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THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 1995

She's the world's 'cup' queen
'Bra Lady' helps
women keep chin
up, chest out.
The Bra Lady in her shop/office/fitting room
by Joe Clark

Daily News Staff Writer
Between 90 percent and 95 percent of American women wear the wrong size bra.

Not a very uplifting statistic, is it?

Here’s another.

Something like 30 percent of women whose measurements are unusually small or exceptionally large, cannot find their correct size in any store.

Frances K. Hellmann calls members of this group “extremes.”

She should know.

Hellmann is “The Bra Lady” who for more than 20 years has specialized in custom-fitted bras for women of all ages … and sizes.

From a 28A to a 56M “as in Michael.” Hellmann’s got ‘em. Hundreds of ‘em.

Has “lots of O’s” too.

That’s where this lady of letters draws the line, with the Os. Anything beyond that is a personalized Z bra, sans stripes.
“Women are used to going into a store, grabbing a bra and running out,” said Mrs. Hellmann, “They buy what they think is their size, but it’s not. They don’t take the time to try it on.” “That’s why 90 to 95 percent of women are not wearing the correct size bra.”

But the majority, notes Mrs. Hellmann, are at least able to get something close

It’s the minority, that 30% who make up “The Bra Lady’s” clientele. “Commercial stores do not cater to them,” said Mrs. Hellmann. “A store must sell at least 8 pieces of a item to be profitable.”

After all, there’s just not that many calls for, say, a 64H.

That’s where this custom-fitted 42I grand mother of 5 and her tape measure come in. (For the clueless, the tale of the tape reads like this: The number represents the circumference of a women’s upper body. The letter denotes the size of the cup.)
Besides feeling like there’s a “tight rubber band around your middle,” Mrs. Hellmann says, a misfit bra can cause headaches, backaches, sore shoulders and an aversion to sports “because breasts get in the way.”

A former Philadelphia school biology teacher and a native of Fishtown. Mrs. Hellmann started her business 21 summers ago in a converted carriage house/garage in the rear of her home in Warrington, Bucks County.

She had recently given birth to her fourth child in five years and breastfeed them all. “I had been wearing a maternity bra for five years,” said Mrs. Hellmann. “I looked taggy baggy, like a grandmother. I was one of the multitude of women who bought what they thought was their size.”

Mrs. Hellmann’s husband, a construction worker, played a large part in launching his wife’s business career.

One day he was reading an engineering magazine, when he came across a story about Howard Hughes, aircraft designer, builder, flyer, and innovator who also made Hollywood movies.

The article told how Hughes was making the film, “The Outlaw,” and wanted to make the Starlet, Jane Russell, to, in The Bra Lady’s words, “ look voluptuous. You know, more vava voooom!” He wanted • again, in The Bra Lady’s words • to make Russell’s breast “stand out, not up.”

Using the “aerodynamic principles of suspension, thrust and uplift.” Hughes came up with a custom-fitted bra. The results were just what he wanted: “Outstanding”.

It was the most supportive news Mrs. Hellmann heard in years. She hadn’t known there were such things as custom-fitted bras. But once she found out, it wasn’t long before she was up to her armpits in custom bras. She still is.
Seems like everywhere you look in her shop/office/fitting room, there’s a bra. On pictures, in boxes, hanging from the ceiling, on a mannequin, She thinks she has about 700 ± in stock.

As far as she knows, she is the only individual in the Delaware Valley who does what she does, and she has close to 3,000 customers on file “from all over” Hawaii • Spain • Germany • a missionary in Australia who see her.

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