Your breasts can feel nippy even if they don’t have nipples. And silicone implants, when exposed to cold, can leave you feeling like you’ve been strapped twin ice peaks.
It’s an unfortunate truth—women who have had a mastectomy and then undergone reconstruction often deal with cold breasts. After reconstruction, a woman will have only a thin layer of skin and muscle between the implant and the outside environment, making it difficult for her body to maintain 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit unless she’s in the tropics. Without a layer of fatty breast tissue, implants quickly lose heat, and it’s difficult to get warm again.
Think about your fingers. They often get cold first because they’re on the extremity of the body and there’s not a lot of tissue to keep them warm. And an implant, with no blood vessels, tends to get cold easily and get warm again slowly. If your fingers are cold you can grab some gloves, but they don’t make gloves for breasts.
Students at Central Michigan University (CMU) have designed a bra with mastectomy patients in mind. The bra was designed for women who’ve undergone reconstructive surgery with silicone breast implants, but it’s also appropriate for women with implants from breast augmentation or for women who just tend to be cold up top.
Susanne Wroblewski, a graduate student who runs CMU’s Center for Merchandising and Design Technology, helped design the bra. She and two other former students, also women, launched the company Elemental and began selling the bras on Kickstarter in October 2018. The bras are being sold for $125, and the company hopes to begin selling the bra on their website, its-elemental.com, in the near future.
The founders have been pleasantly surprised with the warm reception the bra has received. “We didn’t think we would have people from warmer states interested. But air conditioning is a problem, we’ve learned,” Wroblewski said. They’ve had people interested in the bra from all around the United States as well as Canada and the United Kingdom.
The idea started as a class project. In September 2016, the students that would become the Elemental team met a woman named Jodie. Jodie had gone through breast cancer, a mastectomy, and reconstruction. She struggled with being uncomfortably cold in her chest area, but when she told her plastic surgeon about her trouble, she was advised to just put hand warmers in her bra. Because of compromised feeling in her breasts, the hand warmers left Jodie with burns. There had to be a better solution.
Jodie says the Elemental bra has helped her feel like a woman again. The thermal bra is designed to be comfortable, insulating, sweat-wicking, and no thicker than a normal bra. The cups are made of layers of fabric chosen for their heat-retention qualities. Those wearing an Elemental bra stay up to 33 percent warmer than they would wearing a standard bra.
In addition to the thermal bra cups designed to keep the reconstructed girls warm and cozy, an Elemental bra features no wires, adjustable straps that promise not to slip, soft fabrics, and extra band clasp options for flexible sizing.
The team is working on finalizing production on two different styles in 14 different sizes (to start). Their next project will be to create a thermal sports bra.
What began as one survivor’s idea-turned-class-project now has the potential to change the lives of women all over the world. We can’t wait to see these gorgeous bras hit the market. They’re sure to help women everywhere warm up to their implants!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.