millie lingerie

every woman deserves beautiful lingerie

corsets, two Susie’s & the Nottingham Lace Market

guest blog by daughter, Eleanor.

Imagine a sweet shop. Not any old sweet shop, the best sweet shop you’ve ever been to. The one where you wanted to try everything but knew there just wasn’t enough time, but you could have bought one of each delight in there. Now convert that imaginary sweet shop into a corsetry studio, and you’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like to walk into Susi Henson’s ‘Eternal Spirits’ work space. There is colour everywhere, and in every shade under the sun. Once you’ve had your initial gasp, you realise this room isn’t packed solely with corsets; wedding dresses stand more demurely amongst the spectrum of colour. Upon closer inspection, you realise they’re equally as fabulous, ranging in cuts and style.

After wandering around with our jaws hanging open for a few minutes, Mum and I sat down amidst the sea of silk with Susi, and I’m happy to tell you she’s every bit as lovely as her products. Over a cuppa, there was the usual conversation about what Mum was doing with millie, (although I’ve heard the story twenty times now, I still get a kick out of hearing her say it) and where she wanted to go. Obviously, lingerie has some ties with corsetry and the textile industry in general, but it wasn’t only a market they had in common, but a mentality. What became apparent the more I listened to Susi, was that she had the very same (often absolutely bonkers) approach to business start up as Mum. That is to say, they both took the approach of you get there no matter what you may or may not know, what set-backs you face, insecurities or any other miscellaneous challenge, you keep bloody going.

‘Eternal Spirits’ is also now a pocket sized version of what it was a few years ago, and is all the stronger for it. Where previously Eternal Spirits was being supplied all over the UK and abroad, with shops and boutique concessions just to complicate things a bit more, Susi now operates solo out of her Lace Market based workshop. That may sound crazy, cutting back business when it’s at it’s peak, but when you consider the fact that Susi, at that point, was running a business where she didn’t always have time to engage in her favourite aspects of it, it becomes entirely understandable. She said she prioritised her enjoyment of work, and her health, over how ‘big’ the company was, and it’s one of the most sensible things I’ve heard an entrepreneur say in quite a while.

From the journey of their businesses, the pair moved on to talking about the relationship they wanted to build with their customers through their brands. Susi has worked with a range of customers, from Dita Von Teese and Girls Aloud, to women who just wanted something to make them feel special. The thing that links Eternal Spirits customers and millie, is the fact that they look in the mirror and say ‘Wow! I look like a goddess!’ ‘I never knew I had cleavage!’ ‘Look at my waist!’, and all feel absolutely fabulous. This is why Eternal Spirits is so successful, because the aim is to make every woman, any woman, feel sensational.

millie has a very similar raison d’être, Mum hopes that by wearing a millie bra, women will be able look in the mirror and think ‘I look like me.’ The thought I walked away with was hope that women will feel the same way looking at a millie bra that I felt when I peaked into a box containing the designs for some Girls Aloud corsets Susi had designed, girly and excited for no particular reason, but safe in the knowledge that a pretty bra and pants will brighten any grey day… even in Nottingham.

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Chantelle lingerie & the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre – not related!

Last week got off to a flying start when a parcel arrived containing some rather beautiful French lingerie; a gift from Chantelle who’d picked up on one of my blog post about how I felt wearing one of their exquisite bras after two years of sturdy post surgical lingerie. It’s sitting waiting in my lingerie drawer; it’s almost too beautiful to wear, but I’m sure the moment will arrive when I feel the need to look elegant and feel fabulous. Thank you Kerri and the Chantelle UK team.

Shortly after unveiling my lovely undies, I ventured out for something more serious; I had been invited to visit the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University. Like many, I didn’t know that Nottingham has it’s own direct funded cancer research centre; I must confess I had to steel myself, and with some justification, as talking about the big C isn’t easy for me, ever.

I was greeted by their Head of Fundraising, Sue Dewey OBE, who gave me an in-depth tour of the facility which specialises in targeted research into breast and prostate cancer. Talk about staring the beast straight in the eye, it was challenging and cathartic in almost equal measures.

I met a research scientist, Dr Tarik Regad, who explained how cancer stem cells can behave, and that his research focuses on building more understanding of how these cells behave differently from normal, healthy cells. I braved a suggestion based on a personal theory that my breast cancer had returned after a ten year remission because my immune system was shot to pieces, caused by stress. I emphasise that this is my personal belief, and for many like me, it guides my daily choices on health and wellbeing.

My question was sensitively fielded, and met with some validation – for me, this information made the visit worthwhile, in spades. I heard about how their research is focusing on the development of immunotherapies, which work with the body’s immune system rather than compound treatments such as chemotherapy (which go for all out war on cancer cells and take healthy cells with them). They have the potential to be not only kinder to the body, but infinitely more effective. But there’s still a long way to go.

If I learned one thing, it is that one day the secrets of this this terrible, crippling, terrifying disease will be revealed. It gave me faith, and I want to share it here.

I would encourage anyone with an interest to go and have a look-see for themselves; here’s their latest newsletter, and a great demo you can zoom to see just how small a cancer cell is, look for the skin cell. Scientists at the John van Geest Centre can splice one of these little suckers into thousands of layers in the lab; see how long it takes for you to spot one, then consider how difficult it is to crack the code.

The centre has ambitious plans to expand its research, which is already renown and ground breaking, and it needs some serious funds to achieve it. Help, if you can, please:
John van Geest Donate

lingerie prototyping – easy, right?

Back in June, millie lingerie was still a bit of a twinkle in my eye. I’d quit my job and decided to find out if my idea really had legs, and joined the Next Business Generation Programme at BioCity in Nottingham.

So what have I been up to in the past 3 months?

To begin, I had to really strip my idea apart and look at the assumptions I’d made about why I thought turning my dissatisfaction and frustration when buying lingerie was a good business proposition. Women need more lingerie choices following breast cancer. It had almost become a fact. But was it true?

So it was time to research. I’ve discovered that many women experience ongoing pain years after their surgery and treatment ends. Women at all stages of their journey, from a few months, to many years after, state that they experience ongoing pain.

For me, pain is a regular occurrence, and something I accommodate by choosing my activities and lingerie according to how I’m experiencing it on any given day. A ‘Sloppy Joe’ bra for a day when I’m uncomfortable, a more structured, possibly even underwired bra for an occasion when I want more shape and a better contour.

During conversations with like-minded women and group discussions on Facebook, I found reassurance that I’m not the only one, many of us struggle to combine comfort, shape AND style. Women who wore underwired bras before their treatment now find it almost impossible, and without a wire, for some, that can mean a loss of shape and contour, and that’s before you even take into account the need to accommodate a prosthesis.

A bra alone is not a solution for this pain, but wearing the right one can ease the experience of it, leaving the wearer feeling a little more secure, and comfortable.

In the UK we spend an average of £20-£30, me included (usually). I’ve experimented with higher priced bras, and though I feel more comfortable and secure, I’m still not quite satisfied.

When I started to consider all of the components that go into a bra, 30+ usually, and the additional needs for softness, strength, and containment of a prosthesis, it stacks up to a more expensive finished product if it’s done well and fit for purpose.

Looking at some of the more ‘reasonably’ priced post surgical bras on the market, you’ll soon spot that they’re remarkably similar to other styles such as maternity bras, which are also ‘soft’. Hmmm… soft doesn’t mean it’s the right solution, even before you consider the awkwardness of being sold a maternity bra when you’ve had breast cancer.

So why does this happen? My research suggests that established lingerie brands are quite risk averse to developing products outside their area of expertise, remember Victoria’s Secret being challenged by a petition with over 100,000 signatures?

Add to that, brands work on incredibly tight margins to achieve high sales volume and price points that we’re happier to pay. Bra components are priced to 3 decimal places, which means that anything specific or ‘special’ can take it outside of the usual rigid costing structure. It certainly explains how you end up with doubled up designs for post surgical and maternity.

So the question is, readers, and women who’ve faced breast cancer, would you be willing to pay more than you usually do for a bra that better meets your needs? Imagine a bra that supports you breast, doesn’t irritate your skin, holds you prosthesis comfortably in place (assuming you wear one), AND looks great.

That’s what millie is working on; fully meeting the ‘functional’ needs, going the extra mile to provide better support and shape, AND designing lingerie that includes women in the fashion world, not leaves them behind feeling left behind and left out.

Our first prototype is being developed; it’s not a speedy process, but it will be worth the wait I promise. Here’s a sneaky peek at a concept board, designed by me (Sue) not a lingerie designer, but hopefully you will see a flavour of where we’re heading.
IMG_0871

millie has a ‘virtual’ team working to create our first commercialisation drawings, an experienced and inspiring lingerie designer researching construction and materials, and a technical expert who is going to help us to develop a project plan and early costings.

We all deserve beautiful lingerie. millie is committed to this belief.

Serendipity and Ted Zoller

It’s not every day that we have the privilege of spending a day with a real expert, I mean, not just someone who knows what they’re talking about, an absolute brain, world class, and great fun to boot.

So it was last Friday when Nottingham’s Next Business Generation Class of 14 were treated to day of financial training and planning with Ted Zoller, Director and Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina, and Senior Fellow for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

We anticipated it was going to be both racey and fast paced; Ted opened by telling us that he’d start with a few teasers to get our brains up and running, without caffeine having to do the job for us. It was like the best fun fair ride you’ve ever been on; a little bit scary, very fast, and heaps of fun. For the first two hours he had us all on the edge of our seats, wondering what stroke of insightful genius he was going to share with us next. Top speaker!

His opening stance was to position the relationship between entrepreneurs and their would-be investors, and the importance of sharing the “same bed, same dream’ (not literally you understand). Contrary to the lean start up methodology we’ve all been taken through for the first 8 weeks of the programme, Ted grabbed our everyone’s attention when he confessed he was allergic to lean, qualifying his claim by describing that startup funding is more of a zig-zag, and that seed funding is to experiment with (rather than worry about as I’d been doing).

The day progressed with discussions around solvable needs, value propositions and durable, sustained profit. Then he touched upon serendipity, Forest Gump (yes really, “back at the White House, a g a i n. . . ”), and how chance favours the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur).

Now I’m sure you’re not meant to ‘go fishing’ in the presence of a great mind sharing all of his worldly experience, but fish I did. I thought about the moment I realised that my breast cancer had returned (not my finest), and the day I was made to feel like I didn’t belong in my local lingerie retailer because of “the risk of infection” (from me to them presumably? really?!). Then my mind returned to a Breast Cancer Care lingerie evening in Barnsley (it’s “oop North” Ted), and a winning ticket, no: 526.

Have I lost you yet? Stay with me.

I went to Barnsley to see if I could find some decent bras, having given up shopping in my usual outlets (utterly exhausting and completely fruitless). We were each given a a prize draw ticket, and a glittering array of prizes sat on a table at the front near the evening’s hosts saying “win me!’. Now I never win anything, I back horses with 3 legs that come last, and I never draw lucky on sweepstakes, so the odds on me winning something were slim.

But I WON!

My prize was a set of lingerie of my choice. I took it as a sign and drove home down the M1 thinking about the room full of women I’d just met, all on the same quest, to get dressed in the morning in a suitable bra that was both comfortable and stylish. So on that dark, chilly October evening I decided to make my grump my job, serendipity had played it’s part.

It’s a work in progress you understand, the startup programme and associated ‘bootcamps’ have certainly done their job at getting me moving, and I’m getting tee’d up to step into a brave new world where I will develop a new lingerie brand for healthy women survivors of breast cancer who are fed up with the limited choice available to them.

Game on, and thanks Mr. Zoller.

an invitation to join our lingerie market research

millie lingerie® would like to invite you to join our research on women’s experiences of buying lingerie following breast cancer treatment millie lingerie® survey.

We would like to understand more about how women feel about the choice, fit, and availability of lingerie in this specialist area, with a view to developing a new range of bras to broaden choice and comfort; bras that become part of the journey to feeling and staying well.

We very much hope that you will decide to take part, and if you do, we’ll ask you to provide us with some sensitive information about yourself, specifically relating to your diagnosis and treatment. The information you provide will be used to inform us about the lingerie requirements and needs of women after breast cancer treatment, and how they vary. You will not asked for any personal data.

Your response data will be carefully and securely stored, and not used for any other purpose. Any data you provide will be used by millie lingerie® for the sole purposes of developing a new range of specialist lingerie.

To join in with our survey, please click here: millie lingerie® survey. It will take around 20 – 30 mins.

my Chantelle moment

My lingerie choices for the past two years have been very restricted. Four rounds of surgery, bloating from treatment and lack of exercise, and hey presto, my band size and bra requirements both went up, and my confidence shot down. Like many women moving on from breast cancer treatment, this aspect of life remains a challenge.

I decided to do some bra market research, and see how far I could get past my imposed lingerie restrictions, so off we went to Birmingham, home of the Bull Ring and mecca for fashionistas of the Midlands. First stop, Selfridges.

The lingerie department was discreetly tucked away, good place to start. On close inspection it was tiny; only a few well chosen brands and not much choice. High on my wish list was non-wired, that’s what I’ve been wearing for two years, and like or it not, feel comfortable in. Calvin Klein won the prize for the only bra in this category. Plain, stylish, but very padded, and I do mean knock yourself out padded. Undeterred, I de-robed.

I should probably mention at this point that I was co-shopping with a fashion expert from Nottingham Trent University, also an experienced lingerie designer (very handy). Sue’s role for the day was to evaluate style and fit, and encourage me to try on things I wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole.

CK bra on, I bravely ventured out into the small space outside my rather uninspiring changing room (was I in Sainsbury’s or Selfridges?!). I felt like I’d got someone else bra on, but my cleavage had re-appeared (thought I’d lost that two years ago), and there I was looking down at some serious boost. Now, you might think I’d be mighty pleased about this? Erm, more like uncertain. It didn’t ‘look quite like me’

Regardless, the bra was declared ‘a good fit’ and duly purchased.

Next stop, Debenhams. Now I could bore you with the grim details, but I wouldn’t want to waste either your time or mine. Suffice to say, there were 1000’s of bras, poorly merchandised, and completely underwhelming as a customer proposition (you can take the girl out of retail, but you can’t take retail out of the girl). I tried on two bras, both disastrous, the Triumph was comfortable yes, but gave no shape whatsoever, and a simple Playtex style, though I don’t think that particular design had ever been seen by a lingerie designer, surely? It was awful. Sue found a tee shirt bra for herself at £15 though, so all was not lost.

After refueling, our next stop was House of Fraser. This is a quaint old store, I bought my 21st birthday party dress there decades ago, and it’s not changed much since (an aside). Now, I have to say that my expectations were low; my local HoF lingerie department is pretty poor. Thankfully, I was quite surprised when we entered a large, well-stocked, contemporary looking department, with an array of brands to choose from. My expectation level rose. Could they live up to it?

Sue was in full flight by now, and she hovered up armfuls of fabulous bras in minutes. The first few were tried on with Sue’s careful evaluation, and by this time, I’d lost all fear of standing around in my bra and talking about my breasts. An assistant who’d been discretely lurking then stepped up, and suddenly we entered a whole different shopping zone, guided by a an expert bra fitter, Sam. She knew her stock, her fitting, but most of all, how to engage with her customer; she ‘got’ me.

In all we spent 2.5hrs in said fitting room, countless bras tried and tested, and 4 happy purchases made.

But I must tell you about my ‘moment’. Sam brought in what I can only describe as a lingerie vision; a wispy, flimsy, beautifully crafted piece of Chantelle magic. I frowned, my expression conveying the instant doubt in my mind that said lingerie gem would come anywhere close to meeting my specific needs and wishes. Undeterred I tried it on and looked up into the mirror.

Standing there looking back at me was someone I’ve not seen in a very long time. A feminine, sophisticated, sensational looking woman, in a glorious piece of kit; ‘is that really me?!’ I mused.

That was my Chantelle moment, when for a brief time, all the pain and sadness from what has happened to my left breast disappeared. I stood there taking a slow studied look at myself, as it began to sink in that something inside me had been restored.

Did I buy the bra you ask? Actually no, the band was a little too loose, and tempting though it was, I stuck to the new fitting rules I had learned. It doesn’t really matter, because I had something else to take away with me that day, a newfound confidence to go bravely out into the lingerie world and find solutions to the comfort, style and function wishes I have.

My adventure takes me into wear testing my clutch of new bras and making a really honest evaluation of how comfortable they are. Elle McPherson is test no.1. So far so good, but I’m ready to swap back into something a little more comfortable after a few hours. The Calvin Klein has been returned, too much boost for me and probably a giver of unwanted extra body heat.

If you’d like to join in millie’s quest to develop stylish, comfortable, well fitted lingerie for women after breast cancer treatment, please get in touch.

creative daughter crashes startup bootcamp

I’d like to introduce millie’s first guest author, my daughter and blogger at Pringles Ponderings

I always joke with my Mum that I’ll look after her when she’s “old and grey,” and pretend that I’ll be the one telling her to look both ways at traffic lights and to put a scarf on to “keep that neck nice and warm.” We joke that one day, the roles will be permanently reversed. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t- knowing my Mum she’ll do whatever the hell she wants anyway. But yesterday I understood how she felt when she held my hand and walked me into my first day of school, when she told me to take a deep breath before my first A-Level exam. But more importantly, I completely understood her conviction when she told me she believed I could do anything I put my mind to. Yesterday I did all those things; held her hand, told her to be calm, and had unshakeable faith in her.

To give you a bit more context; we were walking to BioCity in Nottingham, for the first afternoon on a business start up bootcamp programme called Next Business Generation, a bootcamp masterminded between BioCity, Accelerace and Nottingham City Council in conjunction with the Creative Quarter. It was the first time Mum would really put her business proposition out into the open, and the first time it would be vulnerable to being knocked about and pulled apart. Mum’s rather fabulous idea is a brand called ‘millie lingerie’ which will design post-surgical bras for women that have had Breast Cancer. Yes- the big C word. As you can imagine, not only was she a bit nervous about discussing millie with business experts, but also opening up the discussion as to why she’d decided to start this business. You may have guessed that it’s through her personal experience, and her own dissatisfaction with what the current market offers women who have had surgery.

As I’m on the board of directors for millie (and I am extremely important but unaware as to what my role is) and also my Mum’s right-hand woman, I went along to provide some support. She said she used to be so fearless going into new business environments, but these days not so much. So there I was, her own little ‘fearless drip,’ feeding her the confidence she needed to do millie justice. For me walking into that room it was just one big challenge. There were probably people sat there wondering what a teenager was doing in the room, hopefully there were others thinking “Good on you, kid.” And no, I don’t know what a margin is (apparently they’re not the blank spaces either side of a writing page, who knew?) and no, I don’t know how I would propose millie to investors. But in my opinion saying ‘Hello’ and wearing awesome shoes would be a decent start. Thankfully, I think this bootcamp is going to fill in the gaps.

The programme’s three months long. I’m not sure how many of the actual workshops I’ll go to, and how much I’ll learn second hand from Mum. From what I saw on that first afternoon, she’s in safe hands with Next Business Generation, and will also be fed incredibly well- the sandwiches on the lunch spread were top notch. I have no idea how far millie lingerie is going to go, I might be on the board of directors for wishful thinking. If that’s the case I apologise for wasting your time in reading this, but I think my Mum’s a bit special. I believe that she’ll succeed, and millie lingerie will be the answer to the question she asked herself two years ago in the M&S changing rooms.

Either way, I’ll be there holding her hand. Watch this space.

my 3D self

Last week I visited the Nottingham Breast Institute on two successive days. My first visit was in my new capacity as the soon-to-be-creator of millie lingerie, my second as a patient.

First up, the clinic. Two years on from a recurrence of my breast cancer, same side, same cancer, one shitty little cell clinging to the breast wall after mastectomy and reconstruction, or so we think.

I found myself once again seated in a consulting room with a file that’s now too fat to fit into the slot in the wall, said file plonked on a chair, spewing its pages across the seat pad. Standard stuff mostly, if there is such a thing in the surreal world of a cancer clinic, breast exam, mammogram result (clear), meds review (a few things to think about, nasty Anastrozole). Then home, relieved and tired from the psychological effort it takes to get me there with a smile on my face and trust in my heart was over, I could relax.

Back to the first visit, most intriguing. Having previously written to one of my consultants about my plan to develop a new lingerie brand, millie (ta dah), he had kindly given me some time in his busy diary to talk about my ideas and share some of his knowledge with me. We chatted – all good, insightful and thought provoking in my quest to learn more about how breast cancer affects women medically.

Our discussion led onto the data medicine captures about women during their diagnosis and treatment, and I was told about a new clinical trial which captures 3D images of women’s breast to inform the consultants on how they might achieve better results during surgery, would I like to see it?

Couldn’t resist… its only a camera right? I’ll take a look then be on my way.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll read the word ‘camera’ and think Canon, or Nikon maybe. Something you pick up, point and shoot, and hope not to chop someone’s head off, right?

Nope. This was the mother of all cameras. Massive. It had its own legs and mirrors and was nearly as tall as me.

In front of it was a blue floor mat with a cross on it (a clue of what was to come), so when I was invited to have my photograph taken, it seemed rude not to. Now this was the point at which my inner voice was saying “and there was me thinking that I might come to hospital today and NOT take my clothes off”. Nope, wrong again.

So, two lovely research assistants signed me up for the trial (my photos can be shared, they won’t see my face etc. etc. – just as well as I was a rather flushed by now), and then I found myself taking my top clothes off (again), and standing on the blue cross.

My arms were carefully arranged, not quite the Angel of the North, but not far off, and then flash, bang, wallop, what a picture. It was like being photographed by a speed camera standing still.

Re-dressed (phew) I was then showed the image captured. I’m not quite brave enough to share it here, but what I can tell you is that I had a ‘moment’. My first response was that I wanted to know what the other couple of hundred women who’d also stood on said blue cross had thought when they first saw themselves, women I’d never met, but with whom I felt a real affinity.

So, back to my picture.

It was fascinating and emotive in equal measures. I look at myself most days when I hop out of the shower, wrap a towel across my breasts, and that’s it, seen and done for another day.

To see myself in 3D on a computer screen was incredulous. My arms, neck and torso had been cleverly phased out, so I looked like an old artifact in an art museum, literally, a bust. Except when I looked closely I was quite taken aback by the image of myself; I just don’t get to see myself ‘like that’, from every angle (the image can be rotated and tipped up), from the waist looking up (the camera has 3 lenses) and from the side, in full profile.

What I saw was the full carnage of my surgery, four rounds of it; folds, creases, scrunched up bits, and discoloration, my reconstruction of ten years ago depleted by further removal of breast tissue two years ago when it recurred. I looked battered.

For the first time I could see clearly why it’s so hard for me to get dressed comfortably in my bra each day, I’m a series of squashed up and missing bits. My bras variously rub, ride up and dig in, allow my prosthesis to wobble around and make me hot, and they just don’t look so good. In fact, compared to the bras I used to wear, even after my ‘big’ operation, they are second class at best.

I took an image of the computer screen on my phone camera, though I’ve not looked at it yet, the image is still imprinted in my brain. For now, that’s where it’s going to stay, but very soon, I’ll be figuring what out what to do with all this information, and how I can put it to best use when I begin designing a range of lingerie for myself and women like me.

I’m tired of making do with bras and breast forms that have more fiddle factor than an orchestra. “It’ll do” just won’t do anymore!

The business bit…

Starting work with Fashion Design and Fabric gurus at Nottingham Trent University’s Future Factory, funded by an ERDF Grant.
I’ve also just applied for my very first Innovation Voucher to pay for some Computer Science expertise at University of Nottingham.
I’ll be back at the Nottingham Breast Institute to meet members of the radiology team and Breast Cancer Support Group.
Oh, and I’ll be making a trip to Paris to visit one of the biggest lingerie trade fairs on the plant in July. Anyone going? Drop me a line…

Busy busy!

Links:
ERDF funding
TSB Innovation Vouchers
Future Factory
University of Nottingham Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
Mode City Paris 2014

introducing millie lingerie

I’d like to introduce you to millie lingerie (previously blogging as good upholstery), our newly formed company blog and lingerie brand in the making. millie is named after my grandmother, known to all as millie, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother to a thriving, vibrant tribe.

though not here in person, she’s always here in spirit; I look at her photo every day, say good morning, and ask her what she thinks about what I’m up to. she always smiles back.

millie would be tickled pink that I am following both my head and my heart to begin development of a new lingerie brand for women, like me, who’ve had breast cancer, and seen it off!

millie is a small and beautifully formed twinkle in my eye so far to be honest, but there are plans afoot. my two daughters are excited to be company directors of millie, and we all share the same hopes and vision for making a real difference to women’s choice in this tricky sector of the lingerie market. as well as being about delivering a great product range, it’s about doing something that we care about, and creating a legacy we can all take pleasure from.

someone said to me once “Sue, if you can get this excited about marketing lipsticks, imagine what you could achieve if you actually gave a damn!’.

well I give a damn!

Bra experiments and rumblings…

What a summer it’s been in the usually wind and rain swept UK, our weather has been a stream of welcome sunshine and warmth, but it has given many of us ladies an extra challenge on the wardrobe front. Heat, humidity, and clammy, heavy evenings have left some of us feeling unusually hot under the bra.

I’ve tweeted about feeling hot under mine (brave for me, and a bit more ‘out there’ than I usually am), and I’ve wondered, how many other women are experiencing something similar?

With or without a breast form (I can claim both!), it was uncomfortable at best, and draining at worst. My aforementioned stick on breast form (see fairy dust post) became too sticky by far, and I resorted to a home made, hacked up old bra cup, from a bra that won’t ever feel comfortable again, which gave me some shape without the weight and stickiness of said breast form.

As I fiddled about with it, I mused about fabric innovation and technology, could it be clever enough to cool against the skin as the body temperature rises, gently chilling the fabric as the wearer heats up; hmmm….sound good to you? More to follow on this subject…

Also, this month, I wore my lovely new underwired bra, my first time with more ‘structure’ since my surgery last year. Whilst I remain delighted that I actually can wear a style that is lighter and more feminine, the truth is that I’ve found it a struggle on the comfort front. It’s too firm a fit across my chest, the bra’s structure is quite rigid and the fabric a little unforgiving, and that, combined with the heat factor, makes it not really viable to wear for more than a few hours, for the time being at least. (I’m glad I only bought one item in the sale, very sensible, don’t you agree?)

So I return to my frustration and disillusion with the design of the ‘special’ bras I’ve been wearing for the past year, that it seems, I am bound to wear for now. The straps are too wide and ‘heavy duty’ for my frame, and the bridge and side seams rise up too high to allow me to wear favourite summery tee shirts and dresses. I continually check to see that no part of my bra is visible where it shouldn’t be when I’m anywhere but at home, and even then, my daughters are style policing me!

In the UK a high proportion of women diagnosed with breast cancer have breast conserving surgery, so not all require the ‘full monty design’ of a mastectomy bra. In addition, 10,000 of us are below the age of 50. So for me, the mystery remains that so many bra manufacturers describe their bras as ‘mastectomy’ or ‘post surgical’, immediately placing medical descriptions ahead of feminine descriptors, and that’s before we even begin to consider contemporary styling.

Does every bra need straps designed to allow for the side effects of lymphoedema, or cups designed to carry a full prosthesis? One size doesn’t fit all, and whilst there is a reasonable amount of choice out there if you have the time and energy to find it, surely it shouldn’t be quite so hard?

Whilst it’s undeniably true that there are many ‘functional’ requirements of bras for women who’ve had breast surgery of any kind, we are women first, last, and always, and we deserve the same choices and access to beautiful lingerie as we did prior to our surgery.

My bra mantra is “it’ll do, won’t do”; by this I mean that there has to be a more stylish way to get dressed in the morning, meeting my comfort needs and my style needs without making so many compromises. So I invite you to keep me company on my journey into being a lingerie entrepreneur and I’ll keep you posted on what I plan to do about my bra grumbles.

Please comment back if you have a bra story you’d like to share, I’d be delighted to hear from you and share your experiences.

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