From everything I knew and had heard, I expected bra shopping in Europe to be like going back on the British high street 10-15 years. Fourteen years ago, I was a self-conscious fourteen year old with genetically inexplicable E-cups, being strapped in to badly fitting torso-sized bras out of boxes whilst inadequately trained women clucked on loudly about how ‘unusually enormous’ I was.
Amsterdam at least wasn’t that bad. The women I spoke to (though admittedly in boutiques, not 1996 M&S) were knowledgeable and professional and could recognise a decent fit without clutching a tape measure like a rosary. The shops were beautiful, with a wall of bras displayed behind glass like mounted butterflies, each concealing a size-specific drawer for you to leaf through as if it were from your own wardrobe. And the bras weren’t all enormous boulder-holders either, but a mix of styles and colours from brands I know and wear.
Lingerie shopping in Amsterdam isn’t exactly like going back 15 years on the British high street. But I, shopping in Amsterdam, did. As I slipped the bras on and off – Freya I didn’t recognise, Freya I did recognise, Prima Donna, Prima Donna Twist, Lejaby, Empreinte – I felt my neck prickle. The ones I liked were far too sheer, the ones I loved weren’t in stock in the right size, the ones I was interested in came up too big, and the ones that fit were horrid. With each moment, the twenty-eight year old woman that had walked in to the shop vanished from the mirror. Insecurity by insecurity, the fourteen year old teenager came back. I felt massive and repulsive and, worst, I felt cornered.
I got dressed, grabbed my stuff, and bolted. Calmer outside, I wondered why I’d had such a stressful, visceral reaction against the experience. I felt exactly like I had as a teenager: not having a choice but to buy a bra yet having no choice over what it might be, and hating my body for not conforming to what seemed normal for everyone else. It was a stark reminder of how emotionally charged lingerie can be, and how important it is to get it right. And if I, with my relatively modest 30G/65G bust can find it this difficult, how many more women – the H cups and beyond – are being failed?
Later I found a perfectly fitting purple version of my trusty coral Freya Jolie and bought it. At €83 for a set that usually costs nearly half that in the UK, it was an uneasy purchase made simply because I now have only two day bras to get be through the next month. Usually I believe in shopping locally, but at those prices there really is little choice but to buy abroad. I know that logically the only way to bring the prices of these bras down in Europe is to create more demand for them, and that shopping on UK websites wont help with this. But €80 (and Freya was the cheapest brand I tried) is just unfeasible for such an essential.
Properly fitting bras are empowering and enabling and absolutely integral to confidence and self-esteem. So do use the fitting services, and use the shops for special purchases a couple of times a year if you can afford it. But also use the amazing resources available from the UK. Boost demand instead by joining campaigns for fitting awareness (like the brilliant busenfreundinnen.net) and dragging friends and family to be fitted out of their B-cups. European retailers may not be great with ours yet, but material shifts in supply and demand are figures they will always understand.
You’re so damn right! And thanks so much for mentioning us!
I love you guys! Blogging about you next week – could I e-mail someone with some questions? xx
Of course! You are welcome! I’m the owner of Busenfreundinnen, you can write me an e-mail. Thank you so much! 🙂
Fantastic – thank you!
I love your blog! And you are absolutely right! After being fitted (in the busenfreundinnen forum), I tried several times buying 34F bras in my home town, but the outcome is exactly like your description of the Amsterdam shop, so for me it’s brastop and figleaves again 😀 What would I do without online UK stores, I wonder? (Oh wait, I know: buy badly fitting bras in Germany for 80€ +…)
ps. if you ever need help with some German, just write me an email! 🙂
Is there an internet forum similar to the “Busenfreundinnen” in English?
Danke Uta! I may take you up on that once I’ve wrapped my head around all this Dutch 😀
There isn’t one just like busenfreundinnen, but we do have the new and brilliant Freya Bra Doctor on Facebook (see this post: https://busts4justice.com/2011/03/07/doctor-doctor/) who will diagnose fitting problems and help you find a solution. And there are lots of bloggers like me writing to raise awareness and celebrate big boobs too. We will get there in the end… 😀
There is 32D, which is a community on livejournal. Not nearly as large and as structured as Busenfreundinnen, but the members there can be helpful too.
If you really want to go to a shop to be fitted, take the train for about half an hour.
In utrecht you’ll find the sandrabra. I, with my 28G, can always try several ranges there.
You’ll be ripped off for a modest €55 per bra, and they only sell Eveden brands.
One pair of knickers will cost you about €30, if I remember correctly.
I’ve heard a lot about Sandrabra – I will have to check it out one day. It’s crazy the money – I’ve been trying things on at de Bijenkorf and Salon de Lingerie for size and then just ordering from the UK: even with shipping it’s half the price than to buy here!
Just came across these oldish European bra-hunt articles! Thank you for raising the plight of those of us not in the UK. I started a blog in Spain (http://sujerevolution.blogspot.com) to try and raise a bit of interest/awareness about bra sizing and availability in a country where if you ask the average 30-year old their size they will most likely just give you a number. So many shops just sell B-cups it helps propogate total confusion. My little blog is a far cry from Busenfreundinnen, which looks like a fantastic resource for German speaking ladies with so much going on and lots of dynamism. But for any Spanish speakers looking at these pages, I invite them to pop by and look at Suje Revolution (Bra Revolution!). Little by little I get more Spanish visitors to the blog and it’s so exciting when someone leaves a comment that a ‘how to know if your bra fits or not’ type article has helped them!
Thanks so much for your fab blog which is a great resource to somebody still learning every day about bra stuff (me!!!!).
Great to hear from you! I’ve just shared your blog with my Twitter followers – being here on the continent has really put in perspective how far the UK has come in terms of fit and servicing bigger boobs, so it’s great when people stand up and start shouting for this side of the Channel to catch up! Busenfreundinnen is immense, but if you check out my interview with one of the founders (https://busts4justice.com/2011/04/28/we-love-busenfreundinnen/) you can see it had very humble beginnings. Perhaps you could start the Spanish sister site? 🙂 Thanks for getting in touch! xx