When patients who have undergone a mastectomy, whether single or double, choose not to have reconstructive surgery, they need bras that specifically fit their new prosthesis. When a University of Rhode Island student looked at the current options for mastectomy bras, she was appalled at the lack of variety and femininity available.

“Currently in the market, all the mastectomy bras aren’t very feminine [or] fancy, they’re industrial,” said Madison Mone, a senior double major in textiles, fashion merchandising and design and Italian, “Pretty much nude, bland, [and] not very pretty or feminine. But if you Google regular bras you’ll come up with hundreds of shapes and sizes.”

Mone began to create and design a prototype for a line of mastectomy lingerie bras. With the help of an undergraduate research grant for creative and artistic students, Mone used the $895 she was granted to obtain the materials and supplies needed for her project. The line is solely targeting patients who have decided not to receive reconstructive surgery.

Mone’s aim is to expand the options for these mastectomy patients, by allowing them to be more “Fancy and Feminine” – the name of her bra line. She has designed the bras so that they can have a dual function, as both bras and pieces of lingerie. This dual look can be achieved if the consumers buy lingerie pieces that can be attached to the bra.

“Because for a regular person you can go and buy a bra and then a lingerie piece that [also] has a built-in bra,” said Mone. “But mastectomy bras are so expensive because they have all different types of construction designs to hold the prosthesis, [so] my goal is to create a bra that you could buy extra stuff and attach it to the bra, and turn one bra into five different pieces of lingerie.”

Mone was inspired by her grandmother, who went through a single mastectomy approximately two years ago. While visiting with her grandmother after the surgery, they began discussing mastectomy bras and the problems that her grandmother had with them.

“The thing with mastectomy patients is that the majority of mastectomy patients who opt not to get reconstructive surgery are older,” said Mone.

As elderly women generally have disabilities and issues separate from the mastectomy, these additional problems can be compounded by the limited options in the mastectomy bra market. Mone took into account many of her grandmother’s recommendations, such as using a front clasp since reaching around her back is difficult, and is using them in her plans for her prototype.

“I’m having focus groups with other patients to discuss their input as well, so it’s more than just my grandmother’s input,” said Mone. “[For example,] just thickening of straps and different closure types… and just more options in that respect in terms of materials and the way the prosthesis pouch is created.”

Once Mone has completed her prototype she will be having two participants who have undergone mastectomies wear the prototypes for two weeks, after which they will fill out a survey with feedback and opinions on the bra. She plans to continue the process of using focus groups and participants a few more times before deciding on her final product.

Mone’s Fancy and Feminine line can be seen at the end of the year showcase for TMD students to enter and present their work.