SURREY — Nearly 100 women felt a little more comfortable upon leaving Surrey Women’s Centre on a recent Wednesday, and their stories were compelling.
“One woman said she had worn the same bra for 20 years, and the one she left here with was the first new bra she’d ever owned,” recalled Allison Tanaka, who organized a “Bra Day” event at the centre, where she works as office manager.
Close to 200 bras – two per person – were given to women in need.
But not just any bras – properly fitted ones.
It’s an initiative of Supportive Start, founded in 2014 by Fraser Heights-area resident Sonya Perkins.
New and gently-used bras are donated by customers and suppliers at the Forever Yours Lingerie store she operates in Langley.
For a few hours on Oct. 5, a back room at Surrey Women’s Centre was set up as a bra boutique.
Perkins helped one woman who struggled with English.
“I was kind of fitting her by charades,” Perkins recalled. “She came from Iraq five years ago with the one bra she owned, and it was absolutely in tatters. Going through life with one really bad bra for so long is a very uncomfortable situation.”
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE PHOTOS FROM ‘BRA DAY’ EVENT
The women also took home pairs of panties, “goodie bags” filled with personal-hygiene products and some lunch.
“This was huge for us, and really exciting,” Tanaka said. “It was super busy in here but also very gratifying to see the women leave here so happy with their new bras.”
Perkins said she has sometimes struggled to convince non-profit groups there is no “angle” with the donated bras and free fit clinics.
“We want to give women who are at a difficult spot in their lives an experience that will take them out of their situation, if only for an hour or so, and show them kindness while providing a necessity,” she explained.
“The other thing is, people hear it’s about bras and sometimes it’s automatically sexualized, but it shouldn’t be,” she added. “This is about an essential piece of clothing for women in western culture.”
Details about the initiative are posted at Foreveryourslingerie.ca/supportivestart.