Monday, May 7, 2012

Clothing and bra purchase vs. desires

It seems that there is often a disconnect between what consumers say that their desired bra/clothing choices are versus what they actually buy.  At times I find myself guilty of this also for a larger number of reasons.  However, a big part of creating my Staple Wardrobe Rules was to try to align those two.  To do so, though, we first have to look into why fashion desires and fashion purchases are often divergent.

Pepperberry Lace Dress listed at 79GBP
  1. Price point. I think this is probably the most obvious one.  I might want the perfect satin padded push-up bra or a beautifully slimming basque or corset, but when I see a sticker price of $200+ I simply can't afford it.  As much as I'd LOVE a custom made corset that would actually work with my 28J's and somehow take into account my long, straight midsection, I know that realistically even if one was offered it would be well outside my price range.  Those are more extreme examples but being that international conversions between reais and GBP or USD or EUR really aren't very favorable for me, any bras that are full-priced are pretty much universally outside of my price range so I have to watch for sales or buy used ones. 
  2. Availability. Sometimes the size/style/color isn't easily available or not available at all.  For this I'm looking at Freya/Fantasie.  They have many gorgeous bras but I've noticed more and more they stop at G cups or start at 32 bands, which don't have a chance of working for me.  Another issue entwined with availability is local availability.  Many women won't go the extra step of ordering online, especially if it involves hard to use websites (specifically ones where you have wait for a ton of flash videos before being able to find the product or you can't buy their product directly from your website and are sent to a massive list of links) or they need to search extensively  to find one specific bra/swimsuit/outfit.
  3. Wait time. Another biggie for me being that I order exclusively online and shipping times to Brazil can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.  I have to admit this is a big reason I haven't ordered from Ewa Michalak recently is because there is a 14 day waiting period for my bra to be made and then a long shipping time afterwards.  Once I hit my goal weight it won't be an issue but currently it is because often in a month's time I can drop a size.  If given the choice I prefer to order from the UK, which has about 1.5-2 weeks wait time. 
  4. Reviews. I've found more and more that I rely on reviews from other blogs and also on the store websites themselves to help me make purchases.  One example is the Freya Edina, which I had  been drooling over for awhile, however, after reading many reviews that it ran large in the back I decided to skip it.  On the other hand, the reviews for the Masquerade Rhea have been universally amazing so I have one on the way. 
  5. Poor Budgeting. Sometimes cheap outweighs desires.  Maybe we have our eye on the latest Bravissimo dress (like the red lace dress above) but then H&M has a huge sale and when end up buying a few cheap jersey dresses instead.  The total costs might be the same, however, the quality/fit are not. 
  6. Fickleness. Of course, trends/desires/clothing needs are not static over time. Maybe we really DO want a certain bra/outfit in a certain moment in time but by the time payday rolls around there is something else that pops into our lives that we just can't resist.
  7. Actual product doesn't match desire. This is a tricky one and one I especially struggle with as an online shopper. I'm forced to be extremely wary of my purchases because returns often cost the same as the bra/clothing item.  Thus, it's rare that I would buy something when it first comes out because if it doesn't live up to the hype or look the same as it does on the model, I can't do much about it. Moreover, often times clothes are modelled only by slim, tall women with nipped in waists and not as large busts/butts...  very different than my own figure so it's hard to get an accurate gauge of how a certain clothing item will hang on my body.  
  8. Poor quality.  This is more for women who shop in person.  However, it could be that you've been drooling over a certain style and once you actually get it into the dressing room it's clear that the materials are poor or the construction is off.  
  9. Body image misalignment. Ah, this is a tricky one.  Even with the movement of bloggers who post pictures of themselves in products on a wide range of body types, it can be hard to picture exactly how a certain item will look on you.  Moreover, sometimes you may *think* that you look about the size/shape of a certain blogger and it turns out you're off.  It's really hard to find "body twins" i.e. other women who look exactly like you because the one thing I can assure you of is that body diversity is very real and it is much more prevalent than women realize.  I have similar measurements to a few other bloggers out there.  Bras I Hate, for instance, wears pretty much the same bra size that I do.  However, she has almost entirely opposite needs to me when it comes to bras, being that she has firmer, wider breasts whereas I have narrower, softer breasts.  Actually, bras that don't work for her might very well work perfectly for me (as I discussed in my Cleo George review). 
So what can we take away from this? As consumers, if you want to end up with the clothes and bras you want rather than a plethora of cheaper items it can take some serious planning.  Read reviews, make a budget, but also understand that sometimes what works for someone else might not work for you.  The only way you can know for sure is trying it on. 

For companies, I'd suggest getting models in a variety of sizes (Pinup Girl, BiuBiu, and Ewa Michalak all manage to do this well), let customers write reviews on your websites.  Another big one is make your websites easy to use and make sure even if you don't sell your products directly that it's possible to find your products easily.  I can think of times when there were Curvy Kate products (specifically the Caribbean Curve swimsuit) and Freya items that I couldn't manage to find on any websites in my size even though their websites had the items available there. I think it would be extremely helpful if underneath their product listings they had links to where that specific item could be purchased (such as you can find on brayola).

All that being said, if you make quality items in a wide range of sizes they're going to sell themselves.  Ewa Michalak and BiuBiu are a great example of that.  Both are small Polish companies but because they cater to an under-served market they're all across the blogosphere.  Curvy Kate is also making a big splash because they cater to such a wide range of sizes and work towards producing trendy bras in those sizes (rather than the boring staple bras that you see so often at the very high end of the large cup market).  Panache is probably the largest company that is really pushing the size range and plans on coming out with a 26 band soon.  Those are just a few examples, there are certainly more out there.  But even if you do cater to a niche market make sure your products are easily accessible and  that customers can get accurate information about the styles, especially since no matter what there is going to be some variation between styles/sizes/cuts. 


  1. Great post June. Price, reviews and availability are definitely the biggest things for me. I used to annoy my boyfriend by walking into a store with him, stopping by something and trying it on etc, telling him how much I liked it, then walking around the store and telling him we had to leave quickly before I was tempted to buy the item I'd looked at. He couldn't work out what I was on about, but I am pretty tight with my money and so I knew that if I gave myself even five minutes away from the item that I'd change my mind. It definitely worked for me.

    I hate shopping online. I've bought...three items of clothing online in my life, I think, and that was two months ago. My unwillingness to shop online was confirmed by my purchase, when one of my items was too big (but close enough) and the other was too small (at least two sizes smaller than listed). Since I also cannot work out what I'd look like with something on (my body shape baffles me), I've resolved to only buy online if I've been able to try it offline first. And of course, living like you in a proper bra-free country (not quite as bad as yours) that means no bra buying!

    1. Thanks! I've done similar things because I just like to try clothes on, in general. ;) But I'm also pretty tight with my money. However, I've found that buying less pieces that are higher in quality work better for me. If I buy cheap clothes they end up going bad too quickly and I don't wear them as much because the fit is off so I'm working hard at avoiding that. :D

      I'm not the biggest fan of online shopping either but it's gotten better as I've ordered more. I don't think I would do it, though, for more mainstream retailers unless it was for stretchy clothes, like yoga pants. But I've found BiuBiu to be pretty reliable and all the clothes I ordered from them I was able to wear immediately. :D

      Don't we have fairly similar body shapes? I seem to remember that conversation...

  2. I love this post! I think what you say is so true. For me price is the biggest thing. I always obsess over new products that are coming out, but when they are finally for sale I always end up having to come to terms with the fact that I just am not interested in bras at full price. For me a bra isn't really worth it unless it's around £15 or $30, or less. So I have to wait for sales, and by the time I get the items they don't seem novel anymore. So then I obsess over newer items again. It's a silly cycle.

    As for clothes, I am really baffled by Pepperberry's prices--I know they're not going to lower them because people buy their clothes, but I could never afford the stuff they sell, especially when I dislike most of it anyway. I did just make a BiuBiu order, but the price shocked me a bit, and realistically speaking I know I will not be able to afford any of their dresses anytime soon. BiuBiu clothes aren't even expensive, I am just so used to budgeting strictly that I can't let it go when I know I could find something wearable for $10 in a shop. Pinup Girl and Trashy Diva are out of my price range forever, I feel. Part of it is that I don't want to spend $150 on a dress and then end up spilling spaghetti sauce on it the first time I wear it! And I WOULD do that...

    1. I definitely know ALL about the obsession cycle! I think I have that with the Fleurty and the CK swimsuits at the moment. I WANT them but can't afford the price on either. Sigh...

      PB's prices really come with some sticker shock for me. Even their on sale items are out of my price range. I do want to order the PUG pencil skirt that I mentioned awhile back in another post. It's really lovely but only once I hit goal.

      As for work clothes, well, I need some things desperately so I have ordered a dress from BiuBiu for work (but I found it used so it's a bit cheaper). It means I'll only have one nice work dress but my hope is that because the quality is better it'll last awhile and I can slowly add in more.

      Oh but the spaghetti sauce thing, I can relate! I don't drink juice anymore but that used to always be a danger for me! ;)

  3. One thing I love that retailers now allow is the ability for customers to post photos of themselves accompanied by a review. I know that women mean it to be helpful when they say they are "5'5", 140 pounds, and bought the medium," but that means nothing to me. However, if we get a photo with the review, then I can better gauge whether the item will work for me and what size I should order. Anthropologie does this, and I wish other retailers would get on board too!

    1. Agreed! Oh, and I have to say it drives me a bit nuts when I see women who just write "5'5", 140 pounds, and bought the medium," without any measurements or anything. There's a big difference between 140lbs carried in your hips vs. breasts or somewhere in between.

      I honestly don't know of a single women the same weight as me with remotely close to the same weight distribution.

    2. Exactly! There are so many variations in body type that even if two women are the same height and weight, they can look nothing alike. Also, I love how some retailers will post measurements of the garment in every size (like Boden) so you can really gauge what size is best.