Hands off! The no-touch guide to buying a bra

Thought you couldn’t have an intimate fitting with social distancing? From M&S’s bra calculator to assistants who can tell your size by sight: Hands off! The no-touch guide to buying a bra

  • Bravissimo had 157 per cent increase in sales of non-wired bras during lockdown 
  • Mother-of-two Jess Wood says different phases of life call for different bras 
  • She tested the best ways women can get measured despite coronavirus crisis

Six months of working from home has changed my style in many ways. Some good — more time for larking about with sparkly hoop earrings in the morning — some not so good.

Top of my lazy new fashion habits is my addiction to soft crop tops in place of a good old-fashioned bra.

It’s not just me, either. Lingerie retailer Bravissimo reports that sales of non-wired styles via its website rocketed 157 per cent during lockdown. Who wants to sit trussed up in underwiring when you’re wearing a cashmere wrap and leggings?

But now we’re all heading back to work, it’s time to root out the proper corsetry. It’s all very well if you’re a pert 32B, but if you’re like me, a mother of two and a generous 32E, you need proper support for the office. And that requires proper fitting.

Jess Wood gives her verdict on a selection of ingenious ways to have a bra fitting despite the coronavirus crisis (file image) 

Every woman of a certain age knows that different phases of life call for different bras. If you’ve put on weight, or lost it, you need a new one. After the menopause, or pregnancy, breasts are apt to change shape and size.

During my years as a shopping editor working on endless lingerie features, the importance of regular bra fittings and correct sizing was drummed into me by experts.

Nothing like ill-fitting undies and the resulting bulges for ruining the look of an outfit. My fear of the four-boob effect has me traipsing round stores at least once a year.

But how on earth can you get a decent fitting during the coronavirus crisis? We’ve all suffered the necessary embarrassment of a High-street bra fitting — the chill of the tape measure pulled tight around the ribcage by an assistant breathing right down your cleavage. They adjust straps, do up hooks, manhandle your shoulders to make you stand up straight.

Heavens, sometimes they actually reach inside the cups to lift you into place. But Covid-compliance, of course, rules that out.

Is it possible to be fitted and find the perfect bra in the ‘new normal’? Are we even allowed to try the darn things on anymore?

Happily, it’s a resounding yes. Britain’s bra outfitters have come up with ingenious ways to make sure women are properly supported — here I test five of the best . . .

SISTERS OFFERING A VIRTUAL SERVICE 

Beija

Jess said Beija’s free virtual service (pictured) is brilliant whether you’re small or large busted

What: British brand made by women — sisters Abbie and Mazie — for women. Their USP is a sizing system that means their beautifully pared-back designs are adapted and offered in slightly different versions so they look great whatever the cup size.

Each style is available in X, Y and Z categories with support tailored to the cup size.

X is sizes A-C, and styles are wireless. Y spans cups C-D and uses underwiring. Z is sizes DD-H cups, and bras are cleverly constructed from special fabrics to provide extra support.

Top marks for their use of customers of all ages and sizes in brand imagery.

The best bit? The brand now offers virtual-fittings.

Where: Book an online consultation at beijalondon.com

Cost: Free.

Best for: Brilliant design that works whether you’re small or large busted.

BRA CALCULATOR

M&S

Jess said M&S’s super-easy-to-use online bra-size calculator tool is speedy and user-friendly (file image) 

What: They’re playing it safe at M&S where one in three of us buys our undies. In-store bra fittings are generally on pause but are starting to resume at a handful of stores. However, their website has an super-easy-to-use online bra-size calculator tool.

Stand in front of a mirror wearing your best-fitting bra and answer a dozen questions on fit — is the band riding up, or the straps digging into your shoulders? Are you bulging at the front or at the sides, or is there excess fabric in the cups? How would you describe your shoulders and cleavage?

Once you’ve filled in the questionnaire, hey presto, the calculator delivers its verdict and tells you your perfect size. Revelatory.

Where: Anywhere you can strip down!

Cost: Free.

Best for: Speed and user-friendliness.

LOOK, NO HANDS!

Bravissimo

Jess (pictured) said Bravissimo’s walk-in bra fittings are best for receiving expert advice 

What: This retailer, which specialises in larger cup sizes (going up to an L cup), has a strong focus on fitting. Its customer service people are trained in bra fitting so they can give you expert advice over the phone.

My favourite in-store fitting service, they size by eye but are usually fairly hands-on, helping you to wriggle in and out of styles and adjusting straps, etc. I went to London’s Oxford Circus store to try a ‘contactless’ version with fitter Tia.

Friendly, expert, and a lifelong Bravissimo wearer (she is a 28H), Tia ensured the experience was as good as usual, except she stood, masked, in the open doorway of the changing room and directed me. Tia told me I am a 32FF currently (not an E as I’d thought), and also persuaded me to try an updated balconette style from Panache’s Cleo range.

I’ve always steered well clear, worried they made my bust look flat and separated. But Tia explained that this style, with its side support, would push my boobs together for a flattering look that I really liked and would be happy to wear with low necklines for some subtle cleavage.

She showed me some great comfy non-wired options — I couldn’t resist the pretty pale pink Cici from Bravissimo’s own range. So comfy, I refused to take this one off and left the shop in it.

Where: Available in all Bravissimo stores (bravissimo.com)

Cost: Free.

How to book: Walk-in only.

Best for: Expert fitting advice.

DO IT ON VIDEO CALL

Brarista

Jess said once she got over the initial awkwardness of Brarista’s service, she found it a lot easier being measured in the comfort of her own bedroom (file image)

What: A new professional bra-fitting service in your home, via a screen from bra expert and tech entrepreneur Bella Trang Ngo.

Stripping down to my bra and focusing in on my cleavage took a little effort — but Bella’s sensitive, professional manner soon put me at my ease.

She looked at how my current bra fitted, asking me to pull out the band using two fingers at the back and showing me how to adjust my boobs in the cup.

After a chat about my fluctuating size and requirements for undies, she recommended a 32E Freedom bra from D+ specialist Wear My Freedom.

The new British label’s designs offer non-wired bras for larger cup sizes that use four-way stretch fabric and M-TEC foam cups that allow better weight distribution.

Once I’d got over the initial awkwardness, I found it a lot easier wrestling my boobs around inside bra cups from the comfort of my own bedroom.

The downside? Getting your phone/laptop screen camera pointing in the right place — tricky in a virtual personal styling session, even trickier with underwear.

How to book: Brarista.com; offers fittings for the Wear My Freedom, brand. Other lingerie makes will follow soon.

Where: In my bedroom, via a video call.

Cost: Free.

Best for: If you’re shop-shy.

EASY TO BUY ONLINE

Heist

Jess said Heist bras aren’t sized using traditional measurements, but they’re styles are ideal for those still working from home (file image)

What: Starting out as a hosiery label in 2015, Heist’s original mission was to reinvent tights: confronting the issue of saggy and uncomfortable waistbands. The company used a combination of high-tech fabrics taken from the sports and space industries to create seamless hosiery that wouldn’t fall down and shaved inches off your waist without digging in.

Now — hurrah — they’ve expanded into undies and shapewear. There are soft, sculpting spaghetti-strap bodysuits, high-waisted shorts, and — my favourite — the ‘Bralette’, which comes in three chic colours (berry, sage and blush. It’s not sized in traditional bra measurements, but instead comes in XS-XL.

The style is suitable for cup sizes A-F, across back sizes 30-40in. I tried the Berry Bralette and it’s really given my casual cashmere wrap-and-leggings uniform a lift. Soft, comfy and more supportive than my crop top, it’s ideal for those still working from home.

In terms of full support if you’re on the larger-busted side, though, it probably wouldn’t go the distance for a day at the office.

Where: heist-studios.com

Cost: Bralette from £45.

Best for: Easy-to-buy soft bras online/at home. 

YOUTUBE TUTORIALS 

Wacoal

Jess said Wacoal’s (pictured) YouTube videos help you to get the best fit at home and have a huge range 

What: Three of the best larger-size brands — Freya (sizes 28-38, C-K cup), Fantaisie (30-42, D-J cup, and Elomi (32-44, D-K cup) all sit under the Wacoal umbrella, and are available at department stores, boutiques and online.

Wacoal, the flagship brand, specialises in smaller sizes, starting at 30A. The good news is that the Wacoal brands have YouTube fitting tutorials, and ‘contactless’ fittings in-store.

Sales communication manager Suzanne Pentland says: ‘We’ve always trained our in-store specialists to be able to fit by eye, which reduces the contact required with customers.

‘We have increased the number of questions we ask during fittings to reduce the number of bras the customer tries on (bras are put into quarantine once worn).’

The company’s YouTube videos help you get the best fit yourself at home.

I’ve long been a Freya and Fantaisie fan and, as I write, I am wearing the Freya Fancies bra in black lace — full cover without any whiff of frumpy.

Where: Freyalingerie.com; fantasie.com; elomilingerie.com; wacoallingerie.com

Cost: Free.

How to book: Through stockists/retailers.

Best for: Huge range.

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