Meet the lingerie brands putting comfort and body positivity first, as our experts explain the secret to finding the perfect fit
Underwear. It’s the area of a woman’s wardrobe that probably has the most ups and downs (excuse the pun…) in terms of the attention we pay to it. For every occasional spending flurry when things start to look a bit tired – or if we have a hot date – there are also those days when we reach for battered old familiar suspects simply because they're so comfortable we just can’t seem to give them up. Sound familiar?
Get underwear right, however, and it can be transformative, changing not only your outfit but also how you carry yourself. ‘Fit and comfort are the most important elements when it comes to our lingerie,’ says Lizzie Amboule, Partner and Lingerie Buyer. ‘A badly fitting bra can be at best unflattering and at worst bad for you.’ Back problems, posture issues and various levels of discomfort can all stem from this.
‘The next most important element is having a breadth of choice, whatever your shape and needs,’ says Lizzie. Many brands are looking to increase their size ranges across different styles of lingerie, and diversity of skin tone is finally starting to be addressed.
‘We pride ourselves on having a diverse range across lingerie and shapewear,’ Lizzie continues. ‘So whether you're working from home and want something more comfortable, or are looking for something discreet under a dress for a special event – or every occasion in between — we have the lingerie for you.’
Read on to discoverwhich brands might be the best fit for you.
There was a time when having a larger cup or back size really limited the styles of underwear you could buy. Not anymore. Brands such as Oola and Elomi (look out for the latter from September) are really moving the dial when it comes to pretty, comfortable and supportive lingerie for bigger sizes.
‘Elomi runs up to a K cup and Oola to a 46 back size,’ says Lizzie. ‘The product is designed specifically to support and enhance a larger bust but both brands prove that you can get pretty, feminine lingerie up to larger sizes.’
“Oola and Elomi are really moving the dial when it comes to pretty, comfortable and supportive lingerie for bigger sizes”
‘We’ve seen a significant increase in our pretty, sexy lingerie such as And/Or,’ says Lizzie. ‘It’s feeding into the treat mindset of our customer – she's wanting to indulge herself every day, not just on special occasions.’ Think wearing some gorgeous lingerie under your T-shirt for the weekly shop, or dressing up for dinner at home.
‘And/Or lingerie is flirty, fun and offers gorgeous seasonal colours and embroideries to inject joy into your underwear drawer,’ says Lizzie. And the good news is that larger cup sizes (up to a 36G) are launching this Autumn. ‘You can be confident that And/Or will fit beautifully up to a G cup while still retaining its flirty feel!’
The luxury French brand Chantelle is also worth a look in this area too offering both comfort pieces alongside beautiful wired lingerie.
Let’s be honest, our lockdown lingerie probably had more in common with loungewear, and in a lot of cases we just skipped the bra part altogether. ‘Comfy bras and non-wired products really took off during the pandemic and they show no sign of slowing down,’ says Lizzie. ‘Working from home has influenced a more relaxed approach to dressing even now we are starting to go back into the office. Our customer wants non-wired products but also wants the support and fit of true lingerie.’
Look to John Lewis & Partners for soft, seam-free styles like the Anya and Indi, or try Avery and Morgan for pretty lace and moulded non-wired bras. Contemporary brand Elle also has a good selection of ribbed and lace bralettes.
“Comfy bras and non-wired products really took off during the pandemic and they show no sign of slowing down”
‘Now that things are opening back up we have seen a surge in demand for event lingerie,’ says Lizzie. ‘Things like shapewear, strapless bras and lingerie accessories. Over lockdown these areas were quiet as you would imagine but now they’re picking up.’ John Lewis & Partners offers great value shapewear pieces and strapless bras. Try also 1990s icons Wonderbra and Calvin Klein for satin and lace strapless styles.
Increasingly women are moving away from underwiring - it might offer a superior shape, but it can also dig in and feel restrictive. Luckily innovative brands such as Sloggi are making major advances with technical fits and materials to bridge the gap between comfort and shape. ‘Sloggi aims to be all non wired by 2022,’ says Lizzie. ‘This brand isn’t just about knickers, they are one of the most innovative lingerie brands in the market, constantly bringing new and exciting technology into their ranges such as the Oxygen T-shirt Bra which weighs less than 50g!’
“Innovative brands are making major advances with technical fits and materials to bridge the gap between comfort and shape”
Beauty brands have led the way when it comes to being more inclusive and diverse with skin tones. Now it’s the turn of lingerie labels. New to John Lewis, Nubian Skin has revolutionised the way women are represented when it comes to underwear, creating a broader spectrum of shades and scrapping the idea of ‘one nude suits all’.
Nubian Skin was founded in 2014 by Ade Hassan who was frustrated by the lack of skin-tone choices. Since then, the brand has gained many fans including Beyoncé on her Formation tour. Try Chantelle and Wacoal for lighter skin tones.
When was the last time you were properly measured for underwear? It really is the best way to find the right size – and style – for your shape and needs. ‘Our team of fitting partners are trained thoroughly both on the shop floor and off site and many have more than ten years of experience,’ says Lizzie. ‘They really are experts and can often know your bra size just by looking at you.’
For those who can’t make it into store, there are also really useful buying guides and videos available online.
Read on to learn more from our Q&A with an expert fitting partner…
What are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to fit?
Ensure you have regular fittings as your body changes over the years through, for example, pregnancy, hormones, or weight fluctuations. We recommend every six months, after a significant change in weight, or after a life change such as pregnancy or menopause. Also customers often have their straps too tight which brings the back of the bra too high and over time gives you permanent irreversible grooves in your shoulders.
Can you outline how the service works and what makes it stand-out?
Customers can book a fitting appointment via telephone, email or in store, and will have time with an experienced fitter who will fit, not just measure, as brands can differ according to size. We are specialists in all aspects of bra fitting including mastectomy, breast enhancements, first bra and maternity. We offer a diverse service and have fitted a wide variety of customers. Some appointments can last ten minutes, some an hour or more, and we endeavour to find the right bra for every customer.
What are your top tips for finding the best fit?
Ensure the band sits horizontally all the way around the ribcage when on, front and back. Ensure the wire sits further back than the breast tissue and there is no cup overhang. If you can’t wait to get your bra off at the end of the day then you are not wearing the right size.
What are the benefits of discovering the right fit for you?
First of all: comfort. Second, the right bra eases pain – badly fitting bras can cause back problems. Lastly, finding the right bra will improve your posture as well as totally transform your look!