The time has finally arrived and Victoria's Secret has landed in London at 111 New Bond Street. Victoria's Secret was founded in 1977 in California and since then it has become a cult name in both lingerie and fashion worlds. The brand has acquired an impressive following thanks to its iconic catwalk shows which feature an elite squad of the world's most sought-after supermodels: The Victoria's Secret Angels.
I first visited Victoria's Secret when I went on holiday to New York as a teenager. I begged my mum to take me to the store almost as soon as we arrived in the US and my girly teenage self was overwhelmed by the size of the store and the amount of cute underwear on display.
When I heard about Victoria's Secret coming to London, the teenager in me got quite excited, but I was dubious about anything fitting me as I have come a long way in understanding bra fitting and the importance of well-fitting lingerie since my teen years.
Victoria's Secret officially opened its doors at 111 New Bond Street on the 29th of August, but I decided to hold off on my visit for a little bit to see what the store was like after the initial buzz and lingerie mania had subsided..
When I arrived at the store, I was struck by the grand black exterior with the most amazing window displays! The windows exhibit the lavish costumes worn by some of the Victoria's Secret Angels in past catwalk shows..cue lashings of feathers, lace, sequins, diamantés and of course, impressive angel wings!
When I had finished gawping at the window display cases, it was time to enter the shop and boy oh boy, was it a sight to behold! The store has a very chic feel with a predominantly black colour scheme, which serves as an ideal backdrop to the bright colours, sequins and embellishments of the lingerie.
The Victoria's Secret store is reportedly 40,386 square feet across four floors (connected by a huge mirrored staircase with a ginormous flat screen tv) and it is easy to see why it would be easy to spend hours in there. Each floor oozes glamour and extravagance and the store is an amazing hybrid of shopping emporium, nightclub, museum and ladies boudoir!
The décor features hanging crystal chandeliers, a wall of perfumes, boudoir-style changing rooms and a myriad of VS Angels memorabilia on every floor; from costumes to framed portraits! The top floor even has a 'VIP' area - I had a sneak peek and the rooms were gorgeous with plush chairs overlooking a terrace (ideal for a laidback hen do) There were also some rather nice customer toilets (!)
I did actually like a lot of the lingerie on display - I love a lacey plunge bra and the microfibre styles and memory foam lined bras were beautifully soft to the touch (reminding me of some of the seamless microfibre bras that I used to buy from La Senza many years ago..)
Aside from the bras, there were also some knock-out lingerie pieces such as the 'Very Sexy' 'Seduction garter slip' in coral/ red and ivory and a gorgeous black and nude lace bustier..if only they didn't stop at a D cup!
The bottom floor is dedicated to the VS 'PINK' collection. 'PINK' is Victoria's Secret's younger 'collegiate' range; selling underwear, sleepwear, loungewear and sports wear. (It also acts as a 'transition' line to VS's slightly more 'grown up' ranges of 'Body' by VS and 'Very Sexy')
As you can see from the pictures below, the collection is young and playful with a distinctly girly vibe...cue lots of rainbow brights, neons and leopard print! Although it was slightly too garish for my taste, I could see how a lot of the lingerie would appeal to young teenage girls..
The second floor was probably my favourite, with its black, white and pink colour scheme and vintage style wallpaper. It was on this floor that I had my Victoria's Secret fitting experience and I'm sure that you will be keen to find out how I got on...
A shop assistant with a tape measure around her neck approached me and asked if I needed any help, offering to give me a shop floor fitting as I said that I wasn't sure what size I was. I happily obliged, quite intrigued as to what she would size me as. As with any undercover fit test, I was deliberately wearing an old, badly fitting bra in a 34D from La Senza and prepared myself for some interesting results. After measuring under my arms (not my underbust) and over my chest, I was shocked to hear that my 28FF bust was actually a "32B"! The shop assistant said that it would also be a good idea to get a fitting in the changing rooms to find the "perfect fit".
She escorted me to the changing rooms (which were a boudoir delight) and I was met by a very chatty and friendly girl who got one of her colleagues to give me a fitting. When in the changing rooms I asked whether I should take my top off or leave it on. The fitter said that it was fine to leave it on, but given that I had just been 'measured' with my clothes on, I thought it best to be fitted without my top on. Again, the fitter whipped out a tape measure and measured me under the arms and over my bust, stating that I was a "34B" - yikes!
There was no assessment of the current bra that I was wearing, so the fitter was 100% relying on what her tape measure told her. She came back with a 34B which, in all honesty, didn't even cover half of my breasts! I fastened the 34B on the tightest hooks and the band was clearly riding up, but nothing was mentioned about the bad fit apart from there being a 'gap' at the centre. She also brought me a 32B to try, which was also far too small unsurprisingly.
(Even by eye, it is easy to see that the Victoria's Secret 34B's were much smaller than the 34D bra that I wore into the shop!)
My fitter then decided that I needed to try a 36B to see if the gaping would go away, which of course it didn't! She looked at the bra and asked what I thought, to which I gave no input as I wanted to see where she would go from there. She then suggested that I tried a 36C. The 36C rode up my back terribly, but she merely adjusted the shoulder straps and pointed out that there was some "gapping" at the top, which suggested to her that I needed a cup size down (eek!)
Furthermore, she then stated that maybe the "34B as a sister size to the 36C" would be best..what?! At this point, I was growing more and more frustrated with the confusing size jumps and the result still being bulging cups and a back band riding up to my shoulders! I now felt utter despair at being told that a 34B was "sister size to a 36C"!!
(All of the fitter-recommended bras that I tried on..and not one remotely fit me!)
Taking a few deep breaths, I suggested that maybe I needed to try a 34D as it was "the size of the bra that I came into the shop wearing", to which she replied "yes, that's a really good idea..it will probably be just right". On trying on the 34D, she proclaimed it "perfect" and "just the right size". I had fastened the bra on the tightest hooks to see if she realised that the 34D was still much too loose in the back for me, but to make matters worse, she told me that a bra should be fastened on the middle hook to begin with as "it loosens with wear". I didn't even bother challenging it and hurriedly thanked her, stating that now that I knew my size, I would have a look at what was available on the shop floor.
Me in the 34D that I was told was a '"perfect fit" - you can see how much this bra was riding up my back and I certainly didn't fit into the cups...
"Hi Sexy. Try me on and see the difference the right bra makes" - I definitely didn't want to try this shirt on over the 34D that I had been given to wear..there wouldn't have been anything remotely sexy about the look that it gave me with clothes on!
(My fitting card)
After my disastrous fitting, I decided to go in search of the only sizes available that were anywhere near my 'true' bra size of 28FF: a 32DD (blue push up bra) and 32DDD (UK 32E) polka dot unlined full coverage bra and back to the fitting room I went on the floor below! Sadly both bras were too small for me, but they certainly fit a lot better than the 34D I was fit into...
(How gorgeous is the fitting room?)
After my disappointing fitting experience and the acute realisation that Victoria's Secret lingerie would not accomodate my bust, I decided to drown my sorrows in the beauty section...
(Victoria's Secret signature 'London' scent - delicious!)
The beauty section was a candy shop of products from makeup to body lotion to perfume. I was particularly taken by the fragrances and I especially liked the VS signature 'London' perfume, but at around £50, I thought it a bit expensive. I also tried the VS 'Love is heavenly' body mist, which I decided to buy as it was £9 and I really loved the scent.
To conclude, I am very much in two mind sets about the introduction of Victoria's Secret to the UK market. Undoubtedly, the store is an amazing experience and it is great fun to walk around, take in the atmosphere and be amazed by the costumes and décor.
The main issue for me is the poor sizing range on offer and their fitting service. Victoria's Secret seems intent on fitting women into the products available, rather than giving an accurate fitting that is based on the individual.
Being fitted at Victoria's Secret unfortunately goes down as one of the worst (if not worst) of all highstreet fittings that I have ever had. Being fitted as a 32B, 34B and 34D was so vastly different from my 'correct' 28FF size and the severe lack of fitting knowledge from the staff was quite frankly, shocking.
What I find particularly worrying is that a lot of young girls look to Victoria's Secret and its models as inspiration and their desire to buy into the Victoria's secret image and lifestyle will inevitably lead them to buy ill-fitting bras. I really think that as such a powerful brand, there should be more responsibility to fit women into the right sizes. The crux of the matter is: How can women love the bodies that they are in if they are crammed into bras that don't support or flatter their curves?
I don't believe that fashionable, sexy lingerie and great fit have to be divorced from each other and there really are so many great quality brands out there that champion this (see some of my reviews for some food for thought). I think that the important thing is getting people to strip back the glitz and glam of Victoria's Secret to see the the products as they are.
Next time you buy a bra, it would be interesting to ask yourself: "Would I buy it if it was in any other store?" "Am I being influenced by the models or celebrities that are selling it?" "Does this product really flatter my figure and fit me well?" "Am I being sold this product or am I choosing to buy it?" With these answers, you have just taken a vital step in taking back your autonomy as a consumer!
Now with that autonomy, buy the bra that fits!