Eight years ago, Crystal Rogers was dropping her kids off at school, when she decided to take a different route to her Bixby Knolls home. As she drove down Long Beach Boulevard, a small lingerie boutique called Lucy’s Boudoir caught her eye.
Her son had just been diagnosed with autism and she was transitioning from a life in corporate America to a stay-at-home mom.
“I needed something to occupy my time and it must have been in the stars that I noticed this shop on that day,” Rogers said.
Lucy’s Boudoir had recently been opened by Michelle Jouvance, founder of vintage style lingerie company Lucy B.
“When I got home, I called the shop and gave her my pitch,” Rogers said. “I said, ‘Hi… I have four free hours every day, do you need any help in your shop?’ and Michelle said ‘Well what can you do?’”
Rogers was initially hired to do bookkeeping and, eventually, Jouvance took her under her wing to teach her everything she knew about fitting.
“Alexa, play jazz music,” Rogers says, several years later and minutes before she opens the doors to the shop she bought from Jouvance in 2016.
Lucy’s Boudoir isn’t Victoria’s Secret and no, it’s not an “adult” store either. Rogers has made it her mission to help women feel comfortable in something that most women need to wear every day. Rows of bras from size A to K line the purple walls, along with silky, lace lingerie, swimwear and a comfortable couch.
“That’s for the men while they wait,” she said.
The shop not only specializes in fittings for a buffet of breast shapes and sizes, Rogers also focuses on the needs of breast cancer survivors. She and her staff will host the store’s third “Ta-Ta Taco Nite” on Oct. 22, except this time, there will be a bubble blowing ceremony to honor those who have lost their lives to breast cancer.
“We share a lot of intimate moments with our clients,” Rogers said. “Particularly with clients who have had a breast removed. They might be completely naked and vulnerable for the first time and they are right here looking at the reality of where they are today, so we have to be very mindful and attentive.”
Rogers, who graduated from Cal State Long Beach, has welcomed more than 11,000 customers, dressed women for the Oscars and measured federal judges for the courtroom. She’s organized local bra drives for those in need and measured a sickly woman in her car.
Since leaving her job as a developer for a learning company, she’s helped women all over the state escape the torturous cage of an ill-fitting bra—and, she says, she remembers every single one of them.
“I take notes of every woman that comes in here,” Rogers said. “If you’ve been here before, I know exactly what size you are, what you didn’t like and what you did.”
The outside windows of the boutique hold signs scribed in an inviting font that read: “We have your size!”
It’s a simple advertising tactic, but it seems to work.
“I’ve always driven by this place and meant to come in,” said Long Beach local Amber Davis, who came into the shop for the first time. “It’s been a long time since I found a bra that fits. I feel confident again.”
And despite the fact that the shop had to close for the holiday season last year after the store flooded, last October, when a mainline pipe in the city’s sewer ruptured, Rogers says the shop was able to rebound. However, she has since hired a lawyer and is in the midst of a legal dispute with the city.
“We met with the city and I expect that they will do the right thing and work this out,” Rogers said.
By the looks of it, business is busier than ever as a revolving door of women of all shapes, ages and sizes walk through her door, many of who know Rogers and the other fitters by name.
“This is a very small industry and her store is one of a handful of stores in all of Southern California,” said Kari Bezart, a sales representative for Panache Lingerie. “People come from all over because there’s not much out there and women know Crystal focuses on the average woman.”
According to Rogers, somewhere around 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, or simply can’t wait to tear their bra off the moment they pull in the driveway.
“The girls are up and I’m happy,” said Shirley Walls, a Long Beach resident who brought her friend from Chicago to get a fitting. “I tell women about this place. When your bra is good and up, it makes you look smaller.”
Push-up, strapless, water-filled, contour, minimizers, bralettes, padded and non-padded, wired and bandeau—these are all the different elements of the breast supporting battle armor called a brazier or bra. And women have struggled with them for more than 100 years.
“I have a formula that I used to train fitters but it’s not just about formula,” Jouvance said. “It’s really a science and an art. Obviously you can measure a woman but you need to know a lot about different bodies and bras.”
Boutiques and specialty size shops like Lucy’s Boudoir are few and far between and Rogers believes that they are undervalued. A proper fitting is something most women have either done at pink corporate powerhouse Victoria’s Secret, or not at all.
“Oh Victoria’s Secret,” Rogers laughed. “I should call them Victoria’s Lie. We convert so many shoppers from there. If you go there, every woman who walks out is a D or a double D, all I know is that they systematically stuff women into the wrong size bra.”
According to Rogers, department stores and places like Victoria’s Secret carry somewhere around 20 sizes, when there are, in fact, more than 100 sizes, cup sizes and body shapes.
“You buy a bra that’s pressed on a mold, it already has its own shape,” Rogers said. “Those bras may work for a small percentage of women, but there are women who have had children and just different scenarios where those bras are just not suitable.”
Rogers said she’s seen countless women wearing a bra that is five to 10 years old and held together by safety pins simply because they haven’t been able to find their correct size.
“It induces anxiety in women,” she said. “We’ll have clients tell us ‘I need a breast reduction,’ or ‘I need to lose 10 pounds and my bra will fit better’ and that’s really not the issue, the issue is that you’re wearing a bra that doesn’t fit.”
When going to the boutique for a fitting, one of the four fitters at Lucy’s will typically examine the bra the client came in with. According to Rogers, the structure of the band should be where the support comes from, not the straps, which can dig into the shoulders.
“When you walk in, I’m looking at the way you carry yourself,” Rogers said. “I’m looking at your posture, your shoulders, your chest wall and I’m also trying to guess the kind of bra you’re looking for.”
Rogers also emphasis a frustrating point for a lot of women: not every woman is looking for highly sexualized, lace and bow undergarments like the ones they push at Victoria’s Secret.
“How are you going to feel sexy if you don’t even feel comfortable in what you’re wearing?” Rogers said. “It’s about getting that bra out of your head and feeling good in your own body.”
Rogers still talks to Jouvance, who now lives in Tennessee, and credits her for her dramatic career shift and for helping her find her passion of helping women.
“All I know is one day Michelle’s big 18 wheeler horse truck pulled up and she was like ‘I’m going.’ She had already decided I was the only one who could buy this store,” Rogers said. “I guess I see my life as a story of yielding to the process.”
Lucy’s Boudoir will host “Ta-Ta Taco Nite” on Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., offering tacos from Out West BBQ. The shop is located at 3925 Long Beach Blvd and their business hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about fittings and lingerie, click here.