that I think that I wear. She comes back with other sizes because they don't have my size in stock. I try them on. They do not fit. She says that they do. They are mediocre and only $15, so I buy two. One is hideous. The other is boring.

  4. When I am back at home and only working one job (and regular hours at that), I am seriously tempted to learn how to sew my own. Can not be any worse than what is available at retail. But first I will have to learn the which of the bra-fitting aphorisms are pure folklore. I'd like to know what is meant when it's claimed that the support should be in the band. I'm imagining some sort of cantilevered system, and I just don't see how the physics works out.