Victoria's Secret won't sell cancer 'survivor' bras

The lingerie chain says it lacks the scientific background to make and sell a prosthetic-ready mastectomy bra that consumers have petitioned for.

By Jason Notte May 21, 2013 4:24PM
Pedestrians walk past a Victoria's Secret store in New York (Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images)When Angelina Jolie opened up about her preventative mastectomy, she raised awareness of the many challenges faced by women predisposed to and treated for breast cancer. For some women, that includes something as simple as finding a new bra.

That's why Allana Maiden of Richmond, Va., petitioned Victoria's Secret on to make a "survivor" line of bras for customers like her mother, who recently underwent a radical mastectomy. But after two meetings with Victoria's Secret representatives, Maiden was disappointed to learn that the company is ill-suited to make the the bras, which feature pockets to hold prosthetic breasts and require an in-person measurement to ensure a good fit.

"Through our research, we have learned that fitting and selling mastectomy bras . . . in the right way . . . a way that is beneficial to women is complicated and truly a science," said Victoria's Secret spokeswoman Tammy Roberts Myers in a prepared statement Tuesday. "As a result, we believe that the best way for us to make an impact for our customers is to continue funding cancer research."

Maiden got 120,000 signatures on her petition and still feels that the Limited Brands (LTD)-owned lingerie chain might be able to help. Maiden's mother, 57-year-old Debbie Barrett, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 and wears a prosthetic because, at the time of her mastectomy, insurance did not cover the cost of breast reconstruction. Because she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive nearly 90 minutes away to find a store that sells bras that hold prosthetic breasts.

"I was disappointed, obviously," Maiden told "I understand her decision, that there is a science that goes [with these] bras, and it's more complicated than a regular bra would be. But I felt that if anyone could do it, they could. They have everything in place."

Maiden and her mother met with Victoria's Secret representatives twice -- once when they delivered petition signatures to the company's New York office and again when they were flown by the parent company to Columbus, Ohio, to meet with other team members and cancer researchers.

While Victoria's Secret has shelved the idea for "survivor" bras for now, parent company Limited Brands has donated more than $1.6 million to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society to fund breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. The company also says it has raised nearly $10 million for cancer research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

More on moneyNOW

May 21, 2013 10:18PM

Asking Victoria's Secret to sell a "survivor's bra" is a request that is directed at the wrong company. They are not in the prosthetic business.

It could, perhaps, be a joint venture between the proper prosthetic manufacturers and Victoria's Secret designers but I would think the product would have to come through the medical components House.

Expecting Victoria's Secret to accommodate this market is like asking a bakery to sell seafood or bicycle store to sell cars.

Cancer is awful. It changes things. One of those things is who and what can best help you with your clothing needs.  

May 21, 2013 10:13PM
Velcro & padding?  I tried that after my mastectomy while I was undergoing reconstructive surgery.  Not very comfortable but, I got through it.  Now that the reconstructive surgery is complete, I still have problems finding the perfect bra.  The implant is not anatomically correct, obviously.  If someone could design the perfect implant, that would be great!  In the meantime, I keep shopping and thank God I am 3 years cancer free.  A bra with a little gap in it is a small price to pay for what I have been through. 
May 21, 2013 11:28PM
15 minutes of fame Syndrome. Sorry sounds cold but having accompanied my sister for a bra appointment after her mastectomy there is no way Victoria's Secret is up to the task. There wouldn't be enough demand for them to make a profit . Just bad business and if the chain wanted to do it on a purely altruistic basis the cost of creating then manufacturing the bras would make them even more expensive than what's available. Yes there is a need for better fitting bra's that are more comfortable but thankfully the market is limited. On top of design, production and marketing costs Victoria's Secret would have to hire or train  fitters . This woman's time would have been better spent convincing the current provider in her area to try a mobile store that could book appointments in areas far from the store.. That could be economically  feasible for all parties.
May 21, 2013 9:23PM

This is, as Victoria's Secret has noted, NOT a m****duction item; it has to be fitted and properly adjusted from time to time, customer by customer.  

 Work for the cure and help people who need them to get post-mastectomy bras.

I once worked for a luggage/business case store that had a connection to a seamstress who custom-made them, but that was in the seventies and she has a separate shop in the building,  beside our store, to deal with her customers in - privately and discretely.

Mastectomy bras are expensive for a reason. As was mentioned in the article, they must be specifically fitted to each individual. I think VS did the right thing by admitting that they are ill equipped in this department.
May 21, 2013 11:10PM
has to be better then a taowel that my wife puts in one side of her bra.
May 22, 2013 1:15AM

Sadly Breast Cancer is a multi-Billion dollar Industry. From the Walks for Cancer to the manufacture of hugely overpriced drugs to combat Cancer. The sales of "Pink" items is a 60 Billion dollar Industry alone to give you some idea of how much money is invovle. Cancer creates over 5 million jobs in the United States alone, so I would not think a "cure" will be found any time soon just like with the other varieities of cancer and O'Vomit care is going to limit your treatment based on age just like they are doing for men with the refusal to pay for Prostate testing once a certain age is reached. When Senator Dodd visited Martha's Vineyard during the writing of O'Vomit care he had his pockets stuffed with cash by the Pharmacuetical Industry Representatives who were on the Island to bow and scrap before O'Vomit. When Dodd got back to Washington he had his committee insert specific language within the O'Vomit care bill guaranteeing the Pharmacuetical Industry high prices for Cancer treatment drugs for 12 years. So I would not look for a cure within the next 12 years at least..

May 22, 2013 1:52AM
I will continue to go to Nordstrom's who does carry mastectomy bras, and has the trained fitters to help.  Or I will continue buying from the Jodee Post-Mastectomy Catalog.  At over $350+ dollars per bra, and insurance (when you have it) only covering 1 bra every 2 years, along with the thousands of dollars for the breast prosthesis, again, only covered when you do have insurance, it's padding someone's pocket and putting me closer to bankruptcy.  All we're asking for is a simple, nice bra that makes us look and feel like the women we are.
No, designing, manufacturing, and selling mastectomy bras won't be a moneymaker because there are not enough breast cancer survivors around, but it is the right thing to do.  
May 22, 2013 12:29AM
I had a mastectomy and went into the Victoria Secret store in Denver and asked for a mastectomy bra and the saleslady asked if a mastectomy bra is the same as a nursing bra.  I was so humiliated I walked out.
May 22, 2013 1:14AM
Donations are a kind and noble thing to do, but actions speak louder than donations!
May 22, 2013 3:13PM
Victoria's Secret only caters to those who want to enhance their breasts. Those of us who would like to  deemphasize what we already have are out of luck. They don't know what the  word"  "minimizer" means. There are millions of women out there who would enjoy shopping at VS but they ignore our pleas for bras to fit us.  Somebody needs to open a VS line for those who do not fit their current market.
May 21, 2013 5:10PM
doesn't fit their image, Come on V.S. do the right thing!
May 21, 2013 8:42PM
Why is this more important news than Benghazi?
May 21, 2013 9:51PM
To me, it seems as simple as making a bra in regular size and then selling inserts.  A little vecro a little padding, what's the problem?
May 21, 2013 10:01PM
I get it - to few mastectomies to make money...
May 21, 2013 11:36PM

To lazy and cheap to do any redesign of bras that they hadn't done 20 years back.  Which proves this company has no scruples except bring in the money.


May 21, 2013 9:49PM
May 21, 2013 9:14PM

Unless more fear-motivated women like Angelina Jolie  mutilate their breasts, Victoria secret can't really make any money on the new bra project; they make bras for women with breast who also appreciate having them, and want to support them and be attractive and comfortable with them;l not cut them off because of some long-shot genetic mutation that may or may not produce cancer. Wait and see whether she has cancer someplace else besides where her breasts would have been., whereby cutting them off was irresponsible, an eveil deed and motivated by fear..

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