Catherine Betts was a happy, athletic Bay Area teenager playing soccer, basketball, track and tennis. And then at the age of 16, she developed a hypothyroid condition, and “I went from no boobs to double Ds. I was a tomboy and not into big boobs.” Betts says.
When Catherine’s breasts developed she experienced a lot of neck and back pain. All that extra weight also threw her posture out of balance. So she did what many women have to do, she would wear two and even three sports bras at once in order to get enough compression to hold her breasts in place. But those bras had the straps in the wrong places, putting pressure on the nerves in her neck and shoulder.
In college, the pain and challenges continued when she became a top soccer player, training almost every day while she went to school first at Oregon State and later at the University of Pacific. During those four years, she was studying neuroscience as part of her drive to become a personal trainer, a background that would help her later in the design of the bra.
Once she became a physical trainer, she attended a course in Costa Rica. The conference’s focus was learning how to move naturally. They were living in the forest, and going barefoot much of the time, so she hadn’t prepared herself with the requisite extra bras needed when she was told to run on the beach. She had to run by 12 people who would analyze her running style. “I was horribly humiliated,” Betts said.
Finally, she decided enough was enough. If she was having these problems, so were a lot of other women, so she set about designing a bra that would improve the lives of women athletes.
“I started out with ace bandages, Saran Wrap and ribbons, experimenting with all the designs. Then I cut up some of my sports bras and Frankensteined it, trying to figure out what would work best.” Betts said.
She ended up creating more than 300 prototypes over a 3-year process of trial and error to design the perfect bra. “It became an obsession,” she said.
Now she has finished the design and embarked on something equally challenging: Production of a line of bras in every size.
“Bras are complicated; the most complicated article of clothing to make,” Betts said.
At first her goal was to produce them in the United States, but then she discovered there are no bra manufacturers in the U.S. Instead, she is working with a factory in China whose primary purpose is making bras in smaller units.
The Betts Fit Sports Bra is encapsulating and adjustable in the front so that women can easily compress it more for sporting activities, and release it when that much compression is not needed. There are adjustable shoulder straps and bottom straps, which are designed for both comfort and providing the necessary support.
The goal of the bra is simple – to keep women in sporting activities. Betts says a study in England found that large-breasted women are 60 to 70 percent less likely to run and be active. “Young girls should feel comfortable and confident moving,” said Betts.
While Betts was a personal trainer in San Francisco from 2009 to 2015, when she and her fiancé, Tim Vastine, moved to Tahoe last year she committed herself full time to making this one-woman bra dream a reality. She says that she is excited about living in Tahoe for the mountain biking, yoga and running, and hopes to take up cross-country skiing next winter. But first, she is planning her wedding for October, about the time the first bras should come off the assembly line.
“We are trying to get as many pre-orders as possible so we can place our purchase order and get moving on production. We can use all the help we can get,” Betts said.