Mary Jordan, owner of the new Bra-la-la store in Fulton, doesn't mind lifting her shirt to show customers her wares. "I flash everyone," she said, giving customer Asha Sharmin a glimpse of her beige La Mystere bra last week.
Sharmin, who said she is a size 36D, did not like the bras she had and stopped by the lingerie shop hoping that Jordan could help her. "I'm trying to get a nice-fitting one that gives me a nice shape and fit and at the same time doesn't make me look big," Sharmin said.
Jordan showed Sharmin several bras she might like, including a brand called Prima Donna, and told her that the key was finding the correct fit. The band under the breasts, not the shoulder straps, should do the work, she said.
Sharmin was in a hurry, but she said she would return soon when she would have enough time to try the bras on. "I wouldn't let you take it if it didn't fit you," Jordan said.
Bra-la-la stocks bras mostly from Europe, priced between $40 and $200. Many are lacy, but Jordan says the inventory is only part of the attraction. She is hoping to win over customers with old-fashioned one-on-one service and strong knowledge about how bras should fit. In fact, the store's slogan, written on its Web site and on business cards, is "finding your perfect fit."
The store's location, next to the hip-mom clothing store Urban Chic in the upscale Maple Lawn Shopping Center, is also a plus, Jordan said.
Though the store is not a month old, Jordan said, she is seeing customers who have been buying the wrong size bra for years. For many, it is a psychological hurdle to acknowledge that they are larger than they thought, she said. But when she helps customers find bras that fit well, "the women are so appreciative," Jordan said.
Jordan has undergone training in how to fit bras, and she has learned about nursing bras, sports bras and bras for women who have had mastectomies. For mastectomy bras, she said, specifics of the surgery make a difference in the fit. "Really, it's a mater of finding the one that makes them feel whole again," she said.
She said all women can use a "second set of eyes" when finding a bra.
Jordan, who lives in Ellicott City, said her friends have been a huge help in designing the store, creating a Web site and working there. "It's like an old-fashioned barn-raising," she said.
One such employee is Nancy Pickard, whose daughter is in a Girl Scout troop with Jordan's daughter. "I'm just excited for her," Pickard said of her friend.
The space, which smells of the French soaps Jordan sells, is decorated in shades of gold and mustard and dotted with mannequins wearing exquisite nightgowns and lingerie. Bras in a variety of colors line the walls.
A curved wall separates the front of the room from the back, so women can try on bras out of view of people walking in. A waterfall flows down the center of the wall.
Jordan had been in biotechnology sales for 15 years and felt she was ready for a change, she said. A friend told her about a successful lingerie store in Virginia, and Jordan was intrigued.
She visited the store, then began visiting other lingerie and department stores in Virginia and Maryland, deciding what she liked and did not like at each location. She also sat in countless coffee shops, asking women who walked by if they would be interested in a specialty bra shop. The answer was always yes, said Jordan.
In July, Jordan went to a lingerie show in New York, she said, and met two women who own a bra shop in Exeter, N.H., called Top Drawer. The women allowed Jordan to spend a week with them, learning the business, she said. "They're still helping me along," she said.
In addition to bras, Bra-la-la sells robes, nightgowns, bath salts and soaps, and items such as "cleavage cupcakes," which provide "a way to get that oomph without the surgery," Jordan said.
The goal of all her inventory, she said, is to help women feel good about their bodies. "I think women are coming to the conclusion that they're worth more," she said.