After much debate last week over whether sex symbol Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy would help other women with mastectomies feel sexier, Victoria’s Secret announced Monday that it isn’t interested enough in the cause to revamp its lingerie.
“Through our research, we have learned that fitting and selling mastectomy bras … is complicated and truly a science,” a Victoria’s Secret spokesperson said in a statement. “As a result, we believe that the best way for us to make an impact for our customers is to continue funding cancer research.”
The company had been considering designing a bra for women who had mastectomies and, unlike Jolie, opted not to have breast reconstruction. Companies that manufacture bras to fit breast prostheses don’t think much about sexiness, judging by those that popped up on a Google image search.
After witnessing her mother’s ordeal shopping for bras following a mastectomy, Allana Maiden started a petition on Change.org, which garnered more than 120,000 signatures, asking Victoria’s Secret to develop a breast cancer “survivor line”. The company appeared receptive at first, meeting with Maiden and her mother earlier this year and allowing them to explain the mastectomy bra shopping experience—but ultimately decided against the new line.
“I was disappointed but I kind of understand where they’re coming from,” Maiden told me. “I did know that they were researching it very seriously and wanted to consider it from every aspect involved.”
Maiden’s mother lives in a rural part of Virginia and has to drive over 90 minutes to find a specialty store that sells a bra that holds prosthetic breasts. “Looking back, every single bra she owned was a nude color and looked the same; she was so excited when they offered one in black for the first time last year,” recalled Maiden. Her mother, Debbie, was diagnosed with breast cancer more than two decades ago at age 37. She didn’t have breast reconstruction at the time because it wasn’t covered by insurance.
Debbie recently accepted an offer from the Nordstrom department store to customize a few bras for her for free; the store offers a service that converts bras, swimsuits, and camisoles sold in the store to hold protheses by adding pockets.
Most women get insurance coverage for the fittings and customizing, though they may have to pay some out-of-pocket costs for the lingerie itself.
“My mom and I had an amazing experience at Nordstrom,” Maiden said. “But the closest store to her is three hours away.” After hearing from Victoria’s Secret that the new line was a no go, Maiden e-mailed Macy’s, Sears, and JC Penney’s to see if they would consider adding Nordstrom’s service.
She has yet to hear back.
What do you think? Should Victoria’s Secret and other stores offer services for mastectomy patients? Do you have any personal experience with this issue?Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.