It's easy to dismiss the value of high-end lingerie. The thought of investing in expensive undergarments seems unnecessary, especially if you view lingerie as a frivolous accessory for the bedroom.
"Lingerie is the French word for underwear," she explains. "Many Americans associate the word with something cheap and slutty, but lingerie is a special item made just for the wearer." After all, "it's the closest garment you wear next to your body. I think it should be beautiful, soft and special. Women need to focus more on themselves. Wearing lingerie that makes you feel beautiful builds your confidence, because you feel better about yourself."
Johnson learned this lesson firsthand when she was a teenager. Her grandmother used to buy her sister cute lingerie but told Johnson her bottom was too big for the dainty pieces her sister got to wear. Then, at sixteen, Johnson took her first trip to Paris. There she bought a set of matching lingerie that fit her unique curves. From that moment on, she says, she never looked back. "I just knew it was my thing."
She went on to study fashion merchandising at CSU, then teamed up with her sister, Jeanie Peterson, to open Sol in 1997. From its first year in business, Sol has been profitable. Now, between the Denver location and online sales, Sol has over 60,000 clients. It stocks an array of bras, panties and lingerie sets, plus pajamas, swimwear, and men's undergarments and sleepwear.
Though the boutique's signature bra, the daisy bra, created especially for Sol by designer Marie Jo, is available on Amazon for $50 to $187.50, depending on size and color, many clients return to the store to buy new releases of the style for $125 to $140. Johnson and Peterson take this as a testament to their clients' loyalty and love for the Sol experience.
Unlike other local boutiques, department stores or Victoria's Secrets (whose secret, by the way, was that Victoria was really Roy, the male founder behind the then-revolutionary lingerie empire), Sol caters to women of all shapes and sizes without making them feel like their shopping experience is a demoralizing or pre-bedroom affair.
The store is inviting, and the employees are welcoming. There are no tape measures, talk of sizes, or poking and prodding. And there's champagne!
From the moment you enter the store, the stylists work with you to find your perfect fit. They assess your body type and ask you about your wardrobe. From the colors you wear to the necklines you prefer, everything is taken into account.
"Body positivity is an important movement today," Johnson says. "It starts with people feeling good in their skin. Most women complain needlessly about their body. So Sol works with women every day to help them reset that soundtrack."
All of the products at Sol come from premium designers whose products aren't found in other stores in the United States. Each piece is handcrafted with fine materials, from foam-and-fabric-wrapped underwires that won't twist or poke to exclusive laces that have been designed and cut by hand. Garments stocked at Sol attempt to provide the wearer with a sense of luxury.
Though Denverites can buy a lingerie set for under $50 at boutiques such as Femme Fatale, snag erotic undies and a wide array of adult toys at shops like Awakening or get a bra fitting from an associate at Nordstrom, Sol offers the only experience of its kind in Denver –– and much of the United States.
Each bra-fitter at Sol even has her own dressing room, decorated with photos and mementos that she wants to share with her clients. In Johnson's room, guests will find photos of her, her husband, her daughter and their friends and family. They'll learn that aside from her life of lingerie, Johnson also loves the outdoors, and she and her husband spend their free time fishing, skiing and rafting.
In the fitting room, clients will also learn the intricacies of why Sol products are worth the price tag –– which, for an average bra and panty set, comes in around $200 and $300.
"Our bras are the Mercedes, not the Kia," says Johnson. "You spend more and get so much more. By investing in a more expensive bra, it will look better, last longer and feel amazing." This is because "the average [Sol] bra is comprised of 65 different pieces," which is a staggering fifty more than the average department store bra. The products are also "made with European lace and fabric not made in China. Bras made in this way fit and feel completely different. They also last much longer with proper care."
Proper care is another thing Sol takes very seriously. Many women have heard the theory that you're supposed to buy a bra that fits on the tightest set of hooks, so that as the bra stretches over time, the band can be tightened. But Sol says bras only stretch if you don't wash them enough. "A simple rinse in the sink with delicate wash after every wear or two will keep your investment looking and feeling great," Johnson emphasizes. "No need to put them in the washing machine. That's overkill for such a delicate garment."
In addition to this little-known fact about maintaining the shape and size of a bra, the ladies of Sol have another trick up their shirts.
A red bra, not a beige bra, is the best undergarment for a white T-shirt. Not because it peeks through for a sexy burst of color, but because the red disappears between the wearer's body and the white fabric.
In her travels to France, where she does much of Sol's buying, Johnson noticed that French boutiques stock a lot of red lingerie. Then, while reading a book about things that French girls know that American girls don't, Johnson discovered that red bras are the Parisian standard for layering beneath a white T-Shirt. Now, Sol is one of the only boutiques in the U.S. spreading this gospel.
When asked what she loves most about her job, Johnson says, "Making women smile. I want every customer to leave feeling like they have had a 'WOW' experience." For her, the love of this profession is all about helping women embrace their bodies and erase narratives such as "My stomach is too big," "My butt is too flat" or "My boobs are too saggy."
"Magazines and TV are not the only things that are affecting girls' lack of body love," Johnson notes. "Helping women look in the mirror and feel better about the way they look creates new confidence. And it doesn’t hurt that we do that with beautiful lingerie."
"No one wants to have a beige bra to start their day," she adds. "That won’t put a spring in your step."
Sol is located at 3010 East Sixth Avenue. The store's open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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