With so many resources on the internet, why is it hard to buy a bra online? Bras can be and often are, difficult to shop for. For some women, it’s a breeze, but for others it is a real struggle.
There are confusing sizing systems, a wide range of body types, a wide range of bra types, plus the vulnerability some women feel in the bra fitting room. These issues create challenges along the way.
Some of this is the nature of the human body. There are so many sizes and variations because there are so many types of human bodies. Each of our little idiosyncrasies need to be accounted for when finding the best bra for each person.
Inconsistent bra sizing makes this process harder. Countries have unique sizing systems that use different measurements, ratios, and size labels. This affects band and cup sizes.
Companies design bras using their system. That doesn’t always translate well to the customer in another region. It might be easier to move between UK and US sizing, but it can be strange to be a 38 band in one system and 100 in another!
An Elomi bra that is a 32 band would translate to a 70 band in an Ewa Michalak bra.
An FF cup in one system is an H in another. A Goddess bra in a J cup bra will be a GG if looking at a Freya bra equivalent.
There are six main bra sizing systems commonly used.
1 – Do you already have a bra you love? That’s a good place to start. Check the tag on it to see what size it is.
Many brands put different sizing systems on their tags so it’s easy enough to cheat and get your size that way.
With an informative tag it’s easy to see that your 80D in FR bra is a 32D in UK sizes.
2 – Stick to what you know when shopping online.
If you love your Anita compression sports bra, look for similar bras from brands like Shock Absorber which may be less well known.
If you like Elomi bras, then explore similar UK brands like Freya and Panache. Stick to a similar bra type if branching out online. Go to a bra store if you want to be more adventurous.
3 – Information is king.
Know your bra types and try to find styles that work with your body shape rather than against it.
4 – Take a picture of the tag of a bra that you love as soon as you can!!
We can’t emphasize this enough.
Washing and wearing can fade a tag completely and by then you may not remember the style or the size.
5 – If you cannot get fitted, do some measuring at home. You’ll need a tape measure. Use our bra calculator online to estimate your size. Remember, a bra size calculator online cannot be relied on for 100% accuracy. This goes back to the nuances of each bra brand. Different brands and different types of bras will affect the fit.
6- This should be #1! There is no replacement for a proper fitting in a specialized bra store. That should be the first place to go.
A challenge when trying to buy a bra online in Canada is something we call Bra Fragmentation. Some sizes in some stores. It is rare to find all sizes for a bra at any one small bra store in Canada.
Sister sizing can help expand a bit of your selection pool when a size is hard to find.
Sister sizing a bra means shifting sizes while keeping proportions the same. Bra sizes are about volume, so you can often maintain the same volume by going a size down on the chart or a size up.
For instance, say your 34C bra isn’t fitting you well anymore. You could try a 32D or a 36B as alternatives. They will have similar measurements.
While this often works for the next size or two over, it rarely works well over large size range changes. At that point, you’re better off getting re-fitted professionally.
Sizing is often consistent within a brand but cannot be relied on between different brands.
Part of this is based on history and part of it is based on geography.
French lingerie brands make bras for more common body types in France. UK companies have conquered the large cup market due to their in-country demand.
If you want to expand your brand selection online it is best to stick to bra styles that are familiar to you.
If stores keep fitting you into full cup bras by one company or made in one country, there’s a good chance a demi-cup bra from another country may not work for you in any size.
It’s always better to try new brands in a store.
If you can’t make it to a store many stores now offer you virtual fittings. The pandemic has accelerated this service. These fittings are sometimes done through questionnaires, photos, or video chats.
Don’t fear bra fitters! They have seen it all and want you to feel comfortable in your own skin.
Bra fitters go through months of training to be ready to fit customers in a store. Great fitters often have years or decades of experience.
Fitters in small bra stores are some of the most empathetic people around. Think of the gentle kindergarten teacher, or the nurse who always makes you feel better. Fitters are much the same.
They are aware of the vulnerability many women feel when shopping for bras. Bra stores are non-judgmental and empathetic places.
Fitters do this work because they believe in the value of a good fitting bra and the impact it has on your well being.
Small bra stores are designed around the empathetic experience.
The truth is there are way too many options and variables happening.
Simplifying will always be your best bet when you want to buy a bra online.
1 – Stick to brands you know and love.
2 – Know the common lingo to define your breasts, body, and bra types.
3 – Have a regular bra store? Ask them about their exchange policy. Many, with some friendly email banter, will be willing to ship you a set of bras to try on. Be careful while trying them on and quickly return the ones that don’t fit.
4 – Found a store with a great return policy?
Use our reference material to make some selections. Use our bra calculator, review brands that fit you, know what type of bras you are looking for.
With that information, order 3, 4, or 5 bras to try on at home knowing you can make an easy return.
5 – Stay away from bra-marts. When you shop from a small, independent bra store your purchases do good. Small bra stores are almost all owned by women supporting families.
6 – If you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, let the bra store know. Schedule an appointment for a fitting and let them know about your reservations.
This is a great way to break the ice and for you to learn about the type of store you are going to from their response.