If a bra fits, she’s done her bit

One might consider applying the same engineering principles for building a suspension bridge to building a bra.

Lift. Support. Elegance. Durability.

Virginia Shipp has made a career of customizing bras for the proper fit.

I think she peeked in my underwear drawer. How else would she know I had 18 kinds of bras with underwires, pads and lace? And she knew none of them fit quite right. This lady knows women’s shapes and our underwear.

At Virginia’s Feminine Boutique in Smokey Point, ladies have shopped for 20 years where they can have bras custom fit from a dainty 28 to barrel-size 52, and cups AA to OO.

Shoppers come from Alaska, Idaho, Norway and Canada, once they learn they can actually get garments with the correct “peak” and of course, without flop over or back bulge.

Men take wives, mothers and sisters to the shop as a surprise, or buy their ladies gift certificates, because men hear complaints from the boudoir.

“My bra itches, sags, stretches or cuts.”

Men can take only so much whining.

And custom fit sounds good to men, whether it’s for seat covers, cowboy boots or to make the ladies in their lives comfortable.

I’ve noticed that every few months, a big-box store brings in bra fitters. I picture that as a sort of stampede with oodles of ladies in dressing rooms, strangers with cold hands and the utmost importance being put on selling gear and rigging.

Virginia, 73, teaches her twin granddaughters (and employees) Melissa and Vanessa Shipp, 27, that sales aren’t the main goal.

“It’s about getting the women what they need,” Vanessa said. “The bras sell themselves.”

Twenty years ago, Virginia drove to Utah to buy her favorite custom-fitted bras but discovered that the shop was going out of business.

Virginia decided to start her own company in the breezeway of her Marysville home. Sales zoomed, helped by repeat customers. The shop will move to a larger Smokey Point location in a few months.

Saturdays are big days for brides.

They bring their wedding dresses, maids of honor and mothers, then try on strapless bras, bustiers and shape wear.

Another major part of the business is custom-fitting bras for cancer patients who have undergone lumpectomies or mastectomies.

“Brides are fun,” Virginia said. “Mastectomy ladies are serious.”

They’ve shared tears and hugs when the fit is just right for cancer survivors. When she first started her business, some customers would show up with breasts formed from rice, beans or socks.

“There were no support groups,” Virginia said. “I was their support group.”

Needing full exposure for this column, I took several bras for a test drive, from Kias to Lamborghinis.

I settled on a Chevy.

Vanessa was very kind during the fitting and didn’t giggle or anything. She is studying to earn a national fitting certificate. Melissa is the office manager. They both worked for Everett Clinic before joining their grandmother two years ago.

“There was a lot to learn,” Vanessa said. “I love to be thrown out of my comfort zone.”

Virginia’s husband of 52 years, Richard, thought when she started the business that his wife was starting a little hobby. She’s expanded the business to include wigs and essential oils.

I left with a $44 custom-fit brassiere.

Vanessa said my peaks were perfect. Like a bridge.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, oharran@heraldnet.com.

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