While working in political circles in Washington, Rochelle Behrens said she stumbled on a gaping fashion problem facing businesswomen, the solution to which quickly became her “singular obsession at the expense of everything else.”
The problem was what she calls the see-straight-through-to-the-bra phenomenon created by poor button placement on most women’s dress shirts. The resulting peephole, she says, leaves women fumbling with safety pins, constantly adjusting their blouses and altogether worrying about what is meant to be a confident, professional appearance.
“The dress shirt is really the workhorse of woman’s wardrobe, yet the more I talked to the women with whom I worked, the more I realized that none of us could find a shirt that fit,” Behrens said. “If I wanted a shirt that fit in the bust, I had to go up a size, and it would be voluminous everywhere else. But if I wanted one that fit everywhere else, it would have to be too tight across the chest. There had to be a better way.”
Two years later, Behrens introduced a solution, which she calls, quite simply, “The Shirt.” While she made several subtle alterations to the traditional button-up shirt, the real secret behind The Shirt is a patented hidden fastener positioned between those two troublesome buttons that hold the shirt flat across the bust.
Behrens started developing her idea while moonlighting at a Washington public affairs firm, and soon began working with a prominent patternmaker in New York to bring her design to life. She held her first trunk show in Washington during the summer of 2008, after which she says word of The Shirt spread quickly, prompting an invitation to appear on the “Today” show later that year. At that point, she decided to pursue The Shirt full-time.
While that first national television spot boosted sales, the effect paled in comparison to what took place last December after Behrens sent her product to talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who subsequently pegged The Shirt as a “Fashion Must-Have for 2011.” The endorsement sent Behrens’s company soaring to new heights.
“Within 20 seconds of the show airing, our Web site completely crashed,” she said. “That was definitely a blissfully stressful moment.”
Now, The Shirt is sold in Bloomingdales across the country and appears in boutiques around the world. In the year since the “Oprah Winfrey Show” appearance, Behrens sold more than 13,000 shirts, and she expects to more than double her revenue in 2012 thanks in part to a new product line coming out in February.
“Frankly, we won’t stop until The Shirt is hanging in every woman’s closet in America,” Behrens said. “This really is every woman’s shirt.”