Best friends Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker, owners of LiviRae Lingerie in Kennesaw, will be helping to lift the busts and spirits of women in 12 more episodes set to air at the end of the summer.
Lifetime decided a second season was needed after receiving overwhelming and positive response to the first season of the show, which aired from January to March.
“The response has been overwhelming. People love it,” Decker said. “They come in asking for autographs. They can’t wait for the next season. We’ve been really happy with it.”
Last season saw Hopkins and Decker design a custom bra for a woman with the world’s largest natural breasts. Annie Hawkins-Turner, also known as Norma Stitz, posed the women’s biggest challenge with her 102ZZZ bosoms. After Hawkins-Turner had struggled her whole life finding a bra that fit, the LiviRae owners worked their magic and created a comfortable, supportive garment that was just right for her.
They also helped Atlanta’s Clermont Lounge celebrity Blondie, a senior ladies dance group and a gospel choir with their bust issues.
“We’ve been very blessed to have this network reach out to us,” said Hopkins, who graduated from Sequoyah High School. “We sold the show on our personality and our sheer drive to do this.”
Filming is now underway at the store and audiences can expect more bras, bosoms and Southern charm.
“With season 2, there will be more creativity and a lot more outings,” said Decker, a graduate of Lassiter High in Cobb County. “I think it’s going to be more exciting.”
But despite all the outrageousness, Hopkins and Decker are serious about educating women about bra fit and what works for their unique bodies.
With the launch of LiviRae in June 2006, the women set out to offer more choices and sizes in lingerie and to provide education about fitting.
“We wanted to hone in on the health benefits of a well-fitting bra and educate the world,” Hopkins said. “We live in America where you can have anything you want, so why are women walking around in bras that don’t fit and having issues with their body and their self image and their breasts? For us, it was just a huge passion and we love fashion, too. When you get everything right underneath, everything on the outside looks better.”
According to a study by the Chiropractic and Osteopathy Medical Journal at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, as many as 80 to 85 percent of women in the U.S. are wearing the wrong bra size.
Hopkins says she sees many customers at the end of their rope, having struggled for years with negative self-image issues as well as frustration and physical pain from ill-fitting bras.
“Even with stores that cater to full-size gals — a lot of times they cater to plus size, not full-busted,” said Hopkins, a resident of Woodstock. “In our store, we try to let you know we don’t care if you’re a size 2 or a size 22, let’s teach you what works best for your body type and put it on you and make it fit right.”
Hopkins said the lingerie industry often ignores bigger-busted women. The size and shape of women’s bodies and breasts vary widely and the current system of bra sizing is inadequate. Most women generally wear bands that are two sizes too big and cups that are two sizes too small. The lack of an industry standard bra size compounds the problem.
“They don’t cut it right,” Hopkins said. “It’s not made for what our bodies are made like. You have major players in the game that are making sizes that they call the maximum cleavage or the full-bust cup. A full bust cup is a D that they make and they’re putting a pad in it, so they just took out half the cup that your breast could go in by putting a push-up pad in it. They’re not catering to real women.”
Poorly fitted bras can lead to major health repercussions down the road, especially with underwires. Hopkins said a proper fitting wire should sit to the back of the breast away from the tissue on the rib cage.
“When you press all the way around, you should go right into the rib and hit solid ground. What’s happening is women are buying their bands too big so the bra rides up,” Hopkins said. “First thing that happens when the bra rides up is the cup goes into the breast. It’s not stabilized so it’s moving. … The constant pressing of the wire into the tissues causes the cells to come together. They’re fighting against this soft tissue so they form a malformation, which can create a lump. It causes the cells to calcify and what happens is somewhere down the road, you might have a lump in your breast. It doesn’t mean it’s cancerous, but the doctors are going to remove it because they’re going to be concerned.”
A proper fitting bra can help prevent many unnecessary lumpectomies, she said.
“We’re so passionate about it we get revved up because it’s important. … We forget that that’s the most important foundation is the start of what you put on first. … We gotta put the word out there, and we’re getting there.”
At LiviRae, named after Hopkins and Decker’s daughters Olivia and Rainey, sizes range from A to N cup.
“Most stores carry about 12 sizes. We have over 90,” said Hopkins, who has a knack for sizing women’s busts by sight, sans tape measure.
They also offer mastectomy bras. Hopkins says the lack of attractive mastectomy bras can make women suffering from breast cancer feel more depressed, which can negatively affect their recovery efforts. Hopkins hopes the show helps women learn they have more feminine, sexier options.
Over the years, LiviRae has donated to Bikers Battling Breast Cancer, the Service League of Cherokee County and various organizations helping those with breast cancer.
“There’s not a lot of reality shows out there that make a huge impact on people’s lives,” Hopkins said. “Whether we have a show or not, this is the type of stuff that’s going on. You would be absolutely blown away by the dynamic of the difference in the clients that come through that door that are right next to each other in those dressing rooms. The results are dramatic.”
Decker runs the creative part of the store, making custom-fit garments and Hopkins takes care of the business part of LiviRae. Since the show aired, the owners have worked hard to keep up with the flood of emails and requests for fittings.
In the last three months, the duo has hired 20 new employees including a business manager. They are currently revamping their website and plan on opening more stores and touring the country in their mobile bus units.
“We want more stores because our goal is that we can create more jobs and create awareness about the bra industry for women to have a place to go.
“We want to revolutionize the industry, not just with bras … We’re so passionate about what we do and we feel like we can save marriages and help people with their health issues and their self-confidence.”
Fans have traveled from throughout the U.S. for advise and to get fitted at LiviRae.
“We had a guy who flew his girlfriend in from Alaska because he wanted her to have the experience. We have people driving from all over the United States,” Hopkins said.
Between juggling motherhood, families, their business and filming, Hopkins and Decker plan on taking their vision internationally to educate and help women.
“We don’t see age, race, creed, color, nothing,” Hopkins said. “Everyone is an angel in our eyes when they come in this store.”
LiviRae Lingerie is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit liviraelingerie.com.