How to Shop for Bras and Underwear Online

Lingerie shopping online
Getty/gradyreese

Shopping online for bras and lingerie can be a challenge, but also very convenient and totally worth it. On one hand, bras come in so many different sizes, and finding the best fit without being able to try it on can be very tricky. On the other, you can skip the trip to the bra shop, and there are so many more options online. This is especially true for those that do not live in a metropolitan area with a trusted bra boutique and bra fitting staff.

If you're unsatisfied with the bra selection at your local shop, or they simply don't carry the size you need, shopping online can be a great help. Alternatively, those who may be too shy to have an in-person fitting, or would blush at the thought of buying something racy in public, can keep their privacy and try anything the internet has to offer with a few clicks of the mouse. 

Below are a few steps to help you have a successful online bra, underwear, and lingerie shopping trip. 

Step 1: Find your size

When shopping for bras, it's a good idea to measure yourself and find your bra size starting point. Many online lingerie retailers will also have a bra size calculator or instructions for calculating your size. They all vary, so take each one with a grain of salt. Knowing your underbust and bust measurement, as well as the size of your current best fitting bra, will help you decide where to start.

Additionally, good retailers will have some information or clues about the fit, style, or coverage of a bra. 

Underwear, though usually easier, can also be tricky. Pay attention to the fit suggestions provided on the website, and take your personal preferences into account. Find the pair in your drawer that fits best and take notes.

Step 2: Choose a location or two 

Determine the kind of lingerie or bra that you need, and then where you can find it. Take into account the size, price, and function of the item(s) you want to purchase, then select a shop or two below. Based on your needs, you may be able to purchase every item on your list at one place. However, it's more likely that you'll need to shop at a few to get everything on a long list - especially if one shop is sold out of a certain item, size, or color. In addition, trying more than one shop will help you experience the full customer service process, and decide who you may want to purchase from again in the future. You can also compare things like shipping costs, selection of items, price, and website helpfulness when choosing. 

Different Types of Online Retailers

  • Lingerie retailers - A few popular places to shop for lingerie online: 
  1. Bare Necessities - this online giant has everything you can imagine for bras, underwear, swimsuits, and accessories. They carry many popular or mainstream brands at lower price points, as well as more sophisticated brands and favorites of lingerie fans. A vast selection for nearly every bust and bra size. 
  2. HerRoom - another larger online shop, this site has lots of options for many sizes, plus a guide for how it will look under different tops. In addition, they created a "universal size" system to help customers compare styles across brands
  1. Linda's - though it started as a brick and mortar store, this company has a robust ecommerce selection of bras in hard to find sizes and supportive bras, swimsuits, surgical items, and more.
  2. Fig Leaves - This retailer carries many different brands, and makes its own line, too. They offer a wide range of lingerie and sleepwear, and notably, many men's underwear options, too.
  3. Journelle - the most fashion forward of the bunch, this is also a brick and mortar store, with plenty of locations to shop in person, as well as online. This company has a wide selection of several brands, including elegant, stylish, and daring selections that other retailers may shy away from.
  • Brand by brand - many lingerie and bra brands have decided to sell directly to the consumer. Instead of, or in addition to, having a wholesale agreement with retailers, they have a website with ecommerce shopping capability. This allows consumers to shop brand by brand, and buy directly from their favorites. The benefit of this is that the brand may carry the entire line of colors, fashion options, and basics, while a retailer may only choose to sell a few or limited selection from the range of options. The downside is that you cannot shop several brands at once, which may limit your options in the end, and cause you to make several purchases from several shops instead of one large purchase. Many of your favorite lingerie brands may offer shopping right on their site. Give them a search online and find out!
  • Specialty - certain retailers or brands specialize in specific types or styles of undergarments. For example, they may only carry corsets, or underwear, or stockings, retro styles, or nursing bras. Finding a specialty online boutique has its perks. Knowing that the online retailer specializes in that particular type of product means you'll often have many options, and not just the basics. It also may mean they have more expertise or interest in that genre and can assist you with questions. Conversely, specialty retailers can be limiting or "too niche" as far as their options. 
  • Subscription boxes - If you don't like to pick out your lingerie yourself, and want a refresh now and then, you can subscribe to an online lingerie shop's program. Typically, you sign up for a set amount of months, and get an agreed upon amount of items and boxes in that time frame. Usually, the site will offer a test or style quiz before sending you a box, to understand your preferences for size, color, and cut. A new underwear subscription company is Panty Drop.
  • Membership sites - a new business model that has popped up is a membership site. Similar to a subscription box, there's a set fee per month or per box of clothing. Usually, as a member, you pay the same fee each month and accrue credits to use as cash throughout the online store. Instead of sending you a box of lingerie each month, you can use those credits when and how you like on any of the items available for purchase. The plus to this is that you can invest in new lingerie on a regular basis. The downside is that if you don't use up your credits or forget to request a refund for a charge, you'll be stuck with unused credits and a waste of money. A popular online membership site specifically for lingerie is Adore Me
  • Clothing and large department store sites - although there are many lingerie brands that exist on their own, many clothing sites also carry intimates and lingerie. Your favorite place to buy jeans can also have a wide selection of bras, hosiery, and more. The upside to shopping at a place like this is that you can buy many items across several genres of needs in one big purchase. In addition, if you enjoy the style of clothing they carry, the lingerie may be just your style, too. The downside is that they may not have a great deal of expertise, or only carry basic lingerie items. Calling the customer service line of a large department store that handles clothing, crock pots, and sofas may not be the best place to ask if you should wear a 32C or 32D in a particular bra. Bloomingdale's and Macy's are great places that offer many bra and underwear options.
  • Virtual fittings - This is a newer way to shop for bras, and involves an attempt to offer a bra fitting without having to visit a fitter. A few brands and retailers offer this, and are seeing a noticeable difference in customer satisfaction. It brings a new level to customer service, and provides an opportunity for a trained fitter to assess fit, suggest sizes, and recommend styles. All without having to leave your home. This is especially useful for someone who may not have the mobility or health to leave home, or who lives too far from a boutique. One such company offering virtual (and in-home) fittings is peach

Online Shopping Tips

  1. Pay attention to the clues on the website. Good online lingerie retailers will have lots of information on the fit, coverage, and sizing of a bra. Some even offer comparisons to other models. 
  2. Ask for help. Certain online retailers offer a chat function, so you can chat with a customer service representative while you shop. You can also call or email with your inquiries about sizing, material, or function. Read through the information on the website first, and if something is unclear, don't be afraid to speak up and ask before you purchase. You can also research on bra fitting or educational sites. Asking or learning now can save the headache of shipping back and forth later. 
  3. Purchase more than one size. If you're not quite sure how something fits, especially if it's your first time wearing it, try purchasing the same item in a few sizes. That way, you can try them each on at home, compare the fit, and determine the right size for you. It's totally normal to end up with a few different sizes in the end. In fact, it's rare to wear the same size in different brands or styles. 
  4. Look for coupons. Many online shopping sites offer coupon discounts if you sign up for their newsletter. You can also do an online search with the name of the retailer and the word "coupon" or "discount code" and see what comes up. Retail M​e Not is a popular place to look for codes. 
  5. Take advantage of free shipping. Several sites offer free shipping over a certain amount. Don't be afraid to stock up on some things, especially if you're going to try items in multiple sizes. This will often help you get free shipping, and most retailers have a return policy. But be careful... 
  6. Check the return policy. Lingerie is a tricky item to return, and retailers have varying policies. For sure, underwear that is worn should not be returned, nor should it be accepted if it is returned. It is often acceptable to try on underwear over another pair of underwear to determine if it fits first. However, bras can often be tried on and returned if the item does not show signs of wear. Many retailers insist that the tags must remain on to get a full refund, and most have rules about dents in molded cups. Read everything carefully before making a purchase!