A few months ago, I took Amelia, just one year out of middle school, to the mall on a Sunday morning. I wanted us to slip into an athletic clothing store, have her chest measured with minimal embarrassment, and slide back out with a bra or two that supported all the jumping she does in volleyball.
We hit Athleta first, and much to my chagrin—and her relief—none of the salespeople knew how to measure for bra size. She tried on a couple that looked like they would fit, but no dice.
Same story at Lululemon.
I was ready to march us into Nordstrom, the realm of knowledgable sales ladies with tape measures hung around their necks, but I could tell the teenager's tolerance was maxed out. So we left, no new bras.
The situation wasn't critical. She had bras that, while far from ideal, would work for another practice or thirteen—not sure when she'd allow another bra-search adventure. Plus, she was already deep into volleyball, so her participation didn't hinge how she was feeling about her chest. And thankfully, we have the means to be able to buy her the bras she needs.
That isn't always the case.
In fact, as Oiselle's Sarah Lesko wrote, "according to recent research, including a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, middle school is a crucial fork in the road, during which some girls stop participating in sports due to their changing bodies. Consider the following:
- 73% of girls report having breast-related concerns regarding exercise and sports
- 87% want to know more about breasts;
- Close to half report that their breasts have an effect on their participation in sports;
- Families in need may not have the resources or information to purchase a girl's first sports bra."
Those stats just bum me—and I bet most female athletes—out.
Because, as we intimately know, there are miles and miles of benefits (lifelong friendships, inner confidence, collective goal setting, non-stop laughter, just to name a few) from movement and sports.
And to let two body parts, which are admittedly awkward during puberty, make the final call about whether their owner will enjoy those benefits feel unfair at best, and downright depressing at worst.
The stats definitely bummed out Lesko + the team at Oiselle; that information, combined with a surplus of bra inventory, was a "nice coincidence," says Lesko—and spurred them to take action.
Bras for Girls was born. The program, which started in 2017, has since donated over 6,100 bras to preteens and teens. While Lesko considers every nomination carefully, one of the criteria she uses in selection is focusing on girls who might either not have the opportunity to learn about the importance of sports bras or have the resources to buy one.
The program isn't just for cross-country runners and tracksters; girls nationwide on cycling clubs, tennis teams and other teams have also benefitted from the program. The coach or director submits an application, and if approved, sends in the sizes her girls need. If there's a need for a larger size Oiselle doesn't produce, Title Nine dips into their inventory and helps out.
While the physical bras are key, the messaging that goes along with the donation is arguably more important. Lesko, who is a family doctor by training, worked with a Seattle-based doctor who specializes in puberty + teenage issues in Seattle to develop simple + smart seven-page information packet that takes the guesswork out of growing boobs. [Grab the PDF here.]
The program has been so popular that the Oiselle team designed a brand new style, the Get Sporty, just for the Bras for Girls program. Get Sporty will launch this fall—and when it does, it will also launch thousands of girls, feeling confident enough to run, jump, swing and ride, on a lifetime of movement.