On March 13 Julie Langlands was inches away from closing her business, The Bust Stop 33B in Dumfries.

She’d posted photographs of her handwritten signs ‘Everything is 50% off – closing May’ (complete with hand drawn sad face) on her Facebook page, and resigned herself to the fact that she’d be shutting up shop, and the lingerie and swimwear boutique with specialist bra fitting service that she had opened 30 months earlier would be lost forever.

As with most small, independent businesses, Julie was struggling with a lack of footfall in the town centre, and despite the love of a small group of regular customers, was frustrated by the lack of wider support. At an age when many other people might be thinking of retiring – Julie is 66 in May - in that moment she says she felt too tired and without anything to buoy her up, too deflated to carry on.

But her loyal customers - many of whom have benefitted from more than just Julie’s expert bra fitting and fashion advice, but the emotional support, encouragement and confidence-building which is all part of her service – weren’t going to let her go so easily. They rallied, with an outpouring of love and support on social media, with messages including: “First class service and lovely little shop”, “We need you in Bank Street”, “I love my new undies! Hope you change your mind Julie. It’s a woman’s prerogative! All the busty girls will be right behind you.”

Great British Life: Julie with Andie McDonald, one of her customers and modelsJulie with Andie McDonald, one of her customers and models (Image: Kim Ayres)

This in turn drew attention from people hitherto unaware aware of The Bust Stop 33B’s existence in Dumfries and, with such an overwhelming show of support, Julie decided she wasn’t ready to throw the towel in just yet. She resolved to fight on. And not only that, she also decided to find someone to help her, replacing her ‘closing soon’ signs with a recruitment poster.

It wasn’t long before she was interviewing a number of candidates in the search for someone she can train to not only expertly fit bras – Julie is one of only a few dedicated independent specialist fitters in the area – but also to offer the care and quality customer service she is known for.

“Independent business like mine have a vital role to play in the town,” says Julie, who is a firm believer that we all have the power to change the fortunes of our high streets, simply by buying from and supporting the business in the shops which are there.

“I have a unique offering: I am one of the only independent lingerie and underwear shops with specialist bra fitting, including a mastectomy service. People don’t have to travel out of Dumfries to Glasgow or elsewhere. I can cater for everyone of any age, any size, any shape. I offer dedicated one-to-one and have some exclusive lingerie lines specially imported from Australia, that I’m the only person in the UK to sell.”

Great British Life: Julie believes independent stores have a vital role to play in the economy of the townJulie believes independent stores have a vital role to play in the economy of the town (Image: Kim Ayres)

More than a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’, Julie sets her own style agenda. She revels in the fact that she always stands out in the crowd, making a statement with her bold outfit choices, and sees adding colour as part of her charm and her mission to help Dumfries become more colourful and vibrant. She also loves inspiring other women, too, to feel more confident and empowered.

“I’ve always stood out. I am obsessive about how I look. I just want to look good, not for anyone else. I am passionate about fashion, about self-help (when you look good, you feel good), empowering women and helping the community.”

Born and brought up in Dumfries, where she went to Maxwelltown High and the Academy, Julie says she was well-known for her sporting prowess, playing badminton and hockey for the county before going to PE College in Edinburgh. She remains a well-kent figure in the town, which she returned to three years ago, after 32 years living and working in Australia. As well as being known as a stylish member of the local business community, she is also revered as the mother of Scottish international footballer and former Queen of the South player Lydon Dykes, who current plays for Queens Park Rangers. His elder sister, Hollie Johnston Dykes, is a retired international gymnast who won a gold medal for Australia at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Julie played a crucial role as her coach when she was starting out.

After PE College, Julie spent time in Italy, where she taught English and worked as a nanny, and in Germany – one of her jobs there was in a pickling factory – before returning home to retrain as a psychiatric nurse at the then Crichton Royal in Dumfries. That training continues to prove invaluable to Julie today, she says.

Great British Life: The right fit is essential to providing the right supportThe right fit is essential to providing the right support (Image: Kim Ayres)

In Australia, Julie worked in a number of psychiatric establishments before moving into gymnastic coaching, recognising young Hollie’s talent at an early age. She then began her foray into fashion retail, working for big brands and small boutiques before launching her own pre-loved shop and later, Julie’s Lingerie Boutique.

Deciding, for various reasons, that it was time to return home to Scotland, Julie came back to Dumfries in October 2021. “I thought, what am I going to do for work? I’m 62 and I have such a lot of experience. Then I thought, if I can’t get a job, I will just make a job for myself.”

That’s when she opened The Bust Stop, initially at the bottom end of Bank Street, before moving to bigger premises further up the street, when 33B became available.

Ideally she’d love a bigger space for her lingerie collection, which includes bras, underwear and corsets, and mastectomy bras, nightwear, swimwear and holiday clothing, from wraps, kimonos, to playsuits, jumpsuits and summer dresses. She also has accessories, including jewellery and handbags, and romantic aids.

Determined to keep going, and with an assistant she can train in the art – and science – of bra fitting, Julie is keen to do her bit to make Dumfries a vibrant place to shop, and is asking others to support that ambition to boost then local economy.

“There so much potential in Dumfries. If we all started working together it could be a fantastic place.”