Every individual deserves to express how they feel on the inside through their outer appearance, Laura Treas shared; and clothing has the power to make that transition.
“Fashion can appear to be so shallow, but we know that isn’t the case. Our undergarments give someone the look and silhouette on the outside that they feel on the inside. It’s a game changer. I really love those days — seeing someone become more confident,” said Treas, the founder of Affirma Wear, an all-inclusive compression and post-surgical garment company.
Click here to shop Affirma Wear’s garments.
Treas launched Affirma Wear in 2014 after noticing a trend of individuals undergoing gender transitioning without garments that fully affirmed their identities. As a seamstress since childhood and an experienced professional in post-surgical garments, Treas felt compelled to step into the market, she shared.
“While working for another [post-surgical] garment company, I developed my own binder,” Treas said. “They never wanted to add binders to their line; so when I left that job, I took my binders with me and started thinking about what to call my business.”
What is a binder?
A chest binder is a garment designed to gently compress one’s breast tissue to reduce its appearance. They can be worn as part of one’s gender transition or as part of post-top surgery recovery.
Treas enrolled in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) program to learn more about the ins and outs of running her own business.
“On the very last day of my time at UMKC they said, ‘What’s your tagline?’” Treas recalled, noting that the E-Scholars team told her to pick one word to describe her brand. “I provide confidence. So they said, ‘OK, that’s what you do for a living; you provide confidence.’”
Soon after, Affirma Wear took shape.
Many young people who are transitioning only want to buy garments from trans-owned companies, she acknowledged, noting that while she is not trans herself, Affirma Wear team has put in the time and effort to produce clothing that compresses correctly and safely.
“My binders are safe and comfortable — you don’t have to be uncomfortable to get the silhouette you want,” Treas said. “But the challenge is that these binders on Amazon use tiny, tiny models, which makes people think that they will look like them when the binder arrives. Binders that are too tight can cause rashes, reflux, but the biggest thing is ribs being put out of place. … We have a more relaxed compression binder for when you’re at home and can take a day off, because it’s very important to take a day off.”
Treas is frequently the first person who a family speaks with about garments, she said — noting that Children’s Mercy Kansas City often sends families her way.
Her approach: make each appointment personal. She talks to individual clients for at least 45 minutes, even if they have an online order, and her showroom is by appointment only for privacy reasons, she noted.
“As soon as they walk in the door, I have a variety of free pamphlets that they can look through and use to ease into the conversation,” Treas said. “Also I’ve been doing this so long, and I’m comfortable measuring people. I think if you’re comfortable, it makes them comfortable.”
Affirma Wear was the only garment company approved to attend the New York Trans Wellness Conference and has been invited to the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference multiple times, Treas noted.
Expanding her businesses over the years, Treas has added several products to Affirma Wear’s offerings, including: compression shorts, shapewear and a swimwear line.
“When I found out that swim tops were an issue [for people transitioning], it then took me a year to find the right fabric that I could put over the binders. Because I wanted something that could look sporty and camouflage.”
Some of Affirma Wear’s products are not currently on its website, Treas said — noting that she has found difficulties with hiring transgender models because of the intimate nature of her garments. She invites individuals to call or email Affirma Wear if they are interested in modeling or learning more about her garments.
Throughout her time with Affirma Wear, Treas has seen that her lightest compression binder (or the “day off” binder) could be helpful for individuals with autism, she said, noting that compression is comforting. A study in Autism Research Review International found that may improve the posture and behavior in some individuals with autism, but Treas has found it difficult to connect with autism awareness organizations around the United States.
“They are guarded, which is understandable because we are talking about health,” Treas said. “So I tread carefully and slowly. I’m always speaking carefully.”
Affirma Wear is also getting ready to launch the Body Bean — a sensory garment that wraps around the body in a cocoon-like sense.
“I bought the fabric in burgundy because, to me, it’s like the womb,” Treas shared. “It’s essentially a compression set that you get into to calm down. So, that’s what’s coming next!”
Sydney Siemens was Startland News’ YEP KC intern. Channa Steinmetz, Startland News senior reporter, contributed to this article.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.