The Shadow Bra Industry: Adrienne McGill in Chicagoland

Today I continue my Shadow Bra Industry series with the third of four women that I interviewed who are forging separate paths to help women find their perfect fit. Earlier I introduced you to two New Yorkers, Jessica and Anina, and two direct sales companies, Peach and Essential Body Wear. Today I want you to meet Adrienne Mcgill.

Most of us are happy just to find a bra fitter who wants to put us in the right bra, but Adrienne McGill is a like a bra fitting life coach! I feel ready to take on the world after only a few minutes with her, so imagine how her clients must feel.

The women who work with Adrienne are usually experts in their fields who value others’ expertise and are willing to pay for it. Adrienne spends time developing relationships with each client and visits Curve with each one’s specific preferences in mind. She’ll tell a husband who wants to buy his wife some lingerie, “Truthfully, this is the bra she wants, and it’s coming out early next year, so it’s worth waiting for.”

Advice like that makes me want to refer my Chicago friends to her.  Adrienne has spent over ten years honing her skills. As she puts it, “I’m in the business to help women feel good about themselves. It’s important to me that I leave a woman better than I found her.

If you’re referring a friend who isn’t certain about the financial commitment of working with Adrienne, have her inquire about Adrienne’s once-a-month, entry level, no-fee events. At those events, she usually runs two fitting rooms at a time and spends 20-30 minutes with each client.

Here is what your friend can expect from a fit session with Adrienne:

  • no tape measure (“It’s only a guideline anyway”)
  • encouragement not to worry about size, only fit
  • a separate changing room with a closed door . . . no undressing in front of Adrienne unless she chooses to, and Adrienne will always ask permission before entering the room
  • no touching–especially since she needs to learn how to put her bra on properly at home–but Adrienne will ask permission before adjusting the straps

Adrienne carries bands from 30-44, and cups from European E-H. For women outside this range, she can special order or find someone to help them.

Once Adrienne and the client have worked out sizing, they’ll move on to wardrobing. Adrienne finds the interplay between wardrobing and fit to be very personal and consultative. The key question that guides everything is: What are we trying to accomplish? Although Adrienne may show her client that a cut and sew bra provides a better fit, she won’t sell it to her if she isn’t going to wear it. If her client has been wearing the same bra for 10 years, Adrienne probably won’t start her in the tightest band. If a client is on a tight budget, in transition with her weight, or expecting a baby, Adrienne will recommend just three bras–one to wash, one to wear, and a spare. She’ll find out what shades and colors are in the rest of her client’s wardrobe, whether she prefers smooth or textured bras, and what her lifestyle is like. For example, if she’s a young mom running after kids all day, Adrienne won’t recommend a demi cup.

According to Adrienne, the average woman only returns to a bra store every 3-5 years, so a retailer will try to sell as much as possible in each visit. Adrienne’s business model focuses more on helping her clients than on simply turning product, which explains why they schedule regular sessions with her. If her client’s face doesn’t light up at a bra, then Adrienne can’t get excited about selling it to her.