Here’s a spoiler that will become evident almost immediately: this isn’t Steve typing.
There are a few things you should know about me (Allie) so that you can better frame my experience at Panty Raid with the shop’s co-owner, Jessica Hlavac: I am frugal, large chested, and stubborn. Hlavac, a Clarkliving friend and client, is charming, gracious, knowledgable, and honest. Honesty is key (read: rare) in clothing stores that cater to women, and it’s especially important when the goods are intimate. There’s this really common thing where bra saleswomen (and other bra propagandists) will insist that all women are wearing the wrong size bra. Then they’ll measure you and hand you several bras in the “right” size, most of which probably won’t fit all that well either. So what’s going on here?
“They’re all different,” Hlavac says, “whatever ‘size’ you are…that’s a guideline. Designers vary so much, you just have to try things on. You’ll be one size in one line and a different size in another line, and some lines just won’t work for you at all.” This is why you won’t find Hlavac or any Panty Raid employee with a tape measure around her neck. They’re a rare breed that openly admits how ineffectual that method is.
The now-13-year-old Panty Raid prides itself on carrying in-season pieces from cult favorite lingerie brands like Hanky Panky, Cosabella, Chantelle, La Perla, and Eberjey, as well as Addiction- a newer brand designed in Downtown LA by couple of French ex-pats. As I look around longingly at all the beautiful, dainty things along the shop’s walls, I ask Hlavac what size bras they generally carry. She responds, “32A to 36D,” and I can feel my frown forming. But Hlavac, as she does, combats my disappointment by hitting me with some truth.
“It’s an engineering issue,” she began. “A B cup bra is not doing the same work that an E cup bra is doing. You can’t just take the design of a B cup bra, make it bigger, and expect it to support an E cup woman. So a lot of lines just don’t manufacture sizes that pass that engineering threshold.” Of course she’s right. And if you, like me, probably won’t be able to buy an underwire bra here, there are still plenty of gorgeous treats that will absolutely work.
For a lot of people, lingerie shopping is all fun and games, but for some people, present company included, it’s pretty stressful. Hlavac helped me understand the cause of the sizing stress, so I brought up Stress # 2: cost.
“A $150 bra is definitely a luxury,” she says, “but there does seem to be this really clear quality line that hovers around the $50-$60 range. Below that, they just don’t seem to be made very well.”
I casually mention the pain of watching my favorite bra from that price range fall apart, and Hlavac raises a knowing eyebrow. “How are you washing them?” she asks, and I lower my head. We both know the condition of my bras is my fault, and now that a woman I trust as bra-mniscient has insisted upon it, I’ll actually follow the advice we’ve probably all been given. Hand washing is best; if they must go in the washer, put them in a mesh laundry bag first, and don’t ever throw them in the dryer.
It’s an unfortunate thing that women’s insecurities are often used as a marketing ploy, which is one of the many reasons Panty Raid has earned my trust and devotion: they just won’t do that. Hlavac wants you to know that if your bra isn’t working for you anymore, unless you’ve had some major change in your body like surgery or pregnancy, it isn’t you: it’s the bra. Bras don’t last forever. So if yours aren’t doing quite what they used to, take that as your cue to come into the shop and find something new to fall in love with.
Panty Raid is located at 1953 Hillhurst Ave in Los Feliz, Los Angeles 90027. You can reach them by phone at (323) 668-1888 or by email at . You can keep up with them on Facebook at facebook.com/pantyraidshop and on Twitter and Instagram @pantyraidshop.