An experienced NHS bra fitter who would cut and re-stitch together bras to properly support clients’ breasts is introducing a new and radically different design to a medical conference, utilising plastic surgeons’ own multi-dimensional, anatomical measurements for breast surgery. Sue McDonald, who regularly advises pregnant, breastfeeding, physiotherapy and post-mastectomy patients, has joined forces with top consultant plastic surgeon Atul Khanna to warn that conventional bras – historically based on men’s WWI uniforms measurements – compress and distort the breast into an unnatural position, which could be at the root of many health problems.
Working together, they officially launched the first-ever range of 3D-measured bras, Optifit (www.optifitbracompany.com) at the medical conference BODY and will be showcasing again at the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) medical conference on 4-7 December.
Consultant plastic surgeon Atul Khanna, a member of both the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and BAPRAS, and Medical Director of Optifit, says;
“The breast is actually one of the hardest organs to assess objectively: it varies in volume, width, height, projection, tissue density, composition, shape and position on the chest. As a plastic surgeon, we have to take a wide range of measurements to ensure satisfactory outcomes, whether for reduction surgery, reconstruction or aesthetic enlargement. We have to consider where the nipple and the breast folds sit, breast height and width, chest wall, ptosis (or ‘droop’), elasticity and skeletal conditions. It has been established that around 80% of women wear the wrong size bra – but no matter what brands they buy or how much they spend, the correct size simply doesn’t exist, because the traditional industry measuring system is uni-dimensional and not enough parameters have ever been taken into account to make these garments comfortable, effective and most of all healthy for women regardless of their shape.”
With over 20 years’ experience below her belt, Sue McDonald trained at the prestigious De Montfort University, known for corsetry and intimate apparel design courses, and undertook post-graduate studies into the origins of the bra grading and fitting formula. She says;
“A woman’s breast could be compared with a gel-filled balloon, it can be moulded into any shape with little initial discomfort. The breast has no internal muscle structure and relies totally on skin tension and genetic characteristics for their shape. The conventional bra, however, is a symmetrical garment with sizing based on just two measurements. These arbitrary formulas trace back to ‘statistically average’ mass production surveys for the ready-made clothing industry and the male chest circumference, so women may present identical sizes but actually be quite different shapes: one could have a narrow back with a larger volume of breast tissue, in another this may be the reverse. However both would be assigned to the same commercial bra size. The fashion industry doesn’t recognise three-dimensional volume – it’s no wonder thousands of women can’t find bras that fit!”
Regardless of shop or brand as most women know, a conventional bra fitting involves taking two measurements: one around the ribcage under the bust, and another around the fullest part of the breasts. Crucially, the Optifit is based on three measurements taken with a patented elastic strap using colour, letter and number combinations to define frame, depth and volume, and fitting can be adjusted for even minimal asymmetry. It does not require an underwire and the back sits low, in line with physical principles (as most of the weight it supports is at the front), elevating the breast and projecting the nipple upwards, promoting better posture and a slimmer profile by eliminating unpleasant bulges/rolls caused by too-tight traditional bras riding up the wearer’s back. In addition, Optifit users report having no need for a sports bra, as the breast doesn’t move or bounce when they run or jump. One Optifit size will also accommodate most women throughout an entire pregnancy – unlike conventional bras which need to be upgraded several times to cope with the changes that occur during that period.
Atul Khanna adds; “Many women present to surgeons with back and shoulder pain, even sores or welts from straps and underwires digging into their skin – they blame the size of their breasts and wish for a surgical reduction. This is why we feel it’s important to inform the medical community in particular that there is a new, uniquely tailored 3-D option based on sound anatomical principles for their patients, whether they have undergone mastectomies, reduction, augmentation or ultimately no surgery at all.”
Sue McDonald concludes; “I’m aware that this is very much a case of challenging the Goliath that is the lingerie industry – but medical advancements in women’s breast health and surgery have taken great leaps over the years, while the bra design has remained static. It’s time that women point out the Emperor’s New Underclothes!”
Utilising information from a 2010 presentation on ‘Building an Interface between Surgery and the Lingerie Industry’ given by a plastic surgeon at the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ABSCI), Sue McDonald continued to refine her 3D elevation bra design, which she had been perfecting for well over a decade (to this date, over 10,000 bras have been sold). When she previewed the range at last year’s Annual Scientific Meeting of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), she was surprised to meet a kindred spirit and fellow bra health ‘evangelist’ – Atul Khanna; the surgeon himself who had spoken at ABSCI. Unsurprisingly, they decided to join forces and launch the Optifit together.
Optifit users need not sacrifice fashion for comfort as the bras come in a range of sophisticated colours and detailing. The ‘Active’ versions are smooth and suitable for daywear and sport, available in black, white and nude and with padded shoulder straps and cushioned back fasteners. The ‘Retro’ range has a sheer overlay and lace details in ‘Shades of Grey’, ‘Peaches and Cream’ and ‘Black Lace’. All are ideal for maternity/nursing (drop cups optional) or mastectomy support.
An independent survey carried out on Optifit users found that 83% reported improved posture and 72% felt it had helped with functional problems such as pain, discomfort or restricted movement. Nine out of ten (90%) found the fitting to be excellent and 93% would buy the product again as well as recommend it to friends. Over 10,000 bras have been sold.