I’m currently in the UK, and while there is plenty of history and culture to take in, naturally I’m all about the full bust bra offerings. Top on the list of UK retailers for me is Bravissimo. Whenever I’m in the UK, I try my best to figure out a way to visit one of their stores. Yes, this is a brick and mortar store that sells a wide range of fuller bust brands, including their own house brand. Luckily I have been able to shop there about once or twice a year for the past few years. This week I returned to the Bravissimo store in Cheltenham for the second year in a row and thought it would be a good time to write up a store review regarding my experience there, which was an overall positive one.
The Bravissimo store in Cheltenham is a combined Bravissimo (D+ bras) and Pepperberry (bust-friendly clothing) store in the Regent Arcard, an indoor mall in a convenient city center location. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I had just about 45 minutes to shop and only got through one set of try-ons at Bravissimo in my limited time window. Boo. I didn’t have time to look in the Pepperberry store at all, which is located downstairs from the Bravissimo. It was a dedicated trip just for bras, but dependent on my partner’s patience, which wears thin after about 20 minutes … but I digress.
As an aside, Cheltenham is actually worth a visit in itself. I find it to be one of the better appointed shopping destinations in the area, with interesting architecture and a comfortable bustle characteristic of university towns.
Now, on to Bravissimo …
The Cheltenham store is fairly large and very well-stocked. The bras on display are organized largely by type and color, with all brands mixed in together. The center of the store has a wide variety of bras of all brands, colorways and cuts. A wall to the side has all blacks in one panel and nudes beside it. There is also a small stand for bridal-type bras in whites and creams. Not pictured is a section at the rear of the store with sports bras, swim and sleepwear. I wish I had time to venture in there, as I’m curious to try some of their shelf-bra sleep tops. But that will have to wait for another day.
In terms of stock and selection, it far exceeds my local Nordstrom – a comparatively large flagship store – with the size availability (including 28-bands on the rack!) and variety. Lightly padded half cups, unlined plunges, balconettes, demis, strapless, longlines, and the latest styles from Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate, Lepel, Gossard, and Bravissimo’s own brands and more abound, all neatly hung and easy to browse. It’s a candy store for bra lovers. Since I like discovering new bras, it’s great to see such a varied selection. If I were local, I could see visiting the store often to check out what’s new.
I think there are maybe half a dozen fitting rooms in a short corridor to the side of the store. There is also a small but comfortable seating area with sofas and armchairs outside for those who might be waiting while the boob magic happens behind closed doors.
Apologies for the cell phone photos and that I didn’t get to take that many interior shots because I wanted to spend more time trying on bras!
I always have a mental list of bras that I’d try on if only I could find a store that carried them. It was great to see many of these hanging in the window as I stepped off the escalator. That’s the most satisfying part of the Bravissimo experience. They have the bras! Maybe not all of them, but usually a good few from the top of my wishlist. It’s such a relief from the daunting prospect of buying online, having to order multiple sister sizes, pay for return shipping, re-ordering, waiting and so on. Since my local Nordstrom doesn’t even carry 28s, I literally haven’t shopped for everyday bras in person outside the UK in over a year. At Bravissimo, I’m not sized out, and no one bats an eye when I ask for a 28. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now, last year when I first visited the Cheltenham store, I had one or two bras in mind that I wanted to try on, but mostly I let the sales associate pull some styles for me based on my specifications since I was wasn’t at all sure what to get. This didn’t work out so well with the associate bringing me tons of bras that I had already tried elsewhere and were mostly shape mismatches. I was a 30G/GG then and am wearing a 28FF/G now. Given that I had less than an hour on this trip, I decided to go in with a specific shortlist and only deviate if I had the time. I almost kept to this plan, which is fairly amazing given the selection. To be honest, the number one reason I just had to go to Bravissimo while I was in the UK was to try on the Etta Longline (review coming soon!). I have been dying to try it since it was released.
When I entered the store and began looking around, within less than a minute, a friendly sales associate greeted me and asked if I needed any help. I wanted to browse first, so she told me to let someone know if I needed any assistance. Simple. No pressure to get fitted off the bat or pushy sales bumph. I had a quick walk around, checking to see if they had the bras on my list. I really wanted to look at every. single. bra. I spied a few Bravissimo house brand ones that I didn’t know about and wish I had the time to try on, like the cheerful Esther longline. Unfortunately, I could feel the time ticking away, so I chose carefully and still ended up with too many.
While there are a lot of bra and panty sets hanging up around the store, only a limited size range is actually on the rack, which makes sense due to limited space. I think ettiquette-wise it’s fine to pull your own size if you see it, but generally it seems to be the case that you ask a sales associate to get what you’re interested in and bring it to the fitting room for you. I also recommend asking for any additional styles that might not be on the rack. For example, only one Freya padded half cup bra was on display – Kiyoko – which didn’t interest me, but the associate was able to bring me two different ones from the back – Strawberry Fields and Utopia.
Once I had confirmed my selections, I asked a sales associate for help finding them in my size. When she saw that I was on a longline kick, she recommended the new Cleo Piper unlined longline. I mention it here because I know a lot of people have been anticipating it and the cobalt blue truly is gorgeous in person. It absolutely does not disappoint. I didn’t try it on, though, as it’s not a bra that interests me. I don’t really wear anything unlined. However, Bravissimo is one of the few places where you’ll see one in the flesh. Here she is:
When asking for my chosen bras to be brought to a fitting room, I explained that the 28Gs I am currently wearing have started getting loose in the cups, so I wanted to try most of the bras in a 28FF. A few minutes later, the associate appeared with my selections and took me to the fitting room.
When we got to the fitting room, she explained that she brought everything I asked for in a 28G to start with. Okay, no big deal I guess, but I know that my 28Gs at the moment are gaping due to recent weight loss, which I had explained when requesting 28FFs. I felt like that was a bit of a waste of time. That said, the fitter might have considered that my current bras were just worn out and not the wrong size and wanted to check for herself. Regardless, I had never tried a padded Bravissimo bra and nothing from them in size 28G, so when she handed the bras over, I went straight for Etta to get started.
Before I had even finished scooping and swooping, there was a knock on the door asking how I was getting on. It couldn’t have been more than a minute and a half after I closed the fitting room door. Truth be told, unless I’m having a fit issue or I’m really unsure and want a second opinion, I don’t need a fitter’s help at this stage in the game. I am also still not 100% comfortable with standing in a bra in front of a stranger. But I wanted to get a full experience for the purpose of this review and to compare it to last year’s trip to the same store. So I let her have a look at Etta in 28G and she agreed to bring a smaller cup size in that bra while I tried the others.
Before I had the straps up on the next bra, there was a knock on the door again. That was really too fast for me, but she had the next Etta, so again I let her in to see how I was getting on. She checked the fit of the bra that I had hastily pulled on and helped me to adjust the straps, checking that the band size was right and the cups were lying well, before determining that a smaller cup might help with some gaping. Full points to Bravissimo for a well-trained fitter. She was professional, thorough, quick and listened to my concerns.
When she left to fetch me another smaller size, I went for bra #3. The knock came before I even had my boobs in the cups. Even though I had limited time, I began to feel too rushed between bras, so I let her know that I just needed a few more minutes. If anything, my only criticism of my experience this year and last year alike was the timing of the sales associate when I was in the fitting room. The store wasn’t crowded or anything. It takes me some time to get a bra on and then see and feel how it fits. I can’t do that if I only have 1-2 minutes to try on a bra and then the fitter comes back and removes the bras I tried for a mere 30 seconds.
I can be a little shy in customer situations, so asking for more time was my attempt at being more vocal. It may have backfired, though, as for the rest of the time I was in the fitting room, she didn’t come back to check on me. At all.
That said, this is exactly the same thing that happened last year with a completely different fitter: a lot of quick knocks at the beginning, then nothing for ages. On this visit, I was there for another 25 minutes and no one ever came back to help me. At one stage, I had to peek my head out of the fitting room door and get another associate who was helping a different customer to chase down my fitter. Then, when I wanted a final opinion on the fit of the bra I was definitely going to buy, she had disappeared again. I couldn’t wait for her any longer and had to get dressed and go out onto the floor to try to find someone.
In the end, I discussed my options with the associate at the checkout desk since they didn’t have the bra I wanted in the colorways and/or sizes I needed and left empty-handed (much to the dismay of my partner for whom the 45 minutes had felt like enough time to manufacture my own bras from scratch). For me the time flew by and there were tons more bras I wanted to try.
I ended up ordering on their website to pick up the bra I wanted in the store a few days later using their Click & Collect service. My purchase turned out to be my first fitting Cleo bra ever. I’ll be posting a review shortly!
Update: Since I started writing this post, I went back to pick up my order. That process went smoothly except that I ended up exchanging the item I ordered for another colorway. More on that soon.
Conclusions about Bravissimo in Cheltenham
I consider Bravissimo to be probably the best full bust shopping destination in the UK. Even though I am sure that there are competent local boutiques around the country and I know that there are a lot of UK-based websites with great prices and a lot of stock (because I order from them all the time), the fact that Bravissimo is a chain with so many brands and styles in-store all the time makes it super accessible. The fitters are knowledgeable and their stores are a pleasure to browse and shop in. I have no hesitation to recommend Bravissimo in Cheltenham if you happen to be in the area.
In my experience, the way that they “fit” you at Bravissimo is to put you in a bra at or near to the size that you say fits best and then to troubleshoot by eye from there. This suits me fine as I prefer not to be attacked with a tape measure. So far, I have found the fitting knowledge of all the fitters I’ve had to be very good. They recognize the signs of a good fit, like a tacking gore, cups lying flat against the skin across the top, a band that is snug but not overly tight, straps not digging in, and so on. If I mention gore and wire widths and cup heights and other common issues that I have, they listen and take it all in.
When I shop for bras in person (admittedly a rarity since hardly anyone carries 28-bands), I am reminded that not everyone is as bra obsessed as myself and other denizens of the online bra fitting community. Having researched hundreds of bras online, I come into a fitting knowing most of the bras on the rack inside-out. I tend to call all the bras by their names and of course know which recommendations won’t work because I’ve tried so many of them already. The sales assistant that I asked for the Etta longline had to check the tag to confirm the name and another mistakenly called it the Satine longline (because it’s based on the popular Satine plunge by Bravissimo). We got there in the end, but I realized afterwards that just because I know every Freya half cup that is a 3-part vs. 4-part, or a Patsy-clone vs. a Lauren-clone, doesn’t mean that’s part of everyone’s repertoire.
Still, given the really wide selection of bras, I would say the fitters and employees are the most knowledgeable of any other b&m lingerie store I’ve been to. On top of that, everyone at Bravissimo in Cheltenham is really very nice, friendly, patient and accommodating. When present, my fitter was helpful and right on point about the bras and sizing. When they sadly didn’t have the Etta Longline in my size, she let me try one cup below just to confirm a likely fit and informed me about how to order it. (I later found out that the Etta in 28FF was hanging right on the shelf, but the fitter had overlooked it. Sadness.)
For all of these reasons, I would definitely recommend stopping into a Bravissimo store if you’re in or passing through the UK. It’s certainly worth it. In the meantime, for my fellow Americans, I will continue pestering them to open stores in the US (which they have no plans to do, no matter how often I ask).