To start, we should briefly say that in the researching and writing of this blog, for the most part we tried to completely ignore the price tags attached to the Rigby and Peller products. Since we were reviewing the experience, we didn’t want to start from a position of bias, because before we’d even entered the shop (in fact, before we’d even set off on the drive to Harrogate) – we’d already panic-emailed one another about the fear of being ‘pressured to buy’.
From the outside, the only way to describe the shop is ‘swish’. Actually – there are a lot more words to describe it – classy, chic, and upmarket also come to mind. To be honest, it’s the kind of shop that we wouldn’t normally be inclined to enter. You know the ones we mean? The ones where the shop assistants look at when you walk in with an expression that says ‘Seriously? You obviously don’t have enough money to afford anything in here.’ So you browse for like 30 seconds, pretend it’s not your thang, and make a hasty exit.
So we walked in, and were immediately greeted with smiles. We should point out now that the store has only been open for a few weeks (a fact we found pretty surprising with the expertise and friendliness shown by the staff!). The lovely Lauren asked us how our day was going before we’d even introduced ourselves and booked in for our fitting. She invited us to browse the floor and scout out anything we might fancy while they got the fitting rooms ready for us. ‘Ready?’ I thought. ‘What do you need to get ready?’
“Can I get you girls a drink? Tea, coffee, a glass of champagne?”
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING US? We exchanged alarmed looks and opted for a tea and a coffee (Charley was driving, and had already been suffering from lack-of-caffeine-headache for an hour, so this was particular welcome. Otherwise hell to the yeah, she would’ve had a champagne!).
The shop is beautifully laid out and designed. Classic black and white photos line the tops of the walls, and the lingerie is in colour-coded sections. This was something we noticed instantly and LOVED. It seemed effortless – stylish – and completely practical. Later, one of our fitters (lovely Lauren) explained that in R&P they take more than just fit into consideration – they think about your lifestyle, your wardrobe, your style preferences – because there’s no point in selling you a bra you can’t find to fit an occasion or outfit. Makes so much sense once it’s been pointed out to you, and the colour-divided layout suits the purpose perfectly.
The shop also isn’t cramped. It was pretty quiet when we visited, but even if there had been more people, it was really well laid out, with pieces displayed in good amounts of space, so you could see everything clearly.
So shop layout and design … beautiful. 10 out of 10. The only thing that could have made it better was rectifying our inferiority complexes so we didn’t feel intimidated by the exterior (but oh, just you wait, it seems like lovely Lauren can even do something about that as well…)
We were in adjoined fitting rooms, separated by a curtain which we could pop our heads in and out of as we pleased (so much fun if you’re with a girlfriend, sister or mum!). And the fitting rooms .. well, if we were impressed by the main shop floor, we were floored by the fitting rooms. GORGEOUS. Subtle colour scheme and wall designs, a desk and stool in each one (on which our drink stood waiting – complete with shortbread biscuit!!), an Impulse body spray for your convenience, full-length mirrors, and a silky, black robes for your modesty.
We bid one another farewell and went to our separate fitters …
I had the lovely Lauren (you may have guessed by now – she’s lovely), who began by explaining R&P’s lingerie styling appointments. “Styling” she said, “because we take into consideration … ” (see above). And I seriously liked that aspect. R&P don’t use a measuring tape or any conventional system to fit, they look at you – the size and shape of your breasts, and see how the bra you come in wearing fits, and start from there. I’ve heard this before (in our Ann Summers fitting review), but what made R&P different was the logic behind it – Lauren told me that I wouldn’t be leaving that day with a single-purpose, one-size-fits-all number and letter combo to take with me into my future life. They understand and acknowledge that every brand, style and bra fits differently, and even another person who might wear exactly the same size as you won’t have the same breasts. Plus, breasts change all the time. They were simply trying to find you something there and then to walk out happy with. So I stripped down to my bra and she concluded that it fit pretty well (I was wearing a Panache 30D), but the band could be a little tighter.
She asked if I had any preferences, and I just said that I currently didn’t have a strapless bra, and I quite fancied “that blue one near the door with the pretty lacy bits” – but mostly just let her freestyle. She is the expert, after all. She returned with handfuls of goodies in 30Ds and 30Cs, and that one pretty blue one I had liked in a 32B, because I’m inevitably always drawn to the brands which don’t go small enough for me to wear … but she also assured me that she couldn’t wear them either, and that they’re always writing to the company, badgering them to make smaller bands. Initiative, I like it.
Another part of the styling experience which I should really highlight is that they help you in and out of the bras. In my case, this was a bonus. I always find it more awkward when fitters insist on trooping in and out of the room every single time you try something on, and then you have to call them back: ‘Um, I’m, er, ready now!’ This was it felt far more like a girly shopping session; no one acting like boobs aren’t an entirely normal thing to be flapping around (attractive image for you there). I can understand, though, why some women might be less comfortable with this. Lauren also happened to be the same size as me, and her attitude was always friendly and approachable – she was able to tell me how all the bras worked on her shape, and why it might be similar or different for me. Her approach made me instantly at ease, and also meant I had a really fun time with her!
I tried on a variety of different styles and brands, but completely fell for the first bra (after my failed person choice) which Lauren has chosen for me: the Marie Jo LAventure Tom Underwired Padded Plunge Bra (see above), which had a sweetheart neckline (perfect for my smaller boobs, on which full-cup bras always gape towards the top), and amazing multi-way straps which look gorgeous in their halter-neck incarnation. It’s the kind of bra that I could wear every single day until either it or I died. Also worth a mention was the cleavage-proffering offering from Simone Perele – the Insolence Padded Plunge Bra (below), which genuinely made me feel like I was in a production of Swan Lake, and caused me to squeal to Sian next-door “Oh my god, Sian, I have a CLEAVAGE!’.
The strapless bras were also a marvel – my favourite for definite being the Simone Perele Celeste (smooth and laced below). It gave me a lovely shape, and I did a good few jumps and lunges to check it stayed in place. It definitely passed the tests.
Lovely Lauren is a self-confessed lingerie nerd who likes her facts and figures, and I certainly learnt a thing or two. The only thing the fitting room could have done with extra was a chalk-bored for her to write on. I’ll share the knowledge here, ‘cos it’s awesome:
Underwiring-wise, all brands have different shapes, but they can all be explained!
Empreinte has a horseshoe shape (apparently perfect for Sianio); Simone Perele is more of a ‘butterfly’ effect (I guess more V-shaped, although not that dramatically angular); and Marie-Jo is u-shaped (the shape for me!).
I was loving the education.
So not only was the lovely Lauren lovely; she was also knowledgeable, approachable, and a lot of fun. By the end of 15 minutes, Sian and I were popping in and out of each other’s cubicles, and all four of us were chatting and laughing together. But it was when I briefly heard the word ‘corset’ coming from the other side when things really got going.
“Corset? Did you say corset? Do you have corsets?” – my disembodied head sticking through the curtain insisted.
“Not here – we don’t stock them – but I have my own here, I just ordered it from London and its only just arrived. In fact,” said Samantha, “You can try it on if you like.”
I told you it was just like a big girly shopping trip.
And that was how I ended up with a special saving target in my online banking for this:
I don’t think I have to explain, but I want.
I was led away into my half of the fitting room by Samantha, the Harrogate Store Manager, and settled in with my own cup of tea and biscuit while she went through what was going to happen. I was reassured that she explained beforehand that she would be asking me to strip down to my bra first, then down to braless so she could check out the shape I had going on underneath, which can often be disguised by what you’re wearing. While this wasn’t an issue at all for me, I do not people that might not be so comfortable with it, but I guess if you weren’t as comfortable, you could request not to strip right down with the fitter present – but having it explained beforehand had me right at ease.
I was already kitted out in my well-fitting Freya Deco Spotlight in a 28FF, so Samantha checked that over, tightened the straps a little saying they were a bit loose and said that the band could be a tiny bit tighter, but it wasn’t an issue. We then discussed my favourite styles (plunge and generally moulded, but I don’t mind a soft cup either, but preferably no high gores). I then stripped down to topless, she took a quick look, then asked me to pop the robe back on and disappeared on to the shop floor, proclaiming she had the perfect thing.
At first I was a little bit sceptical – I popped my head into Charley’s half of the cubicle wondering how she could know the perfect thing for me after just 5 minutes. But lo and behold, she turned up with arms full of stunning looking bras minutes later. She went through each one with me first, explaining why she had chosen it. They were mainly soft cups as they didn’t stock a big range of moulded/padded plunges, but she let me know this straight away, being completely open about it. She then expertly plucked the lacy white bra from the many she had chosen, saying that she thought this would work, and did it ever?!
(Elixir by Lejaby Idole Plunge Bra – excuse the face, you really would think I know how to pose after 4 years of fashion blogging by now!!)
Not only was it heavenly looking on the hanger, it fitted absolutely perfectly to my shape with no folding, gapping or anything! I wasn’t aware of the sizes at first, but I believe this one was a 30F. As you can tell in the mirror, the band was a bit on the big size, but as Charley explained earlier, they’re badgering the brands to get on with 28 bands! (Incidentally, all of us including fitters wore 28/30 bands – I was the odd one out with being a bigger cup though – meaning we could discuss these things at length!).
Having found the perfect fitting bra immediately, I wondered where we’d go from there! It just proved how confident Samantha was in her ability, to be able to have found me the perfect bra off the shop floor within minutes of talking to me and sussing out my shape!
Next up was another beautifully fitting bra, a moulded one this time – the Empreinte Ophelia Padded Plunge bra. The midnight blue colour is so gorgeous and the lace detailing takes it from everyday to stand out. If only I could have afforded it, this would have easily made its way into my lingerie drawer(s)!
In general, I fitted mostly 30Fs and 30Gs, with the occasional 32 band making its way in. Samantha was excellent in knowing her brands – she would be able to tell me which band would feel smaller, which cups would suit my shape and which wires would be perfect. By the end of the session, I’d been christened an ‘Empreinte Girl’ since every Empreinte bra seemed ridiculously comfortable as well as beautiful on my shape due to the U shaped wires. She also managed to pick out colours that I found stunning, such as the above midnight blue and a stunning coral number.
Since I had nothing in particular in mind, I pretty much tried on half the shop, but Samantha seemed to have the prophetic ability of saying: “This will look gorgeous” and it did, or “This will very likely not work, but try it anyway” before whipping it off when the cups folded or the wires were too narrow. I also had the pleasure of finding a strapless bra which stayed in place as if glued on while providing lift and no uncomfortable digging (oh yes, it is possible!). And I also tested out the infamous Shock Absorber Run Sports Bra which held everything in place but was so comfortable I would probably wear it on a daily basis!
(Empreinte Ophelia again, and Empreinte Melody Strapless Bra)
And finally….finally, I also got to try on the corset! After seeing Charley in it, I sheepishly asked if I would be able to squeeze into it too without breaking it across the bust. And next thing I knew, I was being strapped in! Seriously, Charley and I are even considering buying one of these to share now, it’s that amazing:
(Vollers Sweetheart Corset – I apologise for the excessive boobage here – according to Charley I resemble Katie Price in it!)
We spent almost an hour at the styling appointment and the time absolutely flew by – so much fun! When we were getting dressed again we decided we’d probably have to ask how much the styling appointments usually cost, for blog-information- purposes. So we asked Samantha, and she looked taken-aback, and a little terrified.
“Why, was something wrong? They don’t cost anything.”
“Of course – it’s how we treat anyone who walks through the door.
“But,” Charley doesn’t believe her, “The drinks, and everything?”
“Of course! You worried me for a second – I thought we’d done something wrong!”
Dear Lord no – you did EVERYTHING right, and it’s FREE! We honestly, 100% thought there would be some kind of charge.
So, in the interests of fairness: we wanted to leave R&P saying they’re the same as every other high street fitting service – royal approval or no – we have to say they aren’t. They really are the best. And that isn’t down to the shop layout, free drinks, silky robes, or even the pretty lingerie (although don’t get us wrong – those things definitely help) – it’s down to their people. Friendly, fun, experienced; they make you feel like a girlfriend at the same time as treating you like a valued customer. It’s a delicate balance to strike, and they struck it effortlessly.
Although at the end of the day the pressure to buy was virtually non-existent, it still took a huge amount of will power (and enforced reminders of pitifully meagre bank balances) that had us walking out of that shop empty handed. What we did leave with, however, was a massive smile on our combined face. Samantha had said that the best part of her job isn’t giving boobs a boost, but egos. She sees women come through the door every day, and gets to make them feel better about themselves – making them feel more sexy, or just special. The price tags mean that we’ll be leaving this lingerie to the Queen (for now), but Rigby & Peller certainly made us feel like princesses for an hour.