Adventures in Marketing: Would You Get Fitted for a Bra at an Office Party?

professional-bra-fitting-horizTupperware parties, make-up parties, jewelry parties — the idea of selling a product directly to customers via the pretense of an in-home female bonding session is nothing new. But as women now make up more than half of the American workforce, they may not have the time to host or attend such brand-centered gatherings. So what’s a company to do? Why, bring the parties to them, in the office, of course!

But what if the product in question is something personal and intimate like lingerie?

As the New York Post reports, recent years have seen the launch of multiple lingerie companies whose business models bypass storefronts entirely in order to sell their products directly to their customers. Some such companies have even begun hosting increasingly popular in-office bra parties, which are exactly what they sound like: the women gather in a conference room to learn about the merchandise and swap bra-buying horror stories, and then each person goes off to be fitted in the ladies’ room or some other “private” setting.

“It is a private consultation, and all info stays between the customer and her bra lady,” explains Essential Bodywear president Marcia Cubitt.

“The bra shopping experience in a traditional retail environment is considered dreadful to most women, right up there with shopping for jeans and swimsuits,” says Moira Nelson, CEO and founder of Bra La Mode, an intimate apparel consulting firm. She says that office parties give women “a personalized level of customer service in an intimate setting.”

But not everyone in the industry agrees that an office is an “intimate setting” appropriate for discussing back bulge and boob spillage.

“I think it’s very strange,” says Linda Becker, a 29-year veteran of the bra industry and founder of New York business Linda’s Bra Shop. She’s been hosting weekly bra parties in her store for over seven years, and thinks that bra fittings are “far too intimate to be doing in the office.”

We can kind of see both sides to this.

It’s pretty great that companies aren’t shying away from women’s needs; working women often have to prioritize an immense load of professional, personal, and family tasks, so self-care checklist items like finding a well-fitting bra are often the first to be put on the back-burner. Hosting such a party might send the message to female employees that their time is valued, their comfort and well-being are important, and they deserve to pause for few minutes to take care of themselves. Plus, maybe promoting discussion about back pain and the vexing love/hate relationship with underwire helps female coworkers, presumably in different levels of power, see each other as equally human.

But at the same time, it’s a lingerie party. In an office. Is any of this really promoting a professional workplace or professional relationships? Does reducing the male staff into — as Cubitt describes them —  “two groups,” one that peeks into the conference room to say, “Can I help,” and the other that “bolts out the door” in terror, help men and women view each other as equals and professionals?

Are we just over-analyzing this? What do you think, readers?