I know that I like to complain about the state of the Australian mainstream lingerie market, but here I want to outline, concretely, its main faults, why it is letting us all down, and what should be done about it. This post has no pictures, you are warned. Part one, which is this, deals with the practical and external aspects of lingerie down under (#awful puns).
Firstly, the only places you can buy buy bras are the two big department stores, small boutiques, which are quite expensive, sometimes hard to find, and do not often carry all sizes, cheaper department stores like Target (http://shop.target.com.au/) and K-Mart, and the chains Bras N Things (http://www.brasnthings.com/) and Cotton On Body (http://shop.cottonon.com/shop/body/). (That was a mouthful indeed). This presents problems, because, the main focus of the department stores is not to carry a huge array of bras, lingerie and accessories, which is understandable, so only a narow range of brands is showcased, and rarely accessories, corsets, bloomers, etc. The lower end of these carry from an 8AA (30AA) in training bras ONLY to an E cup in plus size bands, which, I suppose, means they are acknowledging a more diverse size bank clientele. But COME ON! what about D+ sizes, and 28 and 30 bands, and I mean not just in AA cups for juniors. Hell, little girls wearing wired bras should probably be given 26 (or even 24) bands if need be (and grownups for that matter). My first bra was a horrifically fitted 10B (32B) bra by Berlei (http://www.berlei.com.au/bras/shop-by-style/wire-free/first-wirefree-bra.html#80=65&142=521), from Myer, one of the two main 'respectable' department stores, fitted to me after a 10A Bonds bra was deemed 'too big' . Well DUH. I was a super-skinny 14 year old, more of a 24 or 26 band. As it is now, I am only 27" on my ribs. That bra HURT.
Myer (http://www.myer.com.au/) does carry 30 bands in D-G cup sizes, but only really in the CBD stores, not suburban branches (I do not think DJs does). Also, the fitters are only sporadically competent, ie, I have been fitted as an 8DD/E (30DD/E), which, at the time, was only a band size off, a 10D (32D), 6F (28F, which they didn't carry, and the fitter did not know where to buy) and a 10C (32C). Oh yeah, and that time a scary Russian fitter told me that the 8E Freya bra I was trying was "only for big breast lady". This was all at Myer. David Jones (http://shop.davidjones.com.au/djs/en/davidjones/women) apparently, (according to the website) carries 3 bras in 8DD/DDD. That's not even Australian sizing! Confusion!
So the high prices and store reputation convince buyers that hey are getting the right garment, when this is frequently not the case. Solution? Carry more bras in a bigger range of sizes! David Jones; Chantelle and Simone Perele have more sizes than you stock, and Myer' so do Freya and Elle McPherson. You are both stores that promise quality, so PLEASE deliver. Also, Myer, train your fitters more consistently. There is a misconception that a 'quality' fitter fitted you, and so the bra must fit. Obviously, this is not always the case. David Jones I have not been to in a while, not being impressed with my local branch, and the CBD store not having anything close to fitting me, so I can't comment of the fitters as of late.
Next are the two chain brands, Bras N Things, which is a less cheap, less pretty and less famous version of Victoria's Secret, and Cotton on Body. Bras N Things offers from an 8A (30A) to a 22G (42G), exhibiting this weird Australian G cup barrier. So their size range is pretty good for Australia. But the quality, to me, seems sort of cheap and scratchy looking and feeling. It is not sophisticated or elegant. Also, when I still fit the cups of 8E bras, I got a funny flattened look. So the quality isn't the best, and it can be expensive for what it is, occasionally a bra is $60 AUD or more (around the same in USD) full price. Meh. This brand has shops everywhere, but I do not think it is so swish.
Cotton on Body makes bras in 8A-C (30A-C), 10-12A-E and 14A-DD. I don't think either of these shops do a good job as dedicated lingerie shops. Solution? I am not going to advocate the abolition of chain stores, as I feel that, when offering a desirable commodity, they have as much of a place as independent designers, and can be dependable on offering basics and consistencies. What I would like is chain stores like Bravissimo (http://www.bravissimo.com/), Boux Avenue (http://www.bouxavenue.com/), and Rigby and Peller (http://www.rigbyandpeller.co.uk/). These stores are dedicated to lingerie, everywhere, and, in the first and last twos cases, carry a large range of brands. Boux Avenue caters to a younger, poorer clientele (like me), and is tacky, while also being pretty and over the top and, well, fun! *Cough, cough Australia!*
Lastly, boutiques. I think that all boutiques, unless specified as a 'large' or 'small' band shop, should carry bands from 28-42, or even higher. You pay more at a boutique for a superior service and product, which is what you should be getting. Also, prices! In the department stores, bras, especially D-G ( an heaven help you if you are over a G cup), are usually over $50 or $60 dollars, at LEAST. In boutiques, this figure can become a 3 digit number, or close enough, sometimes for brands like Panache, Freya, and Curvy Kate. This makes boutiques obscenely expensive and completely unaffordable (which is why I buy online from the UK). I think that if boutiques were a little cheaper, even by 15-20%, they would be a lot more successful. Also, they really must stock 28 bands.