PORTLAND, Maine -- Magda Adrien once considered breast-reduction surgery because she never found a bra that fit right. "I didn't understand," she said. "If we can send a man to the moon, then why can't I find a bra?"
Traditional bras amounted to torture, the thin straps digging into her shoulders, her breasts spilling out over the 38DD cups.
So she started making her own three years ago. Now Adrien's Society is a profitable business that serves a market eschewed by many mainstream bra manufacturers.
Ms. Adrien's She Bras come in sizes up to 48FF, which can support breasts the size of 15-pound watermelons. Ms. Adrien said she gets requests for even bigger JJs -- the size of basketballs.
"When these women call me, they're desperate because they've been suffering all their lives," she said. "They don't make bras for women with big breasts; they just add fabric. It's a big version of a little bra."
Women with big busts often complain about pain in their back, neck and shoulders, said Darrick Antell, a New York doctor who performs about 40 breast-reduction surgeries a year.
Some women actually have deep grooves in their skin from the strain of bras on their shoulders. "Imagine if you were carrying a backpack full of books and the way your shoulders feel," he said.
Lauri Postenrieder, 41, of Albuquerque, N.M., said she never had a bra that felt good or even lasted more than two months. "I bought them at special bra stores and they didn't last. I would wear it for a month, and they would fall apart," she said.
She had breast reduction surgery when she was 21 years old and went from an EE cup to 36C. Then she had children and now wears a 40DD She Bra.
According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Arlington Heights, Ill., 57,679 women had breast-reduction surgery in 1996.
Ms. Adrien considered the operation, but now is happy with her buxom chest. "I like them. They're my credentials," she said.
In the last two years, Ms. Adrien has sold 4,000 bras across the United States. That's a tiny piece of the overall industry, estimated by bra maker Playtex to be worth $4 billion. But Ms. Adrien hopes to boost sales to 4,000 bras a month when she completes a TV infomercial.
The She Bra, which is made with underwire, cushioned shoulder straps and a silky supportive material, comes in solid colors or a sexy cheetah print. The bras, which sell for $89.95 for three, plus shipping, are stitched together by workers at the Maine Center for the Blind.
Ms. Adrien, a graduate of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, plans to eventually make bathing suits and lingerie, and she is driven by the desire to help other women and girls with big breasts. She wants them to be comfortable in their bras and in their bodies.
It's not an easy task, she said, in a society that says the ideal woman is a Size 8 and really big breasts are the butt of jokes.
"I really want to provide information first for young women, share my story, let them know that they're not a freak, they're not abnormal, they're OK and it's going to get better," she said.
Ms. Adrien appears on radio and television talk shows, calling herself "America's Big Breast Expert."
"One woman called me her Big Breast Hero," Ms. Adrien said. "That's why I do what I do."
Adrien's Society can be reached at (207) 774-9036.
Magda Adrien founded her own company, Adrien's Society in Portland, Maine, to make extra-large bras for big-breasted women.