Bras, half the population wear them and yet many of us are probably in the wrong size.
Rachel Blackburn, managing director at Smitten based in Chichester, is an expert of getting women the right support for their breasts.
“I find that many women are wearing a band that is too big and a cup that is too small,” she says.
“We aren’t taught how to get measured or how to wear a bra so some women have been measure once and that’s it, so when it is tight they go up a band.”
Smitten offers a luxury fitting service which is personally tailored to each customer.
“It is a very personal thing to get measured and we have many women who have had bad experiences in the past,” she says
“Everyone is welcome and we won’t say this is wrong or you are wonky. We want people to feel comfortable.”
Rachel finds that many women are nervous about getting fitted.
“We are very relaxed here and want them to feel relaxed as well,” she says.
“To start we just have a chat and I can see them visibly realise that it is ok.”
Based in North Street, Chichester the shop has two main brands Panache, which also includes Cleo and Sculptress, and Wacoal, which has Freya, elomi and Fantastie, and has a number of styles from maternity bras to teen bras.
The key is to have a bra which you feel comfortable in and that supports you where it should, Rachel adds that once the bra feels awkward or you have a change in your body shape you should get measured again.
Rachel has done fittings for teens looking for their first bra, women looking for maternity or sports bras, transgender people and women who have undergone mastectomies.
“The key is finding the right bra for what the woman wants it for,” she explains.
“Some women like it really tight whereas others want a comfortable bra that offers support, I talk to them to find what they want.”
And the differences from when the women come in to when they leave is noticeable.
“The right fitting bra can change your clothes and the way you stand,” she enthuses.
“One woman thanked me saying she came in for a bra and left with a waist, you can see their faces change when they try it on.
“So many leave walking a little taller.”
Choosing the brands to work with Rachel wanted ones that offered bras that have the shape, support and design.
“At Wacoal they are technical experts and designers so they do a bra that does what it should and then look at design,” she explains, “the designs are unique to them as you won’t find them anywhere else.”
Rachel also offers pamper parties and fitting parties where you and six or seven friends can take over the shop and try on items.
She also has brides come in with their dress to find the right fit for their big day.
“Bras for your dress can be boring so we also talk about the honeymoon and swimwear,” she says.
Keen to see what a fitting with Smitten is like I took up Rachel’s offer.
The fitting room is large and warm and I am instantly put at ease. Rachel asks when I was last measured, what size I am and if there are any problems.
On seeing me in my bra she shows me how the band is far too big and heads out bringing back the Clara, one of the most popular bras she stocks, for me to try.
Once we have the size she picks different styles and when we find the right one it is like a lightbulb has been switched on and I notice how different I look. She is right you do stand a little taller, my dress hung differently and yes I had a waist again.
What I also liked is that there was no pressure to buy.
“I feel like my job is to advise and give guidance. The fittings are free and there is no obligation to buy, so they come in they can leave but we find most women do buy or come back later to buy a certain bra,” Rachel says.
Due to how great I feel in the bra we opt for Rachel offers to order it in different colours as well as different styles she would like to try me in, all for free. A service you don’t get in many other places.
It is a very personal thing having a bra fitting but at Smitten you are put at ease straight away and come away feeling amazing.