HOT SHOP Bra Chic
The Globe & Mail, July 16, 2005
On Oprah recently, the outspoken host staged a different kind of intervention than the usual get-my-child-off-drugs scenario. It was a bra intervention.
“Eighty-five per cent of all women,” she declared, “are wearing the wrong bra!” Audience members and millions of viewers gasped. Then they reached for pen and paper, waiting for the promised moment when Oprah would reveal her favourite bra.
The show featured Trinny and Susannah, the brazen hosts of Britain’s popular makeover programme What Not to Wear . The fashion gurus accosted and felt up unsuspecting women in shopping malls before refitting them with more appropriate brassiers. The evidence was undeniable: a good bra makes women look years younger and pounds thinner.
Ever since the show aired, Marianne Hassan’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Her barely 5-month old lingerie boutique on Ottawa’s Sussex Drive happens to carry “the Oprah bra,” the seamless, moulded microfiber wonder known as Tisha by Le Mystère (It sells for $156).
“It might work fine for Oprah’s breasts,” she explains in the tone of a stern headmistress, “but it doesn’t mean it will work for you.”
Hassan prides herself on taking a gentler, more “breast-positive” approach to the bra makeovers that take place in her dressing rooms. After all, she says, women here have been given no choice. With limited cup sizes available, often just A, B and Cs, women have been forced to increase the bra’s back size to try and compensate. “If that’s all they’re offered, those are the sizes most women think they are,” she says. “It’s what one of my suppliers calls the Victoria’s Secret Syndrome.”
Many women would never have guessed their real size before stumbling into the shop, says Hassan. “A woman will come in and say – I can’t be a D, I had a breast reduction. I say. I’m sorry, you’re a D!”
As the proud owner of a pair of F-cups, Hassan says it was impossible to find bras in her size after moving to Ottawa from England five years ago. While bra shopping on a visit to London last year, she decided to leave her job as a community health educator and open BraChic, a shop and bra-fitting service that caters exclusively to women left behind by the likes of Lejaby and Warner: the D-cup and up.
She carries all of her favourite European brands in sizes up to 56JJ including Rigby & Peller (“bra-makers to the Queen”), Empreinte, Fantasie, Freya, Panache and tennis star Anna Kournikova’s sports bra-of-choice, Shock Absorber in sizes up to GG.
Considering its tony address and upscale price-point, the boutique, much like Hassan herself, is delightfully relaxed and not at all fussy. The bright turquoise and pink painted walls, comfy leather sofa and sassy thong-clad window display mannequin that lights up at night, seem to suggests that lingerie shopping can be fun and uplifting rather than a depressing exercise in bawdy boudoir make-believe.
What truly sets this shop apart is the fact that Hassan offers personal bra fitting consultations by appointment, free of charge. She’ll even host a weeknight Bra Party for small groups of girlfriends.
In front of the fitting room mirror, Hassan measures clients and brings them every bra in the store in their size, adjusting and explaining precisely why each bra works or doesn’t. That’s where Hassan has a chance to share some of that breast-positive philosophy. “I say hoist ’em up, get ’em up front and looking fabulous in all these lovely colours. It just makes you feel good.”
Oprah couldn’t have said it better herself.
Brachic , 483 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, 613-321-0401.