This Bra Company Wants To Make Underwire A Thing Of The Past

Photo: Courtesy of Evelyn & Bobbie.
"It would be a shame for you to leave with the idea that this is a strapless bra," Bree McKeen told Refinery29 at a preview event for the Everyday Bustier, the inaugural and hallmark item of the brand she founded, Evelyn & Bobbie. After all, this particular lingerie silhouette has a pretty bad reputation with anyone who's unsuccessfully tried to keep one on for the duration of a workday (or even just a couple-hours-long event). The Everyday Bustier has already distinguished itself: not just any strapless bra can meet and wildly exceed its fundraising goal on Kickstarter within a few days, with backers willing to shell out almost $100 for undergarments. "When people hear ‘strapless bra,’ they think special occasion, inferior in performance — no," McKeen continues. "This is a bra that’s superior in performance to your bras with straps."
Evelyn & Bobbie debuted its campaign on the crowdfunding site on May 16, and has already raised over $172,000 (and counting) to fulfill its goal of introducing the most fundamental innovation in lingerie since the 1930s, when the underwire bra was first introduced. Its Everyday Bustier offers an ergonomic design that provides the contour and support one would expect to get from an underwire — except, there's no wire whatsoever. "Your traditional strapless bra has an underwire and material in the cups, but it entirely depends on the wearer getting her around-body measurement correct," explained Stephanie Muhlenfeld, Evelyn & Bobbie's VP of product design, who paired up with McKeen on this venture after working in the lingerie business for for 15 years. "If [the band] is too loose, it’s going to slide down on your body — but all the weight is front-loaded, into the cups, versus around the body."
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The solution she and McKeen landed on was to offer 360º degree support in a garment that holds you snugly around the torso, using memory foam-padded cups and specially engineered fabrics that mold to your body to offer lift without straps or underwire. "That load is [then] distributed by being hugged to your core," McKeen noted. The Everyday Bustier also features a front closure, with a supportive, stretchy back band replacing the conventional hook-and-eye. The final product — which is launching in five flesh-hued tones and one printed-on lace pattern — comes after identifying 10 key measurements from years of research, surveys, and fittings; on the consumer-facing side, though, shoppers only need to provide three sizes to Evelyn & Bobbie to find the right size. (More on that later.)
Part of the problem with mainstream strapless bra design is that the traditional measurements for bra fitting, which are taken for the band and across the bust, don't factor into the actual product design, according to Muhlenfeld. That's one of the first things she and McKeen wanted to re-engineer when embarking on this venture: "It's important to talk first about product before fit," the founder echoed, noting that the cup-and-band sizing system we use today originated in the early 20th century, and hasn't really been revisited by manufacturers. (Instead, we see small brands work to provide better fit within those parameters, like ThirdLove's half-cup sizing.) "That sizing system actually never made sense, because the way breast tissue distributes three-dimensionally, a 'cup' and a 'band' doesn’t actually map how our body [works]," McKeen argued. "We set these anchors in industry, and they will stay because we say, 'Well, that’s how bras are sized.'"
Photo: Courtesy of Evelyn & Bobbie.
Instead of purchasing Evelyn & Bobbie's Everyday Bustier according to what bra size you already wear, shoppers provide the brand with three measurements, which can be taken at home using its upcoming "at-home fit" instructions. Then, it'll take ask the customer to fill out a quiz. "That, plus a small amount of information given through the questionnaire, goes through our algorithm to give you your EB Match," McKeen explained, referring to what Evelyn Bobbie calls its sizes. "Five minutes, three measurements, and you meet your match." Once the company launches its e-commerce in September, the Everyday Bustier will retail for $188. The first shipment of bras is expected to go out in December.
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Another issue Evelyn & Bobbie aims to address: having the bra fit comfortably and offer the same amount of support to women of all sizes, from 32A to 36G. "What most bra companies do is they make a size and grade up or down," said McKeen. "Supporting two pounds of breast tissue versus eight pounds…That’s a different engineering job. But you want the customer to feel the same, seamless thing." This isn't effective for women who require additional support, but can't rely on traditional strapless bras — and, in turn, will decide against trying certain trends, like off-the-shoulder tops. "We’ve gotten an overwhelming response from curvier women who are [excited about this]," McKeen noted. (The models showing off Evelyn & Bobbie's Complexion Palette offered some pretty rave, satisfied reviews of the Everyday Bustier they were tasked with wearing for day-long shifts.)
Photo: Courtesy of Evelyn & Bobbie.
Photo: Courtesy of Evelyn & Bobbie.
The brand's Kickstarter campaign ends on June 16; after that, customers will have to shell out the full $188 to get their own Everyday Bustier. (As part of this soft launch, it's on offer for $88 currently.) Part of the reason to launch first on the crowdfunding site, McKeen explained, was to allow for a lower entry point for shoppers interested in the premium technology. "[The full price] is about as much as you would pay to go to a specialty boutique where they would give you a conventional wire bra," she said. "We wanted to give people the opportunity to buy in at a more comfortable price point because we know once they can appreciate the difference in how this performs, they'll understand the value." The price tag on the Everyday Bustier is significantly higher than competing, comparable styles on the market right now — but, as McKeen countered early on, this isn't just a strapless bra.
In the future, Evelyn & Bobbie might venture beyond the realm of lingerie, the brand teased. There's one guiding belief that will unify all current and future offerings, though, according to Muhlenfeld: "No product should be shown in our assortment if it doesn't provide a solution or solve a problem." For the 1,500+ people who have backed the project on Kickstarter, it seems the Everyday Bustier checks that box.
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