LONDON, United Kingdom — Let’s face it, shopping for lingerie can be a frustrating, lonely and often unproductive experience: from being grabbed by a teenage shop assistant in a department store or grabbing something quickly before your 7-year-old puts frilly panties on his head, to returning that red push up, 3 sizes too small, that your beloved bought for your birthday. Help is at hand though, with a rapidly growing trend for lingerie stylists to devote the time and attention necessary to ensure you’re looking and feeling great both now and in the future.
It’s widely known that many of us wear ill-fitting underwear but did you know that this is the case for over three quarters of women? It can affect us physically through back and neck pain, mentally by lowering our confidence and aesthetically with unsightly muffin tops, sagging breasts and the dreaded visible panty line (VPL)! With all these potential pitfalls, we thought we should seek out an expert and so we found one of the most experienced lingerie stylists in London, Monica Harrington, to guide us in achieving the perfect combination of fit, form and fashion.
An expert at your fingertips
Monica has over 30 year’s experience as a lingerie stylist having worked in London, New York, and throughout Europe. She has fitted thousands of women of all shapes and sizes from all over the world and worked for an impressive list of some of the biggest brands and retailers in the business including Triumph, Harrods, Selfridge’s, Fenwick’s, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Debenhams and Brown Thomas, not to mention many independent lingerie houses.
Using this experience and knowledge and after completing a qualification in training from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) she designed and implemented the “Made To Measure” training programme for Triumph which was rolled out across various geographies for Triumph and in many of the key retail stores in the UK.
In September 2016 Monica took the brave step that many of us dream of and stepped back from her successful corporate career to start her own business. She now offers a bespoke service of fitting expertise for a range of brands and private clients.
Monica’s private clients are fashionable and discerning women who value the confidence that comes from having perfectly fitting lingerie. Other private clients are those breast cancer survivors who have been through mastectomies and are embracing their “new norm” by discovering what is possible in the lingerie department.
The work that Monica does for brands is about making products look great for advertising or for a digital campaign such as the See It Believe It tool that she worked on for Triumph, which shows how different styles of bra can change your shape, including how your clothes can look with various bras underneath.
We’ve established that Monica is well-qualified to advise us, so let’s drink from that fountain of knowledge …
What have we been doing wrong?
To improve our lingerie styling we first have to understand what we’ve been doing wrong all these years. We asked Monica what are the most common mistakes she sees women making when choosing lingerie, she told us:
“The most common mistake women make when choosing a bra is to select a piece that is too big on the underband. 80% of the support a bra provides comes from the underband and if it is too big it will ride up at the back, cause the straps to dig into the shoulders and cause the breast to drop down losing the support and shape – there are no muscles in the breasts so this support is essential.”
Another common problem Monica sees is when women don’t consider the outwear that their lingerie will underpin. The classic example of this is the visible panty line – many women choose pants which are too small in size, especially when buying Shapewear. There is a Shapewear myth that if you buy a smaller size it will hold you in more, this is not the case, as Monica pointed out:
… you should always be true to your size.
Why is it so hard?
Surely once we know our size, that’s us sorted for life? Why does it seem so difficult to repeatedly get the right fit? Monica told us that size and shape are always a challenge as the different fabrics used can behave very differently. Some fabrics are more stretchy or rigid than others so the fit will be slightly different. The solution is to not get caught up with any specific “size” and instead focus on the shape and fit that are so much more important.
Another big challenge is the aging process of the breast, as it has no muscles, over time we start to lose the elasticity at the top of the cup. Women continue to look for the shape they had when they were in their late teens as it’s the fullness the client is often looking for. The way to achieve this is by wearing the correct size and finding a shape that works and helps you achieve the desired look.
If women are wearing the incorrect size, it’s often difficult to convince them to try a size which in their minds they think is either going to be too big in the cup or perhaps maybe too small in the underband. Monica never discusses size until she has fitted a client into the bra and her client can see the difference to perhaps an incorrect shape or size that she had been wearing.
How can a lingerie stylist help us?
Many women lose confidence in their body shape at different stages throughout their life and having an empathetic adviser is one of the main reasons that women are turning to lingerie stylists.
Monica offers a personal and bespoke service that starts with a 15-minute telephone consultation, followed by a meeting in a shop or in the client’s home. In addition to size and shape, she discovers what lingerie they currently have that is working for them, discusses their favourite outerwear pieces and what is needed to underpin their fashion wardrobe. Monica will then choose a variety of pieces to fit, trying some of their outerwear pieces on with the lingerie to ensure the client is happy.
What about post-surgery lingerie styling?
Monica provides customised styling and fit advice to women recovering from breast surgery.
Finding the right bra is already a challenging task but can be even more challenging to do post-surgery. It’s not just about fit but it’s also critical to restore confidence with the right expert. In Monica’s words: “Empathy and experience play a huge part,” her approach is respectful and gentle whilst achieving the best results.
One of the services she offers is at the Cancer Centre at Guys hospital where she fits women who come through a referral; this can be six weeks after surgery, it can be for a breast prosthesis, a replacement prosthesis or for fitting advice after a reconstruction.
With so many women walking around wearing the wrong size of underwear there is certainly a market for lingerie stylists, do you need one?