Tag Archives: victoria’s secret

where can LGBT people buy lingerie?

The easy answer is, wherever they want! But that’s also kind of like saying that anyone in America can achieve the American Dream and be a billionaire if they work hard enough (and we all know that’s not true).

A lot factors into where we shop. Just look at how your own shopping habits have changed from the time you were a teenager to where you are now. Consider such basic factors as where you grew up, changes in socioeconomic status, education level, and also social factors like the brand loyalties of family members and close friends. Major influences.

Sexuality is also a component that informs us as consumers. On the one hand, it can be political — seriously, find me a queer or an ally who will eat at Chick-Fil-A. But it can be more subtle. Some environments range from uncomfortable to hostile for LGBT people, for a variety of reasons. So if we reframe the question more carefully: where can LGBT people buy underthings where…

Chantal Thomass' flagship store on the Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. An intimidating storefront, even for me.

Chantal Thomass’ flagship store on the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. An intimidating storefront, even for me.

a) they will be treated like a potential customer

— meaning: they won’t be judged for what they look like (e.g. gender presentation, “alternative lifestyle haircuts,” piercings/tattoos, and/or the general assumptions about socioeconomic class that boutique owners make on a regular basis. also includes how they’re treated when shopping with someone who is obviously their partner — is the staff comfortable around them? does the staff prohibit partners from seeing each other in the dressing room?)

Gap Body Window Display - cause men and women are "born to fit together"

Gap Body Window Display – cause men and women are “born to fit together”

b) assumptions won’t be made about their sexuality

— meaning: In a store, solo shoppers won’t have to deal with staff saying “Your boyfriend would love that!” (Even if he would). Online, they won’t have to deal with gift buying guides, wish list registries, and general language explicitly tailored to male customers, implying that the only people who would buy lingerie as gifts are male partners. This is harmful for EVERYONE because it not only reinforces lingerie as 1) heteronormative but 2) it positions lingerie-wearers as objects for the male gaze.

Victoria's Secret - Chicago

Victoria’s Secret – Chicago

c) they have options in styles they find appealing

— meaning: LGBT people are people! They don’t just want to wear the high femme underthings stocked in so many brick & mortar and online boutiques. This is a particularly acute issue for LGBT persons with a more androgynous and/or butch sensibility.

Hopeless Lingerie

Hopeless Lingerie

d) they actually feel comfortable

— meaning: safe. accepted. valued. seen.

So, is there a place for LGBT people to buy lingerie that is explicitly identity- and values- affirming?

A scant handful. Sway Lingerie is one of the only explicitly queer-identified lingerie websites in existence, and their claim to fame is in pairing erotic stories with lingerie. Wishes and Kisses is explicitly geared towards men and trans* people who buy lingerie, and their selection is excellent. The language the owner uses about the trans* community is outdated, but the desire to treat her customers with respect is also communicated. I have mixed feelings about the language used on the website; it’s ultimately a personal judgement call.

A lot of the issues that face LGBT customers are not uncommon. The desire for a wider range of styles, the frustration with the singular presentation of heterosexuality in the industry, and the general feeling of a lack of safety and comfort when lingerie shopping is something I hear about on a regular basis. It’s disturbing. Customers should not feel unsafe in a store. People should not feel unsafe, ever.

My goal with Bluestockings is to create a safe space in which people can explore and play with lingerie and underthings. It’s fun! It’s for us. So, how do we make that space?

1. Include you. Use inclusive language that doesn’t make assumptions about how you live your life.

2. Show you our values (which may be your values, too). Offer a range of styles from indie designers (a lot of the designers we want to stock are women). Give you the chance to support a number of designers who are manufacturing ethically and/or staying local.

3. Represent you. And listen to you when we don’t. We take that “range of styles” thing seriously. And when you aren’t seeing what you like? Tell us! Let’s talk about it.

In curating this collection, I hope that the LGBT community gets just one more option — Bluestockings isn’t the answer, it’s not the end all and be all to what is a massive and systemic problem of representation in the lingerie and fashion industry, more broadly. But it will, hopefully, be a dent. Hopefully, a few brands will be willing to take a risk on an unknown online boutique with a mission. And hopefully, a few people will feel a little more seen.

P.S. Just cause we’re not open yet doesn’t mean we can’t start talking about what you as a customer want to see. And if you’re a designer who is on board with Bluestockings’ message and would be interested in talking options, you can email me at jeanna@bluestockingsboutique.com or message me on Twitter. It’s never too early to connect.

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Ethical Alternatives to Victoria’s Secret (for under $50)

Cheap lingerie comes at a cost, and it’s not just the fabric: it’s the labor. Companies like Target, Gap, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, Sears, and Calvin Klein (which is to say, popular destinations for lingerie buyers on a budget) have all been embroiled in sweatshop “scandals” within the last decade.

Let’s be clear about a few things:

Sweatshop labor is not a “scandal”; it’s a human rights violation. And the labor is not the kind of “free trade” these companies would have you believe — the United States might have “free trade” agreements with India, Jordan, and Singapore, to name a few of the countries involved, but these agreements are liberally written and are very much in favor of the corporations involved. 

When people (not to mention children) are kept in unsafe working conditions for upwards of 14 hours a day for >$2 in wages, that is not “free trade.” It’s slave labor in the interest of producing cheap goods, which betrays these companies’ priorities. They privilege the bottom line above all else, including treating their workers with dignity. 

You don’t have to be a politically motivated shopper to not want to reward companies that employ slave labor in so-called “sweatshops.” Victoria’s Secret, which has staked more than a third of the lingerie market share in the United States, has been embroiled in numerous legal battles over their overseas labor practices (in 2011, the National Labor Report released a damning report of the conditions in which company kept its Jordanian workers). 

The more I learn about the lingerie industry, the more I am impressed by the number of up and coming designers who are producing locally and ethically, who in many cases seek to use as many locally sourced/natural/organic materials as possible. Even some major brands like the UK-based Bravissimo (which includes brands like Cleo, Fantasie, Freya, Panache, and Tutti Rouge) have instituted Ethical Trading Policies, which includes environmental policies and details about waste packaging and charitable giving. 

It is remarkably easy to check out a brand’s website and see if they are transparent about where their lingerie is designed and produced — it takes less than a minute to Google a brand on your iPhone and see if they are transparent about their manufacturing process (or, even easier, if they show up on numerous bloggers’ lists of ethical lingerie!). Designers who produce handmade lingerie with locally sourced materials proudly say so. Ditto for those who use vegan or organic materials. Here are a few of our favorite affordable, ethical alternatives:

1. Hanky Panky

hanky panky boyshort

Hanky Panky boyshort

All Hanky Panky products are manufactured in the USA (specifically in the northeast). In their sustainability policy, they say that 100% of the fabrics and trims used to make their Signature Thong come from the USA. 100% of their packaging is from recycled paper. Underwear retails for $20-37, in S-XL with some plus size options. Organic options available. Some bras and bralettes available for under $50. 

2. Tutti Rouge

Tutti Rouge - "Fifi" in Apple Green

Tutti Rouge – “Fifi” in Apple Green

Tutti Rouge is a UK-based brand owned by Bravissimo and thus must comply with all of their ethical standards and environmental policies, which includes audits and packaging policies. Tutti Rouge caters to busty and plus size women with a flirtatiously femme aesthetic, with a range of colorful bras ranging from 28-38 D-J and underwear from XS-XXL. Bras and panties all under $50.

3. Dear Kate

tech execs in their "Dear Kate" underthings

tech execs in their “Dear Kate” underthings

Dear Kate is designed and manufactured in NYC. The company, founded by a chemical engineer, produces lingerie that has a streamlined, modern look but is perfect for athletes, new moms, and anyone dealing with periods. Underwear XS-3X, bras XS-L. Underwear retails ca. $35, bras ca. $45. 

4. Larkspur

Larkspur "Trudie" Bralette & Tap Pants in Tobacco/Navy

Larkspur “Trudie” Bralette & Tap Pants in Tobacco/Navy

Larkspur is an LA-based indie lingerie label that features eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton and repurposed silks in gorgeously simple designs. Underwear $22-29 in S-L; bralettes, bandeaus, & cotton bras $40-47 in S-L.  

What are some of your favorite affordable, ethical lingerie brands? 

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