First, it needs to be said that this article is coming from someone who has not published a bra review. I do, however, read a ton of bra reviews, both for bras I’m interested in and from bloggers around my size, and for bras I’m not interested in, from bloggers as far from my size(s) as you could find.
Bra reviews are, in many ways, the bread and butter of the lingerie blogosphere. Most new lingerie bloggers get their start by publishing bra reviews. Many of the tried-and-true industry blogs, The Lingerie Addict included, still publish a substantial number of reviews, in a variety of forms.
Why? Reviews from bloggers are trusted (which is part of why brands send free stuff to bloggers in the hopes of getting a good review, though ethical bloggers will still say what they think—and tell you if the product is free swag). Bloggers tend to be much more thorough than reviews on e-commerce websites such as Amazon, and since lingerie bloggers are lingerie enthusiasts, they have the knowledge to describe exactly what’s happening with fit. I have often read something technical in a review and then had the revelatory “Oh! That’s what’s happening!” moment.
me finding out a new word or phenomenon to describe what's happening in my bra. aka oprah winfrey, legend.
I am excited by the increasing diversity we are seeing in the lingerie world, and I desperately want to see more diversity in blogging. It bears noting that the vast majority of blogs I can think of are run by white women under 40, most of whom are able-bodied, cisgendered, and straight.
Part of why I wanted to write about “how to write” a bra review is because the more people we have writing bra reviews, the more our conception of how bras fit, or should fit changes.
Moreover, the more people we have writing reviews of underthings, generally, the more our ideas expand to encompass a broader understanding of what kind of underthings people like, or what people wearing underthings look like.
At this point, we’ve established that bra reviews are useful and that we need more diversity in the industry. So why would I, a business owner, write this kind of post? I might not write bra reviews (yet), but I’ve taught college writing for years. I think the process of embarking on blogging, or of writing a bra review, can seem scarier than it is.
So let’s break down some key questions to consider before embarking on your first review.
Question #1: Am I using clear, accessible language? Accessible reviews are, first and foremost, well written. What does that mean? The review should have clear formatting and few, if any, grammatical errors. In a 24/7 news cycle, why should your readers stick around if your review is just a big block of text that's hard to understand? Good style helps, and so does humor, but remember the bare bones of whatever basic writing instruction you’ve received in your life. Make it easy to read. Don’t make your readers do the work of parsing what you mean.
The second layer to this is clearly explaining technical vocabulary. I always learn something from the best lingerie reviews, and back in the early days I soaked up information like a sponge. You don’t have to be a lingerie designer to be able to explain what a gore is and why it should “tack,” or to suggest some solutions for fitting issues you encounter with the particular bra you’re tackling (i.e. spilling out of the cups = keep the band size, go up a cup size). Including relevant information, such as whether the bra you’re trying is sized differently than another bra you’re familiar with within the same brand, can also be helpful.
Question #2: Is the review digestible? Sometimes, it seems like there are two categories of bra reviews: reviews for everyday people, and reviews for what the industry calls Intimate Apparel Enthusiasts. Dedicated blog readers are IAEs; everyday folks who google bra reviews for a certain brand, or bra reviews for their size, are just looking for an accessible, readable review that isn’t going to take them fifteen minutes to get through.
The reason I suggest this is because more often than not, I stumble upon bra reviews that are extremely long (oftentimes, unnecessarily so). Those reviews lose everyday readers who don’t care about the technicalities of, say, different types of underwire. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I think you can talk about super technical details that interest IAEs and shoot for a length that is digestible.
The key here is revision. I cannot stress the importance of revising your work. Nothing comes out pretty the first time. I tell my students that good writing only happens with a commitment to revision. First drafts are always ugly, but you have words on a page, and you have to have words on a page in order to revise! One tip: try using a consistent format for your reviews. Organize your blog post with a small number of categories to focus on for every bra, such as “fit” or “style.” This also helps reviews become more manageable for you, so you’re not just typing randomly at a blank page.
listen to zoe saldana
Question #3: Do I need to use pictures and visuals? This is a key question. Though I would argue that pictures of the bra/binder/set being reviewed is essential, whether you need to post pictures of you wearing the underthings in question is another story. There are a handful of outstanding bloggers who don’t post pictures of themselves wearing lingerie—Amber of Scarlet’s Letter and The Lingerie Lesbian come to mind. Many, however, do, and it’s worth working through why that is.
Visuals help readers assess both product quality and fit for themselves. If the blogger has described the fit as comfortable, or as uncomfortable, as “good,” or as “bad,” well—what does that mean? Visuals are important for creating some semblance of consistency. Our bodies are so different, and if you say “I’m usually a size [X], and this bra was true to size and had a fabulous fit,” I have no idea what that means, primarily because I don’t know what constitutes a great fit for you. Do you like things snug? Do you like to have a little room to move? Reviews are evaluative, which is why it’s so helpful to have a variety of reviews for single products. But we all also have a diversity of taste, and unless a brand is sending out product for review, it’s unlikely that we are all going to be buying the same product (which, moreover, probably doesn’t come in all of our sizes to begin with!).
Even though many people do post pictures of themselves in lingerie, it is worth noting that it took a lot of folks a lot of time to actually post pictures of their bodies. And still others don’t post pictures of their face! It’s all about comfort level. If you aren’t comfortable, don’t post pictures of yourself, end of story. Listen to Zoe Saldana. And read reviews from people who don't post pictures of themselves, to see how formatting might be different. Basically: do your research! Then go forth and kick ass.
So, confession time. My personal preference for reviews that show someone wearing lingerie is a major reason as to why I haven’t posted any bra reviews myself. I have a few hang-ups related to visuals that I’m working through. The biggest one is the fact that my (very google-able) real name is very attached to my business. A high number of bloggers don’t have their real names or any identifying information on their blogs, which is telling. No matter how feminist we are, no matter how much we love lingerie, women face very real consequences in our society for lingerie-ing in public. (Just see my last blog post on Beyonce.) Even though this is my business, I’m coming out of academia—I still teach, and I volunteer with kids, and unfortunately, having lingerie photos, no matter how professionally presented, could be a serious roadblock in those areas. Posting pictures just seems like too big a risk at this time.
Everyone has a different path to walk. I don’t think everyone is obligated to post pictures of themselves as some kind of feminist statement, and I don’t think everyone has to write reviews. But I would love to see more people writing reviews. I would love to see those reviews be engaging, high quality pieces. Because this is how change happens: by diversifying the input streams. It’s not just about having more diversity among the designers, or among the business owners—it’s also about changing the face of the customer. You. P.S. Don't miss another blog post! Sign up for the Bluestockings newsletter and stay tuned for launch news!