Highland Park mom Wendy Herman founded BRABAR as a passion project after a shopping trip for an appropriate-sized bra for her teen daughter fell flat. Armed with 25 years of experience in the intimates apparel industry, Wendy recently expanded her online enterprise with a storefront at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison. She now works with young girls and moms in person, teaching them the ins and outs of finding a bra that fits and how that helps boost body image.
New Jersey Family: How many years have you worked in this industry? When and how did you start BRABAR, and what inspired you to start your own business?
Wendy Herman: I’ve worked in the intimate apparel industry for 25 years. BRABAR began as a passion project after bra shopping with my teenage daughter and being unable to find bras in her appropriate size. This was reinforced by observing teenage girls wearing structured bras underneath trendy, unsupportive bralettes. There’s a strong connection between intimate apparel and how girls feel about themselves. Getting into and wearing a bra just the right size is truly important. I wanted to help change the way teens shop for bras and get them wearing bras that fit them.
BRABAR was established on the promise to educate on fit and get girls into the right size bra because we believe that comfort is the foundation of confidence. How to find your bra size is something our girls should know. However, women today don’t know how to measure themselves, and in fact, eight in 10 women wear the wrong bra size. Our goal is to make the complicated simple by emphasizing the importance of band size and introducing the EZ-fit system. Our first silhouette, the HUG bralettes, were designed for fit, style and comfort and worn snug like a hug.
NJF: Did you start BRABAR as a side hustle?
WH: BRABAR began as a passion project. After researching the market and developing the first products, I committed myself to pursue it. I dedicated 100 percent of my time to the initiative.
NJF: Why bras?
WH: I spent my career in intimate apparel and saw the need as I shopped with my own daughter and answered questions for my friends.
NJF: We see the phrase “Not Just a Bra” on the walls in the store. What do you mean by that, or what’s your ultimate mission/message and why?
WH: Coming of age is difficult, and we want to help make it a positive experience. It is not just a bra, it’s so much more than that. There’s a strong connection between intimate apparel and how girls feel about themselves. At BRABAR, we aim to help girls feel comfortable and confident in their skin while giving them the tools to be their best selves. We promote self-love and strive to cultivate strong, confident young women who recognize a simple, empowering truth: You are so much more than your body.
NJF: You’ve had the retail store at Menlo Park Mall for a couple months now, how’s business and has the move met your expectations?
WH: We opened our store July 1st, and the feedback and reception have been amazing. We have smiling girls and moms leaving the store together informed and happy. We’re getting teens into bras they love to wear, educating them on fit and empowering them with knowledge about their bodies.
NJF: What’s the biggest obstacle you overcame going from online to a retail store, especially when most businesses do the opposite?
WH: Bringing the brand to life in the store was exciting, and in fact, we found that the store positively influenced our online business. You can buy BRABAR products online, but the experience of BRABAR is inside the store. Most of the magic happens in our fitting lounge.
NJF: What’s your best seller and why do you think that is?
WH: We service girls in middle school, high school, college and beyond. The needs of a 12-year-old are quite different than a 16- or 21-year-old. We have a few best-sellers. Girls just starting out love our T-back lace halter. Our high school girls love the cami bras. Our petite and full-busted college girls love the lace back. The universal best seller is our Everyday Bra.
NJF: What’s the biggest misconception about bras and fittings?
WH: Teens are underserved, and as a result, teenage girls are wearing the wrong bras and the wrong sizes. Girls remain discouraged shopping for bras, and they’re stuck buying bras that don’t fit. Teenage girls have smaller ribcages than women. Petite girls with small ribcages need smaller band sizes, and full-busted teenage girls need larger cup capacity and support. A bra fitting doesn’t have to be a painful process. Typically people buy bras with bands that are too big and cups that are too small. A girl with a 28-inch ribcage needs a 28. She should not wear a 32 band size; that’s 4 inches too big, and if it’s a wired bra, then it will likely poke under her arms.
NJF: How can other moms better educate themselves and their daughters on buying bras in the future?
WH: Our philosophy is that your bra should fit like a strapless bra, hugging the rib cage and not hanging from the shoulders. At shopBRABAR.com, we share measuring information and a visit to our fitting lounge helps take the guesswork out for mom. It also gives mom a road map to follow for future purchases.
NJF: What’s the most rewarding part of your job since founding BraBar?
WH: I’ve been moved to be part of such a pivotal moment for moms and daughters. We’ve had three generations come in together. Cousins and aunts having a meaningful and positive bra shopping experience, moms who are grateful to have a destination between Justice and Victoria Secret and to be getting their daughters measured and into bras that fit. It’s been very fulfilling to have the opportunity to see girls try BRABAR and genuinely express how comfortable and supportive it feels, and that they’ve never felt this way before. Getting into and wearing a bra that’s just the right size is fundamental! We’re changing the way teens shop for bras.
NJF: What advice do you have for aspiring mom bosses, especially those considering the retail industry?
WH: Becoming an entrepreneur and launching BRABAR as a mother has been amazing. Where I feel a huge sense of responsibility, it also afforded me the opportunity to be more flexible and available for my kids, and I hope that juggling work and life sets a positive example for them. Retail hours are hard and long. It’s both fulfilling and exhausting.
NJF: What are the biggest challenges you think teens (and parents) face when it comes to shopping for a bra?
WH: Lack of information and inappropriate product options and messaging for teenagers; especially those with rib cages smaller than 32 inches or cup sizes larger than a C cup.
NJF: What advice can you give moms who take their tweens/young teens for a first bra fitting?
WH: Let your tween drive the process and take your cues from them. It’s a difficult and uncomfortable time for them and as moms, we need to be sensitive to that. Let them try on a few styles and let them pick. If they find a bra they like that feels comfortable, start there, no pressure. You can always come back to buy more; leave on a high note. It can be a great, wonderful and memorable experience.
NJF: What tips do you have for older teens when they’re shopping for a bra who have probably bought bras elsewhere and been winging it in the past?
WH: We want girls to buy the smallest, snuggest and most comfortable band size, then determine the cup size. A lot of women sister size, meaning they use multiple bras with the same cup volume (30D/32C/34B/36A). When women/girls size up in the band to get more room in the cup, the bra will hang from the shoulders instead of hug her rib cage. The wires will be in the wrong location and poke her underarms.
NJF: What should girls expect from a bra fitting at BraBar?
WH: When a girl arrives, she’s escorted to the fitting lounge. We show mom and daughter how bra fitting works. We measure the rib cage first and put our girl in an unlined bra to measure her cup size. At BRABAR, girls shop by band equivalent to a rib cage measurement and our assortments of bras fit AA-DDD cups.
NJF: What are the most common misconceptions from girls (or parents) about bras and/or fittings in general?
WH: Cup size is really the difference between the rib cage measurement and the bust measurement. Most people don’t know that. A four-inch variance is a D cup. A teen with a 28 rib cage and 33 over the bust would be a 28DD, a five-inch variance. This girl was likely wearing a 32C or a 34B because that’s what’s available. Most companies start sizing at 32 band and sister size girls into the wrong bra sizes.
NJF: What’s the most gratifying reward that’s come out of creating BRABAR so far?
WH: Getting girls into bras they love wearing and taking the guesswork out for mom. Watching mom and daughter leave empowered with information, feeling good and knowing that they created a wonderful memory together.
NJF: Have there been any unexpected surprises, either for you, parents or teens?
WH: The extent of encouragement, feedback and support for BRABAR and our mission have been amazing. We’re excited that our customers want to see more styles and BRABAR’s in other malls.