Saturday, 2 March 2013

Marks and Spencer bra fitting review - how not to do it

A Tale of Two Cities - Marks and Spencer Bra Fitting Review

Those of you who have made your way here from the Mumsnet Threads or Twitter will know that the poor fitting service at Marks and Sparks has been a bit of a recurring theme. We decided to "tweet" them about it on Thursday, and received a response suggesting it was an isolated incident. So...mystery shop time. One big boobed girl in Plymouth, one in Edinburgh. Opposite ends of the country, but two very similar  tales.

First up, it's Plymouth:

 I went to Marks at 14:30 and booked an appointment for 16:00. They were obviously very busy and there were at least four sets of teens waiting to be fitted. I went back at 15:55 and was greeted by my fitter (let's call her Janet). I must say that she was extremely nice, very polite and friendly throughout. TBH I felt a little guilty for trying to catch her out as she seemed to be doing her best to help me find a good bra.

Ok, she asked me to remove my top and told me that they measure for the band size and then do the cup by eye. For one fleeting moment I started to think that maybe Janet might come up with the goods. In addition, I was wearing my Cleo Juna in a 30G which is probably the best fitting bra I own. I had thought that by wearing that she'd see what a well-fitting bra looked like on me. Ah, no, it was not to be. She brandished her tape measure and proclaimed me to measure 36. She held the tape measure so loosely I didn't actually feel it! Janet then said she thought I was probably a 36D or DD and after asking me about styles (I said that I'd like something that I could wear for work that wasn't too old fashioned) she returned with a Striped Non-Padded bra in a 36DD.

Dear lord. Where to start? Ok, the back was massive so I did it up on the tightest hooks. I could pull the bra out a long, long way. I had major back fat and underarm bulge and some moderate overspill. What was worse was that the bra didn't actually do anything. My boobs stayed in exactly the same position as they had been in without a bra. Janet came in and checked the fit and said the back should be done up on the middle hook (deduct another point) and then asked me how it felt. I said that the back felt very loose but she said that there was no way I could wear a tighter band and she was actually wondering if I should have a 38. I pointed out that the centre gore wasn't lying flat (it was at least 1.5" away from my body) but she pressed it and said that it was lying flat and was a perfect fit.
I said I'd like to try some different styles and Janet then brought me a black plunge style in a sort of soft feel fabric (I can't find it on-line unfortunately) in a 36DD. Oh dear god. Now, me and plunges, we just don't get on so I knew this would be a disaster. I had about 6 boobs, the centre gore was nowhere near my body and the band was up around my shoulders. To give Janet her due she immediately said that perhaps a plunge style wasn't a good choice for me.

Next up was the Rosie for Autograph French Designed Rose Lace Padded DD-G Bra)in a 36DD. Well, I don't quite know where to start. All the same issues as with the first bra plus gaping at the top of the cup. Again, Janet insisted that back was too tight even when I said (again) that it felt very loose and that I felt a bit droopy. There was absolutely no uplift and I feel the band starting to move and rub.

Finally, I tried the Rosie for Autograph Damask Rose Print Padded Plunge A-DD Bra with Silk  in a 36D (Janet's suggestion as the other Rosie bra had been too big in the cup in the DD.) Again, all the same issues, plus this time the wires at the front were sitting about three inches below my boobs. She proclaimed it a great fit.
I'd had enough by this time so said that I'd stick with the first and last bras. Janet very kindly showed me where the matching pants were.

So, the verdict. Sadly, despite a great manner and an obvious desire to help, Janet didn't seem to know anything about what a good fitting bra should look like or feel like. Interestingly she kept checking the fit from the side and the back as well as the front to see how the wires and the back lay. I don't know how she didn't notice that the wires didn't go far enough back or that the bands were too high. When she looked at me side on she didn't seem to notice the overspill in the cups either. I think the Marks and Spencer fitters are assuming people's bands are too tight because they have back fat. I certainly had loads of it in all these bras and I'm sure that's why she insisted they weren't too loose) but have none at all in my 30G/GGs. Until the fitters understand this issue, there is no hope!
I am not only depressed but actually feel quite sad and angry for all those poor women who were badly fitted today at this and other branches.

Next up, Edinburgh

I measured myself before I went out today - I measure 30.5" underneath, and 42" over in the bra I was wearing. A 30HH.

I nipped in to my local Marks and Spencer (Edinburgh Princes Street, a very large store) and requested a fitting. I was advised the next available time was in an hour, which was fine, I had a wander around while I waited then took a seat in the fitting rooms.

Whilst I was waiting I saw the bra fitter and I'm afraid I knew it was going to be grim. She was an extremely well-endowed lady, and her own bra was awful. This did not bode well for her bra knowledge. I also heard her fit another woman who I would estimate was around a 32 back, in a 38. Uh oh....  turn!

She took me in to a cubicle which had a curtained off section and asked me to strip off the top half down to my bra. I went in wearing a lovely new Ewa Michalak bra which fits like a glove, so she should have been able to see what a good bra looked like. Out came the measuring tape, she measured underbust and I was duly informed that I was "measuring at a 36" and that I was "probably an F or G cup". Now, knowing the M and S sizing system as I do I had picked one of these up, so we tried it on. I decided to play fair, so I put it on and let it ride right up at the back. It was AWFUL - I would say the back was at close to a 45 degree angle from where it belonged, and that's before i actually moved around. I tried to snap a pic and have drawn over the faint mark from where my own bra sat:

Sorry for poor quality but you get the drift...the back's way up
The bra did cover my breast, but it just sat there, absolutely no lift at all. My breasts were no higher than they were naked. I could pull the centre of this bra out at least 6 inches from my body.

There is no way you should be able to do this on a bra that fits

The fitter looked at it, said the cup looked great but the back was "maybe a little loose" and she would try me in a 34G because "if she went down a back she would have to go up a cup" and trotted out to get a 34G.

This was even worse. The back fat, oh dear lord the backfat. I have NO backfat in a bra that fits. She looked at it again, said the cup was "a tad gapey but ok", tightened the straps right up and said that the back was "much better"...then asked what I thought.

I decided to give her one more chance, and said that I thought the back was much too loose. This was when Plymouth's thoughts were confirmed as she indicated the massive backfat and said this was "overspill" and I couldn't possibly go down a band size. She also said I should be wearing it on the middle hook...

At this point, I thanked her, got dressed and left. Sadly she was with another customer as I would have loved to ask her what she thought of my properly fitting bra and explain. Alas, not this time. 

I was really really disappointed in this fitting. Woman around the UK trust this company to fit their bras, and they are getting it so very wrong. This isn't one size out - this is dramatically wrong. The bra I was in would have caused me pain as the shoulder straps dug in. A high street institution like Marks and Spencer should be one we can put our faith in, and given their response to our initial tweets I wanted to be wrong.

I wasn't.

We told M&S about how wrong they are getting it - have a look at @bra_guru on twitter and some posts on their facebook. They continue to insist that our bad fittings are "isolated incidents" even though thousands of women are reporting the same story, there online size chart ADDS INCHES, their youtube video on how to fit a bra ADDS INCHES and all their fitter ADD INCHES. And they are coming out worst in our poll, too.

Bravissimo are doing it right, but a lot of ladies are scared to go there because they think their boobs aren't big enough and fear being "laughed out of the shop". They are also still a relatively small chain. There is a real gap in the market for a major retailer who can sell and fit bras across the whole size range to start doing this right. So, come on M&S...we'll help you!


  1. This is so depressing. Come on M&S!

  2. I have learnt from experience that M&S and Debenhams have no idea at all on bra fitting and nor do my local department store (part of Fenwicks). I even take my teenage daughter to Rigby & Peller now as it's the only way to be sure she is in the right sized bra - I don't buy many from them (sadly too expensive), but at least we then know what to look for in other stores. I find John Lewis good once you know what size you really are.

  3. M&S getting it wrong is NOT an isolated incident. (Which you know of course!). My Mum was wearing a terrible bra & when I asked her about it she said M&S had sold her a 38C. Now, my Mum is tiny compared to me & I only wear a 36 band size, so I knew for a fact that was going to be all wrong (I wasn't sure about the cups - she has always worn a C but it wasn't as clear cut an error as the band). Needless to say she'd got it on the innermost hooks, but it was still loose. I took her to John Lewis in Sheffield (no Bravissimo available) & they seemed to have a better idea. She came away with a 34D & looking a hell of a lot better.
    My local lingerie shop is also pretty good - they do at least fit you into a nice firm band - no adding of extra inches! I talked a neighbour into going there recently; she needed a better bra after having lost part of an already small boob to surgery, but she needed me to go too, as she found the setting intimidating. Which I think is, sadly, why a lot of women don't go to these small shops but prefer M&S. Maybe there is a perceived pressure to buy in a small shop which you don't perhaps feel in a larger store..

  4. I think that's very true - in a larger department store you can "just go and grab something else" and then not buy whatever the fitted you in, so it's less intimidating.

    John Lewis seem to be better than M&S but still some pretty ropey reviews.

    There is such a gap in the market for a big company to retrain their staff and then publicise it - a lot of women don't trust the fitters but don't know what else to look for.

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  6. M&S don't have a clue! They put me in a 36E ... a week later I discovered Bravissimo and am now a very comfortable 32G!!! The lady in M&S had it ALL wrong - can't remember what size she measured me at, but when I said it felt too tight her approach was to keep going up a band size, rather than looking at the cup size! (I just read on another link that M&S don't use FF and HH in their sizing, so that means they were even further out and makes me wonder if an M&S G cup would fit me?) One good thing I WILL say for M&S - they gave me a full refund on the hideously uncomfortable bra!!!

  7. I totally agree with all these comments. I had a bra fitting at M&S in Birmingham and she brought me all the wrong size bras to try on and when I asked her why she had not brought my size she said they had not got my size in stock!

  8. Went into the plymouth store today. Was fitted as a 38 G. Couldn't believe the rubbish she was telling me. I had an inch between the cup and my bottom of my boob and she was telling me the inch gap was in fact my boob! I had also said I don't want my boobs to move much, but the bras she fitted were so lose. I will never go to marks and spencers again for a bra fitting!