‘It can be difficult to find the correct bra size in Spain’

For this week's My Spanish Career, The Local chats to Lucy King, the British owner of Lottie Lencería, a specialist lingerie shop in Madrid.

'It can be difficult to find the correct bra size in Spain'
Photo: Anna Primavera Photography

Where are you from originally and what brought you to Spain?

I was born in Leeds, but spent my childhood in Qatar where my parents lived & worked at the time. When we returned to the UK we lived in a village near Tadcaster, a small brewery town close to York.

After studying Spanish at University (and spending part of my Erasmus year in Granada)  I began working for an IT distribution company in York where I was the operations and logistics contact for the Madrid office and after a couple of years I was offered the possibility to transfer to Madrid. I was young, free and single so jumped at the opportunity and 13 years on, I´m still here!

What do you love about Madrid and what do you loathe?

I love the vibrance and the fact that while it is a capital city it is still very compact and easy to get around.  Madrid has a great nightlife, great museums, and delicious food to be found everywhere, I love that no matter what day or time of the evening, you will always find the streets alive with people sitting on the terrazas. In under an hour you can be in the countryside or mountains, which is perfect for unwinding at the weekend.

Living in the centre, I am not such a fan of the traffic and getting used to driving in the centre with impatient drivers is a nerve wracking experience at first, but now I am used to it! I also think that there is a lot to be done to find a correct work/life balance in the Spain in general, long office and commercial hours make it hard to spend time with family, especially when you have children.   

Photo: Anna Primavera Photography 

Tell us about Lottie Lencería – what inspired you to get into the bra business?

After living in Spain for several years and being frustrated at not being able to find any bras in my size, always having to wait for trips home to the UK to stock up, I dreamt of opening lingerie store in Madrid but taking the leap was daunting!

After having my daughter two years ago, I met the founder of Lottie Lencería, a fellow Brit, who launched Lottie as a bra fitting business in 2012. Like myself, she realised there was a lack of choice of lingerie, especially when searching for anything larger than a D cup. It was also difficult to find correct bra fitting advice to help women choose the most suitable lingerie for their figure and breasts and so Lottie Lencería was founded!

I ended up taking over the business several months later; the opportunity to fulfil a dream, take ownership of the business and make it grow was too good to let pass by. 

I went to the UK and attended a course run by a lady who has previously trained employees of Bravissimo and Marks & Spencers amongst others before taking the reins at Lottie. 

Photo: Anna Primavera Photography

What service does Lottie Lencería offer?

Lottie offers a professional service for those women who are looking for pretty, modern and feminine lingerie and who wish to be advised and guided as to which is the correct bra size for them, while, at the same time, having an enjoyable, personalised and discreet experience when choosing their lingerie.

Lottie´s bra fitting service is complementary and there is no obligation to purchase. 

We aim to offer our customers quality lingerie at reasonable prices and stock several brands from the UK and US such as Curvy Kate, Elomi, Fantasie, Freya and Parfait. Apart from stocking lingerie for every day, we also stock sports bras, maternity and swimwear in over 100 sizes. Our sizes range from 28-44 band size and from A to K cup. 

As we work on an appointment basis, it allows me certain flexibility to juggle being a businesswoman and a mother. It is not always easy, as any working mother knows, but I am fortunate to have a supportive partner and in-laws who can help out when required

Who are your main clients – mainly expats or Spaniards too?

The vast majority of my customers are Spanish women, mainly from Madrid but also from all over Spain, women who make the most of a trip to the capital to find a correct fitting bra, given the difficulties in finding D+ cup sized bras. I also have Spanish expats and English speaking tourists who make the most of being in a capital city to find a wider selection of choice and sizes of bra that they do not find in the town where they live.

Photo: Anna Primavera Photography

Is there a difference between Brits and Spaniards when it comes to body size and body image?

I don’t think that you can generalize about body shapes and sizes between Britain and Spain. Every woman is unique. Perhaps in the UK you have more options of where to buy clothes and lingerie on the high street and online as they cater to more body shapes and sizes. In Spain we are beginning to see some changes but there is still a lot of progress to be made, “poco a poco” as they say.

In the UK I think many women will have the memory of their mum taking them to Marks and Spencer to be fitted for their first bra, so from a young age we are accustomed to having someone advise us about which bra size we should be wearing and this is something which we continue over the years. 

In Spain, there is very limited awareness of bra fitting and until recently, the concept was relatively unknown so you find women who have been wearing the wrong bra size for many years. It is very satisfying to have customers leave our fitting room happy and comfortable in a bra for the first time in years. 

Do you think Spanish shops have a problem with only catering to one kind of body shape?

This may have been true in the past but gradually there has been more awareness about the vast range of body shapes and sizes which women have and there are more options now available, such as Violet by Mango, H&M, Asos but there is still a lot more to be done. 

There are several influential bloggers in Spain (WeloversizeEl rincón de Anatxu and Dando La Talla amongst others) who are campaigning for curvy fashion, with many followers on social media as they raise awareness, share advice and tips on where to buy clothes in store and online. 

Several years ago there was a campaign by the government to standardise clothes sizes across the high street but I have not noticed any considerable changes. In some stores I may wear a size 38 trouser and in another, I have to choose a 42. In Spain I often have to buy size XL tops whereas in the UK, it may be a 10 or 12! 

Do you think Spaniards are less prudish than their British counterparts?

I would agree with that, that Spanish women are less prudish in general and they are less inhibited about their bodies, however, when purchasing lingerie they tend to favour practicality rather than sensuality as has been shown in several studies comparing different purchasing habits for lingerie between women in Europe, or when compared to France and Italy etc.

They tend to favour neutral colours for their underwear, although there are also customers who are looking for anything that isn´t black, beige or white and are happy to find that Lottie offers a range of brands, models, designs and colours to satisfy a wide range of tastes.

Photo: Anna Primavera Photography

Why is it so important to have a correctly fitting bra?

A correctly fitting bra can make such an impact in so many ways, not only health wise, but also for your posture and self-confidence. In general, we find that the customers who visit Lottie Lencería are wearing a bra with too large a band size and too small a cup size. There are many misconceptions about how a bra should fit, the first is the band!

The band should take between 80-85 percent of the support of the breast and if the band is too loose, the breasts will not be properly supported as the band will rise up the back. This creates an effect similar to a see-saw in a playground, the band rises up and the breasts drop. To counteract this, many women use the bra straps to try lift the breasts, when the straps should only take 15 percent of the support. Wearing the straps too tight can cause neck, back and shoulder strain and this in turn affects our posture.  Another common error is wearing too small a cup size.  This can also cause underwires to dig into breast tissue which should not occur with a correct fitting bra.

Wearing a bra which is snug in the band and with the correct cup size can help improve posture as the support of the breast is transferred to your back and this in turn lifts the breasts. One of the most gratifying aspects working as a bra advisor is to see the reaction of customers as they see their silhouette transformed in the mirror and the boost to their self confidence as a result as the exclaim “I´ve just dropped a dress size” or “it makes me look like my breasts are smaller”. I recently had a client email me to say that since wearing her new bras, her chronic shoulder pain had disappeared, which she was extremely happy about!

Photo: Anna Primavera Photography

What tips can you give women when bra shopping in Spain?

It is important to be correctly fitted for a bra every six to 12 months and a trained bra advisor can help you with this.  Our clients are often wearing a band that it is one or two sizes too big and several cup sizes too small.

The band of the bra should be snug when fastened on the loosest hook.  I often compare a new bra to a new pair of shoes, it has to be worn in and the material will give a little and loosen over time.  If a new bra is not snug fitting when new, it will not support you properly over time as it loosens and stretches.  As the band stretches, you should start fastening the bra on the middle or tightest hook to ensure that the band remains as snug as possible.

It is advisable to not wear the same bra more than two days in a row as it is important to let the bra relax and maintain its shape between wears.  Regarding washing your bras, you should always wash by hand, after every two or three wears and use a detergent for delicate clothes.  It is always best to dry your bras flat on the clothes dryer rather than hanging them from the clothes line and to store them open and flat in your drawer rather than folding the cups together. 

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to continue to help women in Spain find the ideal lingerie for their body shape and size via Lottie´s personalised bra fitting service and we will soon be launching our online store so that our customers across Spain can continue to purchase from us following their in-store fittings. As Lottie continues to grow I also hope to move to larger premises in the future so that we can expand our product and brand offering.

Lottie is located on c/ Núnez de Balboa 30 (within Enfant Terrible concept store), 28001 Madrid.

To request a bra fitting appointment, you can contact Lucy at [email protected] or on 656 344838

Check out the Lottie website, Facebook page and Instagram for more information. 

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Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

Many Spanish companies still expect their workers to take their holidays at specific times of the year, primarily in August, right in the height of summer when many hotels are fully booked. So what are your rights, are you obliged to take your vacation in one particular month?

Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

While it’s your right as an employee to be able to take holiday days, do you have to take them when your company wants you to take them, or are you able to choose and have more flexibility?

Despite August being one of the hottest months in Spain and the one month of the year when many official companies and offices shut up shop, not everyone necessarily wants to take their break at the same time as everyone else.

Taking your holidays in August means less availability in hotels, overcrowding and more expensive transport and accommodation. If you don’t have children who are off from school during the summer months, then you may wish to take your vacation days at another time of the year, when it’s less busy and cheaper.

To answer the question it’s important to know the details about what the law says about how paid time off is taken, requested, imposed, or granted.

What laws or regulations dictate the rules about paid holiday time?

There are three different sets of rules and regulations, which are responsible for regulating the laws on vacation time in Spain. 

Firstly, you need to look at the Spanish Workers’ Statute, which includes rights, duties and obligations applicable to all salaried workers in Spain.

Secondly, you need to be aware of the collective sector and/or company agreements, which may dictate the rules for a particular industry for example.

Thirdly, you need to look at the contract, which you signed with your employer when you started working for them. This sets out your individual circumstances and the rules you must abide by.   

Workers Statute

As a general rule, all employees are subject to the Workers’ Statute. Holidays are part of this and are the subject of article 38. These conditions can never be contradicted by individual companies and are set as a guaranteed minimum. 

The minimum number of holidays in Spain is 30 calendar days per year. This equals two and a half days per month worked, in the case of temporary contracts. The statute states that vacations must be taken between January 1st and December 31st in separate periods, but one of them must be for at least two weeks. They are always paid and cannot be exchanged for financial compensation.

The period when you can take them is set by a common agreement between the employer and the worker, in accordance with what is established in the collective agreements on annual vacation planning. If there is disagreement, the social jurisdiction is resorted to.

At a minimum, the company must offer vacation days at least two months before the beginning of the holiday period, so that the employee has time to organise and book.   

When the planned time to take vacations coincides with a temporary disability, pregnancy, or childbirth, you have the right to enjoy the vacations at another time, even after the calendar year is over.

Collective agreements on vacations  

Your sector’s collective agreements may also help to answer this question. These aim to improve upon the basic and general rights that are included in the Workers’ Statute. They seek to adapt the rules to each type of industry or company. They could, for example, set out extra vacation days, which are greater than the standard 30 calendar days. 

You will need to find out what your specific sector or company’s collective agreement is. There is a possibility that your sector or company has mandatory summer vacations for the month of August and in that case, you can choose vacation dates, but only within this month.

Your work contract 

Lastly, you will need to consult your individual contract which you signed with the company when you were hired.  As well as the minimum conditions set out in the Workers’ Statute, your contract sets out your particular agreement with your employer in terms of holiday duration, the work calendar and other details.

Therefore, you should state in your contract whether you have to take your holidays during August, or if you’re free to take them at other times of the year.

If after consulting these three sets of regulations and there are still in doubt or in disagreement with your company about vacations, such as having to take them during the month of August, you should consult a lawyer specialising in labor law. They should be able to give you an answer specific to your situation.  

Can I appeal or disagree and what are the consequences? 

To appeal or express disagreement with what is proposed by the company, there is a period of 20 business days from when the vacation schedule is sent out, after which time you don’t have the right to show that you disagree.  

Companies can proceed to disciplinary dismissals due to abandonment of the job if you decide to take vacations that have not been granted or agreed upon with your employer. To avoid this type of problem, always make sure you have a record in writing of your request for vacation time and subsequent approval by the company.