You've seen the infomercials, ladies. Women of various shapes, ages and sizes struggle to get comfortable in their ill-fitting bras, tugging and wriggling and contorting as if staked to a nest of fire ants. The poor things are rescued by a bevy of B-actresses squealing about the virtues of whatever cheap, made-in-China, one-size-fits-all bra they happen to be shilling.
Actually, the experience portrayed isn't that far from reality. Lingerie shopping is an exercise in humiliation, and an expensive one at that. (How many barely worn, uncomfortable bras are stuffed in the back of your lingerie drawer?)
Enter Katherine Bice and La Lingerie. Bice's passion is getting women into attractive, suitable and comfortable bras.
Bice got her degree from UW-Eau Claire in advertising with a minor in French. She learned her appreciation of quality over quantity in France, "where people have a different relationship toward food and life, and women are more comfortable with their bodies, and proud of them." After graduation, she worked at Victoria's Secret in Eau Claire, then on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, where she learned the "art" of fitting.
Bice moved to Madison in 2009 and opened her lingerie emporium in June 2010. The space itself is warm, intimate and inviting, with wood floors, red velvet curtains and comfortable chairs. Everywhere you look are rows of lacy "unmentionables" in beguiling colors and sumptuous fabrics.
All of her fittings are by appointment only. (She also has limited open hours for browsing and gift purchases.) The fitting itself takes an hour to an hour and a half, one-on-one, no interruptions, except for a little soothing Sinatra in the background. It's a surprisingly pleasant experience. Katherine is disarming, quickly putting you at ease. She's also knowledgeable; it's astonishing how much I didn't know about something so familiar.
Most of her bras are made in France, from companies such as Chantelle, Simone Pererle, Fantasie and Aubade ("the Chanel of French lingerie"), and range in size from 30A to 44JJ and in price from $50 to $125. The fittings are free and included with the purchase of the first bra, and she keeps a file on every client, with sizes, brands and preferences. Bice also carries a wide array of matching undies in different styles, hosiery, camisoles, shapewear and, soon, swimwear.
And what to do with those ill-fitting bras stuffed in your lingerie drawer? Bice has started a recycling program, donating them to local charities, where hopefully they'll find their perfect match.
845 E. Johnson St., 608-630-9294, lalingerie.shop, Appointments: Tues.-Sat. 10 am-6 pm, Open hours: Tues. & Thurs. noon-4 pm, Wed. & Fri. 2-6 pm