[CW: Racism, Homophobia, Language, #MAGA]
One of my commitments with the store is to help all people find the intimate apparel which suits their needs, preferences, and budgets, including men. Men wear bras for any number of personal and medical reasons, and I have been a strong advocate in not only helping men traverse their own unique fit problems but also in encouraging broader societal acceptance. Through these efforts, I came to meet Shay who has a medical condition known as gynecomastia which causes the benign growth of breasts in biological males. In some cases, the most comfortable way to live with the condition is to wear a bra for support, but while that may be the simplest solution, it’s hardly the easiest one. Our culture is exceptionally hung up on gender norms and body policing. Boys should dress like boys, and girls should dress like girls, right? It not only assigns certain clothing and even behaviors to one gender as being “acceptable,” but it also leaves no room for anyone to depart from those norms, to say nothing of the implications on trans people as well as those who are non-binary or genderqueer. And unfortunately, people can be exceptionally cruel and malicious when presented with someone who behaves outside of the way they expect. Shay and I have discussed this many times via email, and I told him I would really love for him to guest post occasionally on the blog, particularly because he brings a completely different perspective to the table. After some poor timing on both our parts, we finally came together for his introductory post focusing on a terrifying experience where being outside cultural gender norms can have embarrassing repercussions: a body search by the TSA.
About two years ago, I received an email from Heidi asking for feedback from a retailer’s perspective on edgy, high quality lingerie and its stateside viability. At the time, she was considering starting her own brand, and we chatted about pricing, materials, and competition between manufacturers and their retailers. A few weeks ago, Heidi contacted me again to announce she took the plunge and hoped to use Kickstarter to launch her brand. Keep in mind, I receive a lot of consulting inquiries from people wanting to start retail stores or lingerie brands, and I seldom hear follow-ups. This was one of the rare instances where not only did I hear from Heidi again but she was actually doing what she set out to do. So today we’re picking up the conversation and discussing her new line Pique Lingerie, the struggles of establishing sizing, and the need for inclusivity. Before we get started, I want to mention we do discuss sexual content, kink, and BDSM in the context of Heidi’s lingerie brand just in case it’s not your thing.
TweetHello Everyone, Every year I field dozens of questions both in person and on the phone about whether we will provide summer salvation to people fed up with generic bathing suits and finally offer bra sized swim in the shop.
My friend Jillian is ready to continue her discussion of designing bras for UK KK+ cups, and I couldn’t be happier to post her latest edition. As I mentioned before, we have seen too many women who are outside of what traditional manufacturers produce and are forced to make due with a poor, sometimes even painful, fitting bras all for the sake of support. Jillian has been crafting her own bras, refining them with each new version, and the results have been exciting to watch. I hope you enjoy this next installment as much as I have, and if you missed her previous posts, you can find them here and here and here.
Last night, I had the distinct privilege of visiting some wonderful women at the New Jerusalem Women’s Emergency Shelter, a program designed to help homeless women stay warm and safe this winter while also providing resources for growth and success. Everyone from the volunteers to the staff to the women themselves were smiling, joyful, and lovely to meet, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to give them a proper bra fitting, well, as proper as we could manage with only my eyes and a measuring tape. Still, it was a service many of them had never experienced, and we were able to chat briefly with each woman about sizing, fitting, and the many bra styles available. Our store is no stranger to accepting bra donations, and we work with both local domestic violence shelters as well as Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA) to collect intimate apparel donations from around the state. In fact, my friend Kat who owns Luxury on the Outer Banks has also volunteered her time as a fitter to participate in a joint bra fitting event at TROSA in a few weeks.
It’s no secret. Holiday gift guides are not my favorite posts to write. I find myself counting down the minutes until I am finished mostly because the writing feels like a tedious not-so-subtle marketing ploy. This year I put aside my personal feelings to write a couple posts for our shop because we often struggle to attract holiday shoppers in the era of online meccas and big box discounts. Of course, our small business isn’t unique in feeling forgotten, so today, I want to close the series with a final buying guide spreading the love to other retailers, manufactures, and designers with totally cool gifts for everyone on your nice (or naughty) list.
When I was crafting our $100 or less gift guides this season, I wanted to include a category specifically for our younger customers who are often dragged here by a family member to be fitted. Shopping for bras and underwear is certainly not everyone’s favorite activity no matter the age, and I know I personally hated it for many years because of the bad interactions I had as a teenager. However, if fitters and family work together to not only provide multiple foundation options but also to allow young clients autonomy to make their own choices, then the entire shopping experience becomes easier and more enjoyable for them. As a result, I wanted to assemble a mix of bras, underwear, and accessories which work for anyone, regardless of age. In fact, I own several of these at 30 (nearly 31), and some of these gifts are popular with customers in their 60s and 70s too. So remember, “it’s hard, you will find to be narrow of mind if you’re young at heart.”
My Facebook status stream is pleasantly awash today in a flurry of hashtag ridden posts reminding friends to #shopsmall for #smallbusinesssaturday often accompanied by images with inspirational quotes about how patronizing small businesses supports a family, pays for dance lessons, funnels money into the community, and improves the economy. Small businesses are often passion driven and innovative, started by people who want to make a change in the world around them, but success is hardly guaranteed. Failure rates are high, and customers often assume the owner is rolling in the cash or “getting rich” from sales. Small businesses can lend you financial stability, but they can also place you on the verge of financial ruin, to say nothing of the tremendous strain they place on personal relationships. What you perceive as a successful business owner could be one on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce. We’re all faking it until we make it, but the problem is some of never will make it. It’s a hard path to walk, and small business Saturday at least tries to reward those who choose it.
During the holidays, my family loved to blend practical gifts along with fun ones to ensure my brother and I had what we needed but also something special we wanted. In fact, clothes and video games are still totally acceptable gifts for me even at thirty, and some of my favorite presents were practical with long term value, like a converter which allowed me to broadcast my mp3 player through the radio of my car (this was before cars got all fancy). Today’s buying guide is perfect for the person needing or wanting affordable basics or utility pieces to wear and enjoy all winter!