LORI KAPLAN: MY LIFE BEHIND BRAS
Welcome to Bra Tenders and my blog. I’m Lori, and this is My Life Behind Bras.
People often ask me, “how’d you get into this business?” To which I reply, “It’s a long, convoluted story.” The short version is that I discovered an odd and uncanny talent for being able to look at a woman and know her bra size, and also which bra would be best for her figure, while working at a crappy retail job in a schlock store near Rockefeller Center. I was a 22-year-old college dropout, who also cut typing classes in high school and had no office skills. I fell into that job quite by chance and learned a lot about myself: who I am, who I am not, and who I’ll never be.
Because of our proximity to the theater district, wardrobe supervisors and costume designers periodically popped into the shop to see if we had anything they needed, which at the time, in the early to mid-1970’s, was sheer to the waist support pantyhose. Rudy Gernreich had introduced the first thong underwear then too. Each week, I heard new requests and researched sources for the products Broadway crews needed. Within 5 years, the business expanded for the first time. 5 years later, we expanded again. As our product mix became deeper and more diverse, we became a Go-To spot for tourists, and for women looking for solutions to wardrobe conundrums.
I was thrilled to be able to make a living, albeit a modest one, helping people. It’s never been about nickels, dimes or dollars for me; my success stems from my desire and drive to help people. The first time I fit a woman in the right bra and saw how her whole demeanor changed—how she went from “beat up to upbeat” (her words) — I knew I was on the right path.
I enjoy interacting with people, and I’m a curious, clever problem solver. Long before Spanx came along, I was cutting the legs off my control top pantyhose because the girdle was still good, and it smoothed out my butt under pants. When someone needed knee pads in a hurry for a performance piece, I suggested thick bust pads, which solved the problem. I listen well and hear people express their needs, and genuinely want to be part of the solution.
We live in a world where the personal touch is disappearing, and that’s a shame. We need to be connected, to be conscious and aware of, and in touch with each other. Perhaps it’s a great convenience to walk down the street and shop with a click, but what’s the cost of being disconnected from other people? Do we consider the people who work long hours in less than stellar conditions for a pittance, the people we don’t connect with when we click to buy? I don’t know about you, but when I go shopping and ask for help finding something, particularly in a large store, like Bed, Bath, Beyond, I need more than a disengaged employee pointing a finger in some far off direction.
Bra Tenders is built on relationships, and by contributing something positive and beneficial to the world. Our mission is to empower women to look and feel beautiful and confident so they can be their best selves out there in the world, where life can be harsh.
Women will be the peacemakers and healers, and someday a great bra will be credited with helping a woman save the world.
We continue to support the Broadway community, and larger entertainment realm of film, television, streaming services, stylists, and videos. It’s a privilege to be involved with kind and caring, creative and interesting theater folks. Where would we be without the escape provided by theater or other performing arts? It’s exciting to work beneath-the-behind- the-scenes and be part of creating magic.
Being socially responsible, active and engaged is one of my core values. We give back to our community in many ways. We support Dress for Success and are a drop off location where women donate bras to Free the Girls, a non-profit that works to protect and save girls from sex trafficking. We support Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS with our love and lingerie. During this tumultuous year, we donated 5 cases of underwear to Houston after Dr. Brene Brown issued a plea, saying clean underwear is a big dignity issue. We made financial donations to Puerto Rico relief organizations and NoCal rescues. We support Muddy Paws animal rescue, the ASPCA, and World wildlife fund.
The staff at Bra Tenders consists of 7 women, including me. I hope to have them share some of their experiences from BraLaLand here. They are dedicated and valued team members, and each is devoted to the ideal of helping women love how they look and feel. Our customers deserve the star treatment, and we are fulfilled by providing just that.