A little over two years ago, our team (Emily, Haley and I – now Elemental, LLC) were introduced to Jodie Faber, a 10+ year breast cancer survivor who had mastectomy with prosthetic reconstruction. She shared with our team that since her reconstruction she found that her chest got cold frequently and once cold was hard to rewarm! We did some research and did not find much mention of this side effect in the research literature. Jodie’s daughters were positive for the BRCA mutated gene and had undergone prophylactic mastectomy with prosthetic reconstruction. They also suffered from the same side effect so we wanted to understand how widespread this problem was. We wanted to do a survey of women who had undergone prosthetic reconstruction and Jodie’s daughters said they belonged to a FB group for previvors. They suggested we reach out to Tracy and Kim, Stacy and Lisa to see if they might consider letting me join the group and post a survey to understand the scope of the problem. Thankfully Stacy and team were kind enough to let us participate. Over 50 women responded to our survey and gave us valuable feedback. We were surprised to learn this side effect was quite common and that there was no bra available to meet this need. That was when we made a decision that we were going to find a solution to this problem once and for all!
I work in a research lab at Central Michigan University where we specialize in testing the thermal properties of textiles and clothing. As a graduate student, I was able to undertake a research project where we tested more than 50 fabrics until we found the warmest and thinnest options we could. We then learned how to make a bra…that was no small task, let me tell you. Once we figured that out we then worked to combine and design these specialty fabrics into a workable shape. We used some state of the art equipment including a sweating thermal manikin wearing 800 cc implants to test the insulation properties of our bra. Once we found a style and set of fabrics that worked, we made one for Jodie to test. She said it was too warm! We knew that Jodie and her daughters were not the only women we would need to please with a bra so we conducted a more formal survey of breast cancer survivors between the ages of 40 and 70 who had double mastectomy with prosthetic reconstruction. We asked them over 60 detailed questions about the changes their body went through and any side effects they experienced. We also asked them what kind of bras they bought and what features they liked and disliked. Once we reduced the level of insulation per Jodie’s recommendation and tried to incorporate some of the feedback from the survey, we proceeded to conduct a wearer trial. We measured 15 volunteers and produced bras to their size. We had each woman wear two bras we produced with different levels of insulation and one retail bra. One hundred percent of participants found our bras to be warmer than the comparison bra! They also gave us a wide range of feedback on styling and shape and fit and materials.
Over the past year we have worked to incorporate every bit of the wearer feedback. We have developed a relationship with a company that has many years of experience in lingerie manufacturing. With their help we have been able to bring this bra from a prototype stage to full production. Now for the first time we are able to take orders for these bras, via kickstarter. The bras will be delivered in February! About that same time we will be able to sell them directly from our website and we will also be partnering with mastectomy fitting shops (like UnBRCAble Boutique) to have bras in stores so women can try them on before they buy!
Please visit our site https://www.its-elemental.com/ to learn more about us and the product. You can also read comments from real women who have worn these bras and helped us with fitting and testing over the past year. You don’t have to take our word for it, please see what they have to say! You can also check out our video at https://www.facebook.com/EmbraceTheElements/videos/189528545331990/ .