The long awaited bras from Satami and my accompanying review.
For all this talk about Asian bras and where to get them, I thought I should cover one local source for those in the Los Angeles area. For those whom are not fluent in the language, stepping foot in an ethnic lingerie store can be intimidating. Hopefully I can provide some insight to better prepare you.
PERSONAL TOUCH STORES
Today, we will specifically talk about the Personal Touch Lingerie stores. Partially because I have personally purchased Satami bras there but also because they are the ONLY retailer licensed to sell Satami Lingerie in the United States due to an exclusive contract.
I've been to a few of their locations and they all seem to have the same look - characteristic of a chain store. Well lit, clean with nice displays, the store is welcoming yet cozy like a boutique. Typical of many lingerie stores, the sales people will offer to help you find what you're looking for - which is often followed by a "can I measure you?". Those of you who know your ABTF size and tried to shop for that size know that sales people will 1.) try to convince you that you are wrong or 2.) sister size you into a bra size that they actually carry.
Today was no exception. A woman with flawless skin and good English assists me. She measures me and tells me I'm a 36E. I practically laughed. I told her that I already own a 32 and the band still fits - tight but fits. Still not convinced, she hands me a 34E to start with and will "go from there". At least the 34E is a sister size to my usual 32F (UK). I try it on and the band fits but cups were too small. She then has me try on a 34G. It fits almost perfectly.
She then brings out a few different styles in the same size. We go through a few iterations of trying things on, assessing fit and preferred style. While she always asked to come back in, there were many times were I was expected to change with her still in the room. More than once, she helped pull the girls forward while trying on a bra.
Typical of my experiences at Personal Touch (and other lingerie stores), she brings bras in my preferred style (underwire) but also other styles (wireless, sports bra). You are not required to try anything on but it may take SEVERAL polite "no, thank you's" to get the message across. Repeat for shapewear, underwear, etc.
In short, lingerie shopping at an Asian boutique (or perhaps all boutique lingerie stores for that matter) is not for the faint of heart. The sales people are very hands on, talk non-stop and do not hold back (such point out that the low rise bikini you're wearing might be better suited for someone younger and might I consider a light shaping brief?).
1.) Know your UK size (Satami is based in Hong Kong, which uses the UK standard)
2.) Be firm and become a broken record (temporarily)
3.) Be thick skinned. Know there is no ill will - whether implied or stated. They are there to assist you (and make a sale) by being straight forward.
4.) Call ahead to find the name of a sales person who speaks fluent English and make an appointment with them. I cannot tell you the number of times I walked into a Personal Touch store and they only spoke in Mandarin Chinese. The Arcadia location was the only one I've been to where the sales lady was fluent.
My experience is in no way representative of ALL Asian run lingerie stores and only serves as a glimpse of what may occur. If having a bit of insight prevents someone from freaking out at the store because they have an idea of what to expect, then all the better.
EDIT 5/30/2017: To include www.satamiusa.com site and review.
In my pursuit to find a bra that fits, I rediscovered an old favorite: bras by Asian Brand, Satami Lingerie.
Satami is a Hong Kong based Lingerie Brand that offers bras which have some interesting features. Many Asian brand bras focus on pushing the girls, up and forward to create the maximum amount of cleavage. What sets Satami apart is their ultra wide bands and underarm crescents - both designed to smooth out bra induced bulges. While their range of sizes is not as large as popular European bra companies like Panache or Freya, I have found their bras to be a haven for those with narrow set breasts who usually seek relief with plunge styles or have gone Polish with Comexim or Ewa bras. Satami bras seem to range from 32A to 44G. In my limited experience, that 32 band in Satami is closer to a 30 band in UK sizes. More on sizing below.
Their website (https://www.online-satami.com/home) is well designed and has the ability to search by size and style number. They ship internationally to most of Asia, Europe and North America with the exception of the United States. Satami has an exclusive distribution agreement with Personal Touch Lingerie in the US so all sales must go through them. Personal Touch Online Store: www.shopptouch.com. Please note that the returns/exchanges policy varies between the two sites so please read accordingly. There is one last option: www.satamiusa.com. This link seems to be a portal to the Personal Touch site as it states PTL Global at the top of the web page AND the return/exchange policy is the same as Personal Touch.
I found the Personal Touch online store to be utilitarian. The photos are smaller, fewer and of lower quality. There is no zoom or the ability to search by bra size. While there is a drop down menu to filter by size, it didn't pull up the one bra I liked in my size. I would recommend using the Satami online website to do initial research then jot down the style number. Use the style number to find the item you want on the the Personal Touch site. This is also due in part to the fact many of the official bra names are pretty generic. Example Lace Full Cup Bra (2185) is completely different design than Lace Full Cup Bra (2187). Prices seem to be the same as in store. Satami USA site requires one to create an account before you can view prices AND a passcode (password: shape). The usability and ease of navigation is almost identical to that of the Satami Online site. Lots of photos, details, ability to zoom, sort by size, etc. All styles are available through this site including SALE items! Items on this site seem to be a bit cheaper than the Personal Touch site (between $5 and $11 on the 2 bras I tried on).
The Satami online webstore is pretty great with lots of info, pictures, and the ability to search by size, style and color. I very much liked their "Personal Shop" - a curated selection of items in your size, style and shape. To "activate" just click on the "Get Fitted" button at the top right or "Online Bra Fitting" at the very bottom of the Home Page. They will ask you a series of questions that somewhat mirror our discussions at A Bra That Fits.
Narrow vs Wide Set
Shape. This isn't as extensive as ABTF but is much more detailed than most bra manufacturers!
This was the part I had the most issues with.
It took some trial and error to get the calculator to "come up" with my correct Satami size. It took me 4 tries but I got the best results from using my tight underbust measurement with the smallest bust measurement (laying for me) while not on my period/bloated/or nursing. Measure the upperbust (underarm) according to their instructions.
I am fortunate to live in an area with several Personal Touch Lingerie stores and took a trip especially for you guys! There have been quite a number of you who are curious about the fit and size conversion from UK sizing. Officially, Satami uses the UK standard (from their FAQ):
What is your bra sizing standard?
Remember there is no universal standard for bras and bra sizing varies between brands and countries. Whilst we follow UK standard, there may still be little difference
I find using your UK size as a good starting point. [Don't know your UK bra size? Try this very data oriented bra calculator!] Due to their extra wide band, Satami bras are ALOT less stretchy than any other brand I've ever tried (US, UK or Polish!). For example, the 32D bra I bought many moons ago measures 25" in band length but only stretches to 30.5" (full data on Bratabase.com).
BRA SIZE AND FIT
Here's the ultimate testament: I wear 32F/32E in most UK brands (Panache, Freya and Fantasie). In Satami, I wear 34G. I attribute sizing up in the cup partially to the lightly lined "padding" in the cups (pocket and side wings, crescents in the cups, etc), the shallow cups due the plunge style and for more coverage. When I tried on the bra in 34F (up one band, up one cup), the cups were still too small. Lots of quadding and wrinkles under the cups as it wasn't projected enough at the wire - or at the apex. For reference, I have wide roots that are narrow set with lots of immediate projection at the wire. [Need help with the terminology? Try theABTF Glossary!] So size up in the band for comfort (unless you are accustomed to tightlacing corsets) and increase the cup size by 1 or 2. This means those of you who wear a 30 band have a fighting chance of fitting the 32 band in Satami! I should also add that these styles of bras - plunge, low center gore, shallow-ish cups are GREAT for those whose shape are on the shallow side or FoB.