ONLINE LINGERIE SHOPPING. Written by Anna Reid
Let’s talk about the challenges of online shopping for lingerie and swimwear and look at the options on offer that can help minimise the risk of swaps and returns, making online shopping a more fun and less stress exercise.
I perfectly remember my scepticism of this idea as online shopping was emerging… a decade later, I am writing this blog after casually ticking off some practicalities for the day- buying a choir uniform for my daughter, a cover for my dog’s crate and a new mascara – all online …
Whilst the benefits of the online shopping are obvious, when it comes to buying lingerie and swimwear, things tend to be a bit more complicated.
Having worked closely with many retailers, I know that returns and swaps are far more common in lingerie than in other product categories when purchased online. Yet, this is not the biggest worry – it is the returns that don’t happen that are the concern!
Unfortunately, an all-too-common scenario is when a woman buys a bra or size that doesn’t fit her properly, but she keeps it nonetheless. Half the time because she doesn’t recognise there is an issue – if you have been wearing the wrong size bra for a long time, how do you know what the right size fits and feels like? And even when the problem is obvious, many women often settle for less because “it is not too bad”, because they are “too busy”, because “one day when I lose/gain weight it will fit” …
So, what causes the problem? Isn’t the bra size calculator (or size chart) on the website is there to help you purchase the right size product in the first place? You would think a species capable of growing human organs in a lab should have a bra size calculator figured out. Unfortunately, not yet…
Despite genuine efforts of many (often reputable) lingerie brands, the bra size calculators of today still cannot be trusted to deliver a proper fit, the margin error is too great.
How do we know? We decided to test this and used calculators from three popular Australian lingerie websites to “calculate” the bra sizes of the four women in our team. The results were very similar across all three websites and mostly very inaccurate compared to the actual bra sizes of the participants. Here is what we got:
(we chose the closest result to the actual size)
Even allowing for a slight variation between brands, it is obvious there is a big gap between 12A and 10D… Why do they get it so wrong?
The answer is because only two of the many factors can be reliably measured, so this is what they use in a bra size calculator or size chart. The other (just as important) aspects are too variable or hard to measure. Women with the same two basic measurements can have vastly different bra sizes depending on their age, body type, rib cage shape, fat to muscle ratio, not to mention breast characteristics such as shape, firmness, symmetry, height on the chest etc. Maybe one day such algorithm will be written, but it has not been done yet.
And so, lingerie fitting remains one of those rare things still much better done by humans than by the machines.
But… but… how do I shop for lingerie online? I love the online shopping!
We get it J And so we put together a list of smart tips and things to remember to help you navigate online lingerie shopping with minimal risk, maximum fun!
Where to buy from?
In general, the staff of online stores specialising in lingerie, swimwear and sleepwear are more likely to have the fitting knowledge. As a rule you should get better assistance (pre and post purchase) than from a site where lingerie is one of many product categories.
In particular, specialised lingerie stores, especially those operating both online and brick and mortar stores will offer the best fitting advice if you ask for it. Not only do they have valuable experience through daily in-store fittings, they are not bound to the size/style limitations of a single brand. This is particularly important if you have a fuller bust or a less common body shape.
How to get my size right?
The underwear or sleepwear purchase is relatively low risk. Size charts for these products are generally reliable. Once we get to cup-sized products (bras, bikini tops etc) things get trickier.
While for some women, not having have to interact with anyone is the whole point of online shopping, it is certainly a good idea to use the knowledge and advice of a bra fitters, especially if you haven’t been fitted for a while or never bought a particular brand/product before.
You have many options, we have listed them from most to least interactive. From experience, the more interaction you can handle, the more accurate advice you will get.
- Get fitted in store. Lingerie shopping is not what it used to be. You can expect helpful, knowledgeable, and non-judgemental attitude and great product selection at many specialised lingerie stores. This 15 minute exercise will save you a lot of time and you are most likely to leave the store with great well-fitting products you love! You can then shop online for what you know works for you. We always recommend shopping with the same retailer as it usually makes communication easier should there be any problem. Check out our stockist page to find a store closest to you.
- Request a private in-store fitting. This is a great service offered by many lingerie retailers that is designed to help people requiring a bit more privacy. Whether you are a person with special needs, a mother seeking to make your teenage daughter’s first bra fitting less stressful, or simply a shy individual, this can be a good option for you. Simply call/email your local lingerie store and ask whether they can arrange a private fitting for you.
- Use ZOOM FIT (Virtual bra fitting). This is a relatively new way of helping customers with their online lingerie purchases. As you can guess, Zoom Fit is a video call with a bra fitter, during which you will be asked to try on several bras so the fitter can assess whether they are a good fit and shape for you. She can then share her screen to show you which styles in which sizes she’d recommend for you. ZOOM Fit’s popularity spiked during the pandemic and continues to grow, it is only offered by few online retailers but can be a great option for those people who are time poor, live too far away from any lingerie store or are not yet ready for direct contact with the fitter.
- Call the store. This may sound old fashioned but can be a good idea for those not keen on the options above. It is particularly helpful if you have a certain problem with your current product and can describe it to the bra fitter (i.e. “The back of my current bra keeps riding up”, “The top of the cup is cutting into my breast giving me a “double boob”). This kind of trouble shooting can be easily done over the phone and you can expect a reasonably accurate advice on the style/size to suit your needs. Visual communication can be done via online store of the retailer or the photographs of the products she can offer to send you.
- Use the online chat. This service is offered by many online lingerie retailers and is a quick option to do what we have described in the previous paragraph with an added benefit of the fitter showing you the product on the same site as the chat.
- Self-educate and give it a go. Whilst it takes years of experience to be able to establish a clothed woman’s bra size by eye, the bra fitting is certainly something you can learn, at least enough to be able to assess the fit of your own bra. You can find many bra-fitting blogs and videos online, we encourage you to check them out!
And most importantly – if you received the product that doesn’t fit well or otherwise doesn’t make you happy, please don’t put up with it! Contact the seller and ask them to swap for another size/style. After all, you only have one life to wear beautiful, comfortable and supportive lingerie!