Sometimes the Smallest, Most Intimate Shops Offer the Greatest Support: How a Local Lingerie Shop Shapes Lives.
By Julienne Gage
It’s wedding and prom season again – time to shop not just for the right gown but the right undergarments. The trend in plunging necklines and backless dresses can make the latter seem especially challenging, and there’s only so much that retail chains can do to accommodate. But Coral Gables shoppers are in luck, thanks to the city’s old-school lingerie boutique, the Gables Corset Shoppe.
From Chantelle to Primadonna, its licensed fitters carry world-renowned lingerie collections in every shape and size, and they offer free fittings, special orders, and major alterations – usually included in the cost of the garments. That’s right, they can cut plunge lines into a Double D bra, sew two garments into one, pad your buns, and bring contour to chests that have undergone operations both elective and lifesaving.
Coral Gables businessman Peter Gonzalez bought the store – then known as Silvia’s Corset Corner – in 2013. Owners Jennifer and John Cosamano retired, but co-owner and master shape-fitter Silvia Valdiva, for whom the shop had been named, stayed on.
Gonzalez, a hair stylist who owned the next-door business Actua the Salon, decided to invest after helping his mother recover from a mastectomy. “Not every woman is the same shape,” he says, adding that his fitters have licenses for a reason.
As for Silvia, after 33 years working as a local lingerie fitter, she knows body shapes better than any Coral Gables tailor. Her first job at age 17 (her family had emigrated from Nicaragua a few years earlier) was fitting lingerie for the legendary Corset Corner on Miracle Mile, which closed in 2005. That’s when she started running Silvia’s Corset Corner.
“A lot of my customers I’ve known for so many years that they first come in with a cup of coffee and sit down. Sometimes they’re here for an hour or two hours just talking,” she says. That familiarity makes it easier to accommodate the life stages of their bodies – the triumphs as well as the traumas. In fact, it’s often the fitter who must broach the subject: What medications are you on, have you changed your diet, what’s been happening lately?
“They feel comfortable enough to say what they’ve gone through. It’s a great feeling,” says Silvia.