"Why a zipper? You're not a suitcase!" Emily Ironi tells me over FaceTime.
She's talking about her frustration over the styles and design of nursing and pumping bras she encountered when becoming a mother. That's why she started her own company, The Dairy Fairy , in 2012. Launched last March, her new plus-size range, Milkful , exemplifies the same Dairy Fairy mission of not just giving moms great functionality in a bra, but also a feeling—that femininity and style don't have to be forgotten.
I decided to give the Milkful bras —which come in five signature sizes ranging from 42D to 52G—a try. As a stay-at-home mother of three, I already have the natural effect of looking after my children most days to make me feel less sexy, but as a plus-size mom on top of that, the options for a bit of flair and top-notch quality in my undergarments are not as abundant as they should be.
I need next-level durability as well since I'm currently nursing two of my children: a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old who are both pretty fanatical for mama's milk. Emily sent me her two Milkful styles, the Pippa Bra and the Ruby Bralette .
When I first took them out of their packaging, I could immediately feel the difference in the quality of the fabric from any other nursing bra I've tried. The width of the straps and the thickness of the mesh gave me a sense that these would be bras that would actually support my breasts (and the tugs from little hands!) without the hooks and clasps ending up bent and broken over time.
As explained to me in my conversation with Emily, standard sizing uses mesh, but Milkful bras have power mesh . She tells me when designing the plus-size collection, her team didn't just take their straight sizes and make them bigger, they engineered a whole new bra not just for larger breasts but for larger bodies taking proportions and common pain points into consideration.
One of my own pain points on a bra has always been the strap at my shoulder. After a week of wearing both the Ruby and the Pippa , I've been satisfied that no indentation on my skin has occurred after wearing these bras all day long. My shoulders are less tense as well, and I haven't felt like any of the minor adjustments I usually have to do after a feed are laborious.
On the Milkful website, Emily recounts that she was "missing something important" after conversations with women of all different shapes and sizes about her Dairy Fairy sizes.
"Just because someone lives in a bigger body doesn't mean they shouldn't have the same resources and tools," she tells me when I ask her what that something important is. Her goal is to support all moms.
"People assume that because I make breastfeeding and pumping bras, I'm only about breastfeeding mothers," she says. But mothers who exclusively pump and surrogate mothers were also on her mind when creating her bras. When she realized she needed to include plus-size mothers, "it became a venture of doing it right," she admits. As a brand, she's committed to the journey of inclusivity, which means growing and changing and expanding. She tells me she wants to have even more available in her Milkful range, looking at sizing for those in-between next.
I'm in the MF1 size bras, which is the first of five sizes. I could have probably fit in her biggest straight size, to be honest, but I am thoroughly enjoying the extra "oomph" I feel in the MF1. This also means as an often right-in-the-middle size body between straight and plus sizes, the brand can benefit bodies even larger than mine, where many brands might stop at my size, as Emily had admittedly done when first launching The Dairy Fairy .
As a self-taught designer and entrepreneur, Emily knew she had to turn to others for expertise. She hired a plus-size designer, who was also the fit model to test the bras, and reached out to a blogger in the plus-size community as a bouncing board for the language she wanted to use to be as inclusive. With her help, she conducted a survey to understand the details on the technical components of the feel of the bra et voila , the Milkful range was produced.
When it might not have seemed like a great time business-wise to launch a new collection in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, Emily says with more mothers juggling enormous amounts of pressure and tasks at home, she and her team are finding her products are being used even more. "This is the time moms need the support. I'm finding we're more of a must-have [in the pandemic] not just a want." And plus-size mothers, thankfully, aren't left out.
Emily and I also discuss the desire she has for women to feel like they can celebrate their bodies in her bras. I, for one, felt entirely comfortable taking photos of myself in them, and must admit, it was a welcome delight in a season deep in the motherhood trenches to feel confident and sexy! My two-year-old, ever-increasingly noticing details and being able to describe and talk about them, remarked on my new bras the first time I fed her wearing them. "New!" she exclaimed as she snuggled in my lap stroking the lacy bits. "Yes, it's mummy's new bra," I said. "Lov-e-ly," she smiled.
Shop the Milkful styles in The Motherly Shop!
This wireless, supportive and lacy bra gives you the support you need while you get on with the day. Designed to flatter and conform to your curves, this medium- to high-support bra allows for pumping or nursing access.
A soft, yet stretchy and supportive inner layer and a delicate feminine exterior make the Ruby a mama-must-have, especially in this timeless and feminine black lace. Made for nursing, pumping or just looking downright glamorous, this comfy bralette will be a postpartum lifesaver.
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