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The Good, the Ugly, and the Bad | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Good, the Ugly, and the Bad

At the recommendation of a friend, Francesca recently went for a professional bra fitting at Intimacy, a wonderful bra boutique with locations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, and New York. It was a wonderful experience which resulted in a wonderful purchase. The woman helping Francesca did not use a measuring tape. She looked her over, did a little patting and looking and weighing hear and there, and came back with several bras for her to try on. She showed Francesca how to recognize a good fit from a bad, so that Francesca could shop elsewhere and find what she needs on her own, which was good because the cup sizes at Intimacy run a little small, so while there Francesca needed a 42D, elsewhere, it turns out, she is a 42C. Anyhow, it was a fine experience and Francesca recommends them. The only problem was that they only had one 42D in stock — not because they do not carry large sizes, but because so many 42D women shop there, that they were sold out. It was alright, though. That is why God created Cacique sales at Lane Bryant.

All this is an introduction to Francesca’s next tale, which has a less happy ending. While visiting one of the aforementioned cities, she decided to stop by the shop of a plus-size clothing designer of whom she had heard, and whom Francesca wanted to vett, while she had a chance to do so in person, before discussing the clothes on this website.

The clothes at this little boutique looked beautiful on the rack. The materials were luscious and the colors were amazing. Everything was presented in a tasteful and eye-pleasing manner. They were off to a good start.

But all of the designs had empire waists. Every. Single. One. And though some Apple-shaped women can get away with empire waists, Francesca is not one.  They also were all sleeveless, and Francesca does not “do” sleeveless, though she appreciates it on others. Still, for several reasons she decided to try on a few styles. Since many of our readers are Pears or have hourglass figures, and wear sleeveless dresses, I wanted a chance alone with the clothes in the fitting room, to see if the clothes were well-made (they were not). And, also, I was there anyway, and one never knows! One must be adventurous! And even with sleeveless dresses, one can work wonders with a shrug! So Francesca took about 4-5 dresses into the fitting room, and wore them out into the store where the mirror was.

Francesca understands that salespeople need to make sales. She understands when they say something like “if you wear Spanx, this will look fantastic” — which the saleswoman here said — because not everyone shares Francesca’s opinion that “if an outfit needs Spanx to look good, it is not a good outfit for you.” It’s OK. She gets it.

But it is another thing entirely for Francesca to stand in the middle of the boutique floor, looking like a stuffed sausage whose elephantine pregnancy is emphasized by a turniquet below her breasts –not that there is anything wrong with that, she supposes — and for the saleswoman to say “I think it looks wonderful. It looks much better than you believe it does. It looks terrific.”

Francesca looked the woman right in the eye and said “it is a beautiful dress for someone else.”

It is also something else for the saleswoman to say “the problem is your bra. You do not have enough support. If you buy a better bra, this dress will look amazing on you,” when Francesca was wearing a snug, brand-new, professionally-fitted bra which was probably the best fit she’d ever had, and if her breasts had been any better “supported,” they would have been up over her head. And when the rest of the dress was making Francesca look like she had a set of triplets stuffed into her (new lace) underwear.

Bah.

Francesca will not speak of this particular establishment again.

Meanwhile, remember, ladies: The last word on whether you look good in a dress is your own.

And shop at Intimacy. Francesca approves of them.

18 Responses to “The Good, the Ugly, and the Bad”

  1. Phyllis June 24, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

    I swear by ‘A Soft Touch’ in the Aiken SC/Augusta GA area. And the young lady who fitted me in the Aiken store did the same thing-no measuring tape, just some patting and general ‘feeling up’ as it were. The bras are pricey & worth every dime.

  2. Heather June 24, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    Oh, how I love Intimacy. They are a bit spendy, but it’s worth it. As it’s been a few years and a child birth since my last bra fitting, I’m over due for another fitting. :/

    I have a silly question. I suspect I’m a apple since empire waists immediately make me look like I’m 5 months pregnant, but how would I truly know? Is there a good guide to body shape? I’m well-endowed, hippy, and I do have a belly. However, I do have a waist and great legs.

  3. La Petite Acadienne June 24, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    Unfortunately, some sales clerks (especially if they are new, or if their managers are short-sighted about customer loyalty) value the immediate sale above all else, and will blow all kinds of smoke up the customer’s keister. I do not blame the sales clerk when this happens. Perhaps they do not know any better. Perhaps they are being pressured by their boss. If it is the proprietor of the store who is lying to me, however, I will not be pleased.

    And if you do develop a relationship with an excellent salesperson who will be truthful with you, and will say, “That doesn’t work on you”, then preserve that relationship.

  4. Mrs. Hendricks June 24, 2008 at 11:36 pm #

    Please, please, please divulge this ‘plus-size’ designer! How will we know which pitfalls to avoid?

  5. pammy June 25, 2008 at 2:27 am #

    Hmmmm is this designer one who is all over the internet, including myspace??

  6. Grace June 25, 2008 at 2:52 am #

    I’m going to Chicago in August for a conference – now I know one thing I have to do while I am there – get a bra fitting at Intimacy. There’s not a single one on the West Coast. :-(

  7. Patia June 25, 2008 at 6:39 am #

    I had a fitting at Intimacy three months ago. I bought two ridiculously expensive bras that have virtually replaced the other dozen or so inexpensive and uncomfortable bras I own. I love them both sooo much. They are very flattering and comfortable even at the end of a long day. Highly recommended!

  8. Sharona June 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    Horrors! The boutique was selling fashion!

    Sleeveless and empire waist is what’s in this season. If you don’t want to follow the trend, Coldwater Creek and Talbot’s and Lands End will be happy to sell to you exactly what they’ve been selling to you for the past several decades.

    (PS, Intimacy isn’t the only bra specialist out there in most big cities. Do your homework and don’t use What Not To Wear’s product placement as your only source of information.)

  9. Rubiatonta June 25, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    The Sharona, she is a wee bit rude, no? Perhaps she is an employee of the afore-unmentioned boutique? If not, with her attitude, she is sure to go far!

    What designers of plus-sized clothing need to know how to do is interpret the trends for their customers. It is one thing to be able to design a dress that will look good on a anemic broomstick. It is quite another to design clothing that is fashion-forward and flattering on those among us with protuberances.

    I am very catholic in my shopping — I am as happy with a flattering top from Chez Target as I am with a well cut dress from Nordstrom. But I really dislike being told to go dress frumpy because I’m a size 18.

  10. Esther June 25, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Heather: if you have a visible waist, you’re not an apple. An apple shape is someone with a very round center (from neck to hips) with no waist, but with (usually) thin arms and legs. You sound more like an hourglass.

  11. Tanya June 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm #

    I think we forget sometimes that the big girls come in as many, if not more, varieties of shape as their smaller sisters. And the designers seem to forget it all too frequently.

    For my own shape (short, busty hourglass), I see many, many items in smaller sizes that I could wear if only made larger. For other people, they need a complete redesign specific to their shape.

    Recently I went into a plus size shop in Houston which had fabulous linen shirts and tunics and skirts and trousers. Held up to me, they looked like I was trying a giant’s clothes. For a tall and substantial woman with attitude, they’d have been perfect, especially with some bold jewelry.

    For my size/shape, give me just enough fabric to cover and skim – no more, no less. It only takes about three hundred “tries” to find something like that.

  12. Kristin June 25, 2008 at 6:52 pm #

    Dang, Sharona. If you actually read the post, you’ll notice that Francesca actually tried on the dresses so that she could review them – there wasn’t a whole lot of complaining in there. And the point was that she was told she looked great in the dress, when she obviously didn’t.

  13. Cat June 26, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    To the Rubiatonta: While I agree that the tone of the Sharona’s post was very rude and uncalled-for, don’t you think it is also rude to refer to non-big girls as “anemic broomsticks?” I’m just sayin’.

  14. pammy June 26, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    Yea not so much into calling thinner folks names, its not cool at all. Names hurt at all sizes, please don’t do it.

  15. Rubiatonta June 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    The Rubiatonta she is properly chastened. That said, I get the feeling that most big-name designers aren’t thinking about putting their clothes on women of any size. They just look so much better on the hanger, donchaknow?

  16. Kimocean June 28, 2008 at 1:16 am #

    If anyone is looking for a great bra fitting in the Los Angeles area, there’s a little place in Monrovia called Creative Woman: The Wizard of Bras http://home.flash.net/~bras/

    I’ve been to Intimacy in Chicago also and though the Wizard of Bras is not as fancy looking on the outside (it’s got kind of a ’70s feel to it and a GIANT pointy bra in the window), the fitters are amazing and the bra selection is tremendous. They bring you boxes of bras to try in your size sorted by color. They do use measuring tape and do a touch of feeling up, though less than they did at Intimacy. I found the Wizard of Bras ladies to be more respectful of privacy and I even brought a young friend of mine who is mentally challenged and extremely self-concious about her body with whom the fitter was extremely respectful and gentle. Though she was incredibly nervous throughout, she actually asked us to take her back so she could get some more bras a few weeks later as she had never had bras that were so comfortable.

    Overall I can’t praise this place highly enough. The bras are pricey (especially in the larger sizes like I wear) but in my opinion they are worth EVERY penny. The fitters also give tips on how to find a good fit, how to adjust the bra to fit and best of all, as the bra stretches out–as they all do, they have a service that will alter them so they fit like new for only five dollars.

  17. mywhimsey June 30, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    Kimocean,

    I went to college in Pasadena, and I had my first real bra fitting at the Wizard of Bras. They were amazing – respectful and informative, and I got the best bras there that I have ever owned, including a custom fit sports bra(!!!) that saved me during horseback riding lessons and bustier that actually fit my cup size and body shape. I just want to second your recommendation. The Wizard of Bras is indeed super-fantastic!

  18. La BellaDonna July 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm #

    I would also like to suggest for the West Coast ladies, see if you can find yourself a Frederick’s of Hollywood! Yes, yes, snicker, point, nudge, giggle, eyeroll. Now that that’s done, and you have the catolog back from the guys, I would like to point out that their bras, which are pretty darned well made, come in a variety of sizes – and they are very, very happy to have the custom of larger ladies. I bought a La Mystere bra for which I coughed up $72 hard-earned dollars; I bought two bras from Frederick’s, cut exactly the same, for an equally hard-earned $26 apiece. In pretty colours. One, I think, was ruby with silver embroidery; the other was black with lavender (plainer options were available, too.)

    A suggestion: the best-fitting and most supportive bras are the ones that ladies are often most reluctant to buy, to wit: the bra with a horizontal seam across the top, and another, vertical seam below and perpendicular to that upper seam. That cut of bra offers THE best support and fit, bar none. (My source for information being professional bra-makers/bra pattern-makers.) The best bra strap for a larger bosom is one that doesn’t stretch. And a molded-cup bra is only going to work its best on someone whose breast is naturally globe-shaped; the woman with a naturally-pointy breast is going to find that the molded cup will crumple up to fill in where her breast isn’t. But do give Frederick’s a look! Sometimes the stores will even have the Respected Elderly Lady with Tape Measure! And the catalog is fun, too. I like the fact that Frederick’s is all about “Of COURSE Big Girls have sex and want to dress sexy!”