So we all know the negative press that Victoria’s Secret gets from a lot of the well fitted lingerie world, and I’ve got to say I agreed with it. I didn’t have anything particularly against their designs or company as a whole (although their “Perfect Body” ad was certainly a questionable marketing choice), just against their very poor fitting and measuring service. Their online fitting guide and calculator puts me (Sian – 28GG/H) into a 34D, and when I did a very quick scope of one of their stores in Florida last year, I was told the 34C they handed me to try on was a perfect fit, but I could also wear a 36C or 34D – frankly, the poor fit was laughable!
So when we decided to do an Undercover Underwear outing to Leeds recently, I didn’t have high hopes for the Victoria’s Secret branch there and was expecting much of the same. It was the first of our stops on that day, so I was quite nervous of approaching the ladies on the shop floors embellished with measuring tapes round their necks, sure they would suss us out, so I got Charley to do the honours instead.
The lady offered to fit us either right there or in the changing rooms – it didn’t matter as we’d be keeping clothes on, so we said we didn’t mind and went for the shop floor measuring. Charley stepped up first – currently she best fits into most 30Ds, but would appear to the untrained eye (as in, any person who doesn’t understand true bra sizing) to be around a B cup – so we were expecting something along the lines of 32B or 34B. Imagine our surprise when she announced Charley as a 32DD – that was complete opposite of what I was expecting! Then it was my turn – 32DDD! Can you believe that – only a cup size different between us?! Although to be fair, I was amazed that they had at least broached the Ds for me seeing as during my last visit, I was only begrudingly allowed a 34D to try on. And yet, we were still in complete shock that they had announced small busted Charley as a 32DD!
So how did this measuring technique work? To put it frankly, it’s a little crazy, and was what I was expecting from VS. The band measurement was ascertained by measuring under the arms, above the bust fairly tightly. As I have a full on top shape, that’s quite a bit higher than my underbust measurement – around 34-35in based on the bra I’m wearing, but as she pulled the tape measure fairly tight, I’m guessing her measurement was closer to 32in. We were both asked if we were wearing push ups, to which we responded no; I was in a slightly too small Deco, and Charley in a Ewa Michalak 30D bra. She then measured our overbusts and did a calculation (counting up from the above bust measurement from the looks of it) to ascertain our cup sizes. The method is pretty archaic, considering the above bust measurement for a lot of people can have absolutely no bearing on the underbust – I imagine the idea is that it’s a “sort of” +4 measurement, but will be different for everyone based on breast shape.
And so we set off around the store picking up a few bras in our newly measured sizes, wondering what on earth would happen in the fitting rooms. Unfortunately there wasn’t a huge amount of choice in 32DDDs, but I found a few I liked. Charley couldn’t find a particular style of bra in a 32DD, so asked for some advice and had sister sizes explained to her and was recommended to try a 34D – there was definitely some sound advice there, offered unprompted which was good.
We should also add that Victoria’s Secret doesn’t yet have a UK site, and the US one is difficult to navigate since the naming seems to be slightly different, but we’ve done our best to find the correct bras for you!
And this is where things got weird – we headed to the changing rooms with a few (may I add, beautiful) bras each to try on. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to share a changing room as we normally do, but thanks to the handy T shirts in the changing rooms, we managed to run between cubicles at least partially covered (although Charley did lock herself out of hers in the process!). We were told to press the buzzer if we needed any help, but Rachel (our fitter in the changing rooms) did come knocking to check if we needed any help.
The first bra I tried was this:
The picture doesn’t show too well, but it was obviously not a good fit, despite being a very pretty bra. I took one look in the mirror and laughed, then explained to Charley (somewhat bitterly) that the fitting lady would probably tell me it fit perfectly as that’s the image they try to portray as a “well fitting bra” in Victoria’s Secret. And that moment, she appeared at the door – what would she say?! To my surprise, it was this:
“Nope, that bra doesn’t fit you. The cups are too small and are also the wrong shape for you – they’re too shallow and cut in at the top, plus the centre gore is too tall and wide for you.”
Um, whut?! Did I just have a quick run down of cup shape alongside size in Victoria’s Secret? I believe so! She told me not to worry, she had a couple of things in mind that might work for me and she would be back in a moment.
I let my mouth hang open for a minute, wondering what she would return with, before quickly trying on the second bra I’d brought in with me while I waited for her. This was a gorgeous wireless bra in a 34DD which I was hoping I could just get away with because the material was soft and it looked oh-so-comfortable. It was pretty evident it was a no, but that was fine, because the bras that Rachel had brought me were now looking at me ever so coyly and wanting to be tried on. There was a lovely unlined lacey little number – the unlined Lace Demi Dream Angels I believe (from the card I was handed at the end), and a few black more functional looking pieces, plus an ultra plunge with a low gore, the Very Sexy Push Up.
And what did she tell me as she handed them to me?
“Unfortunately not all our bras cater to a fuller bust like yours, but I think with the lace cup being more open on top, you can get away with it, and the lower gores in these will give you a little more space.”
Yes, a Victoria’s Secret assistant had just admitted to me that their bras wouldn’t necessarily fit me, but had chosen some styles based on their shapes and materials that I could get away with. And the fitting continued this way – even though she said that the bras were definitely not perfect fits, she did say I could get away with them for a girl’s night out. Yes, okay, sometimes even the biggest bravangelist (ie. me) wants to wear an ill fitting bra every now and then because they’re so gorgeous and just look fabulous (if you’re able to overlook the spillage!).
Rachel also broached the topic of band sizing, completely unprompted too, stating that one way I could get more volume in the cup would be to size up in the band to a 34DDD, but she said I definitely didn’t want to do that as the 32 was already looking too big in most cases, but that they didn’t have any other options – OH YES, Victoria’s Secret also admitted (under no pressure at all!) that they didn’t have an adequate size range for me. (Although I just have to add that a couple of 32 bands I tried on, while they didn’t feel as firm as I would like, weren’t actually riding up or uncomfortably loose).
I didn’t take too many pictures of my “bad” fits, but this is a good example. I so desperately wanted this to fit at least a little bit as it was made of gorgeous speckled fabric that was super soft and smooth with no underwiring. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be:
During the whole experience, I have to say I felt very well looked after and under little pressure to buy – the majority of the “want to buy” was coming from myself, I desperately wanted that Very Sexy Push Up!! Overall, the experience for me was enjoyable – I wasn’t made to feel that I was the problem (as I have done before in shops that don’t stock a size to fit me), and the service was excellent. There was a lot of explanation as to why certain styles fit me better than others. I expected the bras themselves to be of poor quality too, and while the pricing was higher than I’d like to pay for them, the quality was actually pretty good. The materials were, on the whole, soft and smooth, and the designs themselves seemed to be well thought out – some verging on the side of absolutely gorgeous.
All I have to say now is: well done, Victoria’s Secret. You weren’t perfect at all, but you may have changed my mindset towards you (at least in the Leeds store anyway). And I may at some point end up making a sneaky purchase – well played. It would definitely be nice though if they could update their measuring service and increase their size range, but for what was available to me on that day, they gave all the correct answers.
I should also add that 2 weeks later, I returned to the store and purchased one of the bras…#oops. Review coming up shortly!
Sian, as ever, has covered all the ground here. But I have one key detail to add, which I’m sure will set alarm bells ringing…
VICTORIA’S SECRET DOES NOT LET YOU SHARE A CHANGING ROOM.
I know. Crazy, isn’t it? This was not just a preference thing. We downright weren’t allowed to share. I found it most odd indeed (ok, other people might find it more odd that we wanted to share one—but we needed to take semi-nude photographs of each other! That’s totally logical!)
The changing rooms were, however, thoughtfully kitted out with low-cut white t-shirts to try on. This got major thumbs-up from me, as I really hate it when you go to buy a ‘basic’ sort of bra (i.e. one that you don’t want showing under close-fitting tops) and all of a sudden, when you get it home, that ‘little bit of decorative lace’ suddenly makes the most unattractive bump under your shirt. So good thinking on that, VS.
I’m not going to start at the very beginning (even if it is a very good place to start, Julie). At the end of the trip, we were each given a nice little card which informed us of out size, bra specialist, and the styles we had best suited. In my case, after some trying on I turned out to a 32D (pretty accurate—certainly more so than Sian!) and have the ‘body by Victoria’ (demi push-up) and Dream Angels boxes ticked.
I entered the room with an armful of bras that turned out to be a series of bar choices. I’d picked a few pretty things, all of which fitted very badly, and one or two practical nude choices. This was the worst – the same as the mottled grey Sian tried on above (which we unfortunately can’t find on the site!). On the shelf, I was incredibly attracted to this bra—much like a handsome man in hipster clothing…easy on the eyes, but with hidden depths; intelligent (the man), supportive (the bra)…and I’m going to stop this analogy now. Suffice to say, like the hipster, the bra proved disappointing. Its false promises of a individuality and practicality were shattered as soon as I put it on. It was, quite possibly, the worst fit I’ve ever encountered. And it had all looked so promising. The cups stood out apart half a mile from my actual boobs (forget gaping; this was bra-apartheid), the straps rubbed, and the length (which had looked kinda-longline) cut off on a part of my torso that only created further fat-rolls. Not the look I was going for. Now I’m sure on a different frame this could look great, but it certainly wasn’t the one for me…
Next up was an indulgent pick-up…but I’m going to spend a sentence or two interlude on what was going on outside of the trying-on. And I mean literally outside of the changing room…
Remember when I said we weren’t allowed to share a changing room? Well I don’t really like being told what to do (the anarchist in me), so clearly, I had to break the rules. I’d run into Sian’s changing room in the first bra, and retreated back to my own to grab my second. However, there’s another thing about Victoria’s Secrets changing rooms which you should bare in mind…the doors lock when they close. So if you’re outside of the door, in your badly-fitting bra, you won’t be getting in. You will, however, be caught by the attendants trying to desperately shake the door handle, and they will kindly unlock the door for you.
So that’s Victoria’s Secrets fitting rooms: 1. Charley: 0.
So back on to my lovely indulgence (and by this point, our fitter had conceded there was no keeping Sian and I apart, so we’re back in the changing room)—unfortunately I can’t give you a link as it was an in-store exclusive, but quite possibly THE prettiest thing ever! It looks entirely see-through, but the cups themselves had some clever nude lining, to maintain decency. The black boning was so flattering, and the floral embroidery so delicate and pretty! It also fit perfectly and hit a very flattering part of my waist. I completely fell for this one, and would have snapped it up in a heartbeart had it not been sliiiiightly (read: very) out of my price range. I believe this came in around the £80 mark, and I just couldn’t justify that kinda dolla on lingerie. Although we did discuss the option of using it as a going out ‘top’ underneath a jacket. Maybe when I win the lottery… This is an in store exclusive bra unfortunately, so we can’t link you to anything yet again!
My third—my favourite—and my most feasible, was the Body by Victoria ‘perfect comfort bra‘—and oh my does it live up to its name! The best thing about this is the flexible under wiring—you can twist any which way you want and it doesn’t get out of shape or break. But it DOES make it super comfortable! And for a girl who’d been travelling for three months and wearing nothing but bamboo workout crop-tops, this felt like heaven. The fabric is SO soft you can accidentally catch yourself stroking your own boobs, which looks a bit weird. It also has ‘lighter memory fit’, which gives extra support and ‘conforms to your curves’ as well as convertible straps that can turn into a racer-back. Pretty, too, with a small amount of lace detailing that (I can confirm) DOESN’T show under tight tops! Tick, tick, tick. It also has a small amount of padding (actually small, for VS standards) and gives a lovely a shape. I spend all of my recommendation points on this bra: go for this one, it’s a keeper.
So Victoria’s Secret overall, what can we say?! We were definitely surprised by the knowledge our fitters had, especially considering the bad reviews we’ve heard. We weren’t hugely impressed by their method of measuring, but it seems there was something sneaky going on as we wouldn’t have got the sizes we did based solely on the measurements they took – whether that’s employees taking a bit or initiative or not, we’re not certain, but it worked out pretty well. The choice of bras available was brilliant in style, fabric and shape, with some absolutely gorgeous pieces.
Would we ever buy anything there? Well, considering that I (Big Cup) went back a week later for that Very Sexy Push Up and a handful of pretty briefs – yes, yes I would. The main issue is the obvious lack of sizing, considering there were very few pieces available in that coveted DDD size, despite its apparent popularity. But more on this later in the Very Sexy review…