I don’t know about you but the thought of going underwear shopping is a pretty daunting prospect to me. It’s not that I am embarrassed about doing it – gone are the years of blushing as I pass Anne Summers – it’s more the thought of where to start? Of course it is a good thing that there are so many shops to get decent underwear from but there are so many different types of bras, knickers, bodysuits, slips and so on out there that it can all get a bit overwhelming.
But at Lady Jojo’s Boutique we often get asked what underwear to wear under certain dresses we make and stock as many of our dresses are halterneck styles which begs the question, what bra do I wear? And similarly our range of pencil dresses often mean many want to wear some form of support to banish any unwanted lumps and bumps – well at least I know I do.
So to tackle these queries I took the plunge and went to the high street, armed with one of our own halterneck dresses and a tight pencil dress to see what underwear was out there that could answer these problems. I am pretty much the perfect candidate to do this as I am one of those awkward sizes (34 E – often a military operation to find) so I usually feel going braless isn’t an option however our handmade halterneck dresses do have boning and tie halter straps meaning it is not quite as nerve racking going braless. I would feel comfortable wearing it without a bra but sometimes it is nice to know there is some support at hand often in the form of a strapless bra which has to be able to stay up on its own accord and not be pulled up constantly. Also I have inherited an apple body shape from my mother, which means I am all hips, so pencil dresses and I aren’t normally friends and I wouldn’t dream of wearing something tight without some supporting underwear on.
New York Dress – £120
The first shop that springs to mind when I think underwear is Marks and Spencer and apparently I am not the only one as 8000 women are fitted for a bra every day in the UK with over 3500 lingerie advisors trained by the retail giant.
At the store I visited on Edinburgh’s high street there was a whole floor of the store dedicated to their underwear range so it took me a while to browse all that was on offer. Being a bit bustier than the average woman I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of DD+ options. I chose a variety of strapless and multiway bras to conquer the pesky halterneck dress dilemma. All of the styles fitted really well and all stayed up relatively well but the winner was definitely the Multiway Minimiser. Finally a solution for us big busted girls out there, a bra that can decrease the size of your chest so you can squeeze into dresses without having to go a size up due to our unruly cleavage!
Marks and Spencer also had a great range of support wear from waist cinching knickers to full bodies to body shaping tights there is bound to be something to cure all needs. I went for some body sculpting pants and a shaping body to try and smooth out those dreaded love handles. I personally preferred the knickers as opposed to the body as for one they were much easier to get on and felt more comfortable. Also the knickers didn’t look too ridiculous and actually had kind of 1950’s lingerie vibe with its high waisted style .
What’s more the customer service was exceptional with trained lingerie assistants at hand and even a ‘help’ button in the fitting room to shield any embarrassing moments of having to come out and ask for help in your undies…
Overall M&S was really great and would definitely suggest to shop here for woman of all sizes.
Underwired Multiway Minimiser DD-G Bra
Glamour Waist Sculpt Firm Control Underwired B-E Body
Glamour Waist Sculpt Firm Control Knickers
Next up was BHS which had quite a disappointing amount of stock in the store I visited. There were no bras in my size and I tired on some of the standard body shaping items which did the job and were cheaper than Marks and Spencer’s offerings with pieces starting from just £10 making this a definite destination if you are looking for underwear on a budget. BHS did have more options available online as well as some well known lingerie brands.
Black Seamfree Waist Cincher
Black Bodyworks Slip Dress
Black Cotton Mix Multiway
Then came Next who I was surprised to say had very little to their lingerie section in store and only went up to the standard D cup so for anyone in that size range it could be a good option. Furthermore there was no support wear to be seen so all in all a bit of a failed trip. Next’s online store fared slightly better but still not as expansive as I thought it would be.
101 Lace Multiway
101 Mutliway Bra
The last department store on my list was Debenhams. Like M&S there was a lot to choose from but unlike its rival it stocked well known brands such as Freya and Wonderbra. There were many brands and styles to choose from and trained help on hand. Similar results to M&S with similar prices to match.
I tried on a few strapless bras but found I was comparing them to the M&S miracle minimiser bra and they just didn’t hold up quite as well. I was quite impressed by the Wonderbra range and their bras are both very practical with the likes of the deep plunge bra but were also sexy which is a mean feat for support underwear.
They had a good range of shaping underwear including pretty lace high waisted pull in pants which ticked the box at being both functional and pretty. It was actually here that I found my favourite piece of supported underwear in the form of Debenhams ‘Black Shaping Waistnipper’. It was a nifty idea to just have the best bit of a bodysuit – the waist and not have the hassle of trying to squeeze into a full body shaper. It felt really comfortable on and helped to bring some more definition to my waist. I would recommend this form of under garment for fitted styles to banish any unwanted wobbly bits.
I think Debenhams would be a good choice if you were looking for a particular brand and for something more stylish.
Wonderbra Ultimate Strapless Lace Up to a G-Cup Bra
Black high waisted low leg shapewear pants
Black Shaping Waistnipper
I visited La Senza which, for being a sole lingerie store, had very little to offer in the strapless bra department and had no body shaping underwear what so ever. Also I was a little disappointed to see they only went up to a D cup, and for claiming to be underwear specialists this seemed a little curious. But for smaller busted ladies it could be an option for a strapless bra if you like one from their limited collection.
Bravissimo was always going to be an obvious choice for me as they are a plus size lingerie store that only stock sizes D+. I thought this store would have a great range of support and shaping underwear but there was not an awful lot of variety sadly. They only had a handful of strapless bras and they surprisingly didn’t have a lot in the form of body sculpting underwear just a few body suits. Also I find their products to be slightly on the pricey side but they do offer a great customer service and are renowned for their bra fittings which you often have to make appointments for as they are usually really busy.
Deco Strapless Bra
Lola Luxe Basque by Bravissimo
A recent lingerie venture set up by Theo Paphitis of Dragons Den fame is Boux Avenue. It is similar company to La Senza but I feel is slightly more successful as it has sizes ranging from A-H and up to a size 40 back. Unfortunately there was not a store in Edinburgh but looking at their online site there is quite a lot to choose from for all sizes and functions at fairly reasonable prices.
Sexy Plunge U Bra
Lastly came Ann Summers which is usually an experience in itself but was made more so by the fact that the particular day I decided to go shopping was on Valentine’s Day. Never have I seen the place so busy and so full of men getting last minute gifts for their significant others.
Anne Summers is obviously predominantly a sexy lingerie store so I didn’t expect to find many functional pieces such as strapless styles and sucky in pants but they had a fairly good range and even had a shapewear range.
This kind of store could also be a good choice if you didn’t want to go down the strapless bra route as it can be quite uncomfortable for some and it is hard to find one that sits in place and doesn’t have a mind of its own so a possible alternative could be a corset. Anne Summers naturally has a lot of corsets which could be a good option for both a halterneck or a tight pencil dress as corsets are strapless and obviously pull you in to create a desirable hourglass body shape. And you can see the before and after results of these two products.
Exaggerate Black Cami Suspender
My recommended products are Marks and Spencer’s ‘Multiway Minimiser Br’ aas it is a great strapless bra that provides support and sat well under the boned bodice of the halterneck dress. For the pencil dress I loved Debenhams ‘Shaping Waistnipper’ as it didn’t feel too restrictive, it couldn’t be seen under the dress and most importantly it created a nice streamline figure.
That was my brief venture into the world of underwear and lingerie. I have to say after spending the day going from shop to shop and looking a lot online the thought of underwear shopping is a lot less daunting than before. I also learned that there is so much out there to choose from that there really is something for everyone and for every function imaginable you just have to try on a lot of styles to find which ones are best for you.
Written by Katy Gordon