Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK--Give a woman a comfortable bra with the right fit, and you may well have a lifelong customer.
That was the message sent loud and clear to both vendors and retailers from a consumer roundtable held last week at WWD's offices. Eight women from different walks of life gathered for lunch and a surprisingly frank discussion about a very intimate subject: bras.
The women, whose ages ranged from 25 to 55, ranked fit and comfort as their top concern when buying bras. Each of the women--whose bra sizes ranged from 32A to 36C--also had the same complaint: It takes a lot of effort to find a bra that provides both a proper-fitting cup size and band, especially in full-figure bra styles, and it makes shopping for bras a headache.
Frequently, the size problem stems from limited ranges at the store; sometimes it's because of the styling of the bra itself. They said that sometimes they settle for a bra they feel isn't quite right or they have the band of the bra taken in.
Some of the specific complaints centered on a limited or nonexistent assortment of A cup sizes under 34, and C and D cup sizes above 34, particularly in specialty items such as bras with convertible straps and deep-plunge backs.
Furthermore, several complained that once they found a bra they liked, the styling would be updated and changed, thus eliminating the reason they bought it in the first place--the fit.
Despite the problems, almost all acknowledged that a wardrobe of bras was an important element of their apparel wardrobes, and they recognized the need for different bra styles for various lifestyle needs.
The women--again in a nearly unanimous vote--named underwire bras as their number one choice, no matter which classification--cleavage-enhancing, full-figure, seamless or cotton knit. They also understood the function of sports bras, and generally said they liked to wear sports bras for comfort as well as support while exercising.
After fit and comfort, the women ranked top concerns as styling and quality. Price, most claimed, was not a top issue. However, the women noted they tend to take advantage of bra promotions--such as buy-two get-one free deals--so they can get several of their favorite bra styles during one store visit.
Only one out of the eight consumers said she had experienced a bra fitting by a professional fitter. Nevertheless, each woman was convinced she knew her correct bra size.
Here's what they had to say individually:

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