Victoria’s Secret responds to rash issue with win-win suggestion

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Those of you who’ve been following my sad saga of breast rashes triggered by Victoria’s Secret bras will be pleased to know that VS is apparently, finally, listening. One of their reps contacted me recently, requesting a phone conference. Sure. Let’s chat.

When the conference started, I was crouched in tiger-by-the-tail mode, but turns out, I never had to flash my claws. It was a pleasant, civil conversation that ended on a note of “let’s find a win-win for everybody.”

People. How often in life does that happen? Like … never? Maybe the VS rep and I should head for the U.N. and take on world peace.

For those of you arriving late to this party, I’ve been blogging for a couple years about a severe breast rash that was triggered by a particular VS bra. That makes the investigation into the cause very tricky because it’s not all the bras. Only certain ones. One random day, I googled “Victoria’s Secret breast rash.” Bingo: a CBS report on formaldehyde detected in VS bras made in China.

Since my first “Boob Blog,” as I’ve come to call it, testaments streamed in from women who had the exact same experience: nipples turning rough like sandpaper and tissue-like, and horrific breast rashes, that itch irresistibly like poison oak. We scratch furiously, helplessly, and the skin gets bruised and broken. And then … not realizing the cause … we put the bra back on over broken skin. The result is hideous. Let’s just say ain’t nobody gonna motorboat that.

Although these affected women are angry and dismayed over what happened to them, most say the same thing: They still want their VS bras back. None, including myself, have found an acceptable substitute. You can find comfortable bras that are ugly and matronly, or sexy bras that are uncomfortable and flimsy, but nothing that compares to VS. That’s product loyalty, people.

Some of the women got fired up and wanted a class action lawsuit against VS. I entertained that thought myself, but ultimately realized that this approach won’t make anyone happy, except for the lawyers, the perpetually ravenous bottom-feeders of humanity. They’re essentially prostitutes with law degrees — they’ll sue anybody for anything for a buck. Well, lots and lots of bucks.

Even if a lawsuit against VS was successful, what would my sister VS loyalists and I gain from a settlement? About $11.75 apiece, maybe. Meanwhile, the bottom-feeders are fat and happy, their bellies full of the barracuda’s share of the settlement. All us gals would get out of it would be a little pocket change that wouldn’t even buy a pizza. And …We still wouldn’t have bras we like.

But here’s the other overarching issue that turned me off to a lawsuit: Those of us who react so violently to whatever is in those bras are like those with severe peanut allergies, who could die from eating a drop of peanut butter. From kissing someone who ate a drop of peanut butter, even. It’s not VS’s fault that we’re highly allergic. Nor is it ours, but we must take responsibility for being vigilant about things that trigger the allergy. That said, it would be awesome if garment manufacturers labeled products containing trace amounts of chemicals (like formaldehyde) that are known allergens, just like they do with products containing nuts or eggs. But, until someone dies from a breast rash, it probably won’t happen.

So, what can we do. The VS rep recommended getting a skin patch test to find out what I react to, report back, and then they’ll guide me toward a product that won’t make my breasts so angry. OK, sure. I’ll play along, because ultimately, that’s what I want: a VS bra I can wear without agony.

That was her pitch to me, and this was my pitch her: This breast rash issue is a golden gift in disguise. It’s an opportunity to corner the market in an untapped field and make a gazillion dollars. Let’s face it, I told her, VS has played out “sexy.” They’re at the end of the line. There’s nowhere to go, no possible skimpier lingerie, except maybe rhinestone encrusted corks and matching nipple caps. VS sales are reportedly sagging, so why keep pounding on that dead horse. There’s a nice fresh horse under your nose, and its name is Comfy.

Comfort is the new sexy. (As long as it still looks sexy, of course.) VS should develop a new line of sexy, comfy hypoallergenic bras. It’s an open market. Google “hypoallergenic bras” and you’ll see bras so heinous, an Amish girl wouldn’t wear them. VS should design some all-cotton (or all-hemp!) 100-percent organic bras, and better yet, make them in the good old USofA. There’s even a built-in test group — all the women commenting on my blog. If they don’t react to the product line, you’re golden.

VS, trust me, you’ll make billions off this new “Barely Me” (trademark: me) line. Take a stroll through a Whole Foods and observe how much more money consumers are willing to pay for organic anything. Slap on a green and white USDA symbol and it’s an instant 10 percent markup. You could even be really cheeky and recreate the symbol: VSDA.

How cute is that.

Next, I rattled off several potential product slogans to the VS rep: “How sexy feels”… “Sexy is as sexy feels”… “Contents 100% organic.”

I can spray this stuff out like a sprinkler set on “genius.” (For the love of God, somebody give me a marketing job.)

The rep chucked and said, “Stop! Don’t tell me anything more! If we use them, you’ll say we stole your idea and sue us!”

And I replied, “Oh, I totally will!”

But not for the rash issue. Maybe if I keep my claws retracted, we’ll see a new line of comfy, sexy hypoallergenic VS bras. And, I’ll get a lot farther on that fat compensation check than I would on $11.75.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

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