Victoria's Secret in Talks With Mom-Daughter on 'Survivor Bra'

Allana Maiden wants company to create a line for women who've had mastectomies.

January 31, 2013, 4:31 PM

Feb. 1, 2012— -- Allana Maiden, a 27-year-old from Virginia whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, discovered the power of people who care on Thursday when she and her mother were given an audience with the giant fashion chain Victoria's Secret.

She and her mother, Debbie Barrett, 57, hand-delivered more than 118,000 petition signatures to the company's office in New York City, asking them to create a line of "survivor" bras to help women who have had mastectomies and wear prostheses to feel beautiful again.

They met with Tammy Roberts Myers, vice president of external communications for Limited Brands, the parent company, who offered to fly the pair to the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters for more discussions and a tour of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, a recipient of donations from Victoria's Secret.

"We were just blown away," Maiden told after the visit. "They actually want to send us out there and are taking this seriously. I didn't know what to expect meeting someone so high in the company. I thought it would just be a pat on the back -- 'Good job, we can't do it.' It was amazing. I do think that [Victoria's Secret] is interested in figuring out how to do this."

Maiden and Barrett carried the petition signatures to the meeting in Victoria's Secret pink striped shopping bags.

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Limited Brands has acknowledged the importance of supporting women who have breast cancer, but did not commit to making a new line of bras.

"We celebrate those who champion the fight against breast cancer," the company said in a prepared statement for "Victoria's Secret and ... Limited Brands, have been dedicated to helping eradicate this disease and have committed tens of millions of dollars to cancer research.

"Ultimately, we are working towards celebrating the day when breast cancer is a thing of the past," it said. "In the meantime, we are listening and learning to understand if there are additional ways for our company to continue to extend its support."

Maiden said she is "amazed" that her petition got this far.

"The support we got is awesome," she said. "I knew that there were a lot of people out there who do care deeply about the issue of breast cancer. I wasn't sure how many would get behind something like this. People go on walks and buy pink ribbons, but I didn't know if they would respond to this."

Today the department store Nordstrom also responded to Maiden's petition, offering to cover the cost of customizing a few bras for Barrett.

"We actually offer a service where we can convert any of our bras or camisoles in-store into mastectomy bras through our prosthesis program," Nordstrom spokesperson Kelly Skahan wrote in an email to, looking for contact information for the mother and daughter.

"We can do it right in-store and it makes it so customers can still enjoy the lingerie they've always loved even after a mastectomy," Skahan wrote. "We'd love to talk to Debbie and Allana and invite them into our store in Richmond so Debbie can have an appointment with one of our bra fitters."

Maiden doesn't remember too much about her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy. She was only 6 years old at the time. But ever since, Maiden has watched her mother struggle to feel beautiful -- and to find a bra that fits.

Her mother wears a prosthetic because at the time of her mastectomy, insurance did not cover breast reconstruction. And, because she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive 1½ hours to find a store that sells bras that hold prosthetic breasts.

"It's a huge ordeal," Maiden, said of her mother's search for the right bra. And while the mastectomy bras that her mother buys may come cheap, they are unattractive. Prettier bras by designer boutiques are more expensive.

"I know this is a minor inconvenience compared to the other things my mom's been through, and she never complains, but it is not fair," said Maiden in her petition. "A strong woman like her should be able to feel as beautiful as she is. She should be able to go to a store in her local mall with everyone else and buy a beautiful bra like everyone else."

Barrett, who was diagnosed at 36, said today she was "so proud" of her daughter. "It's been wonderful to see all this support and to have the chance to talk to Victoria's Secret representatives about how much this amazing decision would mean to survivors of breast cancer."

According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women; the foundation estimates that more than 1.6 million new cases occurred among women worldwide in 2010.

The bras that Barrett wears have little pockets to hold the prostheses. They are available online, but it's hard to get a good fit without being measured in person, say both mother and daughter.

Maiden, who works at a local animal shelter, said she chose to petition Victoria's Secret because it has participated in breast cancer awareness campaigns in the past -- Victoria Secret's 2012 "Think Pink" campaign donated more than $1.1 million to cancer groups, according to the company's website.

And Maiden added that she'd also had positive experiences as a Victoria's Secret customer.

"Victoria's Secret is supposed to make women feel beautiful, and the women that deserve that feeling the most are excluded," Maiden wrote in her petition.

Both mother and daughter have participated in local breast cancer walks and supported the American Cancer Society.

"Every woman knows someone that has been impacted by breast cancer, and women are passionate about this cause," Maiden wrote in her petition. "What better way to give back to women than to help cancer survivors feel good about themselves?"