At Revelation in Fit, the new lingerie store that opened last week at 386 State St. in Los Altos, the bras in the showroom – seasonal and, in some cases, rather fashion forward – are only the tip of the bosom iceberg.
The Los Altos location includes an appropriately drape-y lounge area studded with fitting rooms, but don’t stop there. The real surprise remains cloaked behind a curtain even farther back in the shop – a voluminous and workmanlike “library” of approximately 2,500 bras that stretches the length of the store. Revelation welcomes walk-ins to browse in front or try an entire fitting, but also book appointments in advance to guarantee a leisurely consultation. Pieces range from $40 to $190.
Owner Robynne Winchester worked in San Francisco as a professional corset maker, coming to know ladies’ curves from measurements to pattern making, needlework and final fit. Historically the corset functioned as a preamble to the bra – as women began to unbind from full-torso-wear, they found key body parts still seeking support. Enter the brassiere, and a century and a half of evolving style and fit.
Women love to hate their bras. Mid-back muffin top. Straps cutting into shoulders. A half moon of underwire imprinted halfway up a breast. Most American bra retailers carry a limited range of band sizes (30-40) and cup sizes (AA-DD), and those in limited combinations. Winchester wanted to start a business that specialized in providing a fine-grained fit, rather than squishing all breasts into a narrow range of cup sizes.
“I wear a rare size myself and used to get all my bras from England, because no one makes my size,” Winchester said.
She took a business class through a women’s entrepreneurship initiative, wrote a business plan and got a loan. With the help of additional funding from an Indiegogo campaign that captured the sturm und drang of ladies’ tortured relationships to their chestware, she opened a shop in Oakland in 2014 and now a second location in Los Altos.
The European designers Revelation carries, including Marlies Dekkers and Ewa Michalak, use tailoring and judicious hardware to bring an avant-garde look to still-feminine bras, with hints of Valkyries, silken Madonna tributes and a denim/suspenders racerback situation that looks like it could handily double as self-confident outerwear somewhere other than Los Altos.
The women behind a Revelation in Fit have the steampunk edge of businesswomen who know that they are “a little bit of a throwback,” according to Winchester. Women of a certain age will remember a time when this level of lingerie fitting might be routine. And millennial readers have probably already heard online – often – that they are wearing the wrong bra size. For those in the middle, Winchester and her coworkers can provide an introduction to the concept.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
Charlotte Nix, who manages the Los Altos store, walked a visitor through the fitting experience last week. After measuring the “underbust” (the rib cage just beneath breast tissue) and the “bust” (the most “forward projected” part of the breast), she suggested that the erstwhile 34B try a 32D instead. Successfully.
That D cup doesn’t imply a shrinking violet has been hiding massive endowments. In the reality of bra sizing, the “letter” grade measures very specific dimensions, not total girth.
Winchester’s “body positive” mission extends beyond catering to women of all ages and sizes to include the quirks women don’t always talk about – the weird breast details that everyone has but don’t appear in Victoria’s Secret advertising.
Revelation in Fit carries every proportion, with band sizes from 28 to 46 and, depending on designer, from A-KK or M cups. Customizable lined bras allow for the addition or removal of padding to even out divergent breasts, and customers who are pregnant, nursing or accommodating mastectomies can vet brands that cater to breast tissue that’s undergoing changes.
Nix dips into the library to pick out options based on the torso shape and breast dynamics of the individual, in addition to basic preferences in style and shape of bra. If you’re thinking size, don’t stop at “forward projection” – what about breasts that are wider or closer set, fuller on top or fuller on the bottom, conical or round?
“We’ve been stuck in this A-DD myth, but it doesn’t reflect actual bodies,” Winchester wrote when she introduced the shop’s concept. “What does a bra that fits feel like? You know when Gandalf finds Shadowfax, his perfect horse? It’s like that.”
For bra lovers who have forgotten their Tolkien, that’s shorthand for a hard-won partnership of almost gravity-defying ease and effortlessness.