I have recently had to replace my bras—all of them. I hope you are aware that you need to replace your bras every few years or sooner! Up until two years ago, this would have involved fruitless hours either trudging around department stores searching in vain for something (anything) that fit, or dashing into Marks & Spencer, buying anything and everything in my size only to return the whole lot within the week. My world changed, though, when I discovered GapBody, Rigby & Peller and Bodas. All three offer underwear as it is meant to be—practical, pretty, just the right side of alluring and, above all, comfortable.
Rigby & Peller has a royal warrant—”By appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Corsetieres”; they did the same for the Queen Mother too. Perhaps as a result of this sort of patronage, the service in this family-owned business is peerless (failing retailers of Britain, take note). Recently when I visited after a significant hiatus (“Tsk, tsk, you should come every six months,” they said), the store was staffed by a delightful bevy of youngish women, all black-clad, without a “whatever” between them. In the back of the store, where the fittings take place, one “fitter” was engaging a group of older women in banter about the experience of bra-fitting. “When I first came here, I felt really uncomfortable about stripping off and letting someone just look at me,” said one lady. “And then having to stand in your knickers and wait for the bras to arrive, that was even worse,” another added. But now, they agreed, they would “never go back. It’s worth the money.” “The most shocked person in the store on my first visit was my husband,” said a well-maintained, honeyed blonde, “and that was when he stood at the cash register to pay.”
Then it was my turn. R&P staff pride themselves on being able to eyeball your breasts and know exactly your size and the sort of bra that would suit you. There is something more than a little uncomfortable about standing naked from the waist up in a changing room and letting a complete stranger give you the once over. Apparently, very few women wear the right-sized bra. Among the hints that R&P offer: there’s no such thing as a definitive bra size, the back of your bra should hug the narrowest part of your back and be at the same level as the front, underwires should curve snugly around your breasts and never cut into them. My favorite R&P bra is something they have carried for years —the “Avero” padded plunge by Marie Jo, £57.95. The genius is in its shape and the floral detailing on its straps, which renders the possibility of your bra strap showing a positive. Another in-store favorite is the Simone Perele “Nina” padded push-up, £64.95. If you cannot get to one of R&P’s six stores, try their website. Good though it is, as they say themselves, there’s no substitute for a personal fitting. Frankly, wherever you live, R&P is worth the trip.
Before I heard of of Bodas, I didn’t know that the reason thongs are uncomfortable is that people buy them too small (buy one size larger than you are), or that nude or dusky-pink bras look better under white shirts than the obvious white, or that one’s bra straps must fit snugly without pinching (and no slinging it on the last hook for comfort’s sake). Bodas embodies the Coco Chanel quote “elegance is refusal,” with understated color and restrained cut and shape. Fans are die-hards. I once met a woman at a party (an otherwise serious, high-flying lawyer) who confided she had every piece of Bodas lingerie. Why? “Because standing in their Notting Hill store on a Saturday and choosing my underwear is the most fun I have all week.” Which probably says more about her than about Bodas, but you get the drift. Try their smooth tactel padded “Balcony” bra, £56, and their “Bralet” £40 to name but a few.