Best Lingerie Stores: A Sophisticated Pair in Burlington, North Carolina
All About A Sophisticated Pair:
Parfait Team: What inspired you to start a business? What about the lingerie industry interested you?
Erica: When I was sixteen, my boobs went from manageable with 34C hand-me downs to exploding out of brand new 38DDs. My poor parents had no idea what to do, so they took me to Victoria’s Secret for help. The lady barely let us past the entrance before curtly deciding nothing would fit me and that I’d be better suited going to Lane Bryant. My fragile self-esteem was demolished, and I struggled against tears. At Lane Bryant, nothing fit properly, and my exasperated parents pleaded with the associate, “Well, there HAS to be somewhere we can find her a bra?” Outside of department stores, which we already tried, the only place left was Frederick’s of Hollywood (yes, the store with pink fur handcuffs, sheer chemises, and riding crops). Lacking any other alternative, my parents and I ventured into what was decidedly an adult-oriented store. It was every bit as awkward as you can imagine, and to this day, I am not sure who was more embarrassed. The silver lining was we found something workable, and I wore the same style religiously until I was twenty-one. For years, I despised bras with a fiery passion. In fact, if you told me at sixteen I would one day own a bra store, I would have told you to get your head examined. No. Freakin’. Way.
Later on, a friend suggested getting fitted for a bra because I was losing my college and grad school weight gain. I cackled while regaling her of my many failed fitting attempts at department stores. “No,” she told me, “you don’t go to a department store! You go to a boutique, or if you can’t find one of those, try Nordstrom.” With my optimism renewed, I visited the local Nordstrom, and to my surprise, I discovered I should be wearing a UK 36G! What was this sorcery? Nordstrom had exactly one bra in my size—the Fantasie 4510 Smoothing bra which is a conical, full-coverage piece of armor, but it was still one more bra than any other store had. My boobs were lifted, separated, and secure. I shamelessly stared at myself in the mirror, touching my uplifted chest in wonderment and awe. I snagged two, and those were the best bras I had ever bought. Eventually though, I daydreamed of other options. Where were the colors? What about styles with less padding? How about something with a beautiful lace cup? My research exposed me to the tantalizing world of fuller-bust bras, and I longingly opined, “if only there were more stores which stocked them.”
The more I researched, the more I wanted to share that same experience of bliss with other people. I wanted to offer more sizes and more colors, and I wanted to do so in an environment where no one ever felt the way I did in Victoria’s Secret. I wanted people to feel good not just about their bras but about themselves. The urge was so powerful, I began taking retail classes and realized this crazy idea of owning a store was more than hypothetical. It was now my dream. I changed careers from computer programming and enlisted my aunt and dad in the quest to bring people the perfect bra. And so, with a shoestring budget, we brought A Sophisticated Pair into existence.
Image via A Sophisticated Pair
PT: Your store is located in Burlington, North Carolina. How did you decide on the location?
Erica: When the store became an official plan, I lived in the country outside of Burlington; consequently, the initial search included this area as well as the adjacent cities of Greensboro, Mebane, and Graham. Burlington ultimately had the best combination of rent prices, space, and flexible property owners. Several shopping centers wanted personal guarantors for the duration of the lease, which would have nullified our liability protection under the LLC business structure. Furthermore, Burlington proved an ideal spot because we are located off the I-40/85 interstate between several major cities, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Not to mention, we also see a surprising amount of people travelling from other cities and even other states. Every time I think of relocating, I struggle because our existing location gives us access to so many diverse cities despite being in a small suburban town.
PT: Tell us about your store name. What inspired the name A Sophisticated Pair?
Erica: Coming up with a business name is hard, y’all. We spent several hours brainstorming and were getting progressively more frustrated with each other. Eventually, I blurted out “Fine, we’ll call it A Sophisticated Pair because we’re sophisticated, and it’s a cheeky nod to boobs.” Everyone loved it! The name inspired me to take two pears and angle them together for our logo, once again a nod to boobs. Our personality as a shop is funny, and the play on words resonates with customers.
PT: What do you enjoy most about your local community?
Erica: One of the things I loved about moving from Maryland to North Carolina is the increased sense of community here. In our shopping center, all of the neighbors take care of each other, offering advice, promoting each other to customers, and assisting in times of struggle. While Burlington does boast a number of big box retailers, there are a lot of smaller businesses too, and this extended sense of community permeates throughout, with all of us knowing firsthand how hard entrepreneurship is. For example, when our business was vandalized, a local pizza place stopped by with complimentary lunch to cheer us up. Recently, we organized a bra donation drive for a homeless shelter in Greensboro, and between housing communities, local churches, and our customers, we assembled over 400 bras! People are more invested in each other here, and I love that sense of connectivity.
Image via A Sophisticated Pair
Bra Fitting at A Sophisticated Pair:
PT: Why is it important for women to get a professional bra fitting?
Erica: Professional fitters not only identify the size which suits a person best but can also recommend specific styles, discuss the individual’s breast shape, and offer an education on bra fitting itself. Finding the right size can be transformative for some people too, boosting confidence and increasing comfort. Moreover, most professional fitters I know love to pamper their clients. I think many people, especially women, forget to take time for themselves, and even though a bra fitting may not seem like an opportunity for self-care, the experience of being waited on and having time dedicated solely to your needs can not only make shopping more pleasant but also relaxing.
PT: What do you wish all women knew about lingerie and professional bra fitting?
Erica: There is so much about this industry that people do not understand, but I think my chief complaint centers on the misinformation surrounding the retail price of bras and lingerie. Not only do undergarments require months, even years, to design, but they are also assembled individually by trained professionals deserving a fair wage and an ethical working environment. Once the bras arrive at the retailer, the limited profit margin stretches to cover assorted expense, such as rent, utilities, and taxes, as well as pay the fitter for her expertise. Despite how we market fittings, they are anything but “free.” Most boutiques refrain from charging as we often anticipate a purchase, but it can be heart breaking when clients opt to purchase online or ask for discounts as incentive to buy in-store. Larger chains condition consumers to anticipate coupons and promotions, causing them to question whether the retail price of anything is genuinely in line with its value and quality. After all, with 20 and 30% off sales, even on newly arrived inventory, it’s natural to assume the sale price is “the fair price” and thus more representative of the product’s value. With lingerie, this is simply not the case, and it’s a constant battle to educate customers about our pricing structure and decisions.
PT: You’re committed to offering a diverse range of styles and sizes for your customers. What do you look for when selecting new styles?
Erica: Fit, fit, and more fit. I am not ashamed to admit I use my customers as test subjects and often special order prospective bras for them. It helps me evaluate the advantages and shortcomings of a particular style before I invest too much of our buying budget. If a bra fits well, I consider other criteria, including whether it compliments or cannibalizes existing inventory, what new demands or demographics it serves, what colors are available, and the relationship between price and quality.
Image via A Sophisticated Pair
PT: What is the largest bra size you carry?
Erica: In store, we carry up to a 50 band regularly but can order up to a 56, and our cup sizes range from US A to O (UK K) in select bands. Later this year, we’ll be stocking styles available up to a UK L cup for people sized out of existing options.
PT: We love that you carry bras under $50. What are some of your favorite budget-friendly bras?
Erica: As a small business owner, I live on a tight budget myself, and I try to be respectful that not all clients can afford to spend $70+ on a bra. Having options at multiple price points makes us more accessible and in turn allows us to help more people. In fact, our number one selling bra for the entire shop is the Goddess Keira due in large part to the huge range of sizes and constantly changing fashion colors. The Parfait Charlotte always does well for us too, and I am looking forward to the solid black version releasing later this year. People have been asking for basic colors in this bra since we started carrying it (*hint hint*). We also do well with the b.tempt’d b.splendid series for US A-DDD cups, the Parfait Carole, and the Wacoal Halo Lace.
PT: What are your current best-selling bras?
Erica: I haven’t compiled my sixth annual stats yet, but as I mentioned, I know the Keira has become our number one seller. Other contenders from last year are the Freya Deco, Elomi Amelia, Panache Sports Bra, Parfait Charlotte, Wacoal Basic Beauty, Natori Element, and Comexim Plunge.
PT: How many bras does a woman actually need in her lingerie wardrobe?
Erica: In my opinion, budget is the primary factor. At minimum, I recommend purchasing two everyday bras simply because establishing a rotation preserves the elastic and extends the lifespan. If budget allows, aim for at least four everyday bras in addition to any specialty styles like sports or strapless you may need. There’s nothing wrong with having more, and I know my own will power is weak. Sometimes I must remind myself I have but two boobs and can only wear one bra at a time.
Additionally, there’s also a tendency for people to stock up on bras all at once, which is totally fine, but I think the financial investment works better if you spread it out over several months, starting with two or three bras and then adding more. A nice byproduct is you rarely run out of bras, and you can try new styles or new colors as they release.
Some of us are shy about buying colored bras. What advice would you give to a woman who loves color, but isn’t sure how to incorporate it into her wardrobe?
I always ask clients reticent to break away from neutrals what colors and fabrics they wear frequently. If a person wears a lot of mid-tone or dark tops (*cough* me *cough*), the color will conceal almost everything. No one will see your emerald green bra under that navy blue blouse unless it’s super duper thin. Even if your wardrobe incorporates more light or thinner fabrics, color is still accessible. Everyone needs a flesh-tone option to wear under these styles, but consider expanding beyond the standard neutrals like cafe, mocha, cinnamon, or chocolate. For example, if you’re of the ultra pale variety such as myself, explore light pastels like blush pink or lavender. For darker skin tones, consider olive, charcoal, or even plum. So long as the contrast between the color of the bra and the color of your skin is minimized, you will receive the same benefits as neutrals.
Image via A Sophisticated Pair
PT: Some of us are shy about buying colored bras. What advice would you give to a woman who loves color, but isn’t sure how to incorporate it into her wardrobe?
Erica: I always ask clients reticent to break away from neutrals what colors and fabrics they wear frequently. If a person wears a lot of mid-tone or dark tops (*cough* me *cough*), the color will conceal almost everything. No one will see your emerald green bra under that navy blue blouse unless it’s super duper thin. Even if your wardrobe incorporates more light or thinner fabrics, color is still accessible. Everyone needs a flesh-tone option to wear under these styles, but consider expanding beyond the standard neutrals like cafe, mocha, cinnamon, or chocolate. For example, if you’re of the ultra pale variety such as myself, explore light pastels like blush pink or lavender. For darker skin tones, consider olive, charcoal, or even plum. So long as the contrast between the color of the bra and the color of your skin is minimized, you will receive the same benefits as neutrals.
PT: What can you tell our readers about the bra fitting experience at A Sophisticated Pair?
Erica: Everyone is fitted by me personally, and I foster a “Judgment Free” space in my store. I don’t make comments about your weight, size, skin, hair, makeup, underarm hair, or clothes. I’m here to help your boobs, and I try to do so in a fun, informative, and relaxed environment. I get to know my customers on a personal level and remember many of them by name. With fittings, I begin the process by discussing the client’s existing bra, style preferences, and any problems he or she experiences. I then pull a “starter bra” to confirm my size estimate before bringing in all the bras in the shop meeting the client’s criteria. If we do not have something, I discuss the options for ordering. We distinguish ourselves in how we interact with customers, treating them like the people they are rather than as a sales figure. My goal is for customers to leave the shop believing the boutique experience is the best experience.
PT: We love that you offer appointments for bra fitting. How can we schedule an appointment?
Erica: Simply call the store (336) 270-6744 or email me, and I can either reserve a fitting room during or outside of normal store hours. For appointments outside posted hours, I ask for a minimum of 24 hours notice but prefer two to three business days.
Image via A Sophisticated Pair
Shop at A Sophisticated Pair
Store Address: 1143 St. Mark’s Church Road, Suite E, Burlington, NC 27215
Phone Number: (336) 270-6744
Website: A Sophisticated Pair
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Feature image: A Sophisticated Pair