Many women know what it’s like to acquire a lot of bras over the years.
Then there’s Annie Richman. She amassed about 4,000 bras over the past seven years.
And gave them all away.
The Minneapolis woman made it her mission to collect and donate new and gently used bras to other women after learning that bras are the least donated but most needed item of clothing for women in shelters for domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Richman, 43, said she’s a “survivor of violence and violence committed against women.”
“I personally know the deeply painful and long-lasting, life-altering impacts a survivor is left with,” said Richman, who is the founder and an instructor at the Pilates for All studio in St. Louis Park.
Richman said she started collecting and donating bras when she was shopping in a lingerie store and saw a flier seeking bra donations for women in shelters.
Bras are one of the least donated item of women’s clothing because women don’t think to donate undergarments or know if they can, she said.
Yet, a bra is one of the most important parts of a woman’s outfit, she said.
“I think that a bra is such a vital piece of a woman’s uniform and the way she sees herself when she looks in the mirror,” Richman said. “A bra provides support for women and helps them with self-esteem and self-confidence. I want all survivors to have enough bras and to know that they are thought about, loved, cared for and supported.”
Richman said now is a good time for women stuck at home because of coronavirus concerns to look through their bra drawers.
“This is a great way to take our minds off all of the overwhelming thoughts, feelings and fears surrounding COVID 19 and focus on contributing to others,” she said. (You can reach her through her website, pilatesforallmn.com, when ready to make a donation).
This winter, she stepped up her efforts to collect bra donations in her “Support for Survivors” project, with a goal to collect 2,000 bras between November and February.
She spread the word by enlisting friends and family members, clients and their friends and posting on social media.
“We e-mailed salons, small companies, dental offices,” Richman said.
Norma Wolk, a friend, said she helped out by posting “ISO new and used bras” on the Nextdoor app.
“The response was incredible. An overwhelming response from my neighbors,” Wolk said.
Wolk said her co-workers at Allina Health and tennis-playing friends also spread the word, donating their used bras or going to the store to buy new ones to donate.
“There was just an outpouring of generosity,” Wolk said. “I could not believe the response. The bras overran my living room, my dining room.”
Richman said she exceeded her goal, collecting more than 2,700 bras by February.
She’s given the bras collected to local women’s organizations and shelters like Tubman in Minneapolis (tubman.org).
Over the years, she’s also given to the bra donation program operated by the Soma lingerie shop chain. The company partners with organizations like the Bra Recyclers and I Support the Girls, which provides bras to girls and women experiencing homelessness or domestic violence.
Richman said she’s not done collecting.
“I am hoping to create this project as an annual event and eventually a national event and one day a global event,” she said, “where the world comes together and cleans out their bra drawers and purchases new bras in support of survivors.”