More pressurized than a mammogram. More daunting than a marathon. Able to break women shoppers in a single trip. That’s my definition of buying a bra.
So when my first assignment sent me to cover an award-winning brassiere shop, I felt like the new kid in first grade.
Worse, this was a lingerie shop. I imagined the lewd should-be-unmentionables sold in Boardwalk sex shops in Ocean City. If lingerie translates from the French in other ways, I hadn’t learned them yet.
Until I slipped into á la mode, one of America’s top five lingerie boutiques in the category European Flair.
Tucked away as hidden as the garments it sells downtown in our own capital city, Annapolis, the clean and cozy boudoir is painted in safe, soft colors. Fitters — all women — are so friendly that you feel like you’re seeking advice from a friend. Advice you never knew you needed, from a friend with overflowing knowledge about lace, color and embroidery, the three elements of European Flair.
These elements offer “attention to the things that make something special and make something a treat,” says co-owner Rebecca Ulrich-Dodson who delights in making bra shopping a pampering experience.
I was jolted out of my perceived nightmare — being scrutinized by a fitter mad with the power of a tape measure — when asked what I wanted from a bra — instead of being told.
Better still, this lingerie was tasteful — if a bit more creative than utilitarian. Half-naked before a full-length mirror — and protected by a closed plum curtain — I told Ulrich-Dodson that, yes, I was ready.
But I was not alone. Like “80 percent of women,” Ulrich-Dodson reported, I was wearing “the wrong size bra.”
Ulrich-Dodson furnished the hooks on the wall with an array of styles, brands and all around well-fitting bras in my preferred style, simple and comfortable. A good fit comes in three parts, I learned: “The band in back is low level and secure; the underwire needs to be under — not on — the breast, and the cup should be fitted but not overflowing.”
My pitiful excuse for a bra, meeting none of the criteria and even scratching me with an escaped wire, caused me to consider buying one of the many I tried on for my story. Prices are on the higher side, with the ones I sampled between $25 and $65. Co-owner Patricia Platt convinced me the extra money was worth it because a bra “is one article of clothing you wear more than any other and that you ask to do more than any other.”
European Flair is fun, but, Platt told me, comfort and fit are more important to customers from cup sizes AA to KK, band sizes 30 to 44 and life-style needs from everyday to elegant, maternity or nursing to mastectomy.