Bra shopping can be frustrating. It’s not bathing suit shopping frustrating. Or maybe even jean shopping frustrating. But it’s up there.
At first pass, it seems like finding the right bra size should be pretty straightforward. After all, unlike most sizing in women’s clothing, bra sizes include an actual measurement in the band size. But then there’s the pesky cup size. Back in familiar women’s sizing territory, cup size seems to be an arbitrary measurement made up by each manufacturer. Some women hold fast to the old rule of subtracting your band measurement from your bust measurement (each inch in difference equally one cup size). Some say this is useless. And manufacturers confound us all by producing bras in the same cup size with widely different fit (Wacoal, in my experience, usually runs large; Elle Macpherson, as befitting a former super model, runs absurdly small). Also, good luck finding any informed saleswomen to help you out, unless you go to a specialty boutique. (Intimacy, for example, which does a great job with fittings but also only sells fairly pricey bras. Though, I think it’s worth the trip for the fitting and a splurge on a gorgeous French bra. You can always buy more bras in your new size elsewhere).
As a petite but larger-chested gal, I’ve all but given up shopping in stores for bras. It’s the rare, and invariably very expensive, lingerie shop that carries anything in my size. (Why most stores assume that the larger your cup size, the larger your band size, I don’t know. They’ve never seen small women with large breasts?) So, I shop online and resign myself to ordering multiple bras to find one that works and returning the rest. (Luckily, there are some lingerie sites with great selection and range of sizes and free returns; barenecessities.com and figleaves.com are two of my go-to spots. I recently discovered curvykate.com — the bras look fabulous but I haven’t ordered anything yet).
Now a new website, True & Co., tries to provide an online experience that both addresses the bra fitting conundrum and the pain of purchasing bras just to try them on (knowing full well you’ll return a large number of them). True & Co. starts you off with a bra fit quiz that asks general questions about your figure and specific questions about your current bra size and fit. It then generates a personalized “shop” with recommended bras based on your answers. You can select up to three of the recommendations and True & Co. will select another two for you. You then receive all five bras to try on. You can keep the ones you like and return the rest and will only be charged for the ones you keep. (Note that the other bras need to be returned in seven days, so if you are busy and forgetful like me, this could be a challenge.) And all bras are reasonably priced at $45.
I gave the True & Co. online shopping experience a test run (though I haven’t purchased any bras at this point). At seven months pregnant, my bra needs are, shall we say, a little out of whack. (As an aside, StackedDD+ is a great blog about finding bras and clothing for the fuller busted and has a whole section of posts on maternity and nursing bras that I’ve found very helpful). So I tried the quiz three different ways: first, based on my pre-pregnancy bra size and shape; second, starting with my pre-pregnancy size but indicating that the fit was too small; and third, based on my current bra size (or at least my best guess as to what that is).
I got the best result from my first attempt. True & Co. recommended eight very pretty bras, most of which my pre-pregnancy self would love to take for a test drive. On the second round, while True & Co.’s quiz allowed me to specify that I’m pregnant and I made clear my pre-pregnancy size no longer fits, it’s algorithm didn’t quite know what to do with the information. While it correctly concluded that my current bra “might not fit,” it offered recommendations in sizes from my pre-pregnancy size to slightly larger, but none were large enough to accommodate my third trimester figure. This might be a nuisance that’s hard to capture in an algorithm, but by letting me indicate a major change like pregnancy (or significant weight gain or loss), the quiz implies that it can factor it into its recommendations. On my final run through with my current bra size, True & Co. came up with only two bra recommendations, which leads me to suspect that the site might not be so helpful for the truly larger busted among us.
All in all, I give True & Co. serious credit for recognizing and tackling the downsides of online bra shopping. The site’s approach puts into practice the best of the personalization and tailoring that the web is capable of offering and that, ironically, is almost completely devoid from most brick and mortar stores these days. And I love the ability to try on a bra before committing to pay for it (and having to go through a refund process). Hopefully, as the company grows, the site functionality will continue to improve (I found certain parts of the user interface to be a wonky) and the bra selection will expand. Because the site has the potential to make bra shopping less frustrating. Now, if they’d just come up with a bathing suit option.
- Bra-fitting tips every woman should know (blogs.vancouversun.com)
- Bra Algorithm from True & Co. Takes Lingerie Shopping Online (HuffingtonPost.com)
- Zappos for bras: True & Co. to take on Victoria’s Secret (cnet.com)