Busted Bra Shop Founder Helps Women Find Right Fit In Detroit, Chicago

By Allie Gross
Detroit Free Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The fitters at “Busted Bra Shop” say that many shops don’t take the time to break breast measurements down, much less actually fit someone.

Detroit Free Press

Sheryl Evans had found the perfect breezy, full-length cream dress to wear to her brother’s wedding in St. Martin next month. For only $24 at Value World it was a steal.

There was just one problem: The dress was a halter, and she needed a bra. A comfortable, strapless bra that would work with the dress but also provide support on the dance floor.

Luckily, a friend from work had recommended the Busted Bra Shop in Detroit’s Midtown.

Visiting for the first time, Evans was in high spirits. She was able to find a strapless bra (she put it on hold as she still has to make alterations to the dress) but she also found several other “everyday” options.

“I got some everyday bras, in cute colors! Something big girls can’t get,” she said, explaining that typically the more fun lingerie only comes in smaller sizes. “Big girls only get nude, black and white. Those are the colors.”

Busted’s selection of bras from across the globe has changed this. And, as proven by Evans, there is a market for this. So much so that the small boutique is now expanding. This month owners Lee and Patrick Padgett opened a new shop in Chicago. In the fall they plan to open a second Detroit location in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood on the border of Grosse Pointe.

“We can get more fun colors,” Evans said with a smile, showing off the two bras she had selected — a fuschia number and a red and white floral bra.

While the teacher was already onboard with specialty bra shops — in the past she has gone to Bravo Intimates in Royal Oak — being able to stop into a store in Detroit, near her, was a real win.

“I was like, let me see what’s in the city,” Evans said, explaining her reasoning for the visit last Tuesday.

Evans’ experience is exactly why Lee Padgett decided to open the Busted Bra Shop in 2013. The 48-year-old was eager to give Detroit women — of all body types — options but also the opportunity to do so within the city’s limits.

Padgett, who originally hails from Alabama, is no stranger to entrepreneurship. The affable Navy veteran — who also holds a degree in chemistry — moved to Detroit in 2002. Her husband, Patrick — also is a Navy vet — had taken a job with Ford.

While his position was in Dearborn, Padgett found herself drawn to the city. The couple lived in Boston Edison and soon opened a coffee shop — Cafe Detroit — downtown on Library Street.

Between 2003 and 2006 the couple ran the cafe. It was also there that the seeds for what would become the Busted Bra Shop would be planted.

According to Padgett, she remembers customers coming in to chat and one common frustration was a lack of options when it came to buying undergarments.

“The biggest complaint that really stuck in my head was why can’t I buy a bra in the city I live in? I don’t understand why I can’t just buy a pair of underwear,” said Padgett, noting that even though there are workarounds such as online shopping, the process of finding a properly fitting bra is something that is difficult over the Internet, especially if someone is bustier.

While the couple ended up moving out of the country — Patrick took a relocation assignment in Germany shortly after the coffee shop had to close because their landlord lost the building — Padgett just couldn’t get Detroit, or the bra complaint, out of her head.

Over the course of five years, major life events occurred: They lived overseas, they had a baby, they moved back to the states — blocks from Patrick’s family in North Carolina. But all this time, Padgett felt a longing for Detroit. She asked Patrick, who was working for GE Hitachi Nuclear at the time, if he could get a job with the company back in Detroit.

At first, according to Padgett, Patrick thought she was crazy.

“No! You’re nuts, my family is two blocks away, we have a kid, why are you doing this to us?” she remembers him saying. But she persisted. “I woke him up and said, ‘No really, we need to open up a bra shop called Busted; it will be awesome, women need us.'”

Patrick found a job opening with the company in Detroit, applied, and was hired. They moved back to the city at the end of 2011. Two years later, after Padgett entered the business in Hatch Detroit, a local entrepreneurial contest that comes with a $50,000 prize, she and Patrick opened the shop in the Park Shelton off Woodward.

“I had to prove to us — to my husband and myself — that this was a viable idea,” Padgett said of why it was important to take part in Hatch before opening the store.

While her project didn’t win, it made it into the Top 10 — a feat which forced the pair to fine-tune their vision and truly understand the market for bras and underwear in the city of Detroit. Pushed to speak with thousands of people during the planning process, Padgett says this helped her create a successful business.

Fast forward five years and there are the Chicago and Jefferson-Chalmers expansions. And also new investments. Last month, Padgett and her husband took on two new partners for the business. Lisa Berden, an attorney, and Billy Strawter Jr., the owner of a digital marketing agency called Milo, now hold a small stake in the ever-growing business. Plus, this month Padgett graduated from Goldman Sach’s Small Business Program — an initiative that helps local entrepreneurs access education, capital and business support services.

“People come through Detroit and if they find a good bra shop they’re going to tell their friends,” Padgett said on the success of the business. “They end up following us (on social media). And we’ll give people advice on what to buy if they can’t buy it from us. We just want people to be comfortable and get what they need.”

Finding the right fit
Finding a bra includes three measurements: bust size, band size, and cup size. The bust measurement comes from measuring the fullest section of one’s chest. The band is taken from the area right under the bust. The cup size (A, B, C) comes from calculating the difference between the band and the bust (so a 3-inch difference would make someone a C cup). One’s bra size is then stated as the band size and the cup size.

While the calculation is pretty straight-forward, the fitters at Busted explain that many shops don’t take the time to break this down, much less actually fit someone. One of the most common problems is bras that are too big in the band and too small in the cup — an issue that fitter and assistant manager Rachel Hackett ran into before coming to Busted.

“I used to wear my mom’s old bras!” the 21-year-old said. While her mom wore a 36D bra, she was only a 28E. The difference in size meant the bras she was wearing were almost 10 inches bigger than needed. Hackett, in turn, would hook her bra before putting it on and then tug it over her like a T-shirt — a highly unusual way to put on a bra.
“It was so big it didn’t do anything for me,” she said. Coming to Busted, originally as a customer, Hackett realized just how much there was to learn about bras and fitting.

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