Submitted by Erica L. Windle, owner of A Sophisticated Pair in Burlington, North Carolina
For years, I hated bras—a funny statement coming from the proprietor of a lingerie boutique. My experiences bra shopping were nightmarish and traumatizing, sometimes reducing me to tears, but when you’re 17 and needing a UK 30H—a size I, like most other people, had no idea existed, the options are scarce. I was forced to settle for ill-fitting 38DDDs that did little more than hold my boobs together underneath the underwire and create a landslide of shapeless breast tissue tumbling over my waist. Then, when I was 21 and losing weight, I visited Nordstrom for a proper bra fitting, and I was pleasantly surprised they had a bra in my new size, UK 36GG, which fit better than any bra I owned in my entire life. For several minutes, I unashamedly stared at myself in the mirror, marveling at my new figure and feeling good about myself. Even though the bra was beige and plain, I was happy to find something which finally fit.
Eventually, I became a little disappointed that every time I went to buy bras my choices were beige, beige, and more beige. Where were the pretty bras? My desire for more options led me to research bras online to see what else was available for a busty girl like me. The information was not plentiful at the time as this was before the age of lingerie and bra blogging, but I was persistent and patient.
Over the next couple of years, I spent my free time looking up more information on the lingerie industry, bra fitting, and boutique ownership. Why weren’t there more places where women could be properly sized without fear of judgment? The UK lingerie market was so far ahead of ours in the US that there were already super cute, fun styles in higher cup sizes being produced. Why weren’t these carried locally? Why would I have to order from overseas just to get a bra that fit?
Eventually, these questions began to nag at me, and I realized what I really wanted was to open my own store. I wanted to create a boutique with a better selection across sizes, where proper fitting techniques were advocated, and where body snark was not allowed. Because of my past experiences, I did not want anyone to feel self-conscious because of what size they needed. Motivated, excited, and more than a little naïve, I enlisted my aunt and dad on my quest, and A Sophisticated Pair was born!
Coming from a computer programming background with zero retail experience made the process challenging, and we made more than a few mistakes. Failures became opportunities to improve, and I learned not to be a slave to traditional thinking and to identify what I wanted the business to be, regardless of whether it fits the standard mold. We are constantly growing and evolving to accommodate the diverse needs of our customers, and while we are a small shop, we pride ourselves on treating customers like family. Our store is an energizing, welcoming, and most importantly “Judgment Free” space for women to receive expert advice and individual attention. My goal is for people to leave with a positive experience of the shop but more importantly a positive feeling about themselves. In a market increasingly dominated by online sales and discount retailers, I think it is paramount to show customers why the boutique experience is the best experience.
A Sophisticated Pair is located at:
1143E St. Mark’s Church Road
Burlington, NC 27215
t: (336) 270-6744