Startup Lingerie Company Wants to Help Women Feel Sexy Post-Mastectomy

When Victoria's Secret decided not to go through with a line of mastectomy bras, many women were disappointed--but one is taking matters into her own hands.
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Tyler McCall
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When Victoria's Secret decided not to go through with a line of mastectomy bras, many women were disappointed--but one is taking matters into her own hands.
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When Victoria's Secret decided not to go through with a line of mastectomy bras, many women were disappointed--but one is taking matters into her own hands.

New York-based plastic surgeon Sharon T. Mclaughlin-Weber has launched a line of lingerie she's calling Courage Couture, designed specifically for women who have had mastectomies. The small range is available online, and the lingerie pieces are priced at $85.

Inspired by her own struggles, starting with a lymphoma diagnosis at age 13 that lead to rounds of chemotherapy and radiation that altered her chest development, Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber is using her expertise as a plastic surgeon to meet the needs of women like herself who have had a reconstructive surgery.

Her lingerie features pockets made from a stretch fabric that can accommodate different weights for women who have prosthetics, an important feature in mastectomy bras. The lingerie also features an adjustable bust that allows women who have scarring or other minor issues with their implants--like a "shelf" that doesn't mimic the natural breast slope or a slight rippling--to show as much or as little cleavage as they feel comfortable with.

And for her part, Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber doesn't quite understand why Victoria's Secret turned down the opportunity to design a mastectomy line. "[Victoria's Secret's] statement does not make any sense to me," she told me. "They have the funding, facilities, designers and consultants to produce anything they want to produce." In fact, Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber doesn't think it would be that much work for the brand.

"Good grief, their own Pink lace bralette is three quarters of the way there," she said. Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber believes that if the brand just made a few simple tweaks to the style, it would at least show that the brand was making an effort--something that she's surprised the brand doesn't seem interested in.

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"I do not think mass brands have a responsibility to help fill the needs of women with mastectomies," Dr. Mclaughlin told me, "[but] I would think they would want to."

But since--at least for the time being--they don't seem to want to, Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber is happy to provide an option. Right now, Courage Couture consists of two intimates styles, and she plans on adding a third, as well as a line of swimwear.

Dr. Mclaughlin-Weber hopes to see Courage Couture grow into a go-to, recognizable brand for women who have had reconstructive surgeries. And beyond her own success, she wants the line to help women feel sexier and stand a bit taller. "I hope that one of my bikini designs will be featured in Sports Illustrated and be worn by a model that has had a mastectomy," she adds.

"She can be every bit as sexy as the next woman."

Check out the first of Courage Couture's designs: