At 39, Patricia Brett voluntarily had both breasts removed in a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy back in 2003. She had to–as a preventive measure to ward off the breast and ovarian cancer that has ravaged the women in her family, who have a greater risk of inheriting the BRCA1 gene that raises the chance of cancer manifesting to 85%. Though she had reconstructive surgery, Brett found traditional swimwear ill-fitting, as did her sister (a 15-year survivor) and niece, who wear breast forms under clothing. Brett, an Upper East Side resident and architect by trade, put pencil to paper and sketched out the beginnings of a swimwear line for breast cancer survivors: elegantly covering chemo scars, featuring pockets for breast forms, aligning cuts for sexier leg and lower back action, and enhancing cleavage.
“I actually made the first swimsuit myself, which was kind of comical,” she recalled with a laugh.
When she finished, she had her sister, Regina, try on her slapped-together first attempt.
“My sister burst into tears,” Brett recalled. “She’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is the sexiest thing I’ve worn in 15 years.’”
Her “Veronica Brett” swimsuit line, named after the first of Patricia’s three aunts to die of cancer, was launched in 2010. Though nominally pricey at $185 and up, Brett maintains that the domestic manufacturing, high-end Italian silk, and soft lining have been well-received by her customers. Five boutiques carry the swimsuits in the city with others in Connecticut, New Jersey, DC, Arizona, Washington, Canada, and Switzerland.