When a girl becomes a woman, she embarks on a wondrous journey of growth, self-discovery, and horrific training bras. The first bra-buying outing is a tweeny shop of horrors: Behold, the dull cotton bralet with a seam down your nonexistent cleavage; the shapeless sports bra with conspicuously cutesy detailing; and the padded, push-up number that appears to be compensating for something. Enter Yellowberry, a new company that just raised more than $40,000 on Kickstarter to make bras for girls aged 11-15 that are (assuming mom voice) actually really cute! I talked with Megan Grassell, the 18-year-old founder of Yellowberry (and a high school senior in Jackson Hole, Wyo.) about the indignities of buying your first bra, the merits of a colorful strap, and how she came up with an elegant name for a puberty accessory.
Slate: When did you first become aware of the great training bra problem?
Megan Grassell: Last year, when my sister Mary Margaret was 13, we went shopping for her first bra. We scoured the mall and couldn’t find anything that would fit her—nothing cute or fun, anyway. I thought, “this isn’t right—you’re either being sexualized or stuck in a jogging bra, and there’s no in between.” I just couldn’t let it go. I thought, “Someone should make a better option for girls.” So I did.
Slate: I’m 28, and I kind of want to wear these bras. Is that bad? I think it’s hard to find a good bra that’s not sleazy and is comfortable as an adult, too.
Grassell: I love these bras! Not to get too personal, but people keep talking to me about bras, so I have no filter at this point: I wear a 34B and I wear a size large in one of the styles. Comfortable bras for women like me exist, but it takes so long to find them. I might come out with some styles for older women at some point.
Slate: Am I right that these bras are for girls (or women!) who are not super developed?
Grassell: Yes. That’s something I need to think about moving forward—making styles for girls who are bigger-busted and need more support.
Slate: Did you talk to girls about their feelings about bras when you were developing the company?
Grassell: I talked with a lot of girls and their parents. I’m not sure 12-year-old girls are saying, “These bras are being pushed on me with all of this sex!” or whatever. But when I was going through the prototyping phase, I recruited my sister and a lot of her friends to try the bra on or wear it for a day or a week—at soccer practice and in class—to make sure that they’re super comfortable, which I think is the most important part for the girls who are actually wearing them. I look at the company as having two customers—the girls who wear the bra and the mothers who are actually buying it. And I think a lot about Yellowberry will resonate with the parents—the mother who doesn’t want to rush her child into growing up or who didn’t have an option like this when she was very young.
Slate: Why do you think the first bra-buying experience can be so unpleasant?
Grassell: Oh, it’s so awkward. Your body is changing, and it’s difficult for anyone to fully address that, particularly in the form of a new addition to your wardrobe. You’re in a vulnerable position when you go to the mall and you’re being measured, and then when you go to school and everyone can see all of a sudden that you’re wearing a bra.
Slate: Your bras are all very colorful. Is the idea to just put it out there? Yes—I am wearing a bra!
Grassell: The two styles I have right now are super colorful, so if you’re wearing a white shirt, you can see the bra through it. We’re working on putting more out with different shades of beige, mocha, and white. It’s definitely true that in the summertime, Mary Margaret may not always want to go around in a tank top that flaunts her pink bra. But it’s like anytime you buy underwear that’s really cute—the point is that it’s just fun to wear and put on, even if no one else is going to see it.
Slate: The name “Yellowberry” is evocative of adolescence—it’s the fruit that’s not yet fully ripened. Was it difficult to figure out how to brand a product around puberty without being too obvious?
Grassell: Yes. I look back on this now, and I can't believe this almost happened, but I’m from Jackson Hole, and my mom started thinking of ideas that could subtly make fun of both Jackson and bras. She wanted to call it “Holey Boobies.” I thought, “Well, no one’s going to forget that name.” But it made me uncomfortable whenever I told anyone about it. Eventually I was like, “Mom, we can’t do this. We just cannot do this.” I realized we really didn’t have to say “boob” or “bra” in the name. People would figure it out. I think that if I was 12 and had to buy a bra called “Holey Boobies,” the experience would have been a lot more traumatizing.