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.
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?
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.
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.