The intelligent consumer: If the cup fits wear it

Margaret Ann Miles can't see why D-cups should be denied black lace bustiers. Annalisa Barbieri reports

It was a terrifically good ham sandwich and most welcome, packed with a shiny apple in a paper bag. But the offer of a Penguin biscuit was refused. After hours of talking about bras, of feeling qualities of lace, discussing underwiring, thermals, stockings, and good, old-fashioned stays, I was hungry and Margaret Ann, the "underpinnings lady" made sure I didn't go home with a rumbling tummy.

Margaret Ann makes a lot of women happy. Working mostly from home by appointment, she deals in every possible type of underwear, swimwear, nightwear and hosiery in just about any size, sourced from all over the world - from the modern and gorgeous, through serious corsetry, to mastectomy and nursing. Brands include Fantasie, Rigby and Peller, Anita, Jonathan Aston, Felina, Pastunette, Silhouette, Prima Donna, Goddess and, just launched, her own label, which is also available mail order. Oh God, I could go on, but there's not that much space here.

Although Margaret Ann can, and does, cater for the first bra teenager, it is the women who are "too big" to find what they want in conventional stores that invariably seek her out and find they smile again. Despite mankind being able to construct bridges spanning large expanses of water, somehow bras in anything over an E cup are still considered "specialist". When you can find them (and it is getting better, although slowly) it's usually only in white - as though black or, heaven forbid, red, is too naughty for big girls. It's different at Margaret Ann's.

In her living room in the Wiltshire countryside, Margaret Ann welcomes her clients. You go in, have a cup of tea, talk, then go to what she calls her "glory hole", select and try on. "I like to give new clients not less than an hour and a half," she explains. Every size she can get a bra, basque, swimsuit or whatever in is kept in stock, maybe not in every colour, but she can get it, ringing the manufacturer or agent direct. There is no pressure to buy and there is no one else there, save for the two of you. This privacy and discretion is especially important for the post- mastectomy women who form part of her clientele. Margaret Ann is trained not only in bra fitting, but also mastectomy fitting. She can get pockets fitted into certain types of "normal" bras and swimsuits so that the prosthesis can fit into it. That way a woman can have more choice, and carry on wearing her favourite bathing costume or bra. "They end up comfortable, happy and mentally secure - and that's what it's all about."

Margaret Ann Miles was born in Oxford into an army family, one of four daughters, both sets of twins. "I had a very academic background and I wanted to go into fashion at an early age but wasn't allowed to. I was given the choice of being a nurse, a teacher or going into the armed services." She became a teacher, got married at 22 and moved to Wiltshire. Nine years ago, she decided to set up the business. "I wasn't trying to compete with the big stores. I wanted to cater to the niche that wasn't catered for, especially not in 1989 - the very big-busted ladies," she explains.

While a teacher, Margaret Ann spent a lot of time with the less able children. "I had a terrible stammer as a child and I know what it's like to have a problem. And so it was with the business. It was the people with problems, either through size or post-surgical, that I wanted to provide for." Being well endowed herself, she knew the difficulties women had finding pretty, proper-fitting bras.

To complement the appointment service, Margaret Ann launched a mail- order catalogue last October. She used a plus-size model in it but the response was negative, which is why the newly released catalogue features a size 12 model. The garments in the catalogue are superb. Black basques (sadly only up to a D cup - because of the support needed, you generally don't get basques above an E cup) with exquisite lace, none of that scratchy rubbish. Cami tops, French knickers, teddies... all in gorgeous silk with proper, posh, lacy trim, high-quality polysatin and good old cotton.

As well as the Margaret Ann own label, there are designs by a few, select others. Sizes will range from six to 30, with the bespoke option (which will cost extra because a pattern needs to be cut) available on some garments if the standard sizes don't fit. "I've tried to take the personal service into the mail order so if there's a query on sizing or fabrics, or colours, I'll still be on the end of the telephone."

For a catalogue or an appointment call Margaret Ann Miles on 01985 840520.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Programmer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Bridgend based software de...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Printer

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist retail and brand c...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 2 HGV Driver - with CPC

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Haulage company based on the Thorpe Indu...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence