The Power Of She

Meet the Designers: Empower Bra

September 30, 2017

Many of Athleta’s products are shaped from customer requests and feedback, but when we heard women were turning to Athleta’s sports bras after undergoing a mastectomy, we heeded the call to create a bra that was even more post-surgery friendly. The Empower Bra is made with softer fabrics and a front-zip for easier on-and-off around sensitive scar tissue. We also built in expandable pockets designed to fit most sizes of prosthetics. The straps are adjustable, a must-have, since after surgery, breast size can vary dramatically.

athlete post-masectomy sports bra

MEET KIM

We had a lot of help creating the Empower Bra. We were lucky to be introduced to Kim, who at 31, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy. Losing her breasts at a young age was extremely difficult, and she struggled to find bras that would accommodate her prosthesis and cover her scars. Kim says she cried a lot, and for a long time had difficulty looking in the mirror, or looking down when getting dressed or taking a shower.

“Not only did I have to lose my breasts, which is pretty much an amputation, but then to have to navigate finding a bra that was comfortable, and made me feel sexy and feminine was a reminder of what I was going through.”

athlete post-masectomy sports bra

She knew exactly what women like her were looking for when we teamed up with her to design, develop and model(!) the Empower Bra. She also connected us with a strong group of cancer survivors who wear-tested the bra and gave us feedback to help make the Empower Bra the perfect post-mastectomy sports bra.

athlete post-masectomy sports bra

“Working with the bra designers was very healing and impactful for me. It allowed me to be vulnerable to a group of people who have a real passion to support women like me. And, to know that I was an advocate for other women going through what I had gone through, too.”

Kim says working with Athleta was the opportunity she needed to give strength to women fighting breast cancer to overcome their personal insecurity.

Kim thinks Empower Bra is the perfect name.

athlete post-masectomy sports bra

“Women who have gone through breast cancer have lost a/both body parts that define them as a woman. It’s empowering for women to be able to dig deep within themselves to gather the strength, courage, and vulnerability to overcome that reality.”

Stay tuned to read more about Kim’s story and share in the three pieces of advice that have kept her going.

THE DESIGN

The Empower Bra wouldn’t be possible without Athleta’s talented bra designers. When the call came through to create a bra specifically for post-mastectomy women, Pamela Meyers and Tori Quandt jumped at the task to develop a garment that would help improve the lives of women who had already been through so much.

athlete post-masectomy sports bra

While they had a certain level of understanding of the Athleta customer and what she expects from our bras, they had no first-hand knowledge of the challenges women faced when shopping for a bra after having a mastectomy. Once Pam and Tori were able to connect with Kim, she helped to educate them on so many of the problems she deals with every day and her willingness to share her experience enabled our designers to gain a clear understanding of the unique needs they needed to solve for.

With this new knowledge, they realized that they needed to create a bra that provided the right coverage, added adjustability and softness on every seam, so she can feel comfortable and confident as she embraces her healthy active lifestyle after surgery. They also realized that offering choice and the ability to shop the same way you could before surgery was just as much a part of the solution.

“Softness and adjustability are things everyone woman wants so this project is actually helping us to improve attributes of many of our other styles.”

The design team worked with Kim to identify women who were post-mastectomy and who could wear test the bra once a prototype was developed. With this direct line of feedback, they immediately started calling this Empower Bra version 1.0.

“Our goal is to enable feedback from more women to help us create the Empower Bra 2.0. On a project like this, it’s about so much more than making a bra. For most women, one of the first things they put on every day is their bra. The ability to learn directly from the women wearing these bras will help us to design a bra that makes an everyday routine just as routine as it used to be.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BRA

The Fabric: Due to sensitivities, soreness and scarring post-surgery, we wanted to use a fabric that made her feel good, not irritated.The bra features supportive beyond-sleek compression fabric that wicks and breathes, and is wire-free.

The Straps: The straps have multiple degrees of lengths to accommodate her needs day by day, featuring 9 different lengths and levels. It adjusts in the front to protect any shoulder pain, sensitivities or injuries she might have

Two Ways of Entry: The bra features an adjustable hook and eye as well as a front zips with a zipper garage that prevents the zipper from touching the skin to alleviate skin sensitivities.

Mesh Pockets: To accommodate women who have undergone a single or double mastectomy, the bra features extended bilateral mesh pockets to hold post-surgery prosthetics in place.

Mesh Racer Back: Provides breathability and comfort during workouts.

Shop the Empower Bra HERE.

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16 Comments

  • Reply Kim Kerlin October 1, 2017 at 8:25 am

    This is awesome! Having gone through a bi-lateral mastectomy last year, I wish this would have been available to me. Thank you for doing this!

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you for sharing this Kim, we wanted to get the Empower Bra design just right so we could provide the most in comfort and design to inspiring women like you.

  • Reply Jan October 1, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Thank you for doing this! 3 years ago this bra did not exist at Athleta, LuLu, Lucy etc! I asked and suggests. Someone listened to someone!

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      We always enjoy hearing from our amazing customers Jan! We wanted to take into account the real women that have fought cancer to provide us with feedback, our model Kim is even a two time breast cancer survivor and we are always looking to improve and would love to hear from you! Please send us a note at empower@athleta.com to tell us what you would like to see!

  • Reply Teri Wadsworth October 1, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Oh, my. As a stage III breast cancer survivor I was thrilled to see that you had created an exercise bra just for us! I was thrilled, and I felt acknowledged. All good things. And then I see it and … whoa, I could never wear this.

    Here’s why. There are a lot of women today having mastectomies alone, and for many of them this bra may be perfect. However, for anyone with minimally advanced cancer, the lymph nodes under the armpit are involved. When cancer spreads it typically gets to those lymph nodes first, so they are removed when we have our mastectomies. This means we can’t wear a racer back – the weight is literally rerouted directly through the area where our lymph nodes have been removed, exacerbating the difficulty our bodies have pumping lymph fluid through that area already. The result is an extremely painful condition called lymphedema that takes months of treatment to correct. I’m very surprised this never came up in your research.

    I don’t know what to say, aside from great job, and I’m sorry.

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 4, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Hello Teri,
      Thank you for sharing this and we appreciate your feedback. We will take it into consideration when designing the next versions of this bra.

  • Reply Bernadine DeGarbo October 2, 2017 at 7:03 am

    OH Goodness. I just recently went though Breast cancer. Surgery the end of January and treatment in March and April. I would of loved wearing this beautiful bra. It was very hard to find something comfortable during recovery.
    THank you for doing this! I want one!! Bernadine Degarbo,, Trinidad, co

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you for sharing this Bernadine, and we are inspired by your strength to fight cancer. We wanted to get every detail right plus get feedback from strong women like you before creating the Empower Bra.

  • Reply Mandy October 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    This is so incredibly inspiring. I had a bilateral mastectomy in January 2017 at age 27 and it was so hard to find bras I felt good in once I got the green light to stop wearing surgical bras. I wish this had been around then!! I’ll be excited to try them now too with all the thoughtful features this bra has that I’ve been looking for. Feeling so hopeful for women now and in the future as we continue to have more options!

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      We are inspired by your strength Mandy and appreciate sharing your amazing story. Glad we could fill a void that was missing for breast cancer warriors with all the details these strong women are looking for. We are always looking to make the Empower Bra for future warriors, feel free to send us some feedback at empower@athleta.com to let us know what you would like to see next.

  • Reply Jen McDermitt October 10, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Proud of Athleta for tackling this bra challenge. I was diagnosed with breast cancer Stage 2B at age 35 while completing my Power Pilates 600 hr certification. My treatment included a bilateral mastectomy, chemo and radiation. Finding a tank or bra was not easy. This is a wonderful product to have on the market by a company empowering women to find their strength through motion. LOVE IT! Athleta is the BEST! Thank you!

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you for sharing this amazing story Jen! We wanted this bra to meet all the needs the strong women like yourself are looking for in a mastectomy bra, and glad we are meeting those needs. But we are always looking to improve, let us know if you would like to see anything else with an email to empower@athleta.com!

  • Reply Lisa Miller October 12, 2017 at 1:40 am

    I was diagnosed on 7/3 & surgery on 7/17. I’m going back to work & would love to know I can get several of these.

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Lisa, wow we would love to have you share with us how the Empower Bra works for you. We will be in contact and would love to hear the feedback!

  • Reply Kristine Lycke October 12, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Would this bra work for survivors who opted for reconstruction? I am a 4 year Stage III survivor who underwent a bilateral mastectomy with silicone implant reconstruction.

    • mm
      Reply Team Athleta October 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      We are all inspired by your strength Kristine, and we love hearing stories from other survivors. The Empower Bra features adjustable straps and built in expandable pockets that are designed to accommodate a variety of prosthetics and implants, and we would love to hear your feedback on how we can make the Empower Bra even better for the strong women like yourself who opted for reconstruction at empower@athleta.com.

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