Tamara Brunow was sick of her sports bras.
They dug into her skin, pinched and squeezed in all the wrong places.
After years of being unhappy with the undergarment, the Council Bluffs woman had enough. So she designed her own. Now she sells the bras, and leggings, under her own label, H2W Apparel, which stands for happy, healthy, whole.
“I fought sports bras for years,” Brunow said. “You always joke around that, ‘Gosh, there’s got to be a better way to do this.’ I was always that person.”
Brunow, who owns a construction business, was sitting in the airport when she’d had enough of her uncomfortable bra.
The mother of three is used to spending time in the athletic wear. She used to be a personal trainer, and still practice and teaches yoga.
She was sick of underwires irritating her skin. The racerback design left her neck and shoulders uncomfortable.
While Brunow, 39, waited for her delayed flight, she started sketching her ideal sports bra.
She pulled from her construction background. To hold something up, you need a brace. So she designed the bra’s back to look like an “H.”
When Brunow got home, she attempted to craft her design.
With no sewing background, it wasn’t pretty. She cut up sports bras she purchased from thrift stores and hot glued it into her ideal design.
“It was a hot mess, but I was so proud of myself. I called it the ‘Frankenbra,’” Brunow said.
Brunow had to put her dream of making the “Frankenbra” on the back burner at work. But when one of her colleagues spotted the garment in her office, he offered to put her in touch with someone he knew in the apparel business.
The designer helped to refine her pieced-together bra. They went through eight prototypes before settling on the final design and finding a factory to produce 5,000.
Brunow’s friends tested the early designs and offered feedback.
Brunow’s original “H” back made it into the final design. The bra, which has no underwire, has a zipper in front, molded cups and a mesh lining.
The bras fit a size 32B to 44DD and cost $60.
The activewear — she also makes leggings for $25 — is sold at h2wapparel.com, but Brunow hopes to get pieces in local retailers soon. She also would like to expand the line to offer other types of activewear.
Brunow wanted the bras to fit “real bodies.” She also wanted them to be comfortable and practical.
“The nastiest thing you’ll have to endure is pulling off a sweaty sports bra over your head,” Brunow said. “The greatest feeling in the world is being able to unzip my bra and not smear sweat up my face.”
Brunow found out firsthand how functional they were. This May, she underwent surgery to remove skin cancer from her left shoulder. Anytime she moved her arm, it hurt. Pulling a sports bra over her head was out of the question and so was hooking a bra behind her back. Her design allowed her to easily slip the garment on and off.
“This isn’t just comfortable for everyday, active women,” Brunow said. “This can actually help women, especially ones who have gone through surgery. You’re not looking to be super sexy. You need something functional.”