If you read Amber's twitter bio, it says "Blogger, Writer, Dreamer," and I can't think of a better way to introduce her. Amber's lingerie blog Scarlet's Letter exists at the intersection of fashion and fantasy, incorporating her encyclopedic knowledge of lingerie and constant unearthing of new designers with her love of all things literary and geeky (basically, she's my kind of person).
Cited by The Lingerie Addict as one of the Five Lingerie Blogs to Follow in 2014, shortly after Scarlet's Letter made the switch from focusing on sex toys to lingerie, Scarlet's Letter has become an industry favorite.
I didn't realize until I started Bluestockings that I'd actually been reading Amber's blog for a long time - specifically her Geeky Fan Girl's Guide to Lingerie series, guaranteed to appeal to anyone who has ever been involved in any fandom whatsoever. (Srsly, go take a look. This interview will still be here when you get back.)
Suffice it to say: it is an utter pleasure to be talking to Amber today.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I’m 32, possibly one of the only lingerie bloggers in their thirties right now. I was born and raised in the Midwest (Michigan), and then in my early twenties I moved to NYC to pursue my acting career professionally. Now I’m back in my hometown, finishing my novel. I plan on re-locating to California by the end of the year.
I taught myself HTML as a teenager and first began blogging before blogs were a thing, back in 1997. People used to tease me and say “WHY do you need your own website?” but really, I just always loved keeping an online journal and doing website design. My website was called ‘Peroxide Cocktails’, and it was a personal blog featuring my writing/poetry. I took a hiatus for a few years, and then I started Scarlet’s Letter in 2008. It was actually a sex toy blog. In 2012, I slowly started merging my love of lingerie into the blog, and by early 2013, I re-branded the site as a full-time lingerie blog.
What's your lingerie philosophy?
I really fell in love with lingerie because of the fashion aspect of it. The designs, the beautiful materials -- that’s what I loved most. To me, fashion will always have precedence over fit. Fit is important, and I love when women get a bra fitting and feel great. But for me, I love lingerie first and foremost for how it looks and for how it makes me feel when I’m wearing it. Wear whatever lingerie you love; you don’t have to “dress” for your body type. Dress for you.
From Amber's Summer Drinks and Underthings collage. (Her collages are literally the best.)
You have a number of unique, pop culture-driven series on your blog [e.g. my personal fave, The Geeky Fan Girl's Guide to Lingerie]. What inspired them? Do you have a favorite series?
I think lingerie is fun. For me, if lingerie wasn’t fun to blog about, I wouldn’t do it. So I like to infuse as much fun into lingerie blogging as I can. I’m a geek at heart, and I’ve always been a very creative person, so I like being able to merge those things into the blog.
I feel like lingerie is sexualized by the media so much as it is, that I like showcasing lingerie in different aspects to remind people that it’s not just about sex or a stigma. It’s about fashion and fun, too. It can even be nostalgic, or geeky, if you want.
I really enjoy making all of my series, but my Inspired By Lingerie collages, Geeky Fan Girl’s Guide to Lingerie, and some of my newer stuff like Literary Lingerie are a few of my favorites to create. I just did a few posts pairing lingerie and ice cream, and lingerie and summer drinks as well. So I feel like a new arm will branch off of the blog and become Lingerie Mixtape, or Lipstick and Lingerie, and then it gets a lot more hits than I expected and other people seem to like it, so I continue to expand on those series.
One of Amber's recent product shots from her review of the Minnie Longline by Cleo.
I frequently cite you as an example of a successful lingerie blogger who does not use personal photographs (of yourself in lingerie/swimwear). What prompted that decision, and what has reader response been like?
I’m glad you brought this up! I’ve shared bra pics or a rare underwear pic in reviews in the past, but it’s not something I do regularly at all. I haven’t had any readers mention it, honestly, but I’m sure it could affect how people feel about my blog or take me seriously as a blogger.
Part of it is placed in the fact that I do deal with anxiety disorder on a daily basis, and I think that has something to do with it. Honestly it wasn’t a decision -- it was just something I was used to, as a previous sex toy blogger, just sharing product photos. So I tend to focus on lay flats, but it’s something that I am working on. I hope to share more photos of myself in lingerie on the blog this year!
You are a passionate advocate for indie designers, especially those who are providing us with gorgeous, handmade lingerie and swimwear. What advice would you give someone looking to start purchasing handmade underthings for themselves? Conversely, what are some telltale signs that certain designers or items are to be avoided?
I love handmade to order lingerie and fashion. It’s something I was into even before I was blogging. As a kid, I was always making my own clothing and jewelry and such. I can’t sew though -- not very well, anyway -- so I’m fascinated by those who are so talented at it.
I have so much respect for independent brands and made to measure designers. They put so much work into their designs. Some of my favorites are Amelia Thomas Vintage, La Lilouche, and Sacha Kimmes, to name a few. All of these designers are making lingerie that far exceeds the quality you’d find in mass produced brands. I tend to stay away from fast fashion, and I love buying items that I know were ethically made, or where I’m supporting one woman shops where the designer does it all from start to finish. It makes me feel good to support handmade brands, and I love the idea of each piece basically being a one of a kind garment.
However, because I buy a lot of handmade, I have a high expectation for what makes a good quality handmade piece. I buy from Etsy brands a lot, and nearly all of them have been great experiences, but I have tried a few newer brands that I was horrified by the quality of garment. I’ve written posts before providing tips for those who are looking to buy handmade. My main advice would be to remember to look at product photos carefully, check edges and stitching, check the materials used. Look up lingerie reviews for a brand before buying to see what other customers are saying. You often get what you pay for, and the same goes for handmade, so don’t let a higher price shy you away. The designers are pricing their product, craftsmanship, and materials, and all that factors into price. So in my experience, if you want quality lingerie, you have to be willing to pay for it, much like you would for luxury lingerie. I think that handmade is a type of luxury in a way, because most of it is limited edition, made to order, and many brands even do custom designs/colorways.
What, to your mind, are the most pressing issues facing the lingerie industry today?
Diversity, diversity, diversity! I can’t say this enough. I’m a petite white woman who wears a 34F bra and XS panties, so I’m good on being represented. There is a large gap in race, sexuality, body size when it comes to the industry.
I’d love to see more brands using androgynous models and gender queer models. I’d like the industry to realize that the LGBTQ community wears lingerie, too. It’s not just a cisgendered heterosexual privilege. I’d love to see more plus sized women in the industry and plus-sized women of all sizes: pear shaped, apple, hourglass. Plus doesn’t just come in one shape. We need to see WOC in the industry. Often when a brand does show a woman of color, they choose a model who tends to appeal to more of the “conventional” Western beauty standards, and I think that really takes something away from beautiful black women and young girls all over the world and sends the wrong message. All women are real, all women are good enough, all women are beautiful. Just as they are.
That’s why I like brands like Dear Kate, RodeoH, and Kiss Me Deadly, and shops like Forever Yours Lingerie and Bluestockings Boutique. I feel like they’re putting their money where their mouth is. You can say you’re all for diversity, but those are just words unless you back it up with action.
The full bust/small back market has experienced a boom in recent years. Can you speak more about areas where you'd like to see some growth -- or, conversely, areas where there has been growth, but perhaps where that growth hasn't been well received (or publicized)?
Growing up, I didn’t have a lot to choose from -- mostly black, white, and beige – and stores never seemed to stock anything larger than a 32-42 D cup. Today, the lingerie industry has grown so much, and in recent years, the full bust market has grown in general. A few of my favorites are Claudette, Tutti Rouge, Curvy Kate, Freya, Maison Lejaby, and Empreinte, to name a few. Many specialize in small back, like All Undone and upcoming brand Scarletta.
I’d love to see more brands using French lace and luxury materials, as I’d be more than willing to pay for the bra of my dreams! Money talks though, so until people pay with their cash instead of just lip service, it may be awhile. Brands make sizes that sell; that’s just the fact of the lingerie market. I feel like we get a lot of colorful prints and florals, but we’re a bit low on leavers lace and silk and delicate styles.
However, I know there are important communities that need the love and attention right now too, including small busts. One of the most underserved consumers are the large band/small bust, so in turn, I feel like it’s about time for these women to have the attention that they finally deserve.
I recently read your incredibly thoughtful, vulnerable, articulate post on OCD and anxiety. Can you speak more about your thoughts on blending what might be perceived as "other" issues into a lingerie/fashion blog? Where do you draw the line between the "personal" and the “professional"?
Thank you! It was a hard post for me to write, and honestly, it took me two days to press “publish”. While my blog is about lingerie, it’s also written by me. Like everyone, there are many aspects of me in the blog as well, from my fandom (Harry Potter forever) to my love of fun and fashionable lingerie, including made to order and luxury lingerie, which are things I prefer. I also like to talk about breast asymmetry and breast ptosis (sagging), which are personal issues for me, and often inject my humor and geekery into posts.
While my OCD/anxiety isn’t who I am, it makes up part of who I am, and I know that there are other lingerie bloggers out there that have mental health issues. Why not share it? In a way, I was in the mental health closet online, and it felt like a coming out of sorts. What better place to do it than on my blog that surely is about lingerie, but also is full of shades of me and is shaped by who I am and how I think. I feel like professional and personal can go hand in hand, when blogging the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m not sharing details about my sex life, or my entire biography; I’m simply sharing a part of me that does in some ways present itself on the blog (my lack of photos of myself in lingerie, for example). So in that, why not? I’m still Amber, blogger of Scarlet’s Letter. I just peeled back the onion a bit and introduced you to another layer.
You are one of my go-to blogs for my daily round of lingerie news. Who are some of your favorites?
The Daily Knicker: Tiah is amazing. We met through blogging, which just goes to show the connections and sisterhood that women can make through discussing lingerie. See, men of the world, wearing lingerie isn’t about you after all ;) She is like my twin in so many ways, and she’s so smart, so witty and makes me laugh until my sides hurt. Her lingerie photos are amazing, both her professional photoshoots as well as the ones she takes at home by herself to share on the blog. She’s just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She’s full of dreams and goals, she’s a hard worker and a fantastic mother. She does it all! We always have each others’ back both online and offline. She’s one of my favorite things to happen to lingerie blogging, not only because her blog is awesome and she gives us an insider insight to the industry, but because she’s also become one of my very best friends.
The Lingerie Addict: Cora is a pillar of grace and strength. She’s paved the way in so many aspects of lingerie blogging. She’s the blogger who I can always count on to be honest, and talk about important issues like diversity, body acceptance, and race. She walks the walk. She’s created an empire really, a revolution, that has helped other women come together and talk openly about lingerie, without embarrassment or judgment. Countless women have accepted and learned to love their bodies, and learned tolerance for other body types through Cora’s kind words and integrity to be a ‘snark free zone’. Cora has really opened the door to so many conversations on TLA, and her beauty and her heart inspires me daily. The lingerie community, and blogging community at large, would be at a loss without her. Thank you Cora, for all you do and continue to do.
Bluestockings Blog: Jeanna, you’re such a girlboss. I have no other way to describe you. You’ve been unstoppable from day one. From the first moment you followed me on Twitter, well before Bluestockings was open for business, you had a plan and it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to watch your dream come to fruition. I also admire you for running a blog on top of it all! Thank you for talking about topics that most shy away from, and thank you for being so inclusive and giving all women a safe place to shop and feel comfortable while doing so.
I read many of the blogs in the lingerie community, but a few I’m also a big fan of are: The Butterfly Collection blog, Write Me Bad Checks, A Sophisticated Pair blog, Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, and the Esty Lingerie blog, Kurvendiskussionen, among others… I could probably sit here all day and list blogs. I’m also really enjoying the newer blogs The Technicolor Lover and Thigh Highs and Glitter.
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