The intent of this post is not to dissuade others from shopping at this retailer. The purpose is to educate others about this company and the experiences I have had with their lingerie, customer service, and general experience. If you work for Soma Intimates, please do not feel attacked by the things I’m about to say in this post. I am not assuming that I know everything about working at Soma, and I am not insinuating that every single employee is the way I describe.
In case you’ve never heard of Soma Intimates, it is a high-street lingerie retailer that caters to US sizes 32-44 A-G and S-XL. They opened their first boutique in 2004 and in only 12 years have grown to 250+ storefronts established throughout the United States. Their mission statement is to provide women with beautiful, sensual, luxurious, soft, and comfortable lingerie. They argue that their lingerie includes innovations that can’t be found elsewhere. They claim to cater to every body type, and vow that they can determine someone’s exact bra size in minutes with the help of their Expert Fit Stylists. Their service is intended to be warm and personal, and their fitters are supposed to help you embrace your body and make you look and feel gorgeous.
(All of the above statements are pulled directly from this page)
In addition to being a lingerie retailer, Soma also hosts a semi-annual Bra Donation, and in the 12 years that they’ve been open they’ve received over a million bras that go directly to women in need. They’ve partnered with domestic violence foundations, breast cancer foundations, women’s shelters and more. It’s extremely admirable that Soma goes above and beyond the confines of their brand to help women. It’s far superior than Victoria’s Secret’s body shaming, racism and numerous lawsuits. Soma also carries a wider size range. If you want to know more about some of the things Victoria’s Secret has done or been accused of doing I urge you to Google it. I may go back and write a separate Victoria’s Secret post in the future. I just don’t want to derail this post.
Unfortunately, these good deeds do not always translate to a good shopping experience at Soma Intimates. I remember distinctly the first time I ever set foot in a Soma. I was 17 years old and was a few weeks from my 18th birthday (don’t worry, the pictures are all from after I turned 18). I didn’t know anything about proper bra fitting at the time. I still thought F cups were a size of their own and not a ratio based on band size, and I still thought F cups were gigantic basketball boobs. I was at the mall with a few of my friends and we were wandering around trying to find something to do. I already knew I couldn’t fit into bras from other stores in that mall so I avoided them. I spotted Soma and noticed it was a new store. The reason I went into the store was because I saw that they carried up to a 44G and figured they’d have something to fit me. At the time I was wearing ill fitting 40Fs from Lane Bryant and thought they fit me just fine because the sales associate told me it looked perfect.
The inside of the store was mind-blowingly beautiful. I wasn’t a fan of the Victoria’s Secret atmosphere for numerous reasons that I won’t go into here, but I felt that Soma was the dignified and grown up big sister of Victoria’s Secret. The bras were all elegant and sophisticated, the underwear was silky and beautiful, the sleepwear was the nicest I’d ever felt. At the time, this was my first experience with lingerie that wasn’t from standard mall brands. I was blown away by how beautiful everything was, and I think this is the event that made me fall in love with lingerie. I let a sales associate measure me and fit me into a bra, and I left that day with a beautiful black and cream bra in a size 40G. I paid $56. It’s worth noting that I was there with my transgender friend, and the sales associate was visibly upset by her presence in the store.
I wore the 40G bra for a few weeks, and unfortunately it started coming apart. The hooks and eyes were almost completely pulled out, the straps were extremely stretched out and the seams in the band were starting to split open. I returned to the store seeking answers. The sales associate told me that the reason the bra was coming apart was because my boobs were really heavy and would ruin any bra. I believed her, and left again with another $56 bra because the sales associate told me having more than one bra would make it last longer. She never once questioned the fact that my boobs were spilling out of the bra, and she never pointed out that the bra was falling apart within weeks because my breasts weren’t designed for it. I trusted the sales associate because I didn’t know anything about bra fitting, and I thought that the fact that she worked in a lingerie store and carried a measuring tape meant that she would know better than I did.
By the time I got the second Soma bra, I had already been considering that maybe my boobs were larger than a G cup, and so I ordered some US 40H bras from Lane Bryant on a whim to discover that they fit me much better. I wore the 2 Soma bras and the 2 Lane Bryant bras, and noticed that the Soma bras were falling apart much faster than the ones from Lane Bryant. I stopped wearing them and started wearing the 40H Lane Bryant bras all the time. Two months later (this was September 2014), I measured according to the r/ABraThatFits calculator and got myself into some UK 38Js that fit me perfectly and made me realize that Soma and Lane Bryant didn’t have any idea how to fit someone into a bra.
In January of 2015 I was wearing 36Js due to weight loss. At this point in time I had a pretty good grasp of how to measure and fit someone into a bra, I knew the do’s and don’t of trying on bras, and I knew that most sales associates for big name brands do not measure properly. I decided to “test” Soma Intimates and their staff, so I went back.
I entered the store wearing a 36J Panache Andorra, armed with a lot of knowledge. When the first sales associate noticed me, she immediately flagged me down and asked me if I’d ever had a bra fitting in a Soma store. I lied and said no, and she asked me what size I was wearing already. I told her that I was a 36J, and she stood there trying to hold back laughter. She asked me to come back to the fitting rooms with her. She set me up in my own stall and I heard her and the other employees insulting my body, insinuating that I was both too fat to wear a 36 band and too flat chested to wear a J cup. One younger sales associate was puzzled that a J cup even existed. This angered me, so I left the stall and told them that I was telling the truth. The manager on duty produced a booklet that had size conversions, and somehow it included my bra size. When she read off that the US conversion of my size was a 36M, her and the other employees openly laughed at me and said it wasn’t a realistic size. I asked the manager to come back into the fitting room with me, and I removed my shirt and bra and showed her the tag on my bra that proclaimed I was a 36J. She immediately had a sheepish look on her face, and said that other countries made their bras differently and it would make them fit differently.
When I put on my bra and shirt, ready to leave, she asked me if she could try measuring me. She pulled out a measuring tape that had premarked sizes on it, and I was horrified to discover that Soma only measures the bust circumference of their customers in store. She said that I’d fit a Soma 40G, and I told her that it wouldn’t fit me. She brought me one anyway, and smugly told me to try it on. When I did and my nipples were hanging outside of the bra, she told me that it was because the bra was a balconette style. She then handed me the full coverage model, which covered my nipples but still gave me a whole lot of spillage. In confusion, she handed me their largest size, the 44G. To be completely honest, the 44G wasn’t too bad. The band was obviously way too loose and was almost level with my shoulders, and I didn’t have a huge amount of spillage. I still wouldn’t consider it a good fit by any stretch of imagination.
The manager laughed and said something along the lines of “I knew you weren’t a J!” and I pointed out that she had to give me a band 8 inches larger than normal to make it fit, and that a Soma 44G was the sister size of a US 36L (excluding the I cup) which made it only one cup volume smaller than what I was wearing. She looked absolutely confused and told me again that the bra I was wearing was a G cup. Then it dawned on me that the manager of Soma Intimates didn’t understand sister sizing. I changed out of the bra and put all my own clothes back on. She asked me if I was purchasing the 44G bra. I said no. She openly scoffed at me and sarcastically thanked me for wasting her time. As I was leaving the store, I heard the three employees continue to make comments about how I didn’t know my size and I just wanted to feel like I had big boobs, and one even said something along the lines of “I don’t know why people like her don’t just go to Lane Bryant.”
In case you’re wondering why measuring by bust circumference doesn’t work, a size 50A has the following sister sizes. 48B, 46C, 44D, 42DD, 40E, 38F, 36FF, 34G, 32GG, 30H, 28HH, 26J. There is a huge difference between a 50A and 26J despite them hypothetically having the same cup volume if sister sizing is accurate. A 26J will not fasten over the back of a true 50A, and a 50A bra will fall off of a true 26J.
I contacted the Soma Customer Service team, and they apologized profusely and asked for the address of my location. I sent it to them and they promised to get it under control. I never heard from them again. I ended up leaving a negative review on the Yelp page from my location.
Fast forward to December 2015, almost an entire year since I’ve set foot in a Soma location. I’m now wearing a 36KK/L. I was out of lingerie wash right around Christmas time, so I decided to not overburden the mail carriers and just went to the mall to find lingerie wash. After unsuccessfully checking multiple stores, I couldn’t find any lingerie detergent. I decided to go to Soma because I knew they carried it and I knew it was very reasonably priced. I didn’t plan on talking to any sales associates except for the cashier, but obviously this wasn’t possible given the time of year.
An employee came up to me, blocking my path, and asked me if I’d ever tried a Soma bra. I told her politely that I couldn’t wear them because they didn’t carry my size. She rolled her eyes and said in a catty tone (word for word), “Well, what size do you THINK you wear? I’ve fit people with bigger boobs than YOU!” I decided to humor her and said “36KK” and her eyes got wide in disbelief. She asked me if that size even existed, and I ignored the question. Her eyes scanned my body and she reached for the measuring tape. I didn’t stop her because I was curious, but she proceeded to measure me over my coat, shirt, and bra in the middle of the store. She smiled and proclaimed me a 44G. Luckily for my sanity, all of the 44G bras were sold out. She offered to order one for me, to which I declined. I then grabbed the lingerie wash, purchased it, and left the store as quickly as I entered. I wouldn’t have purchased it at all but it was getting late and I had a lot of bras to wash.
In case you’re curious, the Soma lingerie wash is actually the best lingerie detergent I’ve ever used. It cuts through even the thickest deodorant build up, gets rid of odors, keeps brights bright, whites white, and darks dark, and is extremely concentrated. At $10 for a 16 oz. bottle that barely looks used after multiple uses, I definitely feel like I’ve made the right purchase. It made hand washing go from a grueling process to an easy one.
In case you’re missing the point of this post because of my tendency to ramble, the point is that it’s extremely inappropriate for sales associates to act this way towards customers. Bra fitting is already a nerve-wracking process, and it doesn’t help to have rude bra fitters that make inappropriate body shaming comments towards their customers. If I didn’t know anything about bra fitting, I’d probably still be shopping at Soma and making do with bras that fall apart in less than a month and do nothing for my breasts. I think it’s extremely manipulative to belittle someone’s body in hopes that they cave and help you make a sale. I think it’s irresponsible for a lingerie company that preaches about body confidence and comfortable lingerie to give it’s employees a measuring tape with premarked sizes on it. I also think it’s ludicrous to measure women over their thick winter coat and in the middle of a busy store.
The most mind boggling thing about my experiences with Soma is the fact that they claim to promote “perfect bra fit” but then turn around and promote the +5 method of calculating bra size. It’s ironic because they use the “80% of women wear the wrong size” statistic, and then contribute to that problem. For fun, I put 27″ in the underbust field and 37″ in the overbust field. Their website told me that a 32DDD would be the perfect size for that person despite the fact that a 26H or 28GG would be the best size for them. Depending on the band size you put in, it’ll add different numbers to it to get a different result. I’ll go through each whole number with a 6″ difference in measurements and report the results in red. In bold I will put what it should be recommending if it used the right sizing in both UK and US systems.
27 / 33= 32B 26F (US 26G)
28 / 34 = 32A 28E (US 28DDD)
29 / 35 = 34A 28F (US 28G)
30 / 36 = 34A 30E (US 30DDD)
31 / 37= 36B 30F (US 30G)
32 / 38 = 36A 32E (US 32DDD)
33 / 39 = 38B 32F (US 32G)
34 / 40 = 38B 34E (US 34DDD)
35 / 41 = 38C 34F (US 34G)
36 / 42 = 40C 36E (US 36DDD)
37 / 43 = 40C 36F (US 36G)
38 / 44 = 40D 38E (US 38DDD)
39 / 45 = 42D 38F (US 38G)
40 / 46= 42D 40E (US 40DDD)
41 / 47= 42DD 40F (US 40G)
42 / 48 = 44DD 42E (US 42DDD)
43 / 49 = 44DD 42F (US 42G)
44 / 50 = 44DD 44E (44DDD)
So imagine that you’re a young woman who doesn’t know much about bra fitting, and you’re willing to spend any amount of money to find a bra that you think will support your bust. It would be very easy for a sales associate to measure you improperly and talk you into a sale even if you’re feeling a little hesitant to make a purchase. I believe that this is the exact opposite of “providing women with beautiful, sensual, luxurious, soft, and comfortable lingerie” and is in no way “warm” or “personal”. I just fear for the teenage girls who will continue to purchase from brands like this that do not have their best interests in mind. If you’d like to see why this matters so much to me, check out my post entitled “Why I’m So Passionate About Bra Fitting“. When I was wearing my Soma prescribed size, I wanted to either undergo a breast reduction, or undergo a breast reduction and then replace my breast tissue with implants. Wearing bras from Soma made me hate my body because they were causing me intense pain. It sickens me to think that a company would promote techniques as outdated as these while claiming to promote proper bra fitting. It’s irresponsible and dishonest.
Even if you ignored their horrible fitting practices, I still think it’s appalling that absolutely nothing happened when a customer complained about being body shamed and disrespected by a member of management. This tells me that the company does not care about individual customers and instead looks at their bottom line. Yes, they are a business, but there are much more genuine brands to purchase from in this day and age. While Soma makes beautiful underwear and sleepwear and the best lingerie wash I have ever used, I will never set foot in or spend another dollar at a Soma Intimates location. It takes a lot more than pretty bras and idealistic statements to run a company that truly promotes body positivity and the idea that everyone can find a bra there. To be clear, my problem is not that they don’t make my size. It’s that they deny the fact that my size exists and try to sell their bras to me despite being way too small. Even if Soma announced that they expanded their size range, I would not shop there unless I received a genuine apology from those who treated me poorly in Soma stores.