Above image: © Andrii Lysenko
Or how to determine if an indie brand will meet your expectations as a full-bust person.
As a full-bust customer, buying lingerie from a new brand can be a stressful process. There are so many options on the internet but really no standardised sizing across countries and brands. While this comes with a lot of advantages, it also means that shopping requires patience – a lot of patience.
Instagram is a virtual mall, where we discover new independent designers every day. When these refreshing brands started to pique my interest, my first thought was “it’s such a pity that they don’t sell my size”. Little did I know, many of these designers are open to creating custom pieces, made specifically with your body in mind for little to no extra cost.
This sounds too good to be true, right? Well, sometimes, it’s an amazing deal, and sometimes it means the product won’t be as great as you imagined. Depending on the designer, getting custom-sized designs has cost me from nothing to £50 (~70 USD / ~58€ / ~85 CAD) on top of the regular price of an item. Of course, it can be much more expensive depending on the designer and what you are asking for.
In my experience, ordering from a small independent business often comes from the will to get something truly special for one’s self. Disappointments can have a big impact on our decision to buy again from this particular designer or even independent brands in general, whether that business is responsible or not for our failed expectations. To be safe rather than sorry, here is a list of things to do in order to decide if a designer would be a good fit for your body type:
1. Manage your expectations
What are you looking for exactly? Is it a good traditional fit? A fashion piece? In other words, do you care if your breasts will be lifted and separated or do you really just want that pretty piece on your body? These types of questions are an important first step towards researching whether a particular brand is even able provide what you want. Know that most people believe that if you buy from them, you have expectations based on what they’ve advertised and not what you are personally used to.
2. Check the standard size range
Many indie designers include their size range in their Instagram bio or linked on the homepage of their website. If they don’t, try to find a size chart on their product page. As a full-busted woman, if a designer only lists bras up to a DD cup, I assume that’s the size range they are comfortable offering. This doesn’t mean they can’t make a bra in bigger cups but keep in mind that they aren’t specialised in fitting bigger sizes in their lingerie.
Some designers will mention if they are willing to offer custom-made lingerie by adding something like “Don’t see your size? Email us at… ” close to their product size menu. This may mean that they simply aren’t stocking bigger sizing due to their regular customer base but that they are comfortable with offering them on request.
3. Explore their social media for modelled images
Now, if you decide to reach out to a designer that seemingly doesn’t offer your size but still has a custom-lingerie service, one thing to do is to check their social media. User-generated content is a big thing at the moment and most independent designers will proudly feature their clients, especially happy clients, on their page. During the past few years, the body positivity movement has influenced brands to show how inclusive they are willing to be. Looking at their social media can give you an idea of the fit of their products on people who have similar body types to yours.
Photo credit: @laceandhaze_2
4. Look for reviews from previous full-bust customers
There are actually some great resources out there about lingerie fit and brands. Lingerie reviews can sometimes be found on retailers’ websites, as well as lingerie blogs which usually feature very detailed information.
If you can’t find any info on these websites, you can go back to social media for information about the brand. Using #insertbrandsname, you might find photos of customers featuring their products. There is also a section on Instagram pages where you can see publications where that page has been tagged (some brands don’t accept being tagged but most of them do). I usually look into this section to find what clients think about their purchases. If anything, this is another source of information on the fit of the products. Not everyone will disclose their sizes and thoughts about the fit, but you can always ask politely or just look for elements of a good fit.
5. Make sure you understand the brand’s (fit) vision
The idea of a good fit is somewhat personal. Some designers have a clear idea of the products they want to create and the body type best suited for these products. Not every brand will engineer their bras to fit as many people as possible. This is not a criticism, it’s a reality. I once ordered a bra from a small designer, thinking that it being made to my measurements would be enough to get a good fit. Well, I was wrong – the bra was terribly disappointing based on my standards because the material used was definitely not suitable to support a fuller bust, even if technically my breasts could squeeze into it. The designer was very pleased with the result though, so I believe there was a clear misunderstanding there.
This particular product probably was made to my measurements, but it didn’t mean that it offered the fit I expected from a bra in my size. The brand was simply not creating the product I wished for; they had a pretty product but it was not designed with my body nor expectations in mind. If this designer were to make a bra according to my standards it would have required so much more work for her in terms of pattern-making. It would also have required different components. As a designer and a customer, we just weren’t compatible. This left me with a bitter taste but also taught me that what you see is what you’ll get. The designer has their own expectations for how their product should fit, which is why communicating your expectations too is crucial.
6. Ask about their previous full-bust experience
Not everything can be found on social media, as some customers are private. Sometimes it’s best to enquire directly about a brand’s experience. Most designers are very honest about what they have done in the past and what they are comfortable making. They will say “I have successfully done this” or “I have never done that”, and if you give clear details about the fit you are expecting, they will let you know if it’s realistically achievable. Designers have to be artists and business people. They usually know it’s not in their best interest to make empty promises to their clients – it’s better to say no than to have someone feel like they have been scammed. Lingerie is so intimate and can make people feel amazing or truly horrible about themselves so the goal is to get a positive reaction and a returning customer.
7. Give plenty of measurements
If you are buying made-to-measure lingerie, know that only giving two measurements is not enough for a full bust bra to be made with accurate sizing. For a smaller bust, there are fewer parameters to take into consideration, but a full bust usually moves and expands in a very particular way. Knowing your bust circumference and your underbust circumference will give you a good indication of your traditional bra size but isn’t enough information for tailored garments.
I always make sure to also give my bust radius, which is the length between the middle of your nipple and your breast’s root. I take it vertically and on the side horizontally and give the longest measurement to the designer. This helps them realise how projected your breasts are. Not everyone seems to take this measure into consideration but it worked for me 90% of the time. When a brand doesn’t ask for these measurements to make a bralette I am usually worried and I give it anyway, just in case it helps with the process.
Now, with all of this in mind, I have to say that part of it is also a bit of luck. Often there is a no-returns policy. However – and this has been my experience – many designers are willing to fix something to make sure you are totally happy with your order. If you have done your part of the work properly (i.e. taken accurate measurements of your body and vocalised your needs), most people will try their best to ensure that you’ll be as satisfied as possible.
Have you ever successfully ordered made-to-measure garments online? If so, what was the process like?