There are a lot of great options for donating our gently used bras, but I’ve always had one reservation about them: how can we be certain the women receiving our bras are properly fitted? After all, it took each of us a lot of time and research, trial and error to find our large cup bras. More than making sure another woman receives our bras, we want to make sure she experiences the same physical and psychological lift that we get from a perfect fit.
My favorite bra donation channel, Support1000, recently made the difficult decision to wind up its operations. Before doing so, they told me about SOL, a lingerie store that donates bras to The Gathering Place, Denver’s “only daytime drop-in center for women, children, and transgender individuals who are experiencing homelessness and poverty”. SOL’s donations began when one of the store’s founders dropped off 200 bras and was told they’d be gone in a day. Since then, more than 3500 bras have reached the women who need them. Even better, they’ve reached the women who fit them. That’s because once a month SOL’s own fitters go to The Gathering Place.
For more information about how they do it and how you can help with your own donations, read my Q&A with Krista, SOL’s donation coordinator.
1. How are your fitters trained? What sizes do you carry and how do you assist women who do not fall into that range?
Each of SOL’s fitters goes through an initial three month training and we offer constant on-the-job skills and product updates for our staff to keep up with the latest trends. SOL carries bras in sizes ranging from 32A to 44I. For those rare cases where we do not have a size for a customer, we guide her to other recommended stores and manufacturers that will have what she needs.
2. Where do your donated bras typically come from, how many do you receive in a month, and what are the most commonly donated sizes and brands?
SOL accepts bra donations year round, but we do a big marketing push in October to build awareness. As an incentive to our generous customers, each October we also enter each donor into a drawing to win two free bra and panty sets. SOL accepts bras from any manufacturer and the majority of donated bras are 36DD and smaller. We also collect and match monetary donations throughout the year and use that money to purchase new bras in the larger cup and band sizes.
3. How worn is too worn to donate?
We agree with the general guidelines of Support1000. If you wouldn’t give it to your best friend, it’s probably better to keep it for when you’re doing yard work or cleaning out the garage and throw it out when it’s seen its last.
4. Would you share the evolution of your donating and fitting process, including problems identified and solved along the way, and solutions still needed, etc.?
Our fitting process at SOL is very holistic and we apply the same ideals when fitting at the Gathering Place. Finding the right size not only depends on your breast tissue, but also body type, daily activities and your general wardrobe. Just like customers shopping at our store, the needs of the women at The Gathering Place vary greatly. Some women don’t even own a bra, or at least one that fits. In other cases women are at the stage of looking for a job and need a t-shirt bra or something to wear to interviews or a new job.
Our biggest struggle is finding affordable bras in larger cup and band sizes (DD and above and also size 40-46 in the band). Many of our vendors have gone up in price (which means the monetary donations don’t go as far) and there are also fewer outlets that sell quality larger sizes at an affordable cost. We are constantly looking for new outlets to purchase from, which is what led us to applying for the grant from Support1000.
5. Would you track the progress of a donated bra from the time it reaches you to the time it reaches its recipient?
Bras are donated at our store location and filtered by our excellent team of fitters for quality and wear. They are then sorted by size into the correct bin at our distribution center at The Gathering Place. Once a month, two fitters and one sorter go to the Gathering Place and fit 40 women. The goal is to have enough stock that we can give each woman 2-3 bras.
6. What happens when you don’t have a donated bra in a woman’s size?
We place orders twice a year to re-stock the sizes that are not getting donated. When we do not have a woman’s size, we let her know the next time we will re-stock and try to have one for her as soon as possible. In dire circumstances, we have recommended a size and the Gathering Place has been able to provide gift cards for that person to purchase a bra themselves.
7. How long have you (Krista) been working with The Gathering Place, what do you like about working on this project, and what else do you like about working for SOL?
I have personally worked at SOL for five years and started participating in the monthly fittings at the Gathering Place within two months of working here (once I had been properly trained as a fitter). It is such a wonderfully rewarding experience to help someone get a leg up after a particularly difficult period in their lives.
Working at the store is also rewarding because SOL also provides the opportunity to truly change the lives of women on a daily basis. SOL’s mission is to provide women with beautiful, comfortable, perfectly fitting bras and sleepwear while offering a superior level of customer service. And most importantly, to make bra shopping fun! I truly feel that we bring smiles and laughter to women in the fitting room. I can also speak to the wonderful bra fitting experience personally since I walked in as a customer nearly eight years ago.
8. Is there a most common size amongst the women you fit at The Gathering Place?
Seeing over 40 women a month, there truly are varying sizes every time. However, as I wrote earlier, we desperately need larger sizes (DD cup and above and band sizes ranging from 40-46).
9. Do the women who receive donated bras have the option to return for another one when they wear out, or what do you recommend for them when that happens?
Just as we tell our customers at the store, we remind the women at the Gathering Place that bras do not last forever. Bridget, our contact at The Gathering Place who manages the bra drive sign up, allows women to sign up every 6 months to get bras, which provides them the opportunity to replace the ones that are truly worn out.
Can you tell why I’m so excited about this donation channel? Not only are the women fitted by professional fitters, but they begin with two to three bras in their size and have a way to replace them. Hourglassy readers, let’s do what we can to ensure that no full-busted woman leaves a fitting session at The Gathering Place without the bras she needs.
Send your donations to:
SOL, Store of Lingerie
248 Detroit St
Denver, CO 80206
Would you also include a note that you heard about their program through Hourglassy so that we know how effective we’re being at getting the word out?