Musings on Blogging and “Professionalism”

Hello Everyone,

Fair warning:  Today’s post is a meandering exposition on my blogging journey over the last several years and is devoid of any sizing advice, product reviews, store news, or other relevant information, which is exactly what I want.  Tune in next time for a Tutti Rouge review though.

Despite writing enough blog posts to fill several books in the last four years, I struggled intensely the first year to find both my voice as a writer and the direction the blog should pursue.   My prior experience in writing centered on academic papers, copy writing for businesses, or my own fictional stories, novels, and poems.  A blog was foreign territory for my skills and made all the more challenging because I wrestled with two conflicting motivations.  My years of working in technology coupled with the preaching from my business classes about the acceptability of interactions with customers left me purposefully stunting the passion and emotion within my posts.  This hesitation was not made better by reflecting on what my mom, a consummate professional, recommended for inspiring confidence, leadership, and authority.  However, my personality was begging to be included.  I have always been a mix of contradictions in a sense.  When I had my labret pierced (the one on my chin), my mom’s first words upon seeing me were “You’ve committed professional suicide.”  She used that phrase “professional suicide” frequently to summarize unorthodox personal preferences, like visible tattoos, less conservative attire, and of course, facial piercings.  I have always found it interesting how professionalism in certain industries requires a divestment from the self, how we must repress who we are to represent a company image or to project an air of trustworthiness and intelligence to clients.

Click to enlarge for easier reading
Click to enlarge for easier reading

With the my blog, I worried if I allowed too much of my “self” to be in the writing that readers would see me as less experienced and thus devalue the services and advice I offered.  Even in the shop I encountered issues with discriminating customers.  When we first opened, I was 25—an age sometimes and unfortunately associated with people who lack ambition and real life skills, and some women felt (and still feel) my age prevents me from understanding their problems.  Factor in my piercings, visible tattoos, and ever-changing hair colors, and I know I sometimes cross the line of what my mom and other business owners would considerable acceptable. 

However, my mom also instilled in me the courage to be myself, and I realized later in life that she probably struggled as much as I do with the conflicts between her identity and the characteristics required by professionalism.  For all the grief she gave me about my ankle tattoo, she had one on each side (plus two on her chest).  In the end, I believe people can innately sense if you are a genuine person or a fake, and I would rather you dislike the real me than for me to present a facade in the hopes of gaining a sale.  When I work with a client, my goal is to make them feel comfortable with me and with the fitting process because shortly after meeting me, they strip down to their bras.  While most don’t mind, there are others who want to feel comfortable that a stranger is going to see them in a state of undress reserved for a select few.  I also am privy to the numerous flaws they see in themselves, and most assume I am in there to judge their bras or their bodies.  It’s important for me to show them that I am a regular average woman interested in helping them find a bra—not some stuffy expert making them feel more self-conscious.  In the store, I managed to quickly find my own pace, and I left behind any inclination to transform into a more socially acceptable version of professionalism.  After all, what’s the point of being your own boss and dealing with the copious headaches which ensue if you can’t at least enjoy being yourself?

My mom and source of wisdom and advice
My mom and source of wisdom and advice

With the blog, it took me longer to find out who I was and where I wanted to go.  I focused on putting together often-maligned “wish lists” or “best of” posts all of which marketed the store’s inventory.  Every time we received a new arrival, I posted, and I wrote informative articles based on questions I saw in the shop.  Basically, I did what a lot of businesses at the time were doing:  I used the blog as a marketing tool.  Even the articles about fit problems were intended more to prove we are worth visiting than to be an educational tool.  Being conventional rarely works for me, and the writing from the early months was never something of which I was especially proud.  The blog felt like a sales gimmick instead of an actual worthwhile place to sit and read.

At the time, Georgina Horne of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and Cheryl Warner of Invest in Your Chest were bringing bra blogging into the forefront while Cora of The Lingerie Addict was building a dedicated following for being the premier place to discuss a variety of lingerie-related topics.  It was an interesting time to be blogging as a store owner, and I started to dabble in my own reviews, mostly in a sister size as a way to showcase some of the products but also to open the discussion about who the bra fit and why.  The first few times I took pictures in my bra were a bit nerve-wracking, and I more than once agonized over the decision, again fretting over what the “code of professionalism” would say about a store owner posting pictures of herself in a bra.  Ultimately, I had one of those “life’s short and haters gonna hate” moments and went for it.  I find it so much easier to see fit issues when the bra is modeled by a regular person not exploiting Photoshop or makeup tricks, and I thought our readers would feel similarly.  Of course, one day I would love to participate in a professional photo shoot for a review or for several pieces, but that’s a long way off in the distant future.

One of my earliest blog reviews in the Fantasie Vivienne
One of my earliest blog reviews in the Fantasie Vivienne

With picture reviews under my belt, I moved onto video reviews.  People were posting all kinds of information to Youtube, and I anticipated many potential fans would be more inclined to listen than read.  Those first videos were incredibly difficult to shoot.  I may seem calm, professional, and articulate, but I am really more of a tongue-tied mess being overly critical of her body, her voice, and her word choice to the point of copious swearing.  There was a blooper real at one point worthy of serious R rating, but with time, I got better and more confident.  The process will never be easy, but my expletive usage has certainly dropped.

Soon after starting the videos, I realized I wanted to associate more personally with the blog in the same way I did when interacting with customers.  I wanted to be more than someone marketing to my readers and instead open a dialog with them, hear their concerns and do my best to address them.  I didn’t want to be a “bra fitter” or “co-owner” or some personality-less source of authority.  A customer told me the other day that she loved the videos and blogs because it was an “authentic” way to connect with people, and I can’t think of a better way to describe my vague initial intentions.  I wanted to be myself, and sometimes being true to yourself isn’t about doing what’s expected of you.  It’s about doing what you feel.

One of my earlier videos lasting 3min 47seconds which took somewhere in the ballpark of 20 minutes to film in between my cursing, inability to speak articulately, and heavy sighing.

 

I started testing the waters with posts on body image and offering retailer’s perspectives on topics most people do not realize or understand.  I shared my personal struggles with PCOS, weight gain, and depression, and with each post, I heard the disapproving voice criticizing my behavior as unprofessional.  “No one wants to hear about this.  Just do another bra review.”  To my surprise, the posts resonated with readers, and they have become some of our more popular ones.  When I opened up about my issues with chronic illness and the anxiety and depression which ensued, I knew I wanted to write about it—despite the considerable challenge—because I have a broader audience now.  I wrote it for the people who are suffering and who feel alone like I did and still do sometimes.  I wrote about it for people to understand it’s normal to experience these emotions and setbacks, and more importantly, that life can and will get better.

I have heard from other retailers about my blog as well.  Some of them are supportive and love the posts (especially the preview posts . . . which I promise I am going to work on but you guys don’t know how tedious they are!), but I had a couple others say they did not approve of what I wrote or did.  They did not appreciate my discussion of retail ownership and were horrified at the idea of a business owner posing in her bra for a video.  In the lingerie industry where we promote the acceptability of lingerie and tackle interesting social issues related to feminism and a woman’s agency over her body, I wonder why there would be judgment over my decision to do what I ask countless people to do:  Let a stranger see them in their bra.  I’ve seen several store owners pose with models wearing bras and dissecting the fit.  Does a top really lend that much more authority?

Throughout my life, I have always had more friends who were older than me than younger (maybe I’m an old soul?), and they all used to say that as you get older, you’ll care less about what people think.  I couldn’t fathom that in my early 20s, but now that I am approaching 30, I unconsciously have gravitated more toward this mentality both with the blog and with my life.  My blog isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.  There are a lot of them out there to read and learn from, but I realized what was most important to me was to present myself as I am to my readers and audience.  For me, blending the professional and the personal feels the most natural, and I look forward to writing many more posts in the future.  Thanks for continuing to support the shop and the blog everyone!  It truly means more than words can do justice.

Erica

Musings on Blogging and “Professionalism”
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.
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17 thoughts on “Musings on Blogging and “Professionalism”

  • June 23, 2015 at 8:21 pm
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    My dear, you are an old soul. You’ve done so much and you’re not even 30. I think it’s great that you say what you think and you are who you are. Your posts are informative and engaging. The world is changing and it’s no longer insanely renegade to post about bras (in a bra). Sure, it’s not the norm. But it’s totally germane to the work you do and you do it well.

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    • Erica
      June 24, 2015 at 12:28 pm
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      Thanks, K-Line! I agree it’s not as insane as it used to be to talk about bras in a bra, and I am glad to see the world is changing more in their attitudes about it. Most of my customers really appreciate the reviews and pictures, so it make it easier to go through the headache of doing them. 😀

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  • June 23, 2015 at 9:31 pm
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    Erica, You never fail to amaze. Like K-Line above, I’m surprised that you’re just 30.

    I dabble in astrology and couldn’t help but notice that you’re a Capricorn — which makes sense, because everything I see you do, you work hard and go all out, with the utmost commitment and no half measures. So regardless what topic you’re posting on, it’s obvious that you know your stuff.

    But you’ve managed to move away from a major pitfall for many Capricorns — forever adjusting one’s behavior so as not to stand out or raise any eyebrows. I LOVE that you model the bras you sell in the store and that you talk about your issues with PCOS and depression. It makes feel better about my premenopausal self and my own gnarly psychic struggles.

    You just keep on keeping on, and I’ll look forward to watching it all unfold on your blog. (Or just maybe in person at some point — I have friends in Asheville and would like to explore N.C. a little — especially if New England has another winter like the last one!)

    Sarah/virago

    PS I also love that you PhotoShop pears over your nipples in your pix!
    The only thing that’s made me laugh more is when I saw someone on “A Bra That Fits” PhotoShop little Nicolas Cage faces over her nipples. (Or as another commenter quickly dubbed them: “Nipple-less Cage” faces.)

    Reply
    • Erica
      June 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm
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      Hi Sarah! My mom was a Capricorn as well, so I have her to thank for my drive and ambition on multiple fronts. 😀 I only moved away from the behavior adjustment you references a couple years ago, so it’s a pretty recent development. I had a big habit of downplaying my intelligence or knowledge in certain environments to avoid being perceived as a know-it-all or whatever else I thought. Working in a tech career did not help this in many ways as there is a lot of sexism prevalent there still. Now, I am still a work in progress (aren’t we all?), but I am a lot less concerned with what other people think. As long as I’m not mistreating people, I’m good with being who I am. And it’s good to hear that talking about some of the things I have experienced help others. I could almost write a separate blog on PCOS entirely, lol. Depression was tougher to write, and I know a lot of other people struggle with expressing themselves too.

      And oh my! Whoever photoshopped in Nipple-less Cage pictures on Reddit deserves an award. I’m not sure from whom, but that is genius!! Genius! 😀 😀

      P.S. My brother was sent to Connecticut for January and February of this year, so I heard all about the New England winter. He called me and said: “Yeah, sis, it’s kind of nice today. We’ve hit 32, and it’s sunny.” I told him it was almost 60 here, and I think he contemplated hanging up on me.

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  • June 23, 2015 at 9:34 pm
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    Erica, in my opinion professionalism is not how you look, but in your knowledge, and how you convey that to others. You are a quintessential professional. I have been reading your blogs, and shopping in your store for a while now (albeit via email). I couldn’t imagine it any other way. You are a great resource for so many.

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    • Erica
      June 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm
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      Thank you! I agree professionalism is more in the knowledge you possess and the ability to express it properly. It was hard overcoming the other components I long associated with it too, and I did worry for quite a while that I made a HUGE mistake in going the direction I did. It’s good to see the blog and store’s progress now though and realize it turned out alright after all. 🙂

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  • June 26, 2015 at 2:23 pm
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    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this article and have enjoyed reading your blog over the years. I am late in the game when it comes to bra fitting but your knowledge and expertise in this subject is so helpful and informative. As my husband says you know your onions! Thank you for such honest, informative writing about not only bras but yourself. I feel I have got to know you over the years through your blog. Congratulations to you for all you have achieved!

    Reply
    • Erica
      June 27, 2015 at 9:59 am
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      Hi Alex! I am totally going to tell people I “know my onions” from now on. Love it! 😀 One of the things I should have mentioned in the post is that in letting people get to know me as a person and not just a business owner has allowed me to make connections with people all across the globe I would not have otherwise made. I think there is something to be said for opening up and being a little vulnerable here and inviting people to do the same. It’s nice to “meet” more people, like you, even if we are living across the world from each other!

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  • June 26, 2015 at 3:05 pm
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    Erica, you are a total inspiration, and you know that your transparency inspires me daily in what I do <3 Thank you for this kind of post. Xxx

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    • Erica
      June 27, 2015 at 10:00 am
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      Thanks, Jeanna! 🙂 You seem to have found your voice right away, and it rocks! It’s good to see more boutique owners “breaking the rules” and talking with customers.

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  • June 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    This is a great article, Erica. As I have mentioned (about 300 times) in your store, I am torn between the very pretty bras I want and the fact that I work primarily with men and sometimes need to project a completely professional image to be taken seriously. For conferences, I have the perfect persona down. It’s called Blandly Bitchy. Courteous and (sigh) bland when networking, and then ice cold bitchy when the (inevitable) sleezy old man I don’t know puts an arm around my shoulders. The struggle is real.

    Your blog is how Ashley and I found your store. The reviews and honest discussions about bra buying, sizing issues, etc. really help to de-mystify the complicated process of finding bras in larger sizes. I have to say that the environment you create in your store is one of the best shopping experiences to be found. My previous attempts to find bras that fit was not great, filled with condescending sales women who often felt the need to remark that there was something wrong with me because they had no bras that fit correctly. That, I think, is the height of unprofessionalism. I feel very comfortable in your store precisely because you *are* being yourself and offering honest opinions without judging. It has helped me feel a lot more comfortable with my own body, which is a miracle.

    I think your personal posts resonate with people because they are also going through whatever life is throwing at them. It’s aso nice to know I can walk into your store after I hurt my back, gained 15 pounds and cup size, and you will know exactly how I feel.

    Also, the photoshopped pears are hilarious.

    Reply
    • Erica
      June 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm
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      Kerri, I love your description of “Blandly Bitchy!” When I was in the tech field, the behavior you describe was more prevalent, but when we were briefly Chamber of Commerce members here, there was a pretty big surge in sexist remarks/overly familiar discussions/etc. The first time a guy asked if he could be a fitter and take a “hands on” approach, it was slightly funny. After you hear it 10 times in one business networking event, it’s enough to be like: Screw it, I am going home. However, you’re right that there is definitely unprofessional behavior which is often deemed totally acceptable, like the sales women you describe. I try to be honest with people because I don’t like anyone telling me something looks great when it doesn’t, especially with something like bras. I’d rather we work on finding something which does work better, but I also think telling people they have weird bodies is a fast receipt for body image demons. And I do NOT want to be a part of that. The ones you create yourself are already tough without some strange compounding them or validating them! I am happy to hear though that the shop is avoiding this and making it easier to find bras. Now if we can get swimwear off the ground, THAT will be another area where we can make things easier!!

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  • June 30, 2015 at 4:09 pm
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    I am now wrestling with the skill of covering my nipples in photos- not that I mind them showing, but I don’t want my site triggering adult filters for readers (seriously, I can’t read some blogs when I’m on Microsoft campus). I love that you use pears! I’m trying to think of something offbeat. The Nic Cage faces on Reddit are pretty genius. Some of the other skills you mentioned made me laugh or cringe because they are so true.

    Thank you as always for your honesty. You work so hard and give us so much!

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  • July 5, 2015 at 12:20 pm
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    I love this post Erica and have been reading your words for some time now. the honesty and openness is brilliant.
    I know only too well how difficult it is to write about lingerie and bra fitting and body image in a different way to everyone else and use your own voice. I havn’t ventured into videos yet I find that thought a bit scary.
    I too have taken to publishing pics of myself in bras on the website all for our customers benefits I believe they need to see that we as bra fitters have the same problems they do.
    You may like to read this post and yes some people were shocked at what I had done but many more appreciated my honesty.

    http://www.rosalingerie.co.uk/this-is-a-little-known-secret-from-a-bra-fitter/

    Keep up the good work
    Rosanne x

    Reply
    • Erica
      July 7, 2015 at 1:52 pm
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      Hi Rosanne! Pictures to me have been one of the most valuable tools for explaining fit and shape, especially if those photos are of unphotoshopped women. We carry the Wacoal Awareness bra which is very popular and fits soft tissue exceptionally well, but it is a full-coverage style. Most pictures I find have cleavage. It drives me crazy to not have accurate representations of products when talking with customers or readers about how a bra should fit. I also think having multiple breast shapes and tissue types represented can help as well, so I am glad to see more people posting pictures. 🙂 Some people are definitely shocked that I post the pictures, but like you, more appreciate the honest approach to it. The way we connect with people has changed drastically in the last ten years, and I think it makes sense that the way a business interacts with its customers will also change.

      I really enjoyed your post, especially about realizing when something is no longer fitting. I think we sometimes forget our boobs can change and how essential it is to double-check the fit of our bras! Thanks for sharing! <3

      Reply
  • July 9, 2015 at 9:30 pm
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    I enjoy reading your blog. I don’t think it’s unprofessional.

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