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A professional bra fitter gets up close and personal with her clients. When women shed their clothes for a fitting, we can also shed some of the armor that hides our emotional or physical frailties. For that reason, the dressing room becomes much more emotional than most of us find on an average day at the office. Sometimes, the job goes way beyond a bra fitting. We were curious about some of the more intense moments that a professional bra fitter experiences, so we asked Genelle Beyer, who works at Nordstrom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to share some entries from her dressing room diaries. Here’s what she had to say…
Diary Entry 1: The Widow
The most memorable and recent experience was with “Maggie.” Maggie is an elderly, soft-spoken woman who came in wanting a bra fitting because her daughters sent her. I usually set up my rooms with a robe, t-shirt, and seamless camisole to ensure the customer is comfortable and has everything at arm’s reach to try on with her bras. Maggie and I went through the usual fit process and after determining her size. I went out to pull some comfortable yet pretty styles.
On re-entering I noticed her lovely necklace and complimented it, sharing that I had one similar. She replied that it was a gift from her husband on one of their anniversaries. I asked which anniversary, simply to keep the conversation going and just to happily learn a little more about her. She replied it was likely their 40th! I assumed that their 40th was just last year, but she added that it was a while ago. (Bra fittings are a very intimate experience, so I take the time to put my customers at ease by just chatting.) I asked how long have she and her husband been married, to which she replied 50 years. However, he died just a couple weeks ago. In that moment I was mortified that I pressed with questions, and apologized profusely.
She quickly put ME at ease and said it’s perfectly all right, and she didn’t mind talking about it. Within a few seconds however, tears filled her eyes…and even mine. I apologized again for making her cry, but she answered that she’s accepted that it’s ok to cry. In that moment, all I could do through my own tears was hold her for a minute. She held on to me as well, and for a brief moment we stood hugging while we let tears flow. She said he was a wonderful man, and right now she simply misses him. She thanked me for my hug, and chatted just a bit about my own marriage. She asked how long I had been married, and for me it has been a mere four years. She took the time to encourage me to stay in love, and never give up on each other. I appreciated her sage advice!
After our full fit process, and choosing and purchasing of bras, she hugged me tightly before leaving. Then, holding my hand and squeezing it, said, “Thank you for your kind compassion. I needed it today.”
This encounter will forever stay with me, and I plan to reach out to Maggie again to check in, or maybe see her again for a couple more bras.
Diary Entry 2: The Mother of The Bride
I must have a thing for my elderly ladies who, perhaps, remind me of the grandmothers whom I didn’t get a chance to know growing up. Both my grandmothers died when I was at a young age. On a random Wednesday afternoon, in walks a mother/daughter pair requesting a bra fitting for the mom. I took them both into one of our larger rooms, and started the steps in my usual bra fitting process – robe, t-shirt, seamless camisole, and measuring tape.
While attempting to measure “Ellie” (the mom), I noticed she wouldn’t (or couldn’t) stop moving, which made it slightly difficult for me to get an exact measurement. I did my best, and decided on technical size for her, and popped in and out of the dressing room with different styles. While trying on each bra, I noticed again the constant moving and fidgeting and was coming to the conclusion that this must be something that she couldn’t control. Her daughter “Paula” tried to stand with her, laying her hand on her back with soothing touches and strokes. Paula quietly whispered to me that Ellie had Parkinson’s disease and kindly asked me to bear with her shaking. I already had no issue at all with the situation and continued on with the fit a little more carefully, mindful of her frailty.
There was a bench in the room, to which I guided her if she felt a little weak. I ran down to our E-Bar for a glass of water as she mentioned feeling a tad dehydrated. Throughout the fitting, both mother and daughter kept thanking me. After deciding on the right bra, Paula mentioned they should take a break before attempting to shop more for a wedding. I inquired as to what else they were looking for and suggested they make themselves comfortable; I would be happy to bring in dresses, shoes, jewelry etc. for the wedding. It turned out that Ellie was the Mother of the Bride for her youngest daughter and came in looking first for a well-fitting bra, but also for the whole gambit. I let both relax in the room, searched the floors, and brought back in about six dresses, two pairs of shoes, a clutch and jewelry to match.
After about 20 minutes, we decided on a beautiful, short and flowy, navy dress, accented with a navy and pink floral ballet flat, all accessories and even some comfortable shape wear. Ellie, though slightly exhausted at the end of the whole session, was elated to find everything she needed without ever leaving the fitting room. Pictures were taken, tears were shed, happy dances and hugs filled our large fitting room. All because Ellie’s day was made just a bit easier to manage and handle. And she left feeling like the queen she truly is!
Diary Entry 3: The Plus Size Mom
I manage a Facebook Group for my Nordstrom bra fitting and personal shopping customers. Some of my customers add their girlfriends or family members and so one evening at 11 pm, I received a frantic Facebook message from one of the group members who I didn’t know very well. She asked if I would be able to help her out the next day. She needed a couple dresses for her grandfather’s funeral that weekend. Thankfully, I was awake, and replied that I would be happy to have a room of options ready for her by the time she arrived.
The next day I spent the first part of the morning setting up the dressing room with dresses and separates options for the funeral and wake. “Jessica” arrived on time with her four year-old daughter in tow, mentioning it really was the only time she could spare. I laughed and said the room was big enough for all of us! Sure enough, it didn’t take her little girl long to set up her art studio on the floor of the fitting room while we gingerly stepped around her works of art.
Jessica only had one hour to spare, and our first order of business was to get her in the right bra before even trying the clothing. She was definitely in the wrong size, and we decided on two perfectly fitting and lifting options that would lay the foundation for the pieces to come. One of Jessica’s first complaints was that she was plus size and knew it may be difficult to dress her body type. This to me was no challenge. I love fitting and dressing all different types and allowing every woman a chance to feel equally as beautiful! Jessica tried all our pieces and stood in awe of her own reflection. She remained astonished as to how every pair of pants, dress and blouse fit her so perfectly that she felt like a different person. She lamented that she had not taken charge of her style or wardrobe since having kids. Most days she feels messy and thrown together, and continuously discouraged that she had not lost any baby weight.
Throughout our dressing room conversations, I encouraged her to put it all behind her and to look at the person in the mirror, reminding her she was beautiful, accomplished, elegant, kind, and a wonderful mother! While she only came for two outfits for the weekend, Jessica left with an additional two pairs of tailored stretch pants, two extremely flattering peplum blouses, a knit blazer, kitten heels, and jewelry. I thought this may have been the end of our interaction for the week, but within a couple days Jessica wrote an amazingly kind review on my Facebook group, AND sent a similar letter to our Store Manager. I was absolutely surprised by this gesture. It is always my pleasure and joy to ensure clients leave my rooms feeling like the beauties they are!
About the Author – Professional Bra Fitter
Genelle Beyer is an Image Consultant and Personal Stylist residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the Founder of ImaGen Services, her image consulting business and is a certified bra fit specialist at Nordstrom. With a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, and a minor in Human Resources from the University of the West Indies, Genelle went on to pursue image consulting at the Image Resource Center of New York and completed her certification in 2012. She is a member of Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and recently appointed as the Secretary of the AICI Midwest Chapter. Born and raised in Trinidad, in the Southern Caribbean, Genelle moved to Wisconsin in 2014 after marrying her husband. While image consulting remains her first love, Genelle is also a licensed Zumba, Kids Zumba and STRONG by Zumba Instructor and teaches classes in her community.