If there is anything that fills me with dread, anxiety and genuine disdain more than anything else in the world, it’s underwear shopping. Nonetheless, despite the high risk of hyperventilating, I was coerced into such a task when it was brought to my attention that my underwear drawer was over spilling with grey-ish, holey garments that looked like the prop set in some sort of post bomb scene in a period war drama.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not, by any means, a lingerie mission. It was simply an opportunity to replace practical (if slightly novelty – patterns, prints etc. all allowed) underwear.
Underwear sounds much more utilitarian, which for me, is exactly what it should be. I don’t want to be dealing with a lace-induced rash or bum crack chafing because something looked ‘pretty’ or worse ‘sexy’. These things are entirely underneath your clothes and remain unseen by pretty much everyone. Unless, of course, you are a lingerie model or a pole dancer. In these circumstances, perhaps I wouldn’t be quite as excited by the cotton shorties covered in polar bears… and for the sake a few extra fifties being stuffed into them… I’d probably be more inclined to select something a bit more racy.
The last time I bought a new bra (and then subsequently the same bra in every available colour as to avoid the situation for as many years as possible) it ended with me almost in tears, staring at myself in the most lurid fluorescent lighting that made every exposed part of my body resemble something that can only be described as something grey and whatever it was, it had curdled. After a few failed attempts, the friendly shop assistant disappeared, measuring tape around her neck, glasses perched on the end of her nose determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of my bra size, like it was an anomaly she had never encountered. Which is strange, considering the sole purpose of her job was to measure women up for bras. Needless to say, it made me feel like a freak of nature. Eventually, after some aggressive pulling and lifting, we found a size that fits. I bought five bras and spent the rest of the day sulking, bought a vat load of fake tan whilst planning a strict regime that involved mainly sit-ups and starvation.
Walking out of the shop, I planned to return 3 cup sizes smaller with bronzed, taught skin. Instead of hiding in the corner of the changing room sniffing, I’d leap out and run around, arms flailing exclaiming ‘It fits! It fits! Look everyone, look! I can jump up and down and EVERYTHING!’
Needless to say, that plan has fallen by the wayside. The five bras became two, which I rotated and probably didn’t wash as often as I should. When a sharp stabbing in my chest, which I had quickly self diagnosed as either breast cancer or a heart attack, turned out to be the under-wire of my sorry looking bra protruding from the fraying edges, taking me down to one sole wearable bra… I realised the day had come.
So, despite my increasing heart rate, I managed to keep the panic attack at bay when I strolled into La Senza and wandered around. It’s changed. Looking disturbingly like a cheaper version of Victoria’s Secret, plagiarising their store layout almost entirely (just without the music, fragrance, lighting and customer service) La Senza has in theory, cut it’s customer profile significantly by only making bras up to DD. Go on their website and it claims they’re ‘working on an exciting new La Senza UK’. All I can say is, don’t get too excited… After being escorted out of the shop (by my boyfriend, not security, I didn’t go that mad) I couldn’t help but express my very slight disappointment to the shop assistant with – ‘What!? Why? That’s ridiculous!’
It’s a known fact that a majority of women (up to 80%) don’t wear the right bra size. Another, is that the national UK average bra size has increased. Depending on wheat you read, some say it’s closer to a 36D or even a 34E. If I was in the underwear industry and was looking at giving my brand a makeover, I think I’d look beyond trying to copy one of the US’s brands (badly) and do some research into my customers. I don’t think I need to remind the retail bosses that ‘the Customer is always right’ and in this case, I am the customer, and there is no way I am backing down.
To me ‘average’ is the middle ground. If you’re average, you’re not the biggest, nor the smallest, pretty much in the majority. So let’s say that there are millions of people wearing an uncomfortable 36D who then get measured only to realise they are in fact a 34E. They would rush to buy a new selection of life changing, breast lifting bras that don’t bruise their shoulders, rub across their back or draw blood. And where would they go to spend all their hard earned cash? Not La Senza, not anymore. When other retailers seem to be increasing their range, (Selfridges introduced the KK earlier this year and reported sales of D-G cups increasing by over 50%) responding to a nation where it has been proven that breasts are getting bigger, La Senza has alienated millions of women. The reasons for bigger breasts remains un-certain… the increase of obesity, hormones in dairy products and surgical enhancements are all theories, but that’s not really the point. Why a flailing high street store would decide, particularly in this climate, to only start making bras for a thinner, smaller, younger market is beyond me.
So once I calmed down and huffed my way out of the shop, I took my credit card to Marks & Spencers and was pleasantly surprised. Four pairs of pants (comfy and practical) for a fiver, in an array of patterns, stripes and spots and more importantly, loads and loads of bras that actually fit.