Grace.B.Bold is a luxurious line of womenswear that supports the needs of women who have been affected by breast cancer.
A breast cancer diagnosis is shocking and devastating, but what follows can take on a physical and emotional toll on the body. 26-year-old Megan Sullivan has been a witness to this struggle up close and personal. When she was just 9 years old, her mother was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer at the age of 42. It was an event that would alter the course of Sullivan’s life, driving her to use her degree in fashion to launch ‘With Grace B.Bold’.
With Grace.B.Bold is a luxurious line of womenswear that supports the needs of women who have been touched by breast cancer – like Sullivan’s mother. “As a young woman coming into my own womanhood and knowing how I’d feel if I was in that position, I can’t even put into words the effect that has on me. It’s every emotion — it’s anger and sadness and a fiery drive to fix this problem” said Sullivan.
An unnecessary stressor in an already stressful situation
During her studies at The University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, Sullivan was searching for a purpose. That is until one day, when she found enlightenment from her past – her mother’s own battle and recovery from breast cancer. She asked her mother about the details of her experience and was surprised by the answers. “One of the first things she brought up was this surgical drain and how annoying it was. I said, ‘Mom, you went through chemo, you went through this awful surgery, radiation, and all you remember is this drain that you had in for a month?’ She said, ‘Yeah. It was absolutely the most awful thing about my treatment’” recalled Sullivan.
While clothing to hold and cover surgical drains is available, it is far from the type of attire women would want to wear out in public. “Women say they feel like they’re bringing the hospital home with them. They’re not fashionable or stylish — they’re just something you can lounge around in. You certainly can’t wear them out to dinner” said Sullivan. It was then that she decided to commit to helping women affected by breast cancer maintain their dignity, as well as fashion sense by begging the question: what can I wear after breast cancer surgery?
Sullivan began sketching and created a prototype of a useful, yet stylish garment that women would be proud to wear in public. As part of her master thesis, she enlisted the help of some women who agreed to wear her garment home from the hospital and then provide feedback. Some of the responses included the following:
“At first glance, I really liked the style of it. It looked like a garment I could wear outside of my current situation. The feel of the fabric was very soft and luxurious.”
“People desperately want to give you things after your surgery, but don’t know what to give you. If someone gave this top to me as a gift, I would have loved to have worn it during my treatment.”
The outcome? a well-designed, functional and fashionable garment. Due to the fact that women recovering from breast cancer surgery cannot lift their arms above their head, the garment can be wrapped, tying together on the inside. A system of stabilizers holds the surgical drains in place and pockets on the inside are customized perfectly to fit the drainage bulb. The fabric is all-natural, soft, and comfortable, as well as designed to conceal the form of the drains.
“I was at this point where I had been working on this for a really long time. I had really solid prototypes. I had the testimonials. It was just a question of how to take this and launch a business out of this. How do I start a company? And that was kind of a tough thing for me to get my head around for awhile” said Sullivan.
From brand to business
Following extensive research on funding and how to start a company, Sullivan launched With Grace B.Bold. Her first garment, Ann Elizabeth, was named in honor of her mother. She also completed a second garment, the Eileen, which means “to shed light”. Down the road, she intends to give names to other garments in the line after other breast cancer survivors who have moved her.
Sullivan recognizes that not all women who use the garments during their recoveries will want to keep them afterwards because of their association to the experience. That is why she offers shipping labels to women who wish to donate their garments to hospitals to other women in need undergoing treatment. Additionally, she offers the options for customers to gift brand new garments to women who are not financially able to afford them. Each gifted garment will be given to a local breast cancer as a way to make a positive impact on others going through similar experiences.
“Not only am I invigorated by her story of determination in the face of personal trial, but I am also inspired by her entrepreneurial spirit. Megan’s determination to turn challenge into conquest is the exact kind of story I strive to tell about innovators in Cincinnati” said Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse.
Reclaiming confidence and maintaining freedom
There are a wide range of breast cancer surgeries and post-surgery reconstruction options for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to consider. What follows is post-operative lingerie and clothing that is not necessarily ‘one size does not fit all’. For this reason, companies like With Grace B.Bold are dedicated to helping women feel attractive again by expressing their sexuality through stylish solutions.
For breast cancer fighters and survivors, clothing can allow them to regain control over at least one portion of their lives during a devastating and unpredictable time. And as a result, move forward on the path back to normalcy. “I believe we present ourselves to the world with what we choose to wear, and I think our well-being is fulfilled in some way by confidence and the freedom to dress however we so choose. There’s so much truth and power behind the statement, ‘When you look good, you feel good.’ I think it’s especially true for women faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer” said Sullivan.