It may surprise many people to learn that NY is not an endless treasure trove of amazing lingerie shopping destinations for fuller bust brands. There are a handful of lingerie stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that is not a lot for a big city that is supposed to have everything. Once you get about 20 minutes outside of the “city”, options dwindle rapidly. Head east, and you’ll find yourself in another world entirely. Looking for bras on Long Island is especially disappointing because, despite some of the largest concentrations of malls and luxury shopping in America, there is a baffling paucity of lingerie retailers catering to non-matrix cup and band sizes.
I found out about Helen of Troy Bras when I was passing through NY on a visit about a year and a half ago. I should interject briefly here that Long Island’s privately owned boutiques are, well … hit or miss. Having already had terrible experiences elsewhere, I was hesitant to try a new shop. Helen of Troy Bras was a bit of a drive from where I was visiting. Would it be worth it?
A couple of things drew me to making a trip to Helen of Troy’s petite locale in Massapequa Park on Long Island. First, they were basically the only place I could find in the vicinity that had the Panache Sport bra on the rack when I desperately needed a sports bra and wasn’t sure what size to order. Second, I did a little browsing online and found that they had quite a bit to offer.
About Helen of Troy Bras
With so few fuller bust-friendly stores in the metro NY area, I was pleased when I saw brands like Parfait by Affinitas, Elomi, Chantelle, Curvy Kate and Cleo/Panache on the Helen of Troy Bras website. A brick and mortar store with band sizes 28-48, up to K cup, in bras and swimwear? Yes, please.
In addition to a good variety of full bust brands, Helen of Troy offers free fit consultations. Of course you can do this in-store, but they also offer a unique service: online Skype fittings. I haven’t made use of the latter since I visited the store in person (which is what this review is about), but it’s a noteworthy option if you have no reputable lingerie shops nearby. Another bonus is that Helen of Troy offers free shipping anywhere in the US on any purchase. So although this review is primarily to highlight a local b&m option, you don’t have to be in NY to take advantage of their offerings.
Site visitors and subscribers receive regular discounts like 15% or $10 off a purchase. Apart from promotional emails, they also send out helpful fit information and tips every now and again, most of which is posted on their blog, For Epic Proportions. I don’t think they’re adding videos quite so often anymore, but what stood out to me at the time was Helen of Troy’s YouTube account with video reviews showcasing some of the bras. I love video reviews and find them to be a really helpful touch.
Finally, I can relate to the story behind Helen of Troy Bras from the founder, Jessica Johnson, who was amazed upon visiting Europe that full bust brands could be so accessible, and returned to the US with a mission: to “liberate” American women “from the ill-fitting bras too many people think are okay”. I didn’t meet Jessica on my visit, but I did get help from the lovely Veronica Wyles who features in many of the shop’s YouTube videos.
My visit: First impressions
Helen of Troy is located in a well-appointed shopping center in Massapequa Park (your typical LI strip mall) about 45 minutes east of Manhattan. It’s right near the Sunrise Mall, and not far from two LIRR stops if you’re coming out from Penn Station.
The store itself is rather small and cozy. Upon entering, it appeared well-stocked, clean and nicely decorated, with pale blue-green walls and design touches that gave it a modern boutique feel. I appreciate that while it was obviously a lingerie store, it wasn’t overly girly or gaudy. Most of the bra and panty sets were hanging along the two side walls, while tables and racks in the center of the store displayed more items of lingerie, shapewear, underwear and accessories. Everything was tidy, organized and not cluttered.
(At the time of my visit, I never thought that I would start a lingerie blog, so apologies for the horrible quality photos that I took on my phone.)
When I stepped inside, I didn’t notice any other shoppers, which is great for me because I find it easier to shop when it’s not too crowded. A shop assistant greeted me right away and asked if I needed any help. I had, in fact, called ahead prior to my visit since I was reluctant to drive an hour if they didn’t have what I was looking for. On this trip, I was searching for a Panache Sports bra. I wanted to try on both the wired and non-wired versions to figure out my size(s) in each, but was especially interested in the non-wired. When I called ahead, I asked if they had these bras in my usual size, a 30G, as well as a good selection of sizes around that since I might need to size down in the cup or up in the band. The answer was yes on all counts, so I arranged my visit and was excited that I might actually be able to buy the bra in store right away rather than spend weeks buying and returning online.
I zoomed in on the Panache Sports bras when I arrived, but the overwhelming impression I got from the shop floor was wow, that’s a whole lot of Parfait. You can kind of see in the photos that virtually every bra and set hanging up is Parfait by Affinitas with the exception of the Panache sports bras.
Fitting and shopping experience
I don’t remember the name of the first shop assistant who helped me, but she handed me off pretty quickly to Veronica for my fitting when I mentioned that I had called ahead about a specific sports bra and I wanted to try a few sizes.
Veronica was very friendly and professional. I’m not so great in social situations and get a bit of anxiety with interactions. In particular, I find it stressful in lingerie boutiques because you never know if the consultants or fitters are going to be pushy or too hands on. I prefer to try things on by myself and not to get naked in front of a fitter. After a couple of minutes talking to her, I felt more at ease. I probably unloaded too much fit information on her in general as I tried to explain why I wanted to try both the wired and non-wired sport (full on top, short roots, etc.) and my main fitting issues. She gave me the option to try on bras and then have her take a look and help me assess the fit and go from there.
I was disappointed to find out that, contrary to the information I received when I called ahead, they did not have that many sizes of the Panache Sport in stock. In the wired, they only had 2 sizes worth trying and there were no sizes in my range in the non-wired, which was really what I hoped to try since they are next to impossible to find in stores. I felt pretty early on like it was a wasted trip because my chances of walking away with a sports bra were slim.
As predicted, the 30G wired sport was too big in the cup. I tried a 32F, the only other nearby size, and that fit in the cup, but was swimming in the band. Based on that, Veronica and I divined that a 30FF would be my best fit. (I later ordered one online in this size and it wasn’t a great fit. I would have loved to have been able to determine that in store since that was the point of my visit). I can’t put a pile of blame on the store for not having every size of every bra in stock, but I felt bummed since I had called ahead to make sure first. The 30G she suggested for the non-wired version turned out to be my correct size at the time, but it took me another 3 weeks before I found one online at a decent price.
I really didn’t want to leave the store empty handed. I mentioned to Veronica that I was also looking for everyday bras. This was prior to a summer trip and I wanted a t-shirt bra or lined bra – something that wouldn’t show so much under my clothes. I’m fairly certain that every bra she brought me was Parfait. The ones that I remember were Charlotte (both cuts) and Fiona. I tried them in 30G.
The Charlotte Balconette bra was better than the Side Support version which was way too much bra and wire for me, but the 30G cup was too small. Fiona appeared to fit better in the cup, but the band was loose and the straps were only partly adjustable and made of a stretchy material that meant I couldn’t keep the underwires near my IMF without lifting the straps up. We talked a bit about altering the straps and Veronica remarked that it was my best fit of the ones I tried. Admittedly this was true, but I strongly believe that I would have quadded out of the cups if the band and straps were the right lengths. It was on sale and I really wanted to come away with a bra, but I left Fiona behind to think it over.
At the time, I was having a lot of trouble finding any bras that fit, so I took the opportunity to talk with Veronica about my common fit issues, like having roots so short that I’m functionally full on bottom. She took it all in and even asked me if I worked in lingerie since I sounded so knowledgeable, which I found funny because I had pretty much only just discovered ABTF and Bratabase. She seemed on point with things like scooping all the breast tissue into the cups and accurate band sizing, so that bodes well for their fittings.
In the end, I just don’t think they had anything that practical for me in the store at that time. Parfait bras are pretty and well-made, the ones I tried just weren’t right in terms of fit or what I needed at the time. A lot of the styles were full coverage, balcony or plunge. Few of those play well with petites and very soft tissue. I wish I had checked out more Curvy Kate and Panache while I was there. I don’t think they had many in the store, though, since Veronica didn’t bring me any of those to try. There were no Freya or Fantasie or half cups in general, which work better for me. I browsed briefly around the shop after my fitting and try-on, but didn’t have that much time to do so and I trusted that Veronica had pulled all the possible matches based on what I asked for.
She wrote me up a visiting card with her name, a record of the bras that I had tried and her suggested size for me in those, none of which they had in stock except for the aforementioned Fiona. I learned later that what she wrote down as the Charlotte Balcony (it was the padded balconette model) doesn’t actually come in a 30GG (the side support version of Charlotte does come in more cup sizes – an easy mistake), so I never did follow up on that recommendation given that I was sized out at the time. Veronica also put me on the store’s e-mailing list and invited me back to check out their swimwear when they got stocked up for summer.
The customer service at Helen of Troy Bras is very good. Veronica was nice and easy to talk to. I never felt pressured to buy and I didn’t feel that I was being put into the wrong size to make a sale. I am only nitpicking at the selection of bras on that day because I had very specific needs, but the store does have a lot on offer in a wide range of sizes. It is miles ahead of other boutiques I’ve visited in the area, making it a much-needed oasis in a veritable desert of full-bust lingerie shops. They probably carry as many, if not more, individual styles of bra as the nearest Nordstrom albeit across slightly fewer brands.
Fitting-wise, I think Veronica did pretty well. I was probably a more complicated customer since I had been immersing myself in bra fitting for some time in the lead up to my visit and came in with some specific needs that are hard to fit. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Helen of Troy Bras based on my experience and I would trust their fitters to recognize the signs of a good and bad fit.
I would definitely recommend the store if you are interested in Parfait by Affinitas. They have a ton of Parfait styles in stock. Despite perhaps not getting quite so much attention compared to UK brands, it’s a reasonably priced and accessible full-bust brand in the US that uses UK sizes. Their Charlotte style with matching high waisted bottoms is a favorite for its pin-up vibe; Casey and Jeanie are good plunging t-shirt options; Danielle is also glamorous and comes in a longline.
Back to Helen of Troy, for women who need an extended range of sizes that can’t be found in department stores, it’s great to have a local business with friendly and knowledgeable staff where you can get fitted and try on some great bras in comfort. If I’m ever in the area again, I would certainly like to take more time to explore what they have on offer.
I’d be interested to hear in the comments if anyone has ever used their Skype fittings service and how that went. Also, I heard some rumors on the internet that Helen of Troy may be trying to stock Ewa Michalak bras in future. Anyone know if that’s true?!