I’ll remember your bra size quicker than I’ll remember your name,” says Bridget Kearney as she ushers Irish Country Living into the changing room of Belle Femme Lingerie.

We don’t doubt her.

Three years after opening in Kilkenny city, the 32-year-old farmer’s wife has customers who travel from as far as Monaghan for her specialised fitting service, which replaces the standard measuring tape for a more hands-on approach. An oft-quoted statistic is that eight out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size.

“But I would say nine and a half,” reckons Bridget. “Half the country is in a 36C, even though there are 70 to 100 sizes in a bra. Yet we all only wear about five sizes.”

And it soon transpires I am, indeed, a statistic.

“What size do you usually wear?” Bridget asks discreetly.

“Errr,” I stutter. “32... 34... 36...” (Truthfully, it’s that long since I bought a new bra that I can’t make out what size is written on the faded label.)

“Sure if you came here in a properly-fitted bra I’d be out of business,” assures Bridget. “People will say things like: ‘Oh God, Bridget, I’m wearing the worst bra you’ll ever see.’ But it doesn’t matter because I’m here to put you in a new bra.”

Bridget acknowledges many women are nervous when it comes to being fitted for lingerie, but any such trepidation is soothed within seconds by her down-to-earth manner.

Originally from a sheep farm in Cork, Bridget now lives near Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, with her husband Gerard Power, a pig farmer. Her background is in sales – she’s sold everything from water filters to hard wood windows and doors – but with Gerard’s encouragement, she invested €70,000 to €80,000 to open Belle Femme in February 2011, having noticed a gap in the market for a lingerie boutique in Kilkenny city.

“I’m sure lots of people thought I was mad because I was already in a job where lots of people were losing jobs,” says Bridget. “There’s never a right time to open a business, but thank God we are here three years later and I have three staff.”

As a fuller cup herself, Bridget had always struggled to buy properly-fitted bras. She wanted to offer her customers something different. This led her to Lindsay Brown in the UK, one of a handful of people with a master’s research degree in bra design, who trains retailers to fit without using the tape measure, using their eye instead to assess how the bra sits on the body.

And it does not take long to figure that my faded bra is no longer fit for purpose.

“The bra is not sitting against your chest bone and when you do that,” Bridget says, pressing the middle panel between the lace cups, “you can see how you are getting that ‘four breast’ effect. We need to give you a lift.”

And off she scurries to the stockroom, returning with some of the best-selling styles. When fitting, Bridget always starts at the back, as the bra should be tight enough to stop it “rising” up your back and balance the weight of the breast at the front.

I’m surprised when she informs me I should be wearing a 30 on the back, rather than the more common 32, 34 or 36.

The next surprise? After trying various styles – you catch and push the bra under the breast while she secures it at the back and then makes some gentle adjustments by hand to make sure the cup is sitting properly – Bridget announces I’m a 30 GG. Double gulp.

“90% of my bras that will leave here will be on the G and the H cups,” says Bridget. “Yes, there is an A, B, C and D, but as a nation, we are a fuller cup. We should actually be wearing more 32Fs than 36Ds. That’s the reality.”

Size aside, certain rules stand for a snug fit. Bridget says a brand new bra should feel almost a little too tight when tied on the outer hook/eye, as it is only going to loosen with wear. In an under-wired style, the middle panel between the two cups should sit comfortably on the chest bone, allowing the wire to follow the curve of the breast, not sit on it.

In the dressing room, you should be able to put your hands up in the air and bend up and down without any movement or loss of support. Bridget also recommends bringing a T-shirt, top or dress to assess the difference to your shape, and getting fitted for a new bra every four to six months if you wear it frequently (she recommends wearing it for two days at a time, then hand-washing).

Most importantly, she says women should never settle for a bra that does not support them properly.

“If you were a size five in a shoe, would you accept a size six and just get on with it?” she reasons.

The range at Belle Femme spans back sizes 28 to 44 and cups A-K, with prices starting at €26, including everyday to occasion bras, sports bras, bridal wear, fitted swimwear, Spanx and maternity/nursing wear from brands like Hot Milk and Cake Lingerie, which Bridget is well qualified to recommend as she’s due her first baby this August.

“Though when you’re self-employed, you can’t really take maternity leave,” she laughs.

Though it’s clear that Belle Femme already is her other “baby”.

“I had a lady in here last week and she passed the door 10 times before she came in,” says Bridget.

“But afterwards she said: ‘What was I worried about?’ They’re so conscious and so nervous, but all of a sudden I’m lifting them up and I’ve taken half a stone off them because their shoulders have gone back and they look neater.

“We change so many people in that fitting room. It’s unbelievable.” CL