Bras and Dignity: One Big Supporter of Support1000

This is the sixth post in my series about Support1000, and it’s good news for those of you in the Chicago-area looking for a bra fitter with experience who loves to help people and has a giant inventory.

Support1000’s founder Oz du Soleil is another one of those rare men who “gets” bras and women, but even he needed a little help at the beginning. He got a LOT of it from Tina Karakourtis, the owner of Tina’s Closet in Lisle, Illinois. Besides teaching him everything she could about bras, she installed the first Support1000 Bra Depot in her store, and she has donated more than $50,000 in new bras to the organization.

Tina has been in the lingerie business for 37 years. She began in a maternity shop that carried only one bra style. When she herself became pregnant, she began creating 34GG’s from 40 bands. She continues making alterations today in her own shop. For Tina, altering a bra is about more than taking in the band. For instance, she created a 26F for a teenage customer by completely re-engineering the original bra. The alterations she makes depend on the manufacturer. If you stop by her store and have a bra re-engineered, I would LOVE for you to guest post about it here–especially if you have more than one brand altered. I only wish I could pop over and watch her in action!

Tina’s Closet carries bras in sizes 28-56 A-L. It isn’t uncommon to hear happy screams coming from the dressing room after a woman is finally fit into the right bra. Her employee Teri, who I interviewed for this post, used to run to the back with a first-aid kit when she first began working at the store and heard the screams. Now she realizes it’s just another happy customer.

Where is this bra-fitting Utopia? According to Mapquest, it’s only a 35 minute drive west from the Sears Tower to Lisle. If  you decide to visit, Teri recommends that you make it a Spa & Bra Day with the following itinerary:

  1. Have breakfast at the John Dough Bakery.
  2. Go to Tina’s Closet for your fitting.
  3. Stop by Sanly Beauty for one of “literally the world’s best facials”.
  4. Lunch on authentic Mexican cuisine at Yurbabuena (by the nephew of a Mexican tequila producer who infuses his recipes with his family’s tequila).
  5. Walk off your lunch at the gorgeous Morton Arboretum (or take the cute walk behind Main Street).
  6. Snack on “gelato to die for” at Traviatta or
  7. Have a fun supper at Johnny’s Red Hots before your drive home–their chicken on pita with honey mustard is Tina’s favorite.

Hmmm . . . is anyone else thinking this would be a fun meetup for Hourglassy readers who live in or near Chicago???

Bras and Dignity: It’s a Bra-La-Palooza!

As summer comes to an end, the completely volunteer staff of Support1000 is surging forward with a giant new goal:  ship 15,000 bras to women all over the world on August 25. In other words, this coming Saturday they plan to ship in a single day the entire number of bras that they have shipped over the last three years!

Do you want to help? They don’t need your actual bras this time. They need your money to help cover the cost of packing materials and shipping.  You can make a donation as low as $10 through the Support1000 Fundly page, or you can go to the Support1000 website and click on their PayPal donation button.

Of course, if you’re in Chicago this weekend, Support1000 could definitely use your help packing bras.  The thought of making boob and bra jokes with over 200 amazing Bra-La-Palooza volunteers sounds like a lot of fun, as well as imagining the joy that the bras you are packing will bring to the women who wear them. If you can make it, register for a time on the Support1000 EventBrite page, and show up here:

Bodhi Spiritual Center, 2746 N. Magnolia Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Will you also help by spreading the news about the Bra-La-Palooza to your friends, relatives and co-workers? You can tweet about it or share a link to this post on your Facebook page. As women who know the cost and value of a good bra, let’s do what we can to help Support1000 put good bras on the women who need them the most.

Bras and Dignity: Is Your Old Full Bust Bra a Lost Cause, or Can It Go to a Good Cause?

This is the fourth in my series on Support 1000, Hourglassy’s adopted cause for the year. Last month we learned that there are more C- donations than D+ donations because full-busted women tend to wear out their expensive bras. It made me wonder: How much is too worn out to donate?  Here’s what I learned.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the new bras that people donate for a multitude of reasons, including this one:

(You can see other photos of notes that Support 1000 receives on their Flickr page.)

On the other end of the spectrum are the bras that should have been sent to the waste basket instead of to Support 1000. These have:

  • stretched out elastic that is clearly worn out
  • missing or broken straps
  • excessive staining or tearing
  • underwires either missing or poking out

When supervising the pack and ship sessions, Support 1000’s Catherine Herzog tells volunteers, “If you wouldn’t wear it, we won’t send it.”  As she explains it, “I think the bottom line of all of our bra needs is our mission of dignity. Worn out, dirty bras do not help the women we serve. I appeal to volunteers and donors to put themselves in our client’s shoes and imagine what THEY would like to receive.”

A bra that is still in good shape and simply missing a tag is fine . . . but without more, it’s not getting to the woman who needs it anytime soon. Right now Support 1000 has a large box of bras waiting to be sized. If your donation is missing tags, include a note or a homemade tag letting Support 1000 know the sizes you are sending.

And don’t air your dirty laundry–that’s another delaying factor! As Catherine told me, “You’d be surprised by how many truly dirty bras we receive. We do try to wash them, but our space and resources are limited, so that is a hardship.”

After you’ve washed your donations and made sure they are something you yourself would like to receive, why not go the extra mile? Here are the packages that Support 1000 loves receiving:

The donations that really make me [Catherine] smile – and are memorable – are the ones that come beautifully packaged. My dream day at Support1000 is opening a package wrapped in brown parcel paper to find 5-10 neatly packed bras in tissue paper, with a note to us about what bras (including sizes) they have sent, and why they are sending them. I love the stories that people send us along with their bras, and it is so touching to see how carefully people are sharing this part of their lives with us.


Bras and Dignity: How Heavy Lifting by Support1000 Gets Your Bra Donation Ready to Do Its Heavy Lifting

Each month, Hourglassy features its adopted cause for the year, Support1000. Last month I described how the bras donated to an organization in Chicago benefit girls in foster care in Georgia. This month we’re looking at how Support1000 processes the bras it receives and makes sure they get onto the right bodies.

Step One: The Post Office calls them “the Bra People”

The post office has giant bins full of packages ready for a volunteer to pick up twice a month.

Step Two: Sorting

From the post office, the volunteer takes the packages to the Support1000 storage space and sorts the bras into bins by sizes.

I have a hard time putting a single load of laundry away, but six core volunteers balance the post office and sorting duties with full time careers and families. No one is paid–they simply believe they should keep Support1000 going. (I should mention that Support1000 has grown to the point where it is looking to hire an executive director.)

Step Three: Reaching Out

Next, a volunteer reaches out to organizations that have recently contacted Support1000 or that have received donations in the past. The organizations have a giant turnover in the populations they serve, so they never request a specific size for a specific client. Instead, they try to keep sizes in stock that their clients tend to need.

  • For example, Wings for Success provides women entering (or re-entering) the workforce with interview clothes and enough separates to create two weeks of professional outfits. This includes new bras. Clients of Wings for Success usually need larger bra sizes.
  • Another organization, the Polaris Project, helps women who have left human trafficking situations, many without any of their personal items.  Although Polaris tries to keep a few large sizes on hand in each office, their clients tend to need smaller bra sizes.

The volunteer generates lists of numbers and sizes that each organization needs in preparation for Step 4.

Step Four: Pack and Ship

Every 4-6 weeks, a group of core and occasional volunteers gathers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on a Saturday to pack and ship bras for the organizations identified in Step 3. Since Support1000 began with the goal of collecting  just 1000 bras, its target has become 1000 bras per Pack and Ship, and they usually reach their goal. It’s hard to imagine that when they first began, the volunteers worried that they would run out of bras!

As you would suspect, a majority of the donations are in the smaller size range. Support1000 receives a lot of A and B cup donations. Julia Green, the board member I interviewed for this post, explained it this way: “Unless I go through a major body change, there’s no way I’m getting rid of my 34DD’s until I’ve worn them out.” We all know how expensive D+ bras can be, and we don’t tend to purchase them lightly! Impulse spending is easier with smaller cup sizes, so those are donated more frequently–and in cuter colors than the beiges, whites and blacks that the D+ donations tend to come in. (Realistically, however, if I were on the receiving end with just one bra in my possession, I would want to begin with those beiges, whites and blacks.)

Are you in the Chicago area? Their next Pack and Ship is on May 4. Living elsewhere? Send your D+ donations to the Support1000 post office box with with this donation form (note that an extra $1 donation per bra also helps with shipping). And make it easier on the sorters by clearly tagging the size for them (you know how faded the print can get, even on a bra that’s in great shape).