How I Will Run the First American Bravissimo, Because Obviously They’d Just Let an Internet Stranger Run the First Overseas Expansion of their Baby
There has been a lot of internet chatter lately about the new Lifetime series Double Divas, which purports to educate American women about good fit, bra sizes, and breast health, while following the antics of the store’s personality-rich owners. I know I should watch it, y’all, but even though my office was closed on Monday, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.*** I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve been burned before by stores that claimed they’d change my life? Maybe I was turned off by the over-the-top Southern! Wackiness! Shtick! that saturated the preview clips I watched online? Maybe because I don’t care for reality shows in general? Mostly, though, I didn’t want to watch it because of what I read from 1) commenters on the Lifetime site who watched the show and 2) other, more intrepid bloggers who had thoughts to share.
***N.B. I know it’s deeply unfair to judge a show and a store without even watching said show, but I want to share some of the discussion I’ve read and use it as a jumping-off point to talk about what to expect from a supportive lingerie boutique. If/when I do watch the show, I will share a review and continue the discussion.
I’m not going to delve too deeply into the comments, because internet comment sections stress me out, but I’ll just say that I did NOT see a lot of comments that said “I now love my breasts,” “I feel confident about fitting my boobs,” “I know now that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with my boobs,” “I feel pretty,” or “thanks for helping me figure out what I like!”
After reading Fussy Busty’s, The Lingerie Addict’s, and Hourglassy’s reviews, I REALLY didn’t want to watch the show. I think the store owners are certainly filling a market void– based on the clips I’ve seen, they stock many brands I love and recommend: Freya, Elomi, Parfait, Love Claudette, Cleo, and others, and they are spreading the word that the boob alphabet doesn’t end at D, or even DDD. One of the store’s owners even works to build and sew garments for customers who can’t find something in their size in stock, which is really, really wonderful and would be fun to see more of. The fact remains, however, that there is nothing, NOTHING, that excuses store owners/employees who body-snark their customers. It is NEVER acceptable to use “Whoa,” “gross,” “HUUUUGE,” “tiny,” and other loaded words to describe a person’s appearance or boobs. All women deserve a welcoming, judgment-free lingerie shopping experience. Men deserve it too: I was appalled to hear that one of the store’s employees mocked “moobies” during one episode. I’m sorry, I have no patience with that shit. I have been made to feel ugly, weird, inappropriate, wrong, and abnormal because of my breasts, and I’m a woman. I cannot imagine how the emotional pain and shame are compounded if you’re a man who’s seeking the same support I do. Making fun of “man-boobs” shows an extreme lack of empathy, and it’s totally unacceptable.
Enough of that nonsense. I thought it would be nice to address what a really, really good, even exemplary fitting experience would be like. I haven’t had a lot of them in New York City, unfortunately. My very first fitting was at Nordstrom shortly after graduating from college, and it was wonderful, positive, reassuring, and helpful. My experiences in NYC have been . . . stressful. The stores are small, the sales staff are either overly aggressive or absent, there’s a sense of no-nonsense authoritarianism, and, my biggest pet peeve, you can’t SEE the damn lingerie. It’s all tucked away in boxes and backstock, and unless you know what to ask for, you might never see anything beyond 2 or 3 styles. As frustrating as this is to me, a lingerie obsessive, I can’t imagine how bewildering it must be to someone who’s just starting out on her lingerie/boob-loving journey. So this is what I, Sweets, would like to find in a bra-shopping experience, and I’d love to hear what others think!
- You, the customer, are welcomed to the store in a friendly way. (Note to retailers: Someone who jumps on me when I walk in and chirps “DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE PROBABLY WEARING THE WRONG SIZE?!?!” tells me she isn’t invested in me as a customer. She hasn’t even asked me why I’m there yet. She is invested in spouting the party line, the advertising rhetoric, the gimmick that will make a sale. She doesn’t want me to learn to love and fit my boobs; she wants to sell me a bra and make me keep coming back to her. It’s the single biggest turn-off to me, right up there with D+ bras that only come in beige and black and small-cup bras that only come with three inches of padding.)
- The store is clean, attractive, well laid-out, bright, accessible to those with disabilities, and welcoming to nursing mothers. Dressing rooms and restrooms are clean, well-lit, and private. There is room for your shopping bags, strollers, and small children.
- There are lots of racks or displays showing available styles and products. You can browse and choose and compare products on your own if you want to.
- A store associate will politely ask you if you have any questions. If you say you’d like to be fitted, she will offer to make you an appointment or will offer to assist you.
- You will be guided to a private, flatteringly-lit, comfortable dressing room, with a seat and hooks for your bags and belongings.
- The fitter will ask you to remove your shirt if you’re comfortable doing so, and she will ask you some questions about the bra you’re already wearing:
- What size is it?
- How old is it?
- What do you like about it?
- What do you dislike about it?
- How does this bra make you feel?
- If you’ve never been fitted, the fitter will, in a non-authoritarian, non-judgmental manner, explain how a new bra should fit:
- band firm without digging, lying horizontally across back, fastened on loosest hook
- straps adjusted to support and smooth the cup, but not so tight that they dig into shoulders
- cup completely encasing breast tissue, including under, around, and over the breast. Center front lies flush against sternum. No double-boob or wrinkling in the cup.
- She will show you if there are any signs that your current bra may not be the best fit or may be worn out, and offer to bring you some new bras to try on. She will say “I think we may be able to find a better fit” instead of “you’re doing it wrong.”
- Before she leaves to get some bras, she will ask you if there is a particular style or look or feel that interests you.
- When you find a new bra that you think fits, she will ask if she can see it.
- She will ask you what you think of it and how you feel.
- She will point out to you why the fit is improved, and tell you how to determine a good fit for yourself in the future.
- She will listen to you if you still feel unsatisfied or uncomfortable, and she will either reassure you (wearing the right band size can feel strange if you’ve gotten used to the wrong one, and having cup size shock if you’ve been wearing the wrong cup size is totally understandable) or offer other products.
- She will NEVER tell you that your size is set in stone, that your boobs are wrong, or that you should make the best of what you’ve got, and she will never force you to buy a bra or set or shape you don’t love. She will certainly never dream of saying “well, you need a G, but we don’t carry G cups, why don’t you try an F?” This is disingenuous and misleading, and she’d be trying to force you to buy something that isn’t right for you. What kind of way is that to keep a customer? She will also never fit you into a band that’s too loose for you unless the store offers free alterations to ensure a good fit and long bra life.
- She will offer to bring you as many different sizes/styles as are available to you, and she will respect any budget concerns you may have.
- She will be understanding if you decide not to purchase anything that day.
- She will be honest if a particular bra isn’t made in your size, and she will suggest alternatives, even if that means suggesting another retailer.
- She will be aware of any shyness, embarrassment, or shame that women may feel about their breasts or breast-related health issues, and she will be sensitive and understanding.
- She will be upfront about the store’s return/alteration/shipping policy.
- She will thank you for visiting the store and cheerfully wish you a pleasant day.
If you do not find this experience in a store, and/or you leave feeling bummed out, ashamed, or disappointed, do not go back to that store. Until the perfect experience is available, we have the internet.
Also, champagne and sweets in the dressing rooms would go over SWELL, although I understand we live in a sadly imperfect world. ;)