Updated June 20
Underwear and socks are high on the list of underratedly difficult items to find on Martha’s Vineyard. Most, if not all, of my off-Island endeavours account for a pit stop at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, or the mall, if I’m lucky and there’s time before the last boat. Maybe my wash-ashore is showing, but turning 13 and going to Victoria’s Secret with my mother was like a rite of passage. What do girls around here do?
Alison Wilson wondered the same thing. “I was off-Island in May about a year ago,” the native Islander told The Local, “I wanted to stop and get measured at Victoria’s Secret, but I didn’t have enough time. So I thought, OK, I’ll stop at TJ Maxx. I grabbed some bras and held onto a wish and a prayer that they’d fit. I got home, and they didn’t.”
Later that night, Alison posted a question to the popular Facebook group, Islanders Talk. “Where can I get fit and measured for a bra on the Island?” she wrote.
In typical Islanders Talk fashion, she received a marathon of comments: “Ha, good luck,” “Nowhere,” and “I wish.”
A gap in the Island market? Alison took that and ran. She spent the next day researching, and found Essential Bodywear, an undergarment brand with a network of representatives sizing and custom-ordering bras for women all over the country.
“Probably two days later, I bought all these bras,” Alison said gesturing to a sample rack of 53 bras of all shapes, colors, and sizes, ranging from 34A to 44H. Alison also attended a brief training in Boston to learn the ins and outs of the brand and sizing clients. And she’ll be the first to tell you that bras are more complicated than you might think.
“Most women are wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small,” she said as she pulled up a chart for reference. “There are so many different tricks to sizing. A 32C is the same cup size as a 36A. A 34D is the same as a 38B. It’s like a complicated math problem. It’s no wonder 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong size bra.”
Alison started fitting friends and family first, and then word got out. Now Alison receives daily texts, calls, and direct messages from Island women wanting to get fit.
“I’ve been using the hashtag #GetFit,” Alison said. “Because when you wear a bra that fits you, you look like you lost 10 pounds.”
Alison’s business is all about building confidence and making Island women feel good. “Not only does it help the way you look, but also the way you stand — your posture,” Alison said. “When you put on a bra that fits, it’s instant.”
Most fittings are done in Alison’s electrology office — another venture she started in response to an Island need. Her office is located at 12 Mariners Way in Edgartown. Fittings take anywhere from 15 minutes to a half-hour. Alison orders and ships products straight to clients’ homes, and they arrive in 4 to 5 days. The fittings are free, and the bras cost $77.
“It’s the foundation of garments, and the foundation of everything else you wear,” Alison said. “It is essential.”
Alison plans to partner with Island stores to host pop-up fittings in the future. She also said she can come to you, wherever you are, as long as she’s fitting 10 or more people.
“You have a hair lady. You have a lash lady. You have a nail lady.” Alison said. “Well, now you have a bra lady.”
Call or text 774-563-0474 to book a private fitting with Alison’s Essential Bodywear.
*This article has been updated to correct estimated shipping time.