It was my very first visit to Bits of Lace, an intimate apparel boutique specializing in exclusive foreign and domestic lingerie lines, which proudly opened a second location in Mount Pleasant in April. (The original store is in downtown Charleston.) Unbeknownst to me, this wouldn’t be a regular shopping trip or fact-finding mission. I was about to have a fundamental belief about my body—and how I shopped for it—forever altered.
I spoke at length with owner Ruth Brennan about the boutique’s goal—to provide beautiful, functional underpinnings of the highest quality for all ages and body types. Their exclusive professional bra-fitting service, she said, assures every woman that she will find a perfect style and proper fit.
My interest was piqued. I decided to go in and have myself fitted.
Bits of Lace is unlike any intimate apparel store in Charleston. One of only 350 European lingerie boutiques in the entire United States, they offer award-winning services and are the only bra-fit specialists in the area. Focusing on craftsmanship and fit, they consider themselves to be a mainstream lingerie company with a superior, exclusive product line.
“We are focused on the identity of women, their lifestyle and how to make them comfortable in their own skin. We help them achieve the presentation they seek in their outerwear with the correct underpinnings to suit their lifestyle and budget,” Brennan says. “Our product line reflects this.”
Brennan says she purchased the wellestablished lingerie boutique in downtown Charleston in 2000, because it was a perfect fit for her skills and personality. “I understand people’s needs,” she says, “and I am a good observer.” She notes that her background as a critical care nurse in cardiology gives her the ability to understand her clients and intuitively know how to help them.
The identity and feel of the original downtown store is that of a romantic hEuropean lingerie salon. But the Mount Pleasant store, with its larger inventory, accommodates a more diverse clientele. “People come from all over the world,” Brennan says. “We can fit them here, and continue to serve them through our e-commerce website when they return home.”
Brennan opened the new store to alleviate the challenges of navigating downtown, and to better serve local customers’ needs and busy lifestyles. “In Mount Pleasant, we focus on a specific niche of perfectly stylized and expertly fitted bras,” she says, “along with our most popular and successful silhouettes in sleepwear and shapewear. We are one of an exclusive group of retailers who carry the Eres swimwear brand, a French line unmatched in fabric luxury and technically precise construction.”
The Mount Pleasant salon offers ample parking and is bright, contemporary and welcoming. “Our employees are friendly and ready to help,” Brennan says. “Some customers may feel shy about shopping for lingerie in a high-end boutique, and we want to reassure them. We don’t leave our customers to fend for themselves. We listen, discover together what is important to them and guide them in the right direction.”
Part of that guidance is focusing on education. “Eighty-five percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size,” she says. “We start off finding the perfect basic bra with the right fit for everyday wear. Once we have the basics taken care of then we can assist our customers in building a bra wardrobe to suit different styles and occasions.” Fitters guide the customer to bras suited to their particular body and lifestyle and show them how to properly wear them.
For those planning a wedding, Bits of Lace offers exclusive custom-fitted corsetry handmade in England. The customer chooses the style, fabric and embellishments she prefers. The shop carries specialty bras to fit any type of wedding gown, plus a full line of sleepwear, robes and gifts at all price points.
“We are really excited about our special after-hours party for the bride and her attendants,” Brennan says. That’s when the bridal party can try on lingerie in complete privacy, while enjoying beverages and hors d’oeuvres. “It’s their night with the bride,” she says, “and a wonderful way to outfit themselves and purchase gifts they know the bride will love.”
Bits of Lace strives to foster a strong connection with the community. “Our outreach and involvement reflects the identity of the store, which specializes in ‘all things women’ and assists them in rebuilding their self-confidence after undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy,” says McKenzie Welch, director of marketing. “We partner with the Center for Women, and provide outreach at The Medical University of South Carolina and Roper St. Francis.”
Brennan specializes in mastectomy and lumpectomy fittings and offers a full line of specialty bras and forms. She creates a three-part consultation and fitting plan, utilizing all of her resources to assure that each woman leaves her shop perfectly fitted and reminded that they are feminine and beautiful.
So now let’s return to where we started—my personal experience. Since I had never been professionally fitted for a bra, I brought an open mind, a desire for change and a bra in the style and size that I’ve been wearing for decades.
For 30 minutes, I worked with Mount Pleasant store manager and expert fitter, Rhiannon Schalaudek. I left with an understanding of how bras really work, an eye-opening change in my own silhouette, (I went from a B-cup to D-cup) … and a huge smile.
Michelle Thompson is a freelance writer in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Find out more at michellemariethompson.net.