Why Telling a Woman She’s in the Wrong Bra Size May be Harmful

Bravangelising is not a real word, but it is a term used in the lingerie community to describe a certain set of behaviours. The term combines the words ‘bra’ and ‘evangelising’ to represent an aggressive, outreach method of ‘preaching the truth’ about bra fit to convert women over to their ‘real/actual/proper’ size.

Bravangelising occurs through many mediums. On the internet, bravangelisers will comment on random pictures, articles, threads, and more to tell the person they cannot possibly be [insert bra size here], that they are really [insert new bra size here]. Bravangelising also occurs in families, in workplaces, and occasionally on the streets to complete strangers.

Some people may say there is little harm in letting someone know they might be wearing the wrong bra size. In fact, bravangalists usually think of their outreach as doing good: they believe that 80 to 90% of women wear the wrong bra size and that wearing the right bra size is a life-changing experience. For some women, this is true. However, there are myriad issues with this type of bra fit outreach that I am going to tackle today.

Checking-bra-size

Breasts are enigmatic, changing things

Breasts come in lots of varieties: tall roots, short roots, wide, narrow, projected, shallow, bottom heavy, top heavy, side heavy, and the list goes on. Two women who have the same underbust and bust measurements can have extraordinarily different breasts. A simple set of measurements cannot dictate a woman’s ‘real size’ because measurements like these do not take into account shape and distribution variations.

For example, at a 36” underbust and 43” bust I should wear a 36F UK (+1 cup size for each inch using a +0 band method). However, my breasts are so shallow on top that I often have trouble filling out 36E bras and positively swim in 99% of 36F bras. Breasts are not a bra size.

Breasts also change. Women can gain an entire cup size over their monthly cycle due to hormone fluctuations. Weight fluxes of only a few pounds can also drop you out of one bra size and into another. A woman’s body is not stagnant and thus her bra size is not stagnant either.

Bras are not an exact science

There is no true bra size – a mythical combination of band size and cup size that is your chosen lot in life. You may be bra-fitted at a 34G but that size will change depending on both the brand and style of each bra. Bras of the same size may differ in projection, shape, width, height, and even volume.

For example, I was fitted at a 36E but I wear 36DD, 36E, 36F bras all in one same brand. I also wear 36D, 38D, and 38DD. In total, I wear six different bra sizes that fit my breasts. This is not congruent with bravangalising, which assigns you your ‘correct’ bra size: one size (and maybe sister sizes) to rule them all.

lots-of-bras

Bras are not necessary

I said it: bras are not necessary. Bras do not prevent sagging. In fact, according to a 15-year study by Jean-Denis Rouillon, bras might actually have the opposite effect. Rouillion told French Info, “Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.”

While the study has its limitations, there has been no study (not sponsored by a bra company) that shows bras as necessary for breasts. Therefore, bras are more about style, preference, and social convention. How many women know that?

Bravangelising is all about women wearing their ‘correct’ bra size: it is built on an assumed foundation that bras are necessary. Bravangelists are not saying “bras aren’t really necessary, but if you are going to wear one, then you might as well make sure you wear one that fits well”. The necessity is assumed and results in a dogged pursuit of some assumed ideal size that will save the wearer from a lifetime of ill-fitting bras. Do you know another way not to wear the wrong bra size? It is to not wear a bra.

 

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Bravangelising reinforces social norms and utilises body shaming

Bravangalising reinforces a multitude of harmful social norms. Social norms stipulate that women should wear bras to hide their nipples, prevent bouncing, and present their (covered) breasts to the world in certain acceptable ways: primarily a rounded ‘two cakes on a plate’ appearance that does not mirror the natural shape of most women’s breasts. Women are told they should not go out of the house au naturel as their boobs may move, their nipples may get hard, and they are not being professional when their boobs are not under control.

There is an underlying message that boobs are not fine just the way they are. They need to be hoisted up, rounded, pulled forward, and projected to look good or ‘right’. When you see bra size interventions, one of the main messages is how much better her boobs look in the properly-fitting bra than the old, poor-fitting bra. I recently saw one headline on the Daily Mail on bra fit that said: “Are YOU wearing the wrong bra? Woman with ’36C’ chest learns she’s been wearing unflattering cups SIX sizes too small”. Note the word “unflattering” – as if women’s breasts exist to look nice for other people. Body shaming messages like this can be an implicit or explicit tactic used in bravangelising.

In addition, telling women that their breasts will sag if they do not wear the right bra not only reinforces an opinion that has no scientific evidence, it also tells women that sagging breasts are not okay. Breasts sag naturally. It is part of ageing and even young women can have sagging breasts. Let me reiterate: breast sagging is natural and okay. Sagging should never be used as a negative or insult to motivate women into wearing their ‘proper’ bra size.

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Bra fit isn’t everything

Comfort is a completely valid reason for wearing a bra in whatever size pleases you. While traditional bra fit stipulates a firm band, many women prefer a looser band based on what is comfortable to them. There is nothing inherently wrong with wearing a loose band or having your boobs overflow the cup of your bra. The important thing is that you are aware of your options (i.e. you are aware there is something different) and you are happy with your choice.

Women also wear bras for support. Bras can reduce pain from heavy breasts by redistributing the weight to the bra’s band (80%) and straps (20%). In this instance, the only fit that matters is which bras feel like they give the most support. If that is wearing a band size or two smaller than your underbust measurement or wearing a smaller cup size, it is the support that matters. Indeed, all that matters is the way the person wearing the bra feels, not some idea bra size.

Bras are also worn as a style piece where fit is certainly not a priority. They can be used to express an identity such as goth, a lifestyle such as BDSM, or personal style such as retro or historical garb. Therein, it is the appearance or style of the garment that is most important, whereas fit can be approximate.

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Bravangelising reduces personal agency and creates an imbalance of power

Let’s talk about the psychological effects of bravangelising. First of all, bravangelising is telling another woman – a random stranger, family member, or close friend – that you know more about the her boobs than she does. Through this process, bravangelists delegitimise the woman’s voice, her knowledge, and her personal experience. In doing so, they position themselves as an authority over another person’s body parts – therefore over another person – and use this position to assert their own narrow view of what is right.

Most women are sensitive about their breast size, breast shape, and bra size. Bra size can be tied to identity, group affiliation, and feelings of self-worth. Yet these connotations and the resulting feelings from having them challenged are largely ignored by the bravangelist community. Enthusiasm for the proper bra size or a bravangelist’s personal discomfort with someone wearing the wrong size becomes more important than people’s feelings.

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Through this process, an unhealthy power dynamic is cultivated wherein the individual’s personal agency is removed. Personal agency is the ability of an individual to act and to make choices within a given environment. You can cultivate personal agency by giving people options but not forcing information or decisions upon them. For instance, check out these two scenarios:

Scenario #1:

Person 1: “Ugh, my bra wires are always cutting into me… it is so annoying”
Person 2: “There is no way you are a 36C, I can tell just by looking at you. I wear a 34F and your boobs are way bigger than mine. I bet you are more like a 32H so no wonder your bra wires cut in, you are wearing a bra that is many sizes too small. You need to get properly fitted.”

Scenario #2:

Person 1: “Ugh, my bra wires are always cutting into me… it is so annoying”
Person 2: “Aww, I know how that feels. Hey, I have done a lot of research on bra fit so if you ever want some bra advice or a bra fitting, let me know.”

Scenario #2 is healthier. The first person maintains personal agency, power, and responsibility. They now know that there is another option and they can choose to learn more or to not learn more, and they maintain personal responsibility for taking care of their own body.

In the end, the downside of bravangelising is not that you – as the advice giver – will be rejected or marginalised for ‘trying to do the right thing’. It is that you impose yourself on other women without invitation or consent, tell them that they are wrong about their own breasts, and position yourself as an authority over them under the guise of ‘saving’ them from their poor-fitting bras.

Have you ever been told you were in the wrong bra size, or discovered the world of bra fitting and wanted to share the knowledge? Share your stories below.

Avigayil.

Social Media & Other Things Included in the Cost of Your Lingerie

Earlier this year I wrote a post for Zathiya on why bras cost what they do, which mostly discussed materials and manufacturing, and briefly touched on overheads and other costs. I wanted to delve a little deeper into those less-obvious things which all affect the price you pay for lingerie when shopping with an independent designer or retailer, from a personal perspective, so this August just gone I recorded every minute of time I spent working on Esty Lingerie.

Esty Lingerie is a very small business (there’s 1 employee, me) but even so, I don’t just sit at my kitchen table sewing a few pairs of knickers and that’s that. It takes so much more to run a lingerie brand or online boutique than just having some products to sell – even the most beautiful lingerie doesn’t sell itself – and these other factors all impact the price tag.

A quick note on the figures below: I don’t run Esty Lingerie full-time, which is why the times below won’t add up to a full working month. I find it easy to believe that a lot of indie brands doing this as their one and only job spend a whole lot more than a standard 40-hour work week on their business just to stay afloat. The point of this post isn’t the total amount of time worked though, it’s to showcase that production is only one slice in the pie that is your lingerie’s price tag. Second quick note: this post is written from the perspective of a designer-maker because although Esty Lingerie is both a brand and a boutique selling other brands, my in-house collection makes up the bulk of my business.

 

Social Media – 31.5 hours

Posting & Scheduling Updates | Taking & Editing Photos | Curating Content to Share | Engagement

The part of running my business that took the largest amount of time in August was not, in fact, sewing. It was being active on social media, which takes more effort than it may seem! Products will first be styled, then photographed probably 10-20 times to get that perfect shot, and finally edited in Photoshop before I tweet them out or transfer them to my phone to upload to Instagram.

 

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Sewing – 19 hours

Next we get to actually producing the lingerie, though this figure varies depending on whether I’m working on new products or not.

Whilst it’s not the be-all and end-all of deciding what to charge, my prices will always be somewhat based on how long something takes to put together. That’s why these lace tap pants and this elastic frame bra cost the same despite the former being made of more expensive materials; the knickers are machine sewn with only the bows and charms attached by hand, whereas the frame bra is entirely hand-sewn and ends up taking longer to make.

 

Emails – 7.5 hours

I honestly don’t remember the last time I had fewer than 100 unread emails in my inbox, there’s just a never-ending stream of things that need to be read and replied to! From asking for size advice to enquiring if I ship internationally (I feel like I can’t make this any clearer on the website, but the question still comes in regularly), a lot of it is customer service stuff. Being an online business though, I’m likely using email no matter who I’m speaking to – customer, supplier, service provider etc. 

 

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Processing Orders – 5.5 hours

Online Order Processing | Packing Orders | Going to the Post Office

From sending out tracking numbers to tissue-wrapping everything to ensure a good impression from the moment the parcel is opened, to physically going to the post office and waiting in line to send stuff (since I am a small business, it’s not cost-effective for me to pay Royal Mail to pick up the parcels from me), I continue to spend time on an order even after it’s been placed and paid for.

Oh, and this isn’t time-related but those packing materials aren’t free either. Tissue paper, branded Esty Lingerie stickers, waterproof envelopes, labels… it all has to be paid for, and since I offer free UK delivery the cost is instead built into the price of the product. You didn’t think any website with free P&P was paying for it out of their own pocket and the kindness of their heart did you? 😉

 

Website Design & Upkeep – 3 hours

Designing Banners | Updating Content

People just won’t buy from an ugly, outdated or poorly-designed website. The bulk of my website is obviously designed already, but I still need to design new banners every time there’s a new range in or a special offer to promote.

From a marketing perspective it’s also important to have content on your site alongside a shop, for all sorts of reasons. I’ve created various things over the years such as my lingerie blogger database which is certainly popular but needs updating at least monthly to make sure it doesn’t go out of date.

 

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Admin – 2.5 hours

Creating Discount Codes | Buying Supplies | Stock-Taking | Adding New Products

This one’s a catch-all to cover all the little bits and pieces that I have to do which seem small on their own, but still add a few hours of work into each month. Adding new products is one example – before I can sell something I need to get it on my website, and that means photographing it, editing those photos, writing a description and more. I only added one new item in August, so when a new collection lands that could easily add 10-20 hours here!

 

Marketing – 2 hours

Customer Newsletter | Paid Advertisements

You might think that 2 hours is a phenomenally low amount of time to spend on marketing even for an indie business, but that’s only because I separated out social media which is my main way of promoting my brand – as a microbusiness, I’m working with an incredibly tight marketing budget so I like to focus on the things that will only cost me time, and not time + money!

I do however run paid advertisements too – currently on social media and on Google – and they take a bit of time to set up and manage. There’s also my customer newsletter which I send out roughly twice per month (basically whenever I have some news to share, such as an offer, giveaway or new products). As well as paying for this service, I spend probably 45 minutes to an hour writing and designing each newsletter.

 

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Accounting – 1 hour

Finally – *yawn* – the most boring one. Keeping accurate records of all my income and expenditure is a faff but a legally-required one. There are receipts to be filed and spreadsheets to update, and depending on how close in the year we are to government filing deadlines this figure could be a good few hours higher.

 

Bonus Round! Blogging – 20 hours

Researching | Writing | Taking & Editing Photos

I debated whether to include this one or not, because I don’t approach blogging in the traditional retailer way. Especially over the past year, I’d say Esty Lingerie has morphed from a shop that has a blog, to a blog that has a shop. I don’t write promotional pieces about the products I’m selling – in fact, you’ll find plenty of posts here raving about brands that are technically my competitors!

That said, most online lingerie stores nowadays have a blog so if they were to create a list like this one, you’d likely find blogging on there. There’s also the undeniable brand awareness benefit that I get from people reading and sharing my posts, even if they don’t make a purchase there and then. Plus, if I didn’t spend so much time blogging I’d almost certainly be putting these hours into other marketing activities, such as more regular customer newsletters, so the overall figures in this article wouldn’t really change much.

 

So what does this all mean?

 

You might be thinking “okay, nice figures Estelle, but how does all this affect the price of my order?”. It’s obvious why the length of time it takes to sew your garment go into deciding its price tag, and hopefully it’s obvious why the price also covers things directly related to processing your order such as posting it.

But why should you pay for me to be uploading snaps of my latest creations to Instagram? Because, quite frankly, you likely wouldn’t have known about Esty Lingerie to make your purchase in the first place if I didn’t do this. Without investing time in things like web design and social media I’d sell far fewer things than I do, so the other items in this list aren’t optional extras that I can choose to do or not do – they are essential components of making each sale. No one would accept a job asking them to do all of the above but only be paid for the sewing portion of it, and self-employment should be no different.

This August, sewing products accounted for 20% of my time but selling them accounted for close to 100% of my revenue, so that revenue needs to cover the other 80% of the work too. Independent lingerie designer Angela Friedman (whose Tumblr post “My business is worth more than an hourly wage + materials“ was my inspiration for this blog post) summed it up nicely when she said:

Another great article on this topic is “The Real Value of Handmade Lingerie: Part II – Indirect Costs & Value“, also written by Friedman, if you’d like to find out more. Hopefully I’ve been able to give you a little more insight into what it takes to run a lingerie business, and persuaded you that you can’t expect even independent, working-from-home type designers to price their lingerie based on materials and manufacturing alone.

 

Are you surprised at how long any of the items on this list take? Do you think that a price based on time spent running the overall business is a fair way for designers to price their handmade lingerie?

Estelle

*Figures differ from the Tumblr post because they have been corrected by Angela Friedman.

Why I Love Lingerie

Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by Camille.

I realised recently that after all this time blogging about underthings, I’ve never really spoken about why. Why do I love lingerie? Why not just blog about shoes and dresses (because I sure do like them too)?

I remember way back when I was a child, still of vest-wearing age, that I always wanted to wear the one with the lace trim and the single diamanté gem at the centre. I just thought it was so pretty, and it’s still these little details that draw me in today. I love the intricacy of lingerie, whether it’s an elaborate embroidery or the logo-stamped hardware that many luxury brands make use of. Small details that would go almost unnoticed on a dress have so much more impact on something the size of a bra. Beautiful, luxury laces that would be far outside of my budget for regular clothing become attainable when it’s a case of just the small amount needed for a bra and thong (and I’m always a sucker for a decadent lace).

Camille lilac embroidered bra, reduced to £11 (~$14 / ~13€)

Camille lilac satin floral print bra, reduced to £9.99 (~$12 / ~12€)

I also love the way that the humble bra and knicker set can take so many different forms. There’s only so much you can change about a bra before it ceases to function, and yet I regularly come across new silhouettes or details that I’ve never seen before in lingerie. I am forever being impressed at just how creative designers, especially the independent ones, can be – in fact, I would say the practical limitations and restrictions imposed upon them forces them to be creative in a way that doesn’t apply to general clothing design.

Speaking of the design process, lingerie is just so much more complex and fascinating to me than a skirt could ever be. Whether it’s the way lingerie materials and silhouettes have changed and changed again over the decades or the way a particular placement of seams affects a cup’s shape, the more I research and learn about the topic, the more I realise there is to learn. And I love that – things get boring when there’s nothing left to discover about them.

That all explains why I love to buy and research and write about lingerie, but not why I enjoy wearing it. So why is that? Partly, it’s the functionality. I like the way a corset or basque can improve my posture and stop me slouching, and the way I can smooth out the wrinkles on a dress that’s a tad loose at the bust, or fit into one that’s a bit small, through choosing the right bra. I can change the way a certain dress hangs and moves just by wearing a slip underneath. Whatever outfit I want to wear, I can create the right foundation for it through my underpinnings.

Camille light control shaper dress, reduced to £16.99 (~$21 / ~20€)

But, lingerie is so much more than a functional garment. It lets me play dress-up and be whoever I want to be for the day. I have a girly side and a gothic side, and lingerie lets me express both without necessarily broadcasting it to the world if I don’t want to. My budget and my wardrobe space are finite so I’ve developed a practical personal uniform of sorts for outerwear – when shopping, I always ask myself, will this work for the office as well as for my downtime? – but there’s no reason or need to do the same with lingerie.

As relaxed as my office’s dress-code is, I can’t rock up in full metalhead regalia when I’m feeling ‘a bit goth’, but can I wear all things black and strappy below? Sure. Who’s going to know but me? Similarly, I can’t exactly pop to Tesco in a ball gown but I can put my silk and tulle LaLilouche concoction on and still feel like a princess, even if what the world sees is denim shorts and a tee.

It’s this way that lingerie can transform the way you perceive yourself that really makes me love it. I can be ill, moping around at home and feeling sorry for myself, but give me a lacy robe and even on a day like that it’s impossible not to feel just a little bit glamorous, and a little bit more cheerful.

Camille royal blue velour kaftan, reduced to £22.99 (~$28 / ~27€)

Camille gold & red satin pyjama set, reduced to £24.99 (~$31 / ~30€)

Camille recently surveyed 1,000 people and 94% said that the right underwear made them feel happier, sexier or more confident. What’s ‘right’ will vary from person to person, but there’s a perfect style of lingerie out there for everyone (even if it’s going braless!).

If yours isn’t making you feel happy every time you put it on then I’d say it’s time for a change. Get re-fitted, buy something in your favourite colour, or experiment with a completely new style. Everyone deserves to have underthings that make them feel awesome! And whether you feel your best in a bejewelled quarter-cup or a cotton t-shirt bra, no one need know but you.

Now, over to you. What is it about lingerie that you love?

10 Reasons Indie Designers are Vital to the Lingerie Community

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

Large companies like Victoria’s Secret may dominate the lingerie landscape, but there is a place for and a value to the work of indie designers too. The following is a list of ten reasons why indie designers are vital to the lingerie industry and community as a whole.

 

Indie designers innovate

Large lingerie companies are risk adverse – this is why you see the same tried and true silhouettes with updated colours each year. Indie companies are more likely to take risks to create products they think should be in the marketplace.

This for example is why companies like Lunapads and sheTHINX are the ones making period underwear and not Victoria’s Secret (who dominates the US lingerie market at roughly 62%).

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Knickerocker designs that were stolen by Forever 21

Knickerocker designs that were stolen by Forever 21

Indie designers start trends 

Since indie designers are more likely to innovate, they are often the catalyst for new trends in the lingerie industry; big brands jump on board and often steal designs once risk is lower – once the trend has gained ground and proven to be profitable.

Fleur of England’s appliqué bras have been mimicked by brands such as Of Love and Lemons and ASOS. Creepyyeha was one of the brands at the forefront of a strappy, goth harness trend. Other indie designers like Knickerocker have even seen their designs stolen by big companies like Forever 21.

 

Indie designers respond to feedback

What are the chances that your feedback to Wacoal, Victoria’s Secret, or Freya is going to result in design changes? Pretty slim unless there is a mass outcry! However, indie designers frequently make changes to their lingerie based on just a few pieces of customer feedback. Recently, Dottie’s Delights made fit changes to the Sugar Candy babydoll based on reviews by Holly at The Full Figured Chest and by Sweet Nothings. I know that Tutti Rouge too has modified their bra fit several times based on customer feedback.

While there are downsides, this ability to react and change the product based on customer feedback creates an open dialogue between customer and company. Most indie brands I know of actually care about feedback from customers and want to perfect the fit of their garments.

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When a bralette comes in XS-XXL, it’s rare to see a brand pick a model that’s not XS-M. Would a mainstream lingerie brand do the same? Plain Lyta bralette by indie designer Hannah Broer

When a bralette comes in XS-XXL, it’s rare to see a brand pick a model that’s not XS-M.

Would a mainstream lingerie brand do the same? Plain Lyta bralette by indie designer Hannah Broer

Indie designers represent

The larger the company, the more conservative its social policies seem to be. I like to pick on Victoria’s Secret because, despite parading around girls in lingerie, they are actually quite conservative. Their girls all fit this cookie-cutter image of the tall, thin, pretty girl next door. Indie companies are more likely to reject cis-gender, heteronormative advertising.

sheTHINX recently featured a transgender male in their ads. Bluestockings Boutique did an amazing queer photoshoot. Likewise, Origami Customs’ 2016 lookbook features two black, one Indigenous, one Portuguese, and one Filipino model(s). There are two non-binary, two transgender, one pregnant queer, and four queer identified models as well.

 

Indie designers serve niche markets

There exists an array of niche markets not served by mainstream lingerie brands. Mainstream companies fail these markets for a variety of reasons: they assume the niche is too small for profit; they are risk adverse and will not expand into these markets without proven demand; they are conservative and do not wish to align their brand image with those of the niche market; and other such reasons.

This is where indie brands flourish through innovation and risk-taking. Nude Barre saw a need in the dance world: there were no skin tone tights for women of colour. Thus, their company was born and boasts an array of 12 shades of nude. Corsets are no longer mainstream foundational garments, yet many indie companies including What Katie Did are still serving this niche market. The transgender niche market is now being served by a growing number of companies designing binders, including f2m Binders.

 

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PACT organic, FairTrade hipster knickers

PACT organic, FairTrade hipster knickers

 

Indie designers provide ethical options

Nearly all of your mass-produced bras are made by underpaid workers in unsafe countries like China. They may be forced to work long hours, with no breaks, in terrible working conditions. This doesn’t even address the plight of other workers along the supply chain (like cotton pickers), the pesticides sprayed on crops, or the chemicals used in manufacturing.

Victoria’s Secret doesn’t care about people or the earth but many indie companies do. PACT provides lingerie basics like undershirts, underwear, and socks with:

  • No toxic dyes
  • No toxic pesticides
  • No sweatshops
  • No child labour

Independent lingerie companies like PACT show us that lingerie can be produced in an ethical fashion and it can be profitable as well.

 

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Petits Secrets by CB knickers, made using upcycled fabric from unwanted clothing

Petits Secrets by CB knickers, made using upcycled fabric from unwanted clothing

Indie designers are great recyclers

Indie designers often source end of roll fabrics and trim extras (like lace) that other large companies have left over. This excess yardage is redeemed and reused by indie designers such as Kiss Me Deadly – check out this awesome article from Rock the Curves matching Fantasie and Panache bras with Kiss Me Deadly pieces made using big-brand excess fabric.

 

Indie designers support local manufacturing

Globalisation has resulted in manufacturing being sent to third-world countries, yet many indie designers are fighting this trend. You can ethically manufacture overseas but this is an exception, not the rule, when it comes to who makes your lingerie and how it gets made. In first-world countries, minimum wages are far closer to a living wage and there are much stricter health and safety regulations. Child and slave labour is also forbidden in countries such as Canada, the USA, and the UK.

Supporting local manufacturing is not only about ethics: it is about creating jobs and sustaining your own economy. When you manufacture within your own country, the money you put into manufacturing stays in your country. Between The Sheets and Hanky Panky are both proudly made in the USA. Nettle’s Tale and Fortnight Lingerie manufacture in Canada. Ayten Gasson and Miss Crofton make their lingerie in the UK.

 

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Top: Victoria’s Secret The Perfect Body ad. Bottom: Dear Kate’s counter ad.

Top: Victoria’s Secret The Perfect Body ad. Bottom: Dear Kate’s counter ad.

Indie designers critique mainstream lingerie practices

Victoria’s Secret misstepped when they released their The Perfect Body ad showing skinny, tall, mostly white women. Dear Kate’s counter lingerie ad featured women of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in the same style as the original ad. The message was clear: the perfect body is the one you have.

Indie brands often act as a mirror to the lingerie giants. They show not only these large companies, but also us consumers, that the status quo is not the only option. They fight back against societal norms for beauty and even point out decidedly racist, sexist, and exclusionary advertising, language, and assumptions.

Go back five years and you would be hard pressed to find nude lingerie for women of colour. Sure, you could find brown bras but they were generally modelled on white women and sold as a brown bra, not as a nude bra for darker-skinned women. Enter Nubian Skin, an indie brand that makes nude lingerie specifically for women of colour. Since then, other brands have taken notice and nude lingerie for different skin tones is gaining in popularity: just this year Naja released their own range of inclusive skin tone lingerie.

 

Indie designers tell us hard truths

Indie designers are in a unique position to tell customers things they do not know and may not want to hear. There is a trend on social media where people with minor sewing skills berate luxury lingerie designers for their prices and then claim they could make that same piece of lingerie for a fraction of the cost.

Enter Karolina Laskowska who breaks down the cost to make one of her sets in DIY Lingerie: Can You Make It Cheaper? and Angela Friedman who wrote The Real Value of Handmade Lingerie: Part I – Direct Costs and Part II – Indirect Costs & Value on The Lingerie Addict. Both women are independent designers lifting the veil on the designing, sourcing, and manufacturing of lingerie.

Designers tell us other hard truths as well. As consumers, we wail on about how Photoshop creates unrealistic standards for women. Then indie designer Catherine from Kiss Me Deadly comes around and writes 9 ways fashion photos are unrealistic – without any photoshop at all! There are myriad topics I could bring up under the ‘hard truths’ category. Bigger bras are more expensive to make. Medium sells much better than XXL. The list goes on.

If you follow small indie designers, you will quickly learn that many designers have full-time jobs just to make ends meet because they do not make enough profit or sell enough items to make lingerie their full time job. Indie designers remind us that the majority of indie designers are not getting rich off their customers; they do it because it is a passion. It is perhaps these hard truths lifting the veil on our own ignorance that make indie designers indispensable to the lingerie community as a whole.

 

Why do you think indie lingerie designers are vital to the lingerie community? Add your own reasons in the comments below.

Avigayil.

Lingerie Lookbook: Janay Autumn/Winter 2017

Early last year I announced I was going to be sharing lingerie lookbooks on the blog more regularly. Unfortunately that plan fell by the wayside after the summer, but it’s a new year and time to revive that plan for 2017! Once again, I’m kicking things off with British brand Janay, whose beautiful collection Serendipity was the first one I chose to cover last year. (I’d actually forgotten that it was the first until I started writing this post just now, how serendipitous).

For those who just clicked through to the previous lookbook above, you’d be forgiven for wondering if that was some other brand called Janay, because this third collection is a big step away from the designer’s previous work. Aptly titled Bare, Janay’s Autumn/Winter 2017 range is about as stripped-back and pared-down as lingerie gets. It’s devoid of all the usual embellishments – bows, frills, picot trims – save for the satin ‘Bare – Janay’ labels of the kind you’d usually find sewn inside the garment. I’ve never seen these used as a design feature before and it’s interesting, something a little different from all of the logo elastics that are popular right now.

 

 

Bare features coral pink and a muted sage green, alongside classic black and a grey stripe. All very wearable, everyday colours. There are details, but they’re in keeping with the simplicity of the whole collection – a simple elastic waistband to break up the lines of a bodysuit, for example.

Where there are some more interesting details, they’re focussed on the backs of the garments, which is one thing that does clearly carry through from Janay’s earlier work – from draped cowl-backs to tulle ‘wings’, the pieces in Serendipity looked as good from behind as they did from the front. With Bare, those design details include sweeping, low-cut backs, oversized block cut-outs, and just a hint of elastic strapping on the triangle bra.

 

 

Eleanor describes the collection as a “creative combination of lounge, light sports and everyday shapes”, and there is a definite athleisure feel to it – you could just as easily be doing yoga in the cropped bralette and leggings, or taking a pole-dance class in the bodysuit, as lounging around at home in them.

Bare is also billed as an eco-friendly collection, being made entirely from sustainably-grown bamboo. Whilst there is some debate over whether bamboo rayon really deserves the title of ‘eco-friendly’ (read up on the manufacturing process if you’re curious), there are other reasons to love this fabric anyway. For one, it’s super soft. This natural fibre is breathable, like cotton, and that makes it great for regulating body temperature so that you can stay cool on warm days or when exercising.

 

 

Bare prices range from £20 (~$25 / ~23€) for the Brazilian knickers or boyshorts, through to £35 (~$43 / ~41€) for the two bodysuits. That feels like great value for money, especially given that this is an independent brand that’s made in the UK! You can view and shop the whole collection here.

Unsurprisingly, these prices are also considerably lower than Janay’s previous collections which focussed on luxury, wired bra sets in silk and lace, and which were anything but minimal. I’m trying not to compare this new collection to those ones, but it’s hard not to; I admit I’m a little confused about who this brand is targeting (what personal style? what budget?), though in a way that makes me even more interested to see what the next collection will be like. Is this just a brief foray into a popular trend, or will simple, quality basics be a new direction for the Janay brand?

What do you think of the Bare by Janay collection? Which piece is your favourite?

Estelle

The Cyber Changing Room: A First-Timer’s Guide to Online Lingerie Purchases

If you have never bought lingerie online before, it is understandable that you might be a bit worried. What if the item doesn’t fit? What if you do not like the colour? What if the item comes damaged? I know all of these questions by rote as I have often asked them myself!

This guide is designed to help first-time buyers assess the garments the receive and decide on an appropriate course of action: to keep or to return. I walk you through the process of returning lingerie purchased online and clarify who pays for what costs. If you are new to the world of online lingerie shopping, then this guide is for you!

Be sure to check the fit thoroughly before you remove the tags (or hygiene patches), as you can't return lingerie once they're gone

Be sure to check the fit thoroughly before you remove the tags (or hygiene patches), as you can’t return lingerie once they’re gone

Stage 1 – Assessment

Always check the labels first to ensure you actually received what you ordered. Check for both sizes (L, XL, 34D 32C, etc.) and styles (balconette, plunge, thong, bikini, etc.). While trying on lingerie may be an easy way to determine if they sent you the wrong size, it can result in damaging the garment. Therefore, you want to check these details before anything else.

Next, you should check the lingerie for damage before you try it on. Make sure to check delicate fabrics for pulls or holes and inspect the seams as well. It is imperative you check for damage before you try the lingerie on as, if damaged, the damage can be exasperated through wear.

If you have received the right style/size and there is no damage, then try on the lingerie! Do not remove tags at this stage. When trying on a bra or lingerie item with lots of straps, loosen all straps before putting on and then tighten once wearing. When trying on knickers, wear them over a pair of your own. The same rule applies to bodysuits, teddies and anything with a crotch.

These steps are similar to trying on lingerie in a physical changing room: in both instances, you handle the garment with care and make sure that you have been given a good-condition item in the size you asked for.

The last part of stage one is to make a decision: are you going to keep the piece or are you going to return/exchange it? For lingerie you plan to keep: move to Stage 2. For lingerie you plan to send back: move to Stage 3.

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Keeping your purchase? Wash it before the first wear to remove excess dye

Stage 2 – Keeping

You have decided to keep your amazing new piece of lingerie! At this point you can remove hang tags. Never pull these out to avoid damage, most will have a clasp that can be opened. If they do not, then use scissors.

Hand wash your new lingerie before wearing it. Most lingerie has come straight from manufacturing so it will still have residual chemicals, excess dye, starch and more still clinging to the fabric. As your skin is an organ, it absorbs what it comes in contact with so those chemicals will end up in your blood stream. Who needs that?

Make sure to hand wash all delicate lingerie – try to avoid machine washing. Use cold water as it will help ‘set’ the dye. Dye bleed (when the water turns the colour of your garment) increases with hot water. Cold water also substantially reduces/prevents shrinkage.

Either hang your lingerie up (hang bras by the gore) or lay flat to dry. Do not stick your new lingerie in the dryer for a myriad of reasons including shrinkage and elastic damage. After your new piece has finished drying, enjoy wearing! Always make sure to read care instructions before washing: if an item is dry clean only then the steps above certainly do not apply (I am thinking of corsets here).

Remember to repack your purchase well - you're responsible for it until it arrives back to the brand, so you don't want it to get damaged in transit!

Remember to repack your purchase well – you’re responsible for it until it arrives back to the brand, so you don’t want it to get damaged in transit!

Stage 3 – Returning | Exchanging | Selling

What to do if you do not want to keep the item you have just purchased? First you must establish fault: who is responsible for you not keeping the item?

If the item received is a) not the item you ordered or b) comes damaged, then this is an ‘at fault’ situation (i.e. the shop did something wrong). A ‘no fault’ situation is when you received, undamaged, what you ordered and are returning due to reasons such as style, fit, design, appearance, etc.

Returns & Exchanges – No Fault

  1. First, ensure that the item you ordered qualifies for a return; in a no-fault situation, final sale (no-returns) policies apply.
  2. Request a return authorisation number if required. Print off and/or fill out the appropriate return forms. On this form you will indicate whether you want to return for a refund or exchange for a different size. Make sure you stick this form inside your package when making your return.
  3. Ensure the lingerie is still clean: that means there are no deodorant stains or pet hairs!
  4. Repackage the lingerie in its original packaging: stuff the bra cups, seal in bags, etc. Make sure to include all accessories (like garter straps or bra cup inserts) with the item you are returning. If you tore the original package in your excitement, then make sure you repackage your return in packing material of equal or greater quality to the packaging you received.
  5. Address the envelope to the appropriate address: most businesses have a specific address for returns. If the address does not mention returns, then write ‘return’ on the envelope so that customs does not charge the receiver duty.
  6. Send your package as soon as possible: there is a limited window of time where returns and exchanges are accepted.
  7. Take pictures of the package with full labels ready for shipping – take these pictures at the post office. This is imperative proof of shipping! It is especially important if you are returning without tracking and is a nice extra bit of insurance if the package does have tracking.

As this is a no fault situation, you will pay the cost of return postage unless the brand offers free returns. However, the company you purchased from will generally cover the cost of shipping out a replacement if you requested one.

Returns & Exchanges – At Fault

In an ‘at fault’ situation, final sale policies do not apply.

Email the company as soon as you establish a problem with your order. Include your order number, what you ordered, and what you actually received or what the damage is. Even if you are upset, be polite.

Always include photographic proof when informing a company that they made a mistake. It is also a good idea to include your original invoice or a packing slip in the email so that it is simple for the company to compare what you received against what you ordered.

Follow steps 3 through 7 from the ‘no fault’ situation above as these steps are the same no matter the reason for return.

As this is an ‘at fault’ situation, the company will cover the cost of return postage.

If you want to resell your purchase, keep the tags on and any original packaging like hangers or boxes - it'll be worth more!

If you want to resell your purchase, keep the tags on and any original packaging like hangers or boxes – it’ll be worth more!

Reselling

If the garments were final sale and you simply don’t like them, you will probably want to resell or give the garment away.

Always keep tags on the lingerie and keep the original packaging. Clothing that is brand new with tags (BNWT) has a higher resale value. Original packaging can increase that value as it is proof of authenticity, and people love accessories!

Of course, we always hope that the items we buy will fall into Stage 2: stuff we love and plan to keep forever. Unfortunately, buying online skips the ‘try on’ stage so risk is high. It is always worth checking out a company’s return and exchange policy even in a ‘no fault’ situation; the cost of a garment you will not wear and might have difficulty reselling is generally more than the cost of paying return shipping.

If you have any questions about dealing with returns and exchanges when buying lingerie online, leave them in the comments below!

Avigayil.

Ordering Custom Lingerie: Risks, Rewards and a Few Recommendations

Disclosure: this blog post contains affiliate links.

Custom lingerie is a viable option for people needing lingerie that falls outside what is currently available, affordable or accessible. In many ways, custom lingerie is now being touted as the answer to any fit or size issue; women are advised to just custom order if they cannot find what they need.

Below, I outline many of the rewards and the risks associated with the growing trend to buy custom lingerie. At the end, there are a few recommendations for reducing risk and getting the most out of your next custom order.

Rewards

Custom lingerie provides options for those who fall outside readily available sizes. For example, a size 26 band is quite rare and I am unaware of any company that incorporates it into their standard size range. Buying custom allows women to order a bra that will fit without further alterations.

Custom lingerie also provides options for women whose bust, waist and hip ratios do not fall within the company’s standard allowance. For example, my waist is 34” and my hips are 48”. It is exceedingly rare that a 14” waist-hip difference is the norm for underwear, bodysuits and other lingerie. For a good fit, I must custom order my knickers. Women come in all shapes and sizes but standard size ranges typically try to cover the middle ground.

borgona-600x349

Transgender women and men with gynecomastia who choose to wear bras may also find custom lingerie quite helpful as their bodies often fall outside the normative, cis-gender female architype that guides mainstream lingerie design and production. Many transgender women and men who wear bras need a large band/small cup, which is one of the most under-served size ranges in lingerie.

Size customisation is not the only benefit of custom lingerie. Design customisation allows for greater expression of personality and gender identity through wearing lingerie. Androgynous individuals can buy bow-less bras devoid of lace and floral patterns. Femme individuals can request the designer pile on the ruffles, lace and bows.

Furthermore, individuals with disabilities benefit from custom lingerie. The vast majority of bras are closed in the back, yet a custom bra can be made to close in the front or at the side where it is more accessible. Custom knickers can include a pouch for insulin pumps and more.

Ordering custom does have many rewards, yet it is not without risk. It is this risk that deters people from ordering custom in the first place, and those who do order custom lingerie may be put off from doing so again if they have a bad experience.

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Risks

Ordering custom lingerie puts all financial risk squarely onto the shoulders of the buyer. Except under rare circumstances (and usually at the seller’s discretion), custom lingerie is not returnable for a refund or for an exchange because the designer may not be able to sell such a tailor-made piece to someone else.

As a customer is not able to return custom items, they may look to other venues to recover some of their funds. However, custom made lingerie is harder to re-sell due to obscurity, sizing and custom modifications.

Secondary buyers do not know what to expect in terms of size and shape because the custom made lingerie as not a standard size like XL or UK 10. Also, ‘custom’ connotes changes made for the previous consumer due to their specific, non-standard needs. Unfortunately, measurements such as waist, bust, and hip do little to convey fabric distribution. Secondary buyers may also not be familiar with the brand so they never search for it and so exposure on websites such as eBay and Varage Sale will be much lower.

In addition, many secondary buyers are willing to pay much less for indie brand lingerie (the ones most likely to offer custom) than well-known brand lingerie valued at the same amount, as they see indie lingerie as a higher risk: there is no zeitgeist knowledge of the brand’s quality, longevity or general fit. If you add on the risk of buying custom lingerie designed for someone else’s body, then you can understand how much of a financial risk the buyer assumes.

custom-handmade-corset

Putting aside the financial risk, there are other risks as well. The vast majority of custom lingerie is offered by indie designers, many of whom neither have formal training nor have apprenticed under someone with that training / expertise. Indie designers have the most experience creating the range of sizes and styles they currently offer. Therefore, custom lingerie – when not just for aesthetic purposes – asks indie designers to make something outside their norm. Making lingerie outside their current style and/or size range may be beyond their capabilities – whether they are aware of that or not.

For example, they may not be aware of additional modifications, materials, pattern changes etc. that other sizes or styles need. Even when indie designers are aware of the changes needed, they may not have the experience or the materials needed to create these garments to the customer’s standard.

Not all designers know how to grade a pattern. Pattern grading allows designers to size a pattern up or down while still maintaining the proper proportions of the original pattern. This is very useful for creating the same style in a smaller or larger size; however, custom lingerie is not always as simple as grading a pattern.

sewing-and-pattern-grading-lingerie

Different sizes ranges have unique needs. Full bust bras require stronger wires, thicker straps and other modifications to provide support. Plus-size bras usually require different elastic in the band and a different placement of straps. Small-bust bras tend to need the straps closer together on the body and wires can be more flexible. Even the materials needed change: stretch lace may be fine for core sizes, but the cups will need to be lined with a power mesh for plus and full bust sizes.

Underwear too is not always a case of simply being graded up or down as fat does not necessarily coat the body evenly, it accumulates in different regions. Briefs designed for a ‘conservative hourglass’ shape will grade up but still not fit well on a more ‘apple’ shaped person. Torso length is also a common problem when scaling lingerie for different shapes and sizes.

Thus, custom lingerie becomes a risk for both the designer and the customer. The customer may receive something that doesn’t fit, fails to perform its function or isn’t perfect. The designer risks losing a customer and also risks bad publicity over social media because their knowledge of lingerie design was insufficient for the customer’s expectations of the design requested.

Now, many indie designers do have the expertise required to make a large array of different sizes and styles. However, they have less buying power than large businesses so may not be able to source the ideal parts even if they know they’re needed. Material, fasteners, elastics, eyes and hooks, underwires and more are mostly sold in bulk. Bulk purchases require a lot of money up front that a typical indie designer cannot afford – if they’re only selling one full-bust set, they probably don’t want to invest in 10 or 100 full-bust underwires!

Recommendations for Buying Custom Lingerie

Buying custom lingerie is pretty risky from a customer’s perspective, so let us talk about some ways to minimise that risk.

Look for designers whose current size range is closer to your own. For example, a plus-size customer would be better off requesting custom lingerie from an indie brand such as Ravendreams than a core-size brand, as Abi specialises in plus-size lingerie. There is also a greater chance that a designer who works with sizes similar to your own already has a source for any specialist components needed to construct lingerie in your size range.

If the designer does not offer your size usually, ask the designer if they have experience with the needs specific to your size. Also, ask the designer if they have made similar items before and – if they have – ask for pictures of their work. Make sure your expectations are in line with their abilities.

As a customer, take initiative. Be clear, concise and precise about what you are wanting both in terms of style and fit. For example, “I like strong, stiff underwires” and “I like a stretchy band that I can pull away from my back by a couple inches” is far better than “I want a bra that supports my boobs and is comfortable”. Always define vague terms like supportive and comfortable as these are subjective terms open to interpretation.

taking-measurements-for-custom-lingerie

Provide reference photos of your body so the designer can see your shape. Take pictures from multiple angles so the designer understands the size ratio from one part to another part of your body. Be honest about the measurements you provide.

Give the designer something to work with – literally. If asking for a custom bra or underwear design, send a piece of lingerie that currently fits you well. Some designers will ask for this, like Angela Friedman did when making custom underwear for Holly from The Full Figured Chest. If the designer doesn’t ask, offer.

For very expensive items, such as corsets, many designers will recommend a mock-up of the corset before they make your actual piece. This fit mock-up usually adds to the cost of your corset, but it allows a designer to see how the corset will fit on your body and then make important alternations.

If your custom lingerie is primarily about style, give the designer reference photos for the project that capture the look you want. Again, be precise: saying “I want big, black, oversized bows on the leg openings and at the waist” is better than saying I want lots of bows”. Be clear about boundaries like colours or patterns you do not like and clear about expectations such as number of bows, position of decorations, length, rise, material, etc.

sewing-knickers

As a customer, confer with the designer on how much input and control you will have over the process of your order. Some customers want to pick a theme and see the final result. Other customers want to approve each and every single fabric choice and design decision. The designer may want some creative leeway to make decisions based on their own expertise. Establish this at the beginning.

You may also want to ask the designer whether you can send your custom lingerie back for modifications. If the designer is willing, make sure you know beforehand who would pay for what (sending, mailing back, modifications).

There are certainly substantial risks associated with ordering custom lingerie. However, sometimes the rewards outweigh the risks. With custom lingerie, you have the potential of owning a beautiful piece of lingerie that matches your style and fits your body perfectly. I don’t know about you, but that is my dream!

Hey lovelies! Have you ever ordered custom lingerie made to your specifications? I would love to hear about the experience – either positive or negative – so tell us about it in the comments!

Avigayil.

Full-Priced Lingerie Only Update & A New Challenge!

You might recall that earlier this year I published a post setting myself a challenge to only purchase lingerie at full-price for six months. Well we’re here on November 30th, the final day, so I thought I’d write a little post sharing how I got on.

First, the confession. I failed that challenge. I almost didn’t, but then I did – last month I saw the Bluebella Tala chemise, which I have adored since I first featured it on the blog, on my favourite website MySale for £15 and I just couldn’t resist.

And honestly, I don’t regret it. I mean, I’m returning the chemise because I didn’t like the fit (review to follow) but I don’t regret giving in to temptation. I’d really wanted that chemise for some time and this full-priced challenge was as much about forcing myself to make carefully-considered purchases as it was about supporting indie brands financially. (Yes, I could have bought the chemise full price and I probably would have, it just went on sale sooner than I expected).

 

 

I’m really glad I decided to set myself this challenge because it has completely transformed the way I shop for underthings. I expected it to be very difficult to stick to but for the most part it wasn’t. Every time I clicked onto a sale (because yes, it was still very tempting to see what deals there were to be had!) and there was something I know I’d normally have bought simply because it was rather pretty and half price, I found myself asking “do I really want this more than putting the money towards something on my wishlist?” and the answer was always no. Well, except that Tala chemise. So even though this challenge is now officially over, I feel like it may well have changed my shopping habits permanently.

I haven’t gotten round to buying most of the things on that wishlist however, only the Agent Provocateur Bubbles brief and that was a rather disappointing purchase. Aside from endless hosiery, I haven’t actually bought that much lingerie at all lately. That’s mainly because I’ve been spending all my money on Christmas presents instead, I have so many people to buy for and so much fun choosing things that I start in August and always spend a small fortune. I just bought my last Christmas gift today as it happens though, and it’s payday, so I’ll be back to having money to treat myself with and that of course means lingerie. Which brings me onto the second part of today’s blog post, my new challenge-to-self.

 

 

Most of the things I’ve bought this past six months I’ve loved and not at all regretted buying (hello Rosie for Autograph red silk bra set!), and I want to make sure I continue to make thoughtful purchases like these and not go back to impulse ones. I also feel like the six months positively whooshed by, so for the next year I will only be buying one item or set of lingerie per month. There’s no better way of making sure it’s the piece I want more than anything else I’ve seen.

This time round it doesn’t have to be a full-priced purchase, but since the best stuff usually sells out before sale season rolls around there’s a good chance it will be. Almost everything I’m liking right now is by an independent brand and I’m going to make a conscious effort to continue shopping without discounts, but I’d like to be able to support them even in the months when I can’t afford to do that.

 

 

If you come here for the reviews, don’t worry. I have a backlog to work through, brands occasionally send me things, my contributor Elisa will be back with new reviews soon and there are a couple of guest reviews in the works too. There will still be plenty of reviewing goodness going on here!

Oh, and the pieces pictured in this post are my favourite full-priced-and-totally-worth-it purchases of the past six months 🙂

Are you planning any lingerie-related resolutions for next year? And could you manage just one lingerie purchase per month?

Estelle

Why We Hate: Negativity in the Lingerie World

If you spend much time following lingerie brands or blogs on any social media account, then you will have noticed the creeping of negative and hateful comments by people both within and outside of the lingerie community. It seems that pictures of women in their underwear bring out the worst in some people.

I think understanding human behaviour is the first step to changing negative interactions over lingerie into a learning space for all involved. Below, I explain some of the primary reasons some people hate women wearing lingerie and a few ways we can help change those views.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance occurs when we hold inconsistent and often competing beliefs, thoughts, etc. It can also be used to describe situations in which our actions are non-congruent with our belief system(s). I see this play out in conversations on social media in relation to the body positive movement.

There are people who hold competing sets of beliefs: a) that everyone no matter what size should love their body and b) that skinnier is healthier and thus more desirable. You see this conflict rear its ugly head when plus-size women model lingerie. Check out this comment on Hopeless Lingerie’s Instagram image:

hopeless-lingerie-600x274

The commenter is experiencing cognitive dissonance: she does “want people to love themselves” but at the same time thinks “it’s misguided to pretend obesity is harmless”. Those ideas compete because loving yourself is accepting your state of being and that does not mesh well with ‘obesity is harmful’, as people are expected to reduce harm i.e. lose weight. These comments are often seen as fat shaming or hateful.

Low Self-Esteem

Self-worth plays an important role in how we treat ourselves and how we treat others. Those with low levels of self-esteem will often lash out or tear someone else down as a way to build themselves up.

This ties in very closely with feelings of jealousy. Jealousy is, in many ways, a product of low self-esteem. We might see someone modelling lingerie and think she is white, skinny, has great cleavage, beautiful hair, etc.: we think she is beautiful. We do not have those features and we want them too.

These are two of the main driving forces behind marketing mainstream lingerie: you are not supposed to see yourself reflected in the lingerie model but rather see her as an ideal. Feeling inadequate and desiring to be like her, you buy the lingerie – you buy the dream.

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The problem is: you keep buying a dream and no matter how many sets of lingerie you purchase, you will never get that ‘perfect body’. Many women will hate their own bodies for not being perfect, hate the company for making them feel inadequate, and hate on other women’s bodies that are closer to that so called perfection.

Inequality & Injustice

Privilege is when you have something that others don’t and it helps you get ahead in life whether you realise it or not. For example, white skin is a privilege. Natural beauty is a privilege. Being thin is a privilege. Having disposable income is a privilege. People will regularly treat you better if you are white, pretty, rich and thin than if you are black, average, poor and plus-size.

This experience is felt from the quality of customer service provided by brick-and-mortar lingerie stores to the availability of lingerie for your specific size, shape, budget, race, etc. For example, medium+ women are rarely ‘sample size’ so pretty much all sample sales exclude anyone not thin. Until Nubian Skin, there were very few nude bra options for women of colour but a myriad for white women.

Recently, I was asked about 32H androgynous bras and – after hours of searching – tossed my hands in the air and told the girl “sorry, there are none.” Even when there are items available for more marginalised groups, these items may be too expensive – creating an interesting combination of emotions including guilt, frustration, anger and embarrassment.

Inequality and injustice rears its head in different ways. For women who take lingerie selfies, you may never see your picture shared by the brand if you fall outside the ‘white, thin, young’ trope – say, if you are woman of colour, plus-size, transgender, old, disabled, etc. Yet, these same companies will happily share pictures of others.

plus-size-lingerie-model

This is further indicative of the disproportionate representation currently prevalent in lingerie ads, in models, in social media, and in lingerie blogging itself. Your average model is thin, white, and tall. There are substantially more upper-middle class, white, thin women writing lingerie reviews than there are any other race or size (though full-bust blogging is substantially growing). It is understandable that people get angry when they are never represented by a market they continually sink money into.

Powerless

We don’t often think of bullying in relation to lingerie but it happens. A lot. Recently a lovely blogger I know had the following comments left on her Instagram by someone else in the lingerie community who worked for a big brand:

instagram-comments

That, my friends, is bullying. That is being mean and saying nasty things without any provocation to do so. I do not know this individual’s reason for being a bully; however, bullying is often a battle for power. People who have little to no power in their personal lives try to reclaim power through bullying others.

Power dynamics revolve around control: a person lacks, or feels as if they lack, the ability to control their own life and so they try to exert control over other people’s lives. Insults, personal attacks, hate speech, intimidation and threats are all bids for power: the power to make the other person feel bad.

Lingerie tends to be an easy target: for most women it is deeply personal and ties into self-image.

Reaffirmation & Protection of Values

When people feel their values / rights / privileges / comfort levels are being attacked, threatened or challenged they often lash out as a defence mechanism. Lingerie bloggers are often targets of ‘hate mail’ or derogatory comments, especially when taking pictures of yourself in lingerie does not adhere to societal standards for modesty or societal understandings of lingerie as inherently sexual.

People lash out at women with lingerie selfies calling them sluts or attention whores. In doing so they are attempting to rationalise their own beliefs about values (modesty) and force ‘deviants’ ­to adhere to their personal values through social pressure.

People who write articles like this fail to notice the double standard; they have no problem with professional models posing in revealing and­ sexy lingerie but they have a problem with non-professional women posing in the same lingerie. Oddly, the women for whom this lingerie is meant for are ridiculed and demeaned.

The reaffirmation and protection of values, thoughts, beliefs, etc. all stem from one place: fear. We fear change and we fear that which is different. The way we are raised is often the only way we see the world. Some people’s views are challenged by a voluptuous woman wearing a bikini and their response can vary from just ignoring her to verbal or physical harassment.

Image by Rosalarian, used with permission

Image by Rosalarian, used with permission

There are other reasons that people hate on the internet. There is a gap between actions and consequences, which results in people being able to say anything and suffer minor to no repercussions. Other people truly are mean – they like to hurt people because they get some form of emotional or psychological reward from it. Frankly, any one of the issues I’ve just raised could truly be explored in much more depth.

What Can We Do?

When I talk about negativity, I always want to balance that out with something positive. So, what can we do about all this negativity in the lingerie industry?

Understand

Understanding why someone is negative or speaking hatefully can go a long way towards creating a reconciliatory environment. Rather than reading just what people say, try to see beyond their words to the emotions and societal contributions leading into those negative and hateful attitudes.

I am reminded of when Nubian Skin first started out; there were a lot of negative comments. Women of colour had been without nude bras for so long and now and, whilst they were finally getting nude bras, the size range was limited and many women outside the range lashed out in frustration. Nubian Skin reached out to them with a survey for which bra sizes outside their initial release were in demand with the promise of further size expansion in the future.

Similarly, Chrysalis Lingerie received enormous backlash from the trans community because they did not feel represented. While many reactions were rather harsh, Chrysalis reached out to the trans community to better understand what fuelled this negativity so they could serve the community better.

Educate

Take small moments to educate those who are angry or hateful. It may be that their comfort zone is challenged by your bra showing or that harness you are wearing. A simple explanation and/or example will do far more to expand their comfort zone than a harsh word.

It can be really hard to hold your tongue when someone perhaps thinks that you’re asking for sexual advances because of your lingerie choices, but you can explain why lingerie is not inherently sexual and, in the end, may have broadened their mind rather than reinforced its closure.

The worst thing you can do is fight hate with hate – it just results in more hate. Never make personal attacks even if the person is attacking you or someone you care about. It may be they have low self-esteem and your response, however merited, will simply reinforce their poor self-image and thus their behaviour. A logical argument supporting your position will do more to further your argument than yelling, screaming and cursing someone out for being narrow-minded.

Represent

The simple act of acknowledging that we do not all start from the same place in life and that, despite hard work, some people will simply never be given the opportunities others have goes a long way in repairing inequality and injustice.

Acknowledge your own privilege and find ways to help others who do not have the same privileges in life. Fight for equal representation (modelling, blogging, advertisements), equal access (darker nude lingerie, androgynous styles, affordable options), and equal opportunities within the lingerie industry.

Do you have any suggestions for how to combat negativity in the lingerie world?

Avigayil.

Lingerie and Money: My 6 Month Full-Priced Only Challenge

Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links.

I’ve been umming and ahhing about writing this post for a good few months now, because once I hit that publish button I’m fully committed. But I’ve made my mind up, so here goes nothing: for the next 6 months I will only be purchasing full-priced lingerie.

You may have noticed by now that I tend to shop on sale. In 2015, I reviewed 49 items/sets: one personal gift, 9 brand samples, 9 things I’d bought full-price, and 30 things I’d bought on sale.

 

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Flower Fairy bras and suspender belts by Coco’s Retro Closet

Flower Fairy bras and suspender belts by Coco’s Retro Closet

I know I’m responsible in the end for my own shopping habits, but partly my penchant for getting a good ideal comes down to how I was raised – growing up, I never had much money (next to no pocket money, followed by about £3 an hour when I landed an after-school job in my teens) and my mum is a bargain hunter extraordinaire, so shopping trips were always more about raiding the sale racks for the best deals than looking for things I really liked. And I guess that mindset just stuck.

 

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Rebelle collection bra and knickers by Evgeni (coming soon)

Rebelle collection bra and knickers by Evgeni (coming soon)

Fast forward a decade and I sometimes feel like I’m stuck in a catch-22; I want to support independent brands by buying from them at full-price, but as an independent designer I don’t feel like I earn enough to do it! I do, like many indie designers, have a ‘proper’ job too. I work 4 days a week but my salary from that only really covers the essentials – mortgage, food, exorbitant nursery fees etc. Most of the money from Esty Lingerie goes straight back into the business in the form of marketing and sewing supplies, and the small amount I pay myself becomes my spending money.

I don’t think there’s necessarily a problem with buying lingerie on sale. For one thing, when brands put items on sale it’s because they want to clear those items out and quickly – trust me, if you buy from my sale you’re doing me a favour!

 

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Montmartre top and knickers by Bandurska Design

Montmartre top and knickers by Bandurska Design

Also, those 30 pieces I bought on sale last year includes things where I was getting a 15 or 20% discount as well as the more significant markdowns, and at those kinds of sale prices the brand is still making some profit.

There’s a big difference between buying a sale item because you’ve just seen it and you liked it / because the sale means you can finally afford it, and waiting for everything to go on sale before you’ll even consider buying it. Refusing to buy full price just on principle is, well, not a very ethical principle to have! For brands, selling the odd item on sale helps to clear the shelves and attract new customers, but selling everything on sale is unprofitable and unsustainable. 

 

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Bordeaux bra and knickers by E.L.F Zhou London

Bordeaux bra and knickers by E.L.F Zhou London

The reason I buy a lot of lingerie on sale is because of the huge mis-match between my budget and my taste. Cheap lingerie just doesn’t excite me. Mid-priced lingerie rarely does. But as a regular customer of independent brands, I can’t in good conscience buy most of my lingerie on sale whilst hoping to sell most of my own lingerie designs full-price.

So I decided to do the sums. Yes I often make sale purchases, but I make a lot of them! I started wondering if my budget was really as limited as I believed it to be, so I scrolled through my Gmail totting up all those order confirmation emails, and this is what I found out: in 2015, I spent £1,726 on lingerie.

 

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Karina bodysuit by For Love And Lemons

Karina bodysuit by For Love And Lemons

That works out at a little over £140 a month, and with £140 I could reasonably expect to afford a luxury-quality set with no discount. Not Agent Provocateur Soirée, but still something very nice.

That would limit me to one big purchase a month of course, rather than lots of little ones, but that brings me to my second reason for this blog challenge – I’d like to make more considered purchases. Fewer impulse buys. Of those 39 things I bought myself last year, there are only about 15 or 16 I can honestly say I’d buy again if I could start that year over.

 

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Domenica bra by Gonzales Underwear (coming soon)

Domenica bra by Gonzales Underwear (coming soon)

I have more than enough lingerie now that I don’t need anything more (except perhaps a strapless bra, but I can’t find one I like the look of), so I’d like for anything new I add to my collection to be a well thought-out purchase that I know I’m going to love and treasure.

Being forced to buy at full price will (hopefully!) make me do that, because I’m certainly not the kind of person to throw £100+ at a bra set or slip just on a whim. Not unless I win the lottery in the next 6 months anyway, in which case Agent Provocateur Soirée here I come 😉

 

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Gloria bodysuit by Helen Valk-Varavin

Gloria bodysuit by Helen Valk-Varavin

My 6 month challenge will from from June through November. Why only 6 months? Well for one thing, financial circumstances can change. Right now I can afford to do this but next year who knows, so I’m not going to tie myself into never shopping a sale again. This way it also ends nicely just before Christmas which is always an expensive time of the year for me (January and February too – so many birthdays!).

 

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Bubbles knickers by Agent Provocateur

Bubbles knickers by Agent Provocateur

There is one rule or exception though, which is that if anything on my little wishlist goes on sale in the next 6 months I’m still allowed to buy it. As I’ve explained, this challenge is as much about making considered purchases as it is about supporting designers, and I’m not going to refuse to buy a piece of lingerie I’ve been dying to get my hands on just because it happened to go on sale. That’s silly.

So that you can tell I’m not cheating though, I’m making my wishlist public – the pictures featured in this article are what I’m hoping to buy! Aside from the Helen Valk-Varavin bodysuit which I spotted recently and fell in love with, everything here is something I’ve been dreaming about for months, for a couple of them even years. I can buy things not on this wishlist, but only at full price – no exceptions.

Perhaps I will just come out of this feeling like I could have gotten more for my money, but hopefully I will have a renewed sense of appreciation for why luxury and handmade lingerie costs what it does, a sense of satisfaction in knowing I helped a few indies to pay the bills, and of course a drawer full of beautiful things I’m very glad I saved up for!

 

Do you mostly buy your lingerie on sale or at full price, or why? If you don’t already, would you consider doing a full-priced only challenge like this too?

Estelle