At Northwest Bras, the ladies have a mission: to help women find the perfect fit and thus improve the quality of their lives.
“We don’t ever want to deviate from being a fit focused store because the fitting is absolutely the most critical part,” said Maggie Bettger, who has been with the store for six years.
Since moving to their new location at 755 W. Washington St., Ste E., more Sequim people have discovered this business (which has been in operation since 2015), according to Bettger. The square footage has doubled, so they can display more options of undergarments, lingerie, year-round swimwear and even a few novelty items for men.
Northwest Bras carries band widths from 28-54 and cup sizes from A to O.
“We carry 15 cup sizes as opposed to 6 at a conventional store,” said Bettger.
Finding the perfect fit can be a challenge, as many women can attest.
“Bras are like people,” Bettger said. “You’re going to get along with some but not all.”
Each brand and each style of a bra fit differently on each different person. Each person has their own combination of rib cage, shoulders, armpit height, spread of breast tissue, possible medical issues and personal preferences.
This is where the staff’s expertise come in. A fitter helps every customer find her proper fit and guides her to the most comfortable brassieres for her specific body and activity level, from sports to leisure.
“We carry so many different styles and bras,” Bettger said. “It can be overwhelming for the typical customer.”
She explained that staff can quickly narrow down the inventory to sizes and types that work for each individual.
Beyond brand, Bettger said that every element of the bra, from band and cup size to fabric content to straps and wire or lack thereof affect the fit and comfort level.
Most women come in with the wrong band size, she said.
“Band size is 90 percent of your support,” Bettger said. “When you’re not in the right band size, all of your weight is going onto your shoulders, your back and your neck. You’re just gonna be miserable and it will give you grooves in your shoulders.”
Fitters are trained to recognize posture and fit issues and must know all the varieties of brassiere in stock.
“Learning to fit is easy, but learning product is hard,” said employee Kelly Iriye, who began at the store by doing technical support. She liked the place so much that she signed on as a fitter.
“Everybody that works here has to be able to read people,” said owner Sarah Nightingale. People come in with varying levels of privacy needs, sensitivity about their bodies and past experiences trying to find the perfect undergarments.
Nightingale devotes a lot of time to searching for the perfect items to sell in her store, keeping in mind affordability, high quality, durability and the preferences of her customers.
She said she has fibromyalgia so is very sensitive to texture.“I won’t bring anything in if it’s scratchy or itchy. Right out the gate. I don’t care how cute it is.”
Staff, who themselves embody a variety of fit and taste in styles, test each item before judging it worthy of their customers.
Northwest Bras offers appointments to their customers as well as walk-ins. The store is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and are offering a week-long Black Friday sale that began Nov. 22.
Northwest Bras began when Nightingale was working at Scrubs, her sister’s store. She said many of the people who came in didn’t have an accurate fit in their scrubs because their foundational garments didn’t fit correctly. She had already figured out how to address this problem in her own life.
At Scrubs, they began to carry a small stock of brassieres as a courtesy to their clients, a move that was so successful that it grew into a bigger business. Before a year was out, Northwest Bras moved to a location of US Highway 101, next door to Paisley’s.
Despite the expansion in offerings since moving to West Washington Street, staff said Northwest Bras will always at its core be a fit shop.
The mission, however, is broader than the perfect fit. Staffers said they wish to undo some of the societal harm that has been inflicted upon women throughout their lives through advertising and other consumerist imagery which depicts the “perfect” body.
“Every woman of every different size complains about the same exact body issues,” Bettger said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re big, or if they’re small. They all hate the same things because (companies) airbrush them out.”
Northwest Bra’s staff have been actively encouraging their product suppliers to eliminate airbrushing from their model photography so that women can see the reality of the model’s figures and appreciate that their own bodies fall within the normal range of female anatomy.
At Northwest Bras, said Bettger, “We’re not judging your body, we’re judging a society that didn’t set you up for success.”