The first in our series of Undercover Underwear!
Except, we weren’t particularly undercover … in fact, Ann Summers pretty much invited us to go and test-drive their fitting system. Well, actually, Ann Summers just did ask us to go try out their fitting service. No ‘pretty much’ about it.
So we snuck in, as covertly as possible, before brazenly announcing that we – yes, we! – were the lingerie bloggers, come to be fitted.
But we’re rushing ahead of ourselves; let us give you the low down on the criteria we concluded should be the tick-list of every reputable brassiere merchant. This list shall act as the stick with which we beat our reviewees with (or the whip – probably more appropriate in the case of Ann Summers. Kinky minx that she is.)
First off we have Personality (note the capital P there – denotes importance). By this we mean Personality in more ways than one – the look of the shop; how it’s laid out and way in which you’re encouraged to browse. It also includes the attitude of the staff, and (most importantly) your interaction with the fitter.
Next, we’ll be reviewing the fitter specifically, taking note of what we deem to be the most important parts of the fitting experience – Introductions (if you’re gonna be seeing us in our undies, lucky lady, then we want know your name, and we want you to know ours. We’re not some kind of cheap girls you can just pick up on a shop floor and hasten into a dressing room for a clandestine fitting without so much as knowing our names!) Explanations, and Embellishments.
Finally, we’ll talk about the range: of style, sizes, and of quantity and quality.
On to Ann Summers!
Both Cups have preconceived ideas about Ann Summers. It’s undeniable, and perhaps best summed up by what Charley’s Dad whispered to her Mum as she flounced out the door on Saturday announcing “Parents – I’m off to review Ann Summers.” He lent close, with a timid expression, and mouthed, somewhat panicked: ‘Isn’t that a sex shop?’ It’s true – the general conception of Ann Summers is a little more risqué than the normal M&S of the Little Cup Household. Indeed, we have been known to walk into the shop, see a ‘pendant vibrator’ (you can even accessorise with it on a chain around your neck!) – laugh, then feel a queasy, and quickly exit. Another past encounter saw a friend receive a pair of ‘crotchless panties’ from her boyfriend – whom she promptly dumped. We’d never been aware of Ann Summers as purveyor of fine, quality lingerie, and an efficient fitting service.
So when we first entered the shop in York, no surprise, we saw what we wanted to see. We giggled in front of the vibrators, played with the PVC whips, got very confused by a ‘personal massager’ which we probably shouldn’t have used on our necks, and took guesses at what they would size us in (knowing, already, that Sian was outsized in their range):
We were told that there was a bit of a queue for the fitting rooms (there were only two, and we’d just so happened to arrive on the busiest day of the shopping year). The shop assistants told us to have a browse to see what we might fancy while we were waiting. So, after a bit of typical tomfoolery with the Santa Claus sexy range and some more PVC, we got down to business. Sian picked out some of the plainer but lacy styles, whilst Charley got distracted by a wall proclaiming an ‘instant boob job’.
We were soon after invited into a lovely big dressing room with our lovely fitter Abbi. She introduced herself (and we forced our names on her – so only a half tick on the intro score – but she was too lovely to hold a grudge against for long) and went on to explain the ANN SUMMERS GUIDE TO FITTING WITHOUT A TAPE MEASURE!
Ah, our ears pricked up: a different approach. How very interesting; do, go on …
Instead of using a tape measure (which, they say, doesn’t provide an accurate relation to their sizes), they simply look at how the bra you’re wearing fits and go from there. Sneaky Sian had suspected as much beforehand, and was a wearing a 28G bra she knew was slightly too small on the cups due to the shape, but clever Abbi rumbled her straight away. This girl knows her stuff. She also spotted that Charley’s bra was a little gapey on the cups. After noticing our band size (28s all round) she explained that the smallest band size they stock in-store is a 32, although they do go to a 30 online. To her credit, she acknowledged our band sizes fit us perfectly – but it was simply her duty, we suppose, to get us into whatever the Annie-equivalent was. Which, in the Little Cup case was a 32B, and the Big Cup case was 32F. She asked our preferences, and left to grab us a few to try on. And then bra-insanity ensued …
Charley instantly regretted her automatic request for a cleavage: the bras she first tried on were more padding than boob. The ‘instant boob job’ bras only really (ironically) made her look more like a man. She just looked butch. It was horrific. The fact that the lingerie boosted a massive bra-to-boob ratio just made everything look weird – out of shape – and as though she had massive shoulders. Abbi, however, did give a great explanation of the new technology in one of the bras – bean bags (yes, bean bags) which mould to your breast and are also more breathable.
Sian had even less luck, with a succession of bras that either rode up at the back, or (astonishingly) gaped in the cups. Abbi had explained that Sian’s shape suited a lower gore, such as plunge styles, but there were few of these in a 32F so she mostly tried balconette styles. Whereas Charley could just about get away with 32 bands due to needing less support, Sian’s 32F bands ended up almost at her neck with straps digging in dramatically trying to support the weight! Abbi was excellent at pointing out these problems, even hooking the band on its tightest, but saying she wouldn’t recommend buying one if you could go straight to the tightest hook because they wouldn’t last long at all.
(32F in the Pure Lace Balconette– Gore too high for my shape and not tacking – Abbi explained this was not likely to be due to the cup being too small, but the band being too big and not providing enough support. And a very strange shape in the larger cups!)
(Knickerbox Holly Balconette Bra at Ann Summers in a 32F – again too big in the band, and gaping on the cup).
We both ended up in items that we hadn’t picked out on the shop floor; a testament to how good Abbi was. After sensing our vague ‘um – yeah – it kind of fits’ and ‘well – I’ve never been much of a diamante kinda gal …’ she returned with a gorgeous red and black set for Charley, which she judged a better suited style: she had seen how higher cups had gaped, and lower gauze had fitted, and found a pretty gorgeous bra to match all the requirements. It not only fitted, but it looked amazing on. It was a close contest between that and a gorgeous turquoise and black racerback style bra that magically created cleavage despite not claiming to be a cleavage-enhancing bra, but Bow Boudoir Plunge won out in the end.
(Iona Aqua Padded Bra with racerback – 32B)
Sian, crestfallen, was facing the fact that she would never fit into anything when…a corset entered the room! This, Abbi assured us, was gorgeous – and anyone (literally – anyone – she conspiratorially whispered) could be squeezed into one of these babies. It was genuinely hilarious to watch Sian try and squeeze into an 8 – probably the most boobilicious failure in history – but she did fit into the 10, and was laced to corsetry perfection.
(Sneak peek of our pieces:)
We’ll blog separately about our Ann Summers finds, but the experience was great. It was made extremely fun by the fact that our fitter, Abbi, was so approachable and adaptable. After a bit of scripted beginning, she definitely caught on that we’re always up for lingerie-with-a-laugh, and was giggling along with us at all the underwear antics and various failings. The measuring system seemed to work (although it would be nice if they didn’t have to rely on the bra you’re already wearing as a starting point – since brands vary so widely on sizing, surely it isn’t equivocal anyway?), and the refreshing honesty on the sizing-dilemma of the bands was perfectly handled. In fact, Abbi said the more people ask Ann Summers for bigger range in band sizing, the more they’re listening. So … DO YOU HEAR US, ANNIE? GET ON IT! Yes, sometimes it can be a little pricey but there are plenty of sites out there like this where you can find out about discount codes and sales. The range was great; we each tried on about 6 different bras, all completely diverse in style, cut and colour, and (best of all) we were never told they were out of stock in any size, despite the fact that we were visiting on the busiest of shopping days. Another good tip to pass to those looking for an Ann Summers buy: the elasticity in the bands tends to start fading after several washes – so aim to buy a bra that fits well on the loosest hook, then you can tighten it as you wash.
What we’re taking away from this trip, and what you should too (Dad), is that Ann Summers isn’t simply a sex shop. Oh no. The fitting service you get there is as good as any, and, in fact, if you’re going by Abbi – better than most. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And don’t judge lingerie by the giant dildo that might be hanging in the shop window. We weren’t expecting to leave feeling fully fitted and fabulous, but we jolly well did![Disclaimer: there was no giant dildo hanging in the shop window.]