CORALVILLE– Everything about Décolletage is a perfect fit.
From its inviting decor and unique merchandise to its warm and experienced staff, the boutique exudes comfort. Open since October, the shop specializes in post-mastectomy breast forms and garments for women who have undergone mastectomy, lumpectomy or reconstruction surgery. Décolletage also offers services and products for women simply in need of a decent bra fitting.
“It can be an issue for women,” said manager Cheryl Schlote. “They just want to know they are getting the right size and a good fit.”
Therefore, the shop carries a range of bras and camisole tops, swimwear, cover-ups, fleece jackets, compression garments and soft shoulder shrugs that can be worn by any woman seeking comfort and confidence.
“Everything else in the shop– the scarves, the jewelry, the hats, the shoe line and purses– we wanted it to be a welcoming experience. So if you were sick or didn’t feel good, maybe it would help to brighten your spirits. Also, it’s a great place to get gifts for someone who needs a little pick-me-up.”
That’s the whole idea behind the specialized boutique; it’s designed to support women in more than the obvious ways. Customers– and those who accompany them– can relax with a cup of coffee or tea, or enjoy a relaxing massage in the boutique’s secluded massage chair. With very private fitting rooms that can also accommodate family members and wheelchairs, each custom fitting is a truly individualized experience. In addition, Décolletage has a working relationship with upstairs business Skin Deep Salon, which boasts the only licensed oncology esthetician in the state of Iowa, and can help post-treatment clients with skin issues and wig fittings.
Several years ago, Schlote’s employer realized there was a great need for post-mastectomy fittings in this area. After researching existing services and visiting similar shops in other cities, the plans for Décolletage began to take shape.
“We wanted our shop to be fun and exciting and you can find little quirks around each corner,” said Schlote.
Schlote’s experience and knowledge as a certified mastectomy fitter was the finishing touch. Schlote started in 1994, working in an orthotics and prosthetics shop at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. On her first day, she was fortuitously sent to a mastectomy fittings class, where she was introduced to the proper ways to fit breast forms to keep a woman’s body symmetrical and balanced.
Schlote remembers her very first patient, and credits the encounter for her continued interest in the field.
“As you can imagine, she came in very distraught and very down and depressed. She had a prescription and was told to come see me. She really didn’t know what she was going to get,” said Schlote.
After Schlote fitted the woman with her new breast forms and undergarment, “she went from this sad, depressed-looking woman to one with a huge, brilliant smile. Her eyes lit up, and her face was completely different. She was my turn-around. That made me know this is what I want to do.”
She now feels blessed to have this unique opportunity to offer the same uplifting experience to other women.
“You feel that every time someone comes in,” Schlote added. At Décolletage, Schlote mentors an assistant fitter who is currently working on her own certification.
To achieve certification, a mastectomy fitter must log 500 hours of fittings with actual patients and take a final board exam through one of two accreditation organizations. Because each fitting takes approximately one hour, it can take a long time to reach the required hours. To maintain certification, mastectomy fitters must also take continuing education courses to keep up with the constant changes in products and innovations in the industry.
“The bras have come a long way, but the breast forms have come a really long way,” said Schlote. Forms now have massaging or cooling features, are designed for better air circulation and are available in weighted or extremely lightweight styles. Many women are not even aware of the options of products and services now available, Schlote said. But it’s never too late to learn.
“I met a woman who had her surgery in 2001, and she was wearing the same bra and form she was given at that time,” said Schlote. “Our mission is to let people know there are services out there, that new bras and breast forms are available and that many insurances will cover forms and bras. There is still a lot of education that needs to be done.”
Schlote has even visited with women before surgery to help prepare them for the experience, to let them know what to expect, what they will wake up with and what they can do down the road.
“To me, that was a lifeline for them. It calmed their fears, because when you don’t know what to expect, it’s a scary thing. And to lose a part of your body that many women think makes them feminine and beautiful, it’s hard. But preparing ahead of time can really help,” said Schlote.
Women facing surgery should find someone they can talk to, she said, whether a health professional, members of a support group who have been through breast cancer treatment, or a fitter like herself.
“I encourage them to find out what their garment will look like after surgery, and what the process will be for fitting down the road,” Schlote said. “They should know there are beautiful bras and breast forms that give you back your shape.” Properly fitted forms help give important balance and physical stability to a woman’s body after surgery as well.
In Schlote’s experience, women find the garments also give them back their womanhood and confidence to be out in the world again.
Décolletage will hold a grand opening from Jan. 12 through Jan. 18, an opportunity for everyone to explore the shop and visit with various product vendors. Customers will receive 10 percent off all jewelry.