Monday, 3 October 2011

Declaring war on +4: Undercover at Playtex's fitting focus group!

  Bra fitting has always been a topic of controversy in the lingerie industry and it is an area of particular interest to me, ever since I bid farewell to my badly fitting 34D's in exchange for 28FF's (click for my story). Ever since my Bravissimo revelation, which sparked my never-ending love affair with lingerie and brought me to start blogging, I have been trying to spread the word about good bra-fitting to anyone who will listen..a fervour that has been met by excitement and scepticism in equal measure by those around me!


  It is, of course, hardly surprising that women are confused by bra fitting and the techniques that surround it. Not only is it hard to be fit into a uniform bra size in shops, but it is also confusing to have such an array of fitting 'calculators' available online. I remember that I, too, once resorted to using online calculators to try to work out what bra size I was..leading to some very confusing and varying results indeed.

  Luckily, the online lingerie blogging community has united in the 'war against plus four', in an attempt to bring both companies and women across the globe to the realisation that adding inches to under and over-bust measurements leads to a very badly-fitting bra. Beckie from Busts4Justice, after campaigning against Playtex UK's  '+4' style fitting application (which told her 30G bust that it should be in a 34E), got Playtex to remove their online fitting calculator in June of this year. After this success, Beckie assembled a small army of +4 rebels (including fellow lingerie bloggers: Georgina from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and Cheryl from Invest in Your Chest) to attend a Playtex fitting focus group in London, for a discussion of their online sizing tool and talk about general issues in bra fit and buying...

  Before I attended the Playtex focus group, I was keen to find out just how ingrained the +4 measuring technique was to Playtex as a brand. I did not find much on the UK site with regards to fitting (suggesting that there is work in progress on this front), but I did make some interesting discoveries over on the Playtex US site in the form of the Playtex US calculator..

  After inputting my measurements (which are rough, as I fall slightly under 27 inches under my bust and slightly over 35 over my bust and no decimal places can be used), this was the result:

  The result of 32C has been produced by adding 5 inches to my 'uneven' underband measurement of 27. Then, the difference of my newly calculated underband measurement (32) has been subtracted from my bust measurement (35), giving a 3 inch difference which 'equates' (in this logic) to a C cup. This is a good example of where the +4(/5) fitting rule has proved inaccurate as a fitting method. As a 28FF/G, the equal volume in a 32 band would be 32E/F, so 32C (which I could by no means force my bust into!) is shockingly incorrect!

  Feeling fired up about the war on +4, I excitedly went off to my first ever bra fitting focus group, unsure as to what to expect...

  The Playtex fitting focus group took place at Lexis PR's head office in London and took the form of a discussion, which centred upon bra fitting, shopping and measuring guides, comparing different fitting tools online and sharing our own personal experiences.

  One of the first things that we talked about was where we liked to shop - with the common agreement that online was one of the top places where we bought clothing and (particularly) lingerie. Aside from the obvious benefits of the internet for snapping up a bargain, shopping without crowds etc., this trend also hinted at something much more worrying. Many of us had experienced particular problems when buying bras on the highstreet.

  Some of us complained that we had been fit as a different size depending on the shop, suggesting that there is a lack of standardised bra fitting techniques, as well as inconsistency in sizing patterns in the manufacturing process. Some of us had even been left baffled, walking out of a store without having been given a size at all! A prevalent issue seems to be that some shops do not know how to cope with sizes that fall outside of the sizes of the products that they stock! This has resulted in many women being fit into the available sizes, instead of fitters being honest about the sizes that they cater for. The distrust that this has sparked has lead many women, including myself, to go online and fit themselves.

  With this in mind, we discussed at length who women can look up to when it comes to getting accurate fitting advice. One lady stated that she often looked to blogs who reviewed bras and different brands. She stated that this was a more reliable way for her to see what other women (who were not working for brands) honestly thought about products. With three happy bloggers feeling thoroughly optimistic about this statement, this lead us to talk about our ideal bra fitting guru...


  It was general consensus that the ideal bra fitter would be someone who is honest, friendly and who makes you feel comfortable. It is vital that women feel that there is nothing embarrassing about going for a bra fitting and a fitter should definitely not make them feel self-conscious or as if their size is abnormal. Interestingly enough, our own mothers (who generally had taken us to get measured for our first bra) no longer acted as a source of advice when it came to bra fitting. Cheryl, Georgina and I each lamented the difficulties in trying to convince our mothers that they needed to be refitted into the correct sized bras. I remember only too well the amount of convincing that took place before I managed to drag my mother into a bra shop for some new bras!

  One of the issues, is that women (particularly of slightly older generations) are reluctant to change their attitudes towards bra fitting. This ingrained mentality of adding inches and thinking that any cup size over a D is humongous, is one that will not change overnight...

  The good news, is that Playtex is clearly trying to listen to real women, in order to promote the benefits of good bra fitting and consequently remodel their online bra fitting tool. We talked about what we considered to be the most effective types of bra fitting tools available. Much emphasis was placed on using visual media to attract the customer's attention - for example via step-by-step bra fitting 'do's and don'ts', interactive videos that simulated a store experience and the use of a diagram which shows where to measure yourself.

  All of us were in agreement that bra 'calculators' and tables did nothing to encourage women to measure themselves correctly. Bra buying should not feel like a complex mathematical formula, but rather serve as a guideline. Playtex agreed that no online tool could be a substitute for a real in-store bra fitting, but having a guideline was the best way to help women to find their correct size (rather than rigidly declaring someone as a particular bra size).


  Playtex also spoke to us about their newest collaboration with fashion guru, Mary Portas, in the launch of their new lingerie collection: "Mary Portas Recommends".  

  This is a very exciting partnership for Playtex, as it sees lingerie and fashion as a united force. Mary Portas states on the Playtex website: "Good, well fitted lingerie is absolutely key to any look - it's all about getting the foundations right. But comfort doesn't have to mean a compromise on style, and Playtex has designed two gorgeous new styles that combine fit, support and comfort with stylish glamour to perfectly complement my new fashion range."

  The collection is certainly very classic and stylish, whilst remaining comfortable and supportive - the perfect combination for the 'grown-up' women that it aspires to attract:

(The Mary Portas Recommends 'Satiny lace' bra in black, £30)

  Not only is this 3/4 balconette bra a real elegant beauty, but it also boasts a rather innovative new Playtex bra feature: underarm comfort cushions! I was particularly enthused by this addition, as there is nothing worse than underwires digging in and rubbing against your skin - sometimes the smallest things can make a big difference in comfort!


  I had a really great time at the Playtex fitting focus group and it was wonderful to be able to share my lingerie passion with other like-minded individuals. I am very much looking forward to seeing how Playtex evolves as a brand and how their fitting tool is modified after the focus group. The ability to attend a focus group really gave me hope that individual contributions can help to shape a brand, in particular one as well-established as Playtex. I was both delighted and thoroughly impressed by Playtex's willingness to listen and take on board our ideas, showing that they are a company in continual evolution and one which strives towards providing women with a pride and confidence in their own appearance through well-fitting, quality lingerie.

  One thing that is for sure, is that the War on +4 has definitely begun and the +4 rebels will stop at nothing to restore good bra fitting to the masses..

Show your support in the war against +4 by sharing this story with others!

Kitty xo


  1. A couple of days ago I just wrote about how Playtex US bra calculator works and how it's all wrong :P

    The recommend to add 5" and round up, resulting in a 6" increase in some cases!

  2. Hi Bratabase,

    Thanks for your comment. I've just had a look at your fab post about the Playtex US bra calculator - from what it appears, it is even more inaccurate than the UK one which was pulled!

    Here's hoping that Playtex USA have a read!

    Kitty xo

  3. Hi Kitty!
    I also reviewed the UK calculator, I find it surprising that they can't agree on the same method (both are utterly wrong though).

    If I had to choose a looser, it would be the UK one as I found it to have more bugs than the US one, and its method incredibly confusing plus a very suboptimal algorithm :P

    In the post you'll find a recreation I made from the old calculator using their method, you can test it with your measurements and see if it gives a different result :P

  4. Hi Romantic Lingerie,

    Glad you found it interesting - the War on +4 is definitely underway!

    Thanks for your comments!
    Kitty xo

  5. Bratabase -

    I just tried your recreation of the old Playtex UK calculator( I got exactly the same result of 32C!!

    Glad that has been pulled, so just the USA one to crack now!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Kitty xo

  6. I just went to the US Playtex site and it told me I was a 36 AA. I wore a 34 C (uncomfortably) for years before getting correctly fitted as a 28 H or 30 G... so this was pretty hilarious. (I actually once had a similar experience at the US's terrible but popular store Victoria's Secret—their "expert" measured me and sent me into the dressing room with an armful of 34 Bs—needless to say, I could not force my breasts into them!). I emailed them saying how wrong it was, but sheesh. Can they PLEASE take this off the US site? Bah!

  7. Hi Anon,

    Thanks for your comment. That's crazy that you got a 36AA on the US Playtex calculator!

    I have heard various people say that Victoria's Secret aren't really trained to fit for the bigger bust. It is great news that you know your true size and can now shop for bras that fit your small back size and larger cup size. It makes all the difference to support, comfort and confidence, doesn't it?

    I'm hoping that if enough of us speak up against the Playtex USA calculator, that they will remove it, like they did with the British one!

    Kitty xo


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