What makes lingerie queer? How does lingerie intersect with sexuality? Those are tough questions, and over the next few days, an incredible group of people will tackle the subject.
This week, we are talking with some of my favorite BAMFs on the internet: lingerie bloggers who are both LGBTQIA+ identified and out on their blogs (in this industry, a not insignificant feat). They all tackle the intersection of fashion and gender & sexuality in different ways - some explicitly, others subtly. Unsurprisingly, there are diverse and nuanced opinions and experiences. However, considering the relationship of gender and sexuality to lingerie from the perspective of LGBTQIA+ lingerie bloggers - people who do not often see this particular part of their identity and experience reflected in mainstream lingerie and fashion - is vitally important. And since June is Pride month, this conversation seemed particularly fitting.
Part one (today’s segment) focuses on introducing all the bloggers and discussing how they personally see their gender identification and sexuality intersecting with lingerie. Part two, which will be published later this week, focuses on how LGBTQIA+ issues are at play in their blogs, and also how they see LGBTQIA+ issues affecting the lingerie industry.
Let's meet the roundtable.
Tell us about yourself and how you got into lingerie.
Photo Credit: James Brown for Irreverent Dance
Lori Smith of Rarely Wears Lipstick: I became more interested in lingerie after being invited for a fitting at UK full-bust retailer Bravissimo, in order to review their service for a website I was writing for at the time. Since then, I have been desperate to learn more, so much so that I wrote my Master's dissertation on the history of the bra last year!
Cora Harrington of The Lingerie Addict: I first became interested in lingerie because I wanted something nice to wear while I was in a relationship. However, I couldn't find any advice on how to buy it, or where to buy it, or what was worth buying, so I just started writing reviews of the things I tried. My blog, which is now called The Lingerie Addict, just grew organically from there. On both a personal and professional level, I'm very interested in the intersection of culture and lingerie, and how a few pieces of satin and lace are imbued with so many assumptions about people's (usually, women's) bodies.
Jilly of JillysFrillies: I have a number of names. My birth name, my femme name (Selina), and my lingerie blogging name, Jilly (jillysfrillies), the name I came up with for my lingerie writing and website. I’m trans, out to many but recently out to the lingerie community. Lingerie occupies a unique place in that my feelings are inspired from both aspects of myself. I’ve been writing about lingerie for a few years and have written copy, reviews and blogs for other sites as well as my own. I’ve also worked with other lingerie companies on promotion and marketing.
Rose Wednesday of The Lingerie Addict: I’ve always been obsessed with how clothing, especially lingerie and corsetry, can change the shape of the body. When I started identifying as genderqueer that interest intensified. I applied to work for The Lingerie Addict when Cora put out a call for diverse bloggers; at first I didn’t know whether I’d be able to do it, but as time went on it seemed more and more plausible that I could talk about lingerie as a tool of gender mutability.
The Technicolor Lover: I was born and raised in California's Bay Area and have a background in Graphic Design and Illustration. My love of lingerie erupted out of a need to be more accepting of myself and my body in the aftermath of a toxic relationship. As time has gone on, I've become more interested in how lingerie intersects with my love of design. I've also become fascinated with all the sentiment and implication that can be tied into such small garments.
Liz (Denocte) of Kurvendiskussionen: My name is Liz, I go by my pseudonym "Denocte" when blogging and basically existing online. I'm in my late twenties and am a white cis bi poly girl living in Austria with my boyfriend and three cats. I got into lingerie back when I was about twenty. I found out that my body wasn’t "wrong" but rather, that I’d been wearing the wrong size of bras, and this fascinated me so much that I started really reading up and experimenting with bra sizes and bra fitting. By now, lingerie is a major topic in my life: I blog about lingerie and feminism and body image on kurvendiskussionen.at in German and English. Nice lingerie is the one thing that is a sure thing to pick me up when I'm down.
Caro of The Lingerie Lesbian: My name is Caro and I currently run the blog 'The Lingerie Lesbian.' I live in NYC where I am currently working on some fashion design projects. I actually got into lingerie when I was in college, around the same time I realized I was gay. There was a burgeoning of both my sexuality and my love of lingerie at the same time which was kind of how they got entwined. I had found lingerie interesting from afar since I was younger, but it wasn't until then that I thought, "Hey, there is no reason why you shouldn't try it out for yourself!" After I graduated from college and worked a little, I decided to pursue another degree in fashion design, which I thought I would use to design lingerie, but I actually became more interested in dresses and eveningwear.
How do you see lingerie intersecting with your sexuality?
Lori: I'm not sure that lingerie intersects with my sexuality as such, but there are interesting parallels. I don't define my bisexuality as binary (because we all know the gender binary doesn't exist, right?). Instead, I describe it as being attracted to people of the same gender as me, and also people who are a different gender to me. In a similar way, I am attracted to many different styles of underwear aimed at many different types of people. However, much like my relationships, I only actively choose those which I feel suit me.
Cora: In practice, my lingerie doesn't have much of an effect or an impact on the daily expression of my sexuality. I've been in a monogamous relationship with my now-husband for almost 6 years now, and he is completely disinterested in lingerie (very supportive professionally, incredibly bored personally). I'm sure, consciously or not, that helps to pull my interest in lingerie a bit more to the fashion side of things. Sometimes, I see lingerie as an opportunity for "dress-up" (such as the silk dressing gown I bought to wear during my honeymoon), but even then, it felt like something that was more for me and my sensual enjoyment as opposed to my partner. Now earlier, when I was in my early twenties, lingerie as a means of erotic play (or a way of exhibiting my sexuality) was relevant to me, but I see that as part of the greater exploration around my identity that was happening at the same time.
Jilly: It inspires moods and sensations from feeling pretty and sexy to aroused. I don’t always get the time to dress fully but the simple addition of a babydoll or lingerie makes my world less frustrating, lonely, or painful sometimes.
Rose: I feel as though it’s taken me a while to see lingerie as part of my sexuality and not just part of my presentation. I was raised in a very gender-neutral hippie environment and there was always this idea presented to me that sexiness was objectification. So it took me a while to be okay with how much I enjoy gender pageantry, which is what lingerie seems to me to be.
TCL: For me, wearing lingerie is an act of self-acceptance and an extension of self-expression. Since my sexuality is an integral part of who I am, the two naturally intersect. Additionally, I don't think the ties between lingerie and sex can be ignored, even though I do not think the two should necessarily be linked. I identify as queer because I am attracted to my own gender and other genders. Many people who identify as queer, bisexual, or pansexual can experience a sense of isolation and invisibility in both straight and gay environments. The notion of your sexuality being on trial is an all too common experience. As such, the need for self-acceptance becomes all the more important.
Liz/Denocte: For me, choosing the right kind of lingerie for how I feel makes all the difference in how I perceive myself. I can choose more aggressive, strappy sets when wanting to empower myself or take good care of my vulnerable side by choosing something silky soft that hugs my body and protects me. My underwear is the first layer of clothes on my skin, and it is a very important part of me.
Caro: Lingerie is definitely a way I have explored my femininity and is actually one of the avenues through which I can truly embrace all the frills, pastels and floweryness that I wouldn't necessarily choose to always display outwardly or that might not always be appropriate. I feel that in many ways my comfort with lingerie is only possible alongside a comfort about my own sexuality, but I don't view it as primarily a form of sexual expression.
Warner's Lingerie Ad, 1956.
How do you see lingerie intersecting with your gender presentation?
Lori: My choice of underwear definitely reflects my gender presentation. I identify as femme but lack the dedication required for high femme, so my lingerie tends to be feminine but functional, with very little in the way of frills, colour or embellishments.
Cora: I definitely see lingerie as a way to express my gender identity, and, furthermore, to play with what being a woman who enjoys lingerie means. Lately, I've been getting a lot of inspiration from Grace Jones and how her sense of style deliberately toyed with perceptions of femininity, masculinity, androgyny, aggressiveness, sexiness, and so on. There's definitely this idea that lingerie is supposed to be about sex and is supposed to be about one specific expression of femininity or feminine identity; you see that in the bows that adorn even the most basic bra. While I always see myself or identify as a woman, there's a lot of room in there for what "lingerie for women" can mean or look like, and I enjoy personally exploring how that looks to me.
Jilly: It’s fundamental. A bra is, for me, the single most important item. To express as female, lingerie is vital, especially as I cannot express that part of me all the time. There are businesses that specialise in lingerie for men. That feels so hideously wrong for me.
TCL: I think lingerie can provide a uniquely intimate way of playing with gender expression. My gender presentation has fluctuated drastically throughout my life. When I was younger I was very masculine of center and today I'm usually more at home as a vintage-clad super femme. So, it's probably unsurprising that when it comes to lingerie I'm very attracted to both androgynous and traditionally feminine styles. I'm particularly excited by designers who explore the area between the two such as Chantal Thomass, who frequently incorporates menswear elements into her pieces. Equally interesting are designers like VPL or Sophie Hines who create bold, geometric silhouettes while simultaneously utilizing subtle pastels and sheer fabrics.
Liz/Denocte: I never questioned my gender presentation until I started thinking more about lingerie. Now I love how much I can express myself through what I wear on my skin. Although I'm still comfortable with labeling myself as cis, I'm experimenting a lot with different gender presentations to match my looks to what I feel like.
Being very small busted, it is easier for me to handle the boob problem when binding, which is a blessing for someone like me who's still trying out stuff. I'd like to call that phase #genderinprogress because for me it's fluid, and I won't ever be at a place where I just say "ok this is it" - and I realise how much of a privilege this is to be able to do so. I LOVE that I can experiment and wear what makes me comfortable. For me, whole new worlds opened when I tried out less feminine and more androgynous lingerie choices.
P.S. Stay tuned for part two, coming later this week!
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