April 02, 2011

Intimacy Bra Fit Specialists Review


While in Chicago I found myself at the Bloomingdales, which is located in a mall off the Magnificent Mile. That mall also had a store I had heard a lot about from other larger bosomed ladyfriends, called {intimacy} Bra Fit Specialists. I think Oprah had hyped the store at one point too.

Anyway, I didn't make an appointment or anything but I knew when I was heading to a city with many shopping options that I wanted to try and locate some new foundation garments. My favorite bras were fitting me oddly and I feared maybe I needed a different size. I scoured the discounts at Nordstrom Rack in the Loop and on North Michigan but came up empty. I could have gone to Pittsburgh's Nordstrom or Saks where I had been fitted previously, but I was eager to see if the hype about Intimacy was founded. They were able to see me almost immediately. I hadn't been fitted (other than when I bought my wedding bra at Smartform Pittsburgh) for a few years. And they say you should go whenever you have a change in weight. I will detail my experience below (without photos because that would be weird).

Some things to consider before you go:

*You might want to make an appointment. They can get busy, particularly on weekends. 
*I am not the most modest gal when it comes to being fitted but I was very glad that I happened to wear a slip that day. It made the changing process a lot more clothed than it might have otherwise been.
*Although you weren't obligated to buy a bra if you were fitted, the business model presupposes that once you learn you are wearing a size you don't own that you will be amenable to shopping. This would be fine except...
*The bras were EXPENSIVE. I usually wear Wacoal, Chantelle, Le Mystere, Fayreform, Freya, and what not, so it isn't like I expected to be spending $10. But these bras started at $90 and went all the way up in price from there. I definitely felt major sticker shock.
*You can probably find the bras/brands they carry for less elsewhere. There is a markup. This is likely because of the level of service you receive, but also because you are a captive audience. It's like buying beer at the ballpark. Expect to pay more than you might elsewhere.
*Once you learn your correct size you can absolutely go elsewhere and try on bras at lower price points. Or locate the ones you liked for (on average) $20 less than what they charged there. (Feel free to marvel over the fleeting beauty of a free and open market like a good capitalist consumer).
*If you do buy from them, they will do free alterations at the point of sale or in the future. This includes if/when the band stretches and you need/want the hook closures to be tightened up.
*They don't allow returns so buy carefully and try not to get wrapped up in the excitement of wearing an amazing(ly expensive), well-made, perfectly-fitting bra. They offer exchanges/store credit only.
*There's no tax on clothing in states like PA but in the city of Chicago, the tax on clothing was almost 10%. Now I use the public transit and love the amenities of a big city like Chicago so I am on board with paying taxes to support such things. But I personally felt another sticker aftershock when I realized that tax would be assessed on my purchases.

My fit specialist was very professional and kind. She was efficient and explained to me how they fit there. No measuring tapes or math. They do it based on visual signifiers. She took one look at me in my own bra (without checking the size I was wearing or asking me what I typically wore) and said, "I will be right back with some bras in size 32dd/e." I was wearing 34dd/e so although it wasn't the size she determined, I wasn't that far off. The experience was educational and eye opening, particularly when I switched from the bra I was wearing to the one she fit me with. She brought a few styles to try but it was clear that my favorite was the sturdy but beautiful lace number you see below. I'm not into molded cups and I like things that don't have much of a profile underneath lighter-weight clothing. Lace fit the bill.


I ended up loving the French bras of a brand called Empreinte for their fit and their appearance. Each one had a back-wing which, at my cup size I think is important. My favorite style was the Melody in lace, which you can see above.

To be honest, I left feeling mixed about the whole experience because while I really liked the bras I tried and the person who helped me, I didn't like the idea of paying $35 or so more in mark up on each bra. Personally, I would prefer to pay the fit specialist a one-time fee. $20-35 for a bit if personal attention and advice isn't that unreasonable, but $20-$35 or more PER BRA is enough to deter me from being a frequent/repeat customer. At least now I know. And as they say, knowing is half the battle.

24 comments:

guest said...

Actually, my experience with the bra specialist was not good at Intimacy. I felt rushed and one of the bras does not fit properly. Now I am having a hard time getting it exchanged. I was willing to shel out the extra dough for the right fit but my experience was not good. I doubt if I will ever shop their again.

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

I'm really sorry to hear that. I wonder if it varies per store or per time of day? Or maybe per sales person personality? The exchange policy definitely favors the store rather than the customer, which might be good reason to buy with a credit card that has strong customer purchase protection (like Amex). And the prices are very inflated compared to websites that carry the same brands (but without the services markup).

I hope you are able to find satisfaction and that your hard earned money is either refunded or exchanged for a properly fitting undergarment!

heatherfonseca said...

I went to a local shop that only sells bras for large busted women, and I too had a bit of sticker shock. I bought a bra and a "merry widow", you know one of those corsety things. But it was worth it. My new bra really makes my clothes look good!

Love,
Heather
http://thestyleconfessions.com/

P.S. congrats on making into the Links a la mode!

Michal Sharon said...

Your post is very interesting and ell written. Thanks for the info!
in Israel we don't have that special fitting, there are some lady who say they know your size but everyone was wrong about my size...
BTW the prices of DD+ bras in Israel is about 100$ and up. I actually try on bras in Israel, and order online from brastop, it's like half a price.

Kezia Pearlman said...

Great post! Oh the trials and tribulations of being busty and bra shopping. I've had great luck with bra fittings at Nordstrom in San Francisco. I was fitted for the 1st time 3 years ago. I thought I was a 36DD. Turns out I'm a 32FF. That was traumatic. I was like, seriously, I'm a double F? But today I look a lot better in my clothes and feel more confident about how I look. But I never buy just because it's my size. I go back to Nordi's and try it on with the fitting lady close at hand. Because there can be size fluctuations depending on brand, style, etc.

Fashion Limbo said...

A lot of money for a bra, especially when these are garments you need to have plenty of, and hey, once you have been fitted correctly, you may want to buy several on that occassion.
In the UK, a budget friendly store, M&S also has a form of "bra fitting" but it really depends where you go and if the staff there are good. Bras there are generally good quality and reasonably priced. I did it once, got a lovely girl to fit me and ende up buying one of my favourite bras...and will shed tears the day it's overused and needs to go to the recycling bin ;)

Laura said...

I was previously wearing a 32D and then got fitted as a 28G. Very eye opening.

Featherfactor said...

Wow this store sounds super interesting - I might make a stop there just to pick up a bra, even with the markup, as the advice sounds worth it...thank you for sharing :)

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

The prices are really the major downfall. Bras are the sort of pieces you want to have in rotation. And at those price points a rotation would have cost a small fortune.

I stopped going to VS when they kept insisting I was a larger band/smaller cup size (that they happened to carry in store vs my actual online only size).

Thank you for reading!

Desert Flower said...

I see this on What Not To Wear all the time and have always wondered what it's like. I remember that Oprah episode, I can't remember the exact statistic - something like half of women wear the wrong bra size. I wish something like this was available where I live. Although I agree that saving the money by being fitted then buying elsewhere would be tempting, I often wonder how much money I spend trying to find the best deal. Thanks for the recap, this was interesting!

Natasha said...

I'd shop there in a heartbeat! I routinely pay over $100 for Freya bras from my local shop because it is what they seem to cost here. Having a proper fitting is worth the markup to me. I don't get free alterations, though - would I ever love that!

Notes from a Stylist, Lobler/D said...

nice post - congrats on making the IFB weekly roundup !

LittleRus said...

Great post. They certainly know how to tempt a woman - just give her a handful of beautiful lingerie pieces! I wouldn't be able to resist 100%. :) I also think that every girl/woman should experience the fitting service at least once to learn what's right and what's available around. I think my very first experience was one of the best shopping experiences I've ever had and I actually made friends with the lady who owned the boutique. :)

Alamodeetplus said...

Oh I wish I was closer and it was possible to get fitted by these people, because I can NEVER find a bra that fits my tiny lady friends, but broad back right at all.

emi s. said...

I love Intimacy! I bought one bra, then went online to buy more in my new size - I think that's the best way to do it.

Leslie Joy Ickowitz said...

This is a perfectly timed find for me. Thank you!

jezebel538 said...

I like the sound of everything but the prices. I was actually having a right ol' bitch about Victoria Secret the other day because they dont seem to stock normal sizes. No 32dd (which I am) and in fact the only dd's they do only start at 34 and only go up as far as 36. Bah. Id rathe go where you were and spend extra money than go to V.S. and get a badly fitting bra.
Congrats on making the IFB links a la mode this week!

jaded said...

I have had good success with the Nordstrom Bra fitting as well. We don't have intimacy on the West Coast (at least where I live) and I have hit or miss luck with the indie shops. Nordstrom has a pretty reliable selection, and decent fitters.

I tend to stop there to try and buy new lingerie.

ksw said...

I am glad you had a good experience. Mine and my daughter's was terrible. I'd never shop there again and highly recommend that others avoid it.

k said...

Fyi - int Intimacy's prices are not inflated. They sell bras that are designed and manufactured in europe in with excellent quality control. I think simone perele isperhaps the only brand they sell that can also be purchased in a department store, and at a very similar price.
And honestly why would you advise women to walk into a store, use salespeople for their time and advice, take up their fitting room, and then leave and buy it somewhere else? That is just rude.
You don't like your time wasted, don't waste the time of others. Because if the advice that fitter ( who is employed and trained by a that bra store) gives you is valuable useable advice, dont you think they deserve to be compensated for it?
All this talk about price and you loved empriente..one of the priciest brands out there. Their bras START at $155.

bbn said...

Thats nice. Its nice to waste the time of a salesperson then go find it elsewhere. You dont like your time wasted ... then dont waste the time of others that are simply trying to do their job. And if the information they give you is useful, dont u believe they deserve compensation for it?

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

Hi there. I deleted your duplicate comment since it was a slightly condensed version of the above sentiment. Thanks for reading. I see that you have a lingerie store yourself so you definitely have plenty of first hand knowledge about fittings and the labor involved. I believe you have misinterpreted me. I say above that although you are not obligated to buy from them, the assumption is that you are taking up someone's time and will buy a bra once you know your size. There are no requirements that consumers do so but I never suggest that anyone "use salespeople for their time and advice." My advice to take that new knowledge about size to make consumer decisions in the future has no bearing on the initial contact and point of sale with an Intimacy fit specialist or any other bra fitter. So the notion that I am telling people to "waste someone's time" is a projection at best. If that is something you have experienced extensively in your work as a lingerie boutique owner, then that must be incredibly frustrating for sure. I empathize and think that would be problematic to do especially when it comes to smaller mom and pop shops.

You are incorrect about Intimacy's prices versus the manufacturer's suggested retail. I did the research before writing this post and determined that Intimacy's sticker prices indicated an average mark up of between 15 and 20%. I also note above that this is justifiable due to the level of service one receives while there. That doesn't make it any harder to swallow on the consumer end of things.

To act as though price has no bearing on consumer choice is naive at best and offensive at worst. We don't live in a world where money is no object for the vast majority of consumers. Regardless of class status, I do believe that women deserve the opportunity to wear bras that are comfortable and that fit them.


Good luck with your store and thank you again for reading.

GOT RIPPED OFF said...

They do not stand behind the products they sell and will not refund your money. I paid $181.00 for a bra and hardly wore it. An unwire started sticking out. I took it back and they wanted to charge me $18.00 to repair it. I told them I wanted my money back instead for I felt an $181.00 bra should last a couple of years and charging me $18.00 for repairs was outrageous. I will never go back to that store again. I am going back to Nordstroms since they stand behind the products they sell. Intimacy (bra fit experts) has the worst customer service policy of any fine undergarment store I have dealt with. Beware customers...beware.

GOT RIPPED OFF said...

YES, I AM GOING BACK TO NORDSTROMS! THEY STAND BEHIND THE PRODUCTS THEY SELL.

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