This is a business story and a bra story.

It’s about a feisty and comedic Brit living in Ottawa who didn’t like her job and definitely didn’t like her options for undergarments. 

Marianne Hassan opened on Richmond Road in 2004. She started the boutique for those who feel they don’t quite “fit” anywhere else.

Bra-shopping in Ottawa wasn’t working for her either.

“I went shopping, went into the fitting room.  I gave them my size and they didn’t have it. There was no choice for me. The average bra sizes in Canada, at that time only went up to double D.”

The ‘upfront-back-story’

“I was out bra shopping with my sister in London (U.K.). While in the fitting rooms of John Lewis I was complaining that I lived in the capital of Canada and yet we had no bra store that sold the old established brands of bras,” says Hassan.

At that time Hassan was working in health care, as a health promoter and volunteer coordinator. She needed a shift.

“My sister advised me to stop complaining, if I did not like my job leave it, and if I could not find any decent bras, then I should open up my own boutique.”

Sometimes the universe just lets you know when something is meant to be and cradles you in her bosom. 

“On the plane home I sat next to someone in the industry and we exchanged numbers. I researched for a year and then applied for a bank loan using our house as collateral. The rest is history.”

It hasn’t always been easy and this pandemic has led to some inventory issues and supply chain delays.   

Hassan says she’s grateful to have an ample and abundant inventory. This enables her to look after clients, longtime and new, young and mature, buxom and less-than-buxom.

“More than 80 per cent of woman are wearing the wrong size. Some have bras that fit their boobs but don’t suit their body type.”

Hassan wants women to feel comfortable and supported, especially in this age of Zoom meetings, when people are sitting for most of the day and are on-screen from the chest up.

“One thing that I feel is really important for this time is for us to get dressed up because when we feel good, we look good and that impacts our mental health.”

Hassan’s eight tips for finding a bra that fits

  1. Wire/cup to encase all of the breast tissue.
  2. Wire should firmly be placed outside of all of the breast tissue and wire lying flat against the sternum. The wire is like a frame, clearing all breast tissue.
  3. Band is horizontal and comfortably snug around the torso. Bra hook is done up on the first set.
  4. Straps - must have room to be adjusted looser/tighter.
  5. Shoulders of a person should be considered when choosing the style of bra.
  6. Arm raise to check that all breast tissue remains in the cup.
  7. Sit test - to check movement of bra, make sure the person feels no difference when sitting - e.g wire digging in armpits or ribs.
  8. Comfort - whatever the person does during the day they should try and mimic those actions - e.g bending, typing, picking-up objects.   Comfort - we have no measure for this!

Hassan says a proper-fitting bra makes a difference in the way clothes fit and look, and can increase self-esteem by helping people feel more confident and secure in their appearance.

"When you wear a good-fitting bra you can feel that you're supported, you don't have to worry about your breast coming out of your bra, you can bend down or run all with the added confidence of knowing that you are secure. This is especially important for younger women in being able to feel comfortable in their changing bodies,” she says.

“Underwear should be the last thing they need to worry about. We are seeing a lot of young women with 28/30 bands with G / GG cup sizes.”

There are also health benefits. Supporting the larger breast helps contribute to positive body posture and places less strain on the neck and upper back.

Hassan leads her team of trained fitting consultants and sees clients by appointment only.  Her Richmond Road boutique is open with stringent COVID protocols.