My First Ever Bra Fitting with Underpinnings Part 2: Getting to know Kieran


By Samantha Thornhill

​After my personal triumphs and revelations from my successful fitting at Underpinnings, I wanted to share this entrepreneur’s insights with others, so I returned to Underpinnings to talk shop with Kieran Valley-Gordon. Come with me to meet the woman behind the vision.
ST: Tell me some things about yourself, and what you’ve been up to.

KVG: I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and more recently an entrepreneur. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was a full time corporate banker. Like many entrepreneurs I started my business to solve a problem that I was having myself, in terms of finding bras that fit my body, were comfortable and were pretty. For the past 4 years I have been trying to solve that problem for other women as well.

ST: So did you just wake up one day and think, huh, why don’t I start a bra boutique? What on earth could’ve inspired you to leave your corporate job to do something more, pardon the pun, fulfilling?
KVG: It happened almost exactly like that with one small exception. I was already on sabbatical from corporate life when I decided to start Underpinnings. The idea came to me because as I mentioned, I was having difficulty finding bras that had the combination of fit and comfort in styles that I liked. Once the idea took root, I knew I had to do it and so I proceeded to do several bra fit training courses and the rest, as they say, is history.

 One thing I will say is that while the boutique was started to solve what I considered to be a practical problem, I soon realized that it was also addressing an emotional problem, in that many women, especially my fuller busted clients, viewed their breasts almost as an affliction. I think this stems from a combination of not being able to find appropriate bras in mainstream stores and the emotional baggage that can come with that, along with the very real physical discomfort of wearing bras that have not been supporting them properly. What I hope to accomplish through Underpinnings is to encourage women to see that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their bodies and that they don’t have to settle. I want to help women dress in a way that instills a feeling of beauty and confidence that they can then project outward.

ST: Was your husband supportive? 
KVG:  My husband is my number 1 supporter in this venture. Somehow he understands the problems I am trying to solve, perhaps because he has seen my own frustrations in the past. Entrepreneurship brings its own challenges too, so it has been good to have that support and a sounding board at home.

ST: Something you said at the end of our session stayed with me. After you showed me the proper method of putting on a bra, something I’d never learned, I said to you, wow, there is really a science to this, to which you replied, “An art.” Can you expound on that?
KVG: That is a great question. I think the answer to that lies in the fact that every woman is different so that while there are certain key things that I will address for every fitting; the things that have to be technically correct for the bra to do its job in supporting the breasts; the art comes in a variety of ways. Firstly, in my interaction with the client. The fitting room is a place where any insecurities a woman has about her body can raise its head so in dealing with clients that is something that I am sensitive to. Secondly, and this may be stating the obvious, every woman’s body is different. For example, the position of the breasts on the ribcage, shape and fullness can vary widely, and these factors can mean that two women with the same bra size would be best fitted in different style bras. Thirdly, even if a bra is technically a good fit there is also the very personal aesthetic that the woman is going for and understanding that plays a role in the styles I would bring for her to try.

ST: Why does it or should it matter how our breasts show up in the world?
KVG: It is not so much how they appear to others, but how your appearance impacts the way you carry yourself in the world. For example, I have seen women hunched over because their bra does not support the weight of their breasts. When someone carries themselves like that they can seem closed off, timid or lacking in confidence, and this may very well not be in keeping with who they are. When they wear a bra that fits and supports well, not only can they stand taller as the weight has been lifted off of their shoulders, their clothes fit better and this contributes to their own feeling of confidence. It’s this combination of physical comfort and confidence in their appearance that ironically helps to remove the focus from how they look and allows them to just be themselves.

Samantha Thornhill is a published poet, educator, producer and author of three children’s books. A performer on stages across the United States and internationally, she holds an MFA from the University of Virginia. 
Watch “Ode to Twins”, a spoken word piece by Samantha, dedicated to none other than her girls.