BettyConfidential: What’s the hardest part about designing swimwear for women who’ve had a mastectomy?
PB: In the beginning, I tried to design swimsuits that would work for as many women as possible. It’s easier now that I have many more styles. Some women have scars high on their necks, others have scars well under their arms. Hopefully there are enough styles to make everyone happy.
BC: What’s the best thing about what you do?
PB: I really love it when I fit a woman for a swimsuit who had already given up on ever wearing a swimsuit again. They get so excited, they cry, they hug me. They also know I understand what it is like.
Here’s an email that I gotten from one of my customers:
“My Pilates studio is home to a number of breast cancer survivors and those currently going through treatment. I can’t wait to break the news about your swimsuits. On behalf of all us, thank you again for helping make us feel whole again”
BC: What advice would you like to pass on to women who carry the BRCA 1 gene?
Patricia Brett: Be proactive with your health. Do a monthly self-breast exam and make an appointment with a breast surgeon (even if you don’t feel a lump) to do a baseline mammogram or MRI. See if your breast surgeon or local cancer hospital have a surveillance program for high-risk women. Have a baseline ultrasound done to check for any signs of ovarian cancer. Discuss with your doctor the warning signs of ovarian cancer and set up a program for surveillance.
One last important piece of advice–Make sure all your family members are aware of the mutation and understand the risk factors associated with the gene. Reach out to estranged members of the family to make certain they also have access to this information.
BC: How did you know that women would be responsive to your swimwear?
PB: I put together a group of “test models” in the early stages of designing the swimwear line. I would take the various swimsuit prototypes to women’s homes and have them try them on. Even in the early stages, the ladies were incredibly excited to see the designs I would bring them to try. The more women I met, the more I realized what a huge problem this was and how much it affected women’s self esteem.
BC: A bathing suit can be the hardest thing to fit, even though it doesn’t have much fabric! What are the difficulties involved in designing swimwear?
PB: My biggest challenge was finding the technical designers who could tolerate the perfectionist in me! The number one reason women don’t buy swimsuits is because of the fit. The number one reason they don’t buy mastectomy swimsuits is because the suits can be so ugly and so old-fashioned. I started out with a really tough goal: a great fitting, gorgeous post-mastectomy swimsuit that looked so amazing, everyone who had breast surgery or didn’t would want to wear it. I think I have achieved that goal.
How Patricia dealt with “No” and more coming up