Manayunk’s new lingerie store offers everything you need when it comes to your intimate apparel.
By Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba • Photos by Melissa Kelly Photography (melissakellyphotography.com)
Shaw Lewis, owner of Expect Lace, has always worked in high-end retail management for brands like Kate Spade, French Connection, Nordstrom and Tommy John. But it was eleven years ago, when Shaw was introduced to lingerie after she accepted a position as a store manager at Fredericks of Hollywood.
“Working at Frederick’s is where I noticed that their brand and many other well known lingerie retailers measured for their specific brand or product,” Shaw said.
While at Fredericks, Shaw’s interest in the perfect fitting bra began and after moving on to work for Nordstrom lingerie, she spent hours training to become an expert bra fitter and worked with several different brands so she could learn how to measure a customer properly for all brands and styles.
After her time at Nordstrom, Shaw went on to work for Tommy John, but always had a dream of having her own intimates store.
Every day on her way to work, Shaw would drive down Main Street, always admiring the quaint boutiques along the shopping corridor. In February of this year on a normal drive into work, she noticed the newly empty storefront at 4403 Main Street. Shaw immediately knew it was the perfect location for her to finally open a store of her own.
“I thought the space was too big for what I wanted at first, but I fell in love with it,” Shaw said. “I always pictured my store having a very chic look — modern, clean, and more of an open concept — and that’s how I felt when I walked in.”
It was February 17 when Shaw first saw the building was available and by February 24, she had keys to the store in her hand. That same day, she went in to work and told her supervisor that she would be leaving to start her own venture.
“I always thought if I didn’t find the right location, I’m just not going to do it,” Shaw recalled of always wanting her own lingerie store.
Four days after signing the lease, Shaw found herself in New York City at Curve, the bi-annual trade show for the lingerie industry. Since Shaw had previous experience in the lingerie industry, she was familiar with many of the brands that were displayed at the show.
“Starting off, I wanted to work with styles I was more familiar with — everything we have in our store right now are brands I have carried in the past and have absolutely loved,” she said.
“One of my favorites is Natori — it’s great quality and no other lingerie store in the city carries it,” Shaw said.
Other brands you can find in Expect Lace include Chantelle, Wacoal, Addiction, Hanky Panky, Only Hearts, and Simone Perele.
“These are classic brands that everyone knows, but I’m also excited to start gradually introducing our customers to new brands,” she said.
For Shaw, the most important thing is to carry a variety of sizes for all different woman. Right now, she carries sizes 30A to 42J and is hoping to continue to expand even more.
“There are women out there who need a band larger than a 42, and there are really pretty pieces out there for them,” Shaw said. “I’m not going to be able to carry all items in all sizes, but I want to carry a little something for everyone.”
And why is a properly fitted bra so important? Shaw believes, “It’s because many women have issues with their posture and bruises that they’ve dealt with in their lives, all due to the wrong size bra. Having the right support is important. Even if you don’t have a large cup, it affects your breast tissue,” she explained.
Since she started working in the lingerie industry nearly a decade ago, Shaw has definitely noticed a shift in the industry.
“At one point, the bras were all padded and now more people are moving toward non-molded cups — they last longer, are easier to wash, and they can be worn alone as part of an outfit,” Shaw said. “Bras aren’t just for support — they are essential and have become a fashionable layer of a woman’s wardrobe.”
Shaw uses her previous experience at Nordstrom to train her own team on the proper measuring techniques. The measurements are important, Shaw said, but you also need to take a woman’s breast shape into consideration, too.
“It’s all about being able to eyeball it — I have experience working with so many different types of women that I can walk down the street and know someone’s bra size just by looking at them,” Shaw said with a laugh.
Her most important rule of thumb is that you can change the style of your bra, but never change your size.
“If you’re a 32G, stick with a 32G. If the style doesn’t work for you, just change the style, don’t change the size,” she said.
Though there are what are called “sister sizes” — where you go up in the band size and down in the cup size, Shaw said the fit is never going to be quite right.
“If you stick to your size, it’s always going to work,” she explained.” If you’re measuring a 32 band, you can’t wear a 34 — so I would say stay away from sister cups,” she said.
When asked what her all time favorite bra is, Shaw said without hesitation, “Natori Feathers.”
“I love the price point,” she said. “It’s around $65-70. It’s my favorite because it has more of a plunge, but it’s a t-shirt bra with lace. You won’t see it through a t-shirt and it has a lace overlay so if you’re more shallow on top you are not able to see the difference,” she explained. “That’s a big issue for a lot of women — they are fuller on one side than the other so the Natori Feather helps mask that with the lace.”
The typical price point for bras in Expect Lace is about $70-80, which is similar to the price range in a department store. What you’re getting at that price point, though, is quality.
“If you buy a quality bra, you can wear it for a long time,” Shaw said.