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Diversity is More Than A Bra Size: What It’s Like to Be a Woman of Color in the Lingerie Industry

Today's post was really hard to write. I've been thinking about the things I'm about to say now for months, but it's only become clear in the last few weeks they urgently need to be said.

I never know which articles people see first when they visit The Lingerie Addict, and we get a lot of new visitors everyday. So I'm going to say a few things which are probably obvious to my longtime readers, but may be less obvious to visitors who are new or who don't come around as much.

  1. I'm black.
  2. I'm a US dress size 10, bra size 34C.
  3. I weigh 175 lbs.
  4. I'm American.

I'm saying all that to give you a bit of context about who I am and the perspective I'm writing from because, for some time now, I feel like the conversation on diversity within the lingerie industry has been dominated by those who behave like diversity only matters along one axis, and that's size.

It's reached the point where the common refrain I'm hearing from bra bloggers, lingerie retailers, and even some of my own readers when talking about me or this blog is, "Well, you're a C cup. You don't know what it's like to be ignored by the lingerie industry." And as much as I love everybody out there, it it really takes a lot of self-control to not get upset when I hear comments about like that.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a woman of color, but this isn't a blog about women of color. It's a lingerie blog. And so I'm shocked when people, who either didn't notice or didn't think about the implications of my being black, complain about how underrepresented they are. Because they're not seeing that almost everyone is underrepresented... including me, the woman who started the blog.

Though I've talked some about equal representation within the lingerie industry, I haven't written about this exact issue before because talking about race in America is hard. And I think it's even harder when you're a racial minority. As a person of color, you often feel like you're caught in a perpetual Catch-22. You can either avoid talking about your ethnicity (which effectively means pretending like it doesn't matter) or you can talk about it openly and deal with the blowback, which often includes stinging accusations like "crying racism."

The reason I'm bringing this up now is because, over the last year or so, I've watched the conversation on diversity shrink from one that was more inclusive of all women to one that only seems relevant to fuller-busted or fuller-figured women. I've seen so many articles and comments and blogs focusing on dress size and bra size and cup size, but next to none talking about other, equally important, issues like age, ability or, yes, ethnicity.

In a way, I understand why. People tend to talk more about issues which personally affect them, and, since the lingerie blogosphere is primarily made up of full bust and plus size bloggers, that viewpoint has become the dominant one. Unfortunately, a consequence of that is issues which aren't related to size keep getting pushed further and further down the priority list in the general lingerie conversation.

The responses to the Victoria's Secret article a couple of weeks ago really crystallized for me how much the debate on diversity has shrunk recently (no pun intended). One of the things I've always appreciated about Victoria's Secret's catalogs is that they include at least one black model. Now there's still a lot of work to do when it comes to the whole representation thing (call me when they're regularly featuring an Asian model or a model over 40), but that still puts Victoria's Secret decades ahead of the typical lingerie US lingerie brand, some of whom have existed for over half a century without using a single model of color in any context.

Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly happy that plus size women, fuller busted women, and fuller figured women are getting as much attention from the mainstream industry as they are now. It's a wonderful thing, and I'm glad our notion of what is beautiful is expanding (again, no pun intended).

But the sad truth is I can go weeks at a time without coming across a nice photo of a woman of color in lingerie. And if we're talking older women or disabled women, it can be months. The same simply isn't true for fuller-figured or fuller-busted women.

And I wonder... if the comparative absence of plus sized bodies and full busted bodies in the lingerie industry has such a profoundly negative effect on women who are part of those groups, how much more so must the near-invisibility of women of color, disabled women, and older women have on those groups?

The fact that one kind of representation (in this case, size) is being treated as more important than other kinds is frustrating. And, if I'm perfectly honest, it's infuriating too. And here's why. And telling you this makes me tear up.

We live in a world where children as young as five have already internalized the message that black is ugly and white is pretty. We live in a world where fashion magazines regularly lighten the skin of women of color. We live in a world where, when asked why they didn't use more models of color, brands respond with, "Well, we couldn't find any good ones."

Even worse, we live in a world where women of color are afraid of bringing up these issues lest we be dismissed by the very industry we seek to be a part of.

In my own life, I've been told that I'm "pretty for a dark skinned girl." I've been told that I'm "too dark to date." I've been told that I'd be prettier if only I were "less black." And though I think we can all agree there is something seriously wrong with those kinds of statements, that messaging is constantly being reinforced by the industry at large.

It's reinforced every time a lingerie company refuses to cast, or even consider, a model of color. It's reinforced every time a lingerie brand is praised and awarded for their diversity in using fuller-figured women, but gets no comments at all on the fact their models that look the same in every other respect. It's reinforced every time I get a snippy remark from someone who insists I don't know what it's like to be ignored by the lingerie industry because I happen to wear a C cup.

The reason Victoria's Secret's models don't upset me anymore is because the entire lingerie industry is pretty much using the same model. She's always a young, white, able-bodied woman, whether her dress size is a 6 or a 16.

And I think what bothers me most of all is that I get so many messages from the plus sized and fuller figured blogging community insisting I need to do more for women "who look like them" (which I try to do), yet there's no such passion about doing more for women like me (or like some of you). We all crave seeing people resemble us. And it makes me sad that the "us" in this discussion has somehow become so one-sided.

The conversation needs to expand beyond just bra sizes again. Companies are getting praised for "pushing the boundaries of what's beautiful" when in so many ways, they've just repackaged the exact same standards in a slightly larger package.

We all need to be more invested in broadening our notions of what's beautiful. Diversity is more than a bra size.

What do you think? Is there something you're wanting to see more of in the lingerie industry that you haven't seen before? Have you run across an image that truly challenges our norms of what's beautiful? I'd love to get your thoughts in the comments.


Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

100 Comments on this post

  1. soda88 says:

    Thanks for talking about these issues. As a minority, I know that its hard because it emphasizes being a minority, and a lot of people would like to forget that. For some of the same reasons, I appreciate that you too wear your hair natural. Plus, it looks stunning in the photo and complements the look well with the flower, etc…I agree that there isn’t much diversity in lingerie. I see Asian models even less than black, and black very rarely…There is a beautiful model on the Krisline site who looks biracial! and has an unusual narrow-framed body, along with a busty full-figured blonde woman and a darker haired slender I think hourglass white woman (not meant to sum up these women, just for the sake of the following argument). So, I guess that’s pretty diverse for one line, their models look ethnically different (including the white women) and also have different body types.
    I think there is a lot of diversity in lingerie offered for full figured women actually. And models are reflective of that. Not always, of course, sometimes I’m like “no one who wears that line is near that slender!” but usually the brands that cater to the full figured have at least a model who is as well. It can even be an indication of which brand line is best to wear because it’s more subtle for a line to use plus size models than to call themselves plus-sized, etc… A good example is the models used for Freya as opposed to Goddess or Elomi. Even though both are thinner than the demographic using them, they are still somewhat of a reflection of targeted demographic. They may even be more slender because shoppers usually like to look at thinner people than themselves, even if they don’t enjoy rail thin like some Victoria’s Secret models… Still, everyone knows that lingerie models aren’t shaped like runway models and not even always like catalogue models, there is more leeway because the lingerie doesn’t have to and shouldn’t hang off you.
    So, because of all that, right now I think diversity of race in lingerie models is more pertinent than diversity of size.
    There are some diversity of fit issues for women who aren’t full figured though. I think that most things that don’t work for me would work on fuller figures, like Curvy Kate and Panache…I have a hard time finding bras because I’m thin and narrow up top with huge boobs, and because I don’t gain any weight there I can only wear the least rounded most conical cuts. But I know I’m an anomaly and don’t expect to find very many lines that focus on projected breasts. Poland, here I come…also can’t wait for the new Flirtelle’s, if there are to be any more, all my Panache Cleos are sooo not the right cut inside the cups.
    Anyways, sorry for the ramble, yah cool post.

  2. nugget says:

    FWIW, my first reaction to the photo at the start of your post was, ‘Whoaaaa! She’s beautiful!’

    >.> I wish there were more models who looked like you!

    I’m a Chinese chick, in case that lends context. XD

  3. Vik says:

    I’m white, and I worked in a high-end lingerie shop for 8 months. Representation of POC models isn’t the only problem extant in the lingerie industry – there are also issues of providing clients of colour with bras and underwear that are invisible under light-coloured clothing. For white people, there are plentiful beige, white and red/pink (which is a neutral under white for white people) sets of lingerie available, but the same can’t be said for people with olive/gold, copper or brown skintones. Colours that would be neutrals on POC bodies are very uncommon and often come in fanciful, pretty-but-impractical designs and at great cost. Honestly, I’m not sure if more options will become available until we see more POC representation in lingerie catalogues.

  4. jessa says:

    As far as diversity in advertising goes, I’m with you. It’s in all of our interests to have a more diverse set of models in the images we are constantly bombarded – diverse not just in race and body size, but in body shape, height, age, disability/ability. When’s the last time you saw a model with a high waist to hip ratio, or with peruvian features, and so on. The fact is that for one reason or another, very very few women are actually represented by the models we currently have. Even if you are white, you may not have that body shape, you may have a disability and so on. We’ll never be able to represent everyone all the time, but by mixing it up a bit we could do everyone’s left esteem a favour.

    However, as a full bust customer I would say that my issue with inclusion is less with advertising and more with product. I mean, as a short girl, I am completely unrepresented in the world of fashion advertising in general, but I can still (mostly) wear lingerie advertised by taller girls. While the offerings for fuller busts have improved, I still find it difficult to find products that fit me and meet my aesthetics and practical needs, especially since going up to a g cup and that is much more of an immediate problem for me. I understand there are more issues surrounding diversity in race than in things like height and shape, I just think diversity in advertising and diversity in product are different things, and I know this comes up for women of colour too (like “nude” bras for dark-skinned women) but that doesn’t seem to be the issue you’re addressing here.

    On another point, you mentioned VS using black models, I am curious whether you feel that their dark skinned models are diverse enough? That may seem like a weird question, but it seems to me like even their models of colour have very similar features and body types to their white models, which do not represent the features and body shapes of many black women, even if they do represent the colour of their skin. Is skin colour “enough” to make you feel represented, or is it just a step in the right direction?

  5. Sashiko says:

    I’d love for their to be more of a representation of POC. As a mixed race person, i’d love to see more mixed race people. More asians, more african americans, indian americans, etc. <3

    It's heart breaking knowing how as a little girl i didn't find my skin color beautiful and preferred to get white barbies. To the point where i'd throw a fit when my mom would by POC toys. I'm glad i grew out of it ( did a lot of work to shake bad ideas out of my head). Had to stop buying fashion magazines.

    It'd also be quite something to have models who weren't on the gender binary. but really, is that asking too much?

  6. Darlene O'Hara says:

    What is truly bothering me are the number of lingerie companies who are selling their lines to smaller boutiques at wholesale and then finding the same line at Marshalls or TJ MAXX for less than wholesale prices? This is so unethical and I would hope that retailers join together and put a stop to this immediately. There are ways to resolve this issue that would help both the manufacturer and the small business or retailer that sells the line. I hope I’m not the only business owner upset about this. However, when these huge Giants are right across the street from you and you’re selling the lines and customers see them there, you just can’t compete. This is a very scary situation for both the consumer and owner!

  7. Mitsouko says:

    I applaud you for sticking your neck out Cora. Well done you. The beauty, fashion, lingerie industry have always been guilty of pushing the meme that beauty comes packaged in white youthful bodies. As far as I can tell they don’t care about any other group of women. They’ll take our money but gladly ignore us. It’s amusing to me that they like to perpetuate the myth that they’re forward thinking and like to push boundaries. All I ever see is conformity. And let’s not forget this industry is largely led by white women. I’m not surprised plus sized white women are now being represented. Expect to see older white women represented before the industry admits its racism. Oh well. Lets hope more and more black, Asian, disabled, older women create their own beautiful images and businesses.

  8. Sophia says:

    I think we should remember pregnant women and recipients of mastectomies, when my friend was pregnant I remember her telling me she’d never felt more unattractive, and I had a lady come into the store I work at, (I sell bras for a co. That shall remain nameless) who’d had a mastectomy and felt not only was she less sexually attractive, that she could no longer wear the pretty things she did pre-cancer and mastectomy.

  9. Antonia says:

    I’m late to the game here as I just found this post, but I could not agree MORE. I’m embarrassed by my own website as it utterly fails to show a range of “nude”. I’ve proactively tried to find images that feature darker skinned women. I’ve asked every one of my suppliers if and when they are going to feature a woman of color as their model. It’s infuriating. Lookout for when we do our first full photo shoot . . .

  10. Samantha says:

    You brought tears to my eyes! This is incredibly well said. I think it’s so hard for us white women to push the issue of women of color in lingerie because we aren’t women of color. We don’t experience the things you do. We’ve never been judged by the color of my skin. I wrote my post on bra size, since that’s what I know. But I would have rather written it on color, since I think it’s a bigger issue. It absolutely needs to be changed. We need to see more women of color in fashion, movies and television. Thanks so much for being so honest.

    Also, thanks for being so honest about things like your weight and dress size. I’m always so hesitant to post photos because I always think that everyone is so much skinnier than I am… your honesty is much appreciated.

  11. Annunci Milano says:

    Found this on MSN and I’m happy I did. Well written article.

  12. JazzFest says:

    I’m am SO, SO, grateful that you posted this article. It is just an affirmation of why your blog and your brand are so wonderful, important, and relevant.

  13. Kelly Goris says:

    You are very brave to write this, and it gladdens my heart to find blogs showing “pretty things” where it is not just about the pretty things. I love to look at the beautiful lingerie, but your posts like this, or about body snarks, equality for all humans (tranny or not), those are the important things. Please, keep up your good work!

  14. Jen says:

    Lingerie is a tool used to equate the value of women to a sexual resource for men to consume. It compels women to self-objectify, as we receive the message that we only have worth if we are sexy and sexually available to men. Hence we are anxious and desperate to be beautiful and fit the norms of female beauty as defined by men (who control the vast majority of media, politics, art and fashion-in other words they define the culture we live in). And spend all our resources on attaining that.

    Though predominantly an issue of patriarchy, it is also an issue more specifically of male-white-privilege. As it is still largely white males in charge, they define what they want to see and how they want to see it. They assert their dominance over women by reducing women to a sum of body parts, some*thing* to be visually/sexually consumed for their gratification. (Hence we see a lot of age discrimination-as women are only valued as sexual objects, they are only valued when they are young enough to reproduce, becoming obsolete and invisible once becoming middle aged-the epitome of being a resource to be used and discarded). We are not given equal moral value as persons in this society.

    While all women are still in a position of subordination to men, women of colour are at the absolute bottom of the social hierarchy. White women, a possession to be owned by wealthy white men, have greater privilege over women of colour. All types of discrimination are inter-connected. It makes sense that white men would select white women as a resource for breeding, while still ensuring all women are demeaned by sexual objectification. Perhaps also as white women have made the greatest strides in women’s rights, they are a greater threat to male supremacy, and must be put down by being presented as merely a thing for consumption. Hence we see predominantly white models.

    I would argue that we need to end the representation of women as merely being sexual objects full stop and instead work on diverse and equal representation of women as leaders and in positions of power and as morally equal members of this society (no matter what their race/age/sexuality/disability etc). This article highlights exactly why we need feminism! We must challenge the injustice of patriarchy. Lingerie modelling (like pole/lap dancing, stripping etc), in the context of a patriarchal society, unfortunately is self-objectification, reinforcing female subordination.

  15. Mariela Walker says:

    I truly enjoyed the article and reading all the comments. The writer of this article was sure balanced in expressing the opinions that are not only hers but are actually shared by so many women. I am a black woman with a open mind of some of the shortfalls that continue to show up in America. I realize that not until we begin to realize that we have to find a way to represent all the people (black, white, hispanic, asian, native american, muslim) then we will continue to have racial divise. I realize this is a very dauting task but it must be taken on for the sake of all the people. So, today we may start in the lingerie industy, tommorrow corporate america, hollywood, what ever it may take to get it done. Because, I know that most of the people around the world still look to us. And, we must not forget we have to stand up for women all around the world. Some women that are supressed by religious fanaticism, cultural biases and are unable to even go to school to make a difference to help in the fight that we have here. Our fight to let our voices be heard and our faces to be seen not only speaks volume for us but for women all around the world……………THank you very much for your article I truly enjoyed it and I am happy to share it with other women………..

  16. g says:

    you will not see shorter women or women who are perceived as being ugly, the lingerie industry only reinforces beauty standards that we ourselves adhere to, an industry which values women by their body is not an industry that i respect and do not expect such an industry to act in a fair way, why as a multiracial women would i want to strip off and be valued for my underwear? the money maybe

  17. Faustine Li says:

    Thank you for this article!
    I was surprised and encouraged by Krista Cousins winning Star in a Bra.
    As a mix of two minorities, I accept that I won’t see myself in ads and feel I’ve a good idea of what lingerie will look like on me. This is most obvious with so-called ‘nude’ bras.
    These are questions that need to be asked, thought of, and I’d like to see more women of color and disability in modeling as well as ownership! I’d like to encourage more diverse people to go into running and owning the businesses that they consume from.
    …and I should put my money where my mouth is and figure out how to get involved and balance this with my day job.

  18. Viviane says:

    Dear girl,

    I am a Brazilian mix of every colour girl. 34 years old, with an absolute gorgeous daughter of 14 months age and living in Australia. My husband is a white British-Australian man and my daughter is white, with blue eyes but my traces, big eyes, absolutely beautiful… I hear all the time the most insulting comments of my colour, my daughter’s skin and that she does not look like my daughter because of that and I even heard in a hair dressing session, from another customer, that “people with the hair like mine is lucky to have straightener”… I remember that day to look to that woman with sorry for her… I will tell you something about us: if you hear those kind of comments from time to time, believe me, it is just a bunch of very sad, UGLY people, in first place. What those sort of people don’t see is my class (I am extremely high educated), my good taste for fashion, my beauty (and sorry but I always felt really beautiful and very confident about my body and my Brazilian curves!)… I am a 10 size Brazilian girl, with a mix of African, Portuguese and Indigenous blood and extremely proud of it ! I am doing a MA of Business and the reason why I am reading right now your Blog is because my final report for International Business Management unit is a 3500 words about entry mode of the largest lingerie company in Brazil, Duloren, in Australia and I am in the research phase. Your post touched me in many ways. The fact that the lingerie industry does not use as many black girls as they should will have to change soon. Duloren has understood not only that but its new called “real woman” campaign shows absolutely gorgeous and confident girls of plus sizes seducing in their own beautiful and particular way… It has been a fantastic success and in the end, make us realise that it is all about confidence and self-esteem! Said that, I laugh when in some tradeshows you see girls in lingerie, super skinny models, with absolutely zero confidence and that’s what sells the most … Thank you for letting me speak through your inspiring post!

  19. Hummingbird says:

    Thank you for writing this article. As a woman of color, I definitely relate to everything you have said. Having a petite frame (5’2″ 118lbs), it is almost as if I do not exist in the lingerie world. I love the sexy, frilly little things just as much as the next siren. Companies should seek to please every woman, size, age, and shape. The rewards for both parties would be tremendous. Why do they not see this?

  20. Frank says:

    Congratulations on this being reprinted by Jezebel! – interesting to see comments from ‘the rest of the world’
    – well, some are cool, some aren’t

  21. Tamar says:

    Well done for putting this out there Treacle, I totally agree with your sentiments.

  22. etmoi says:

    I know what you mean! I’m latina, so technically in that respect I’m very well represented with so many brazilians (though most of those girls are of white european descent……”latina” is not a race, which is another discussion that someday needs to be had). However, like many latinas, I’m short. Very short, actually – 4’11!! So for me when I see any fashion magazines there’s the initial “oh lovely!” then the inevitable ::sigh:: I would never look good in that because I don’t have her mile long legs/torso or whatever. I think that’s part of why I got so into lingerie, it’s the one thing all girls can wear and immediately look good and feel better about themselves. I’m also crazy into shoes, for obvious reasons :)
    I don’t know what the answer is though….I don’t see how any of this will ever change.

  23. Amanda says:

    When I was young, I remember seeing an ad for lingerie in one of my mom’s magazines. I recall a woman in dusty purple bra, lying on a chaise, with long silver hair. She looked gorgeous and powerful and I recall particularly how I wanted to be just like her someday. I remember feeling the same way when I saw Tyra Banks in a Victoria’s Secret ad wearing tangerine, and the same way when I look at the beautiful models on Hips and Curves.
    Diversity doesn’t just matter because we as individuals deserve to see people who are like us. It also matters because what we see helps us know what we can be, and all the ways we can be beautiful.

  24. Jaxon says:

    Well said! Thank you so much for speaking out and for your fantastic blog.

  25. Kelly Ravert says:

    WOW! Too many thoughts to express!
    I do know countless THANK YOUs are in order… is one of maybe 5 websites i visit regularly. I am a working mom in a single income household…in a rural area. That doesn’t mean I am unappreciative of quality and trends in my favorite branch of the fashion industry- lingerie. Quite the opposite! I find TLA to be one stop eye candy and daydreams during dreary windowless cubicle lunches.
    I also appreciate that due to Ms. Tart’s extensive research, women of all ages and sizes have access to beautiful things…and more often than not…at prices that make us feel involved, not like outsiders looking in.
    I am Native American and Scottish, not a typical cookie cutter model shape, to be sure.
    TLA has made me so much more comfortable with shopping for myself. IN FACT, I once posted a knee jerk response to TLA’s facebook post about some new and upcoming designers. I was sure the article contained gorgeous silks, laces and general beige, black and pink clouds I could never dream of my full, rounded brown body flying among. My dour response immediately garnered a reply from Treacle Tart: Kelly, please check out these sites! So generously, almost magically….a whole new world of beauty was opened up to me. Just because an incredibly kind lingerie lover didn’t WANT me to feel badly about my God Given curves. Still kind of brings a tear to my eye…I not only had permission to feel lovely again, but the tools and resources in which to do so. THANK YOU FOR ALL OF THIS AND MORE, MS. TART!
    If you ever need a review from a “typical” woman who has been touched by your social networking, I would be HONORED to recommend you. It would be my small way of repaying you for all the BIG ;) joy and boost of self esteem you have given me! :)

  26. Taryn says:

    I have been sitting on this article for a couple of days now trying to decide whether or not I should respond but here goes.
    Today, in my Third year Women’s Studies class called “Globalization of the Love Industry,” and we have a large research paper assigned for this semester. Our instructions are to write about something in the love industry that is globalized. My first though was of this article and how the lingerie industry is globalized and what that means for the people involved in terms of gender, class, sexuality, race, and ability.
    That being said, you have inspired me to take a journey and plunge into academic research in the hopes of finding a way to help the lingerie industry out of its current funk of ethnocentric and falsified diversity.
    So, thank you, Treacle. Thank you for wrting this piece. It is both important and inspirational.

  27. This is a wonderful article. It has really made me realize that diversity on my own site needs to become a priority.

  28. XL Hourglass says:

    Good post. It is weird that lingerie seems to be especially non-diverse, in all aspects – going back to size, it seems the models are almost always one of the smallest sizes the brand offers. And for people of color, it is such a rarity to see anyone even slightly darker. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Asians or Hispanics modeling lingerie. One way where it is especially evident that people of color is left out, is the selection of “nude” colors.

  29. I went through your comments, you are fortunate Treacle, you have grown a following that is multiverse, the word diverse is incorrect, it is not a matter of two spaces but many spaces. Coming back, you are fortunate because over time you have grown a brand where you can speak your frustrations and have so many different phenotypes comment on your post. And, I am happy to say I am not the first man to comment, usually that is the case with younger presences in the media world, concerning this topic.

    But to representation, i think the missing ingredient is multiversity in ownership, not labor. You speak of the absence of non white, non under 30, non big bra or very little bra size and etc. But, the ownership of most businesses of potency in the USA is monoracial. 90% and above of the people who hold the keys of power are white, male, matriculated from an ivy league school, come from a family with a history of fiscal affluence. So, I agree with your position. But, not enough multilogs:) deal with the concept of ownership difference, when that happens, the multiversity in apperance and approach will increase.

  30. Mia Culpa says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I’ve always hated the lack of diversity in the media. Being a 31 yr old, busty, half-Filipina woman I’ve struggled to find any representation of race similar to myself my entire life. (When I was 5 or 6, Barbie had a Hawaiian friend that looked liked me. I got 2 that year for Christmas.) If an Asian woman appears in the media at all, she is typically portrayed as a Dragon Lady, and Filipinas are almost never shown.

    Being part Asian also meant a very different conversation: my racial mix would be an opening men would use to hit on me. By the age of 18, I had learned that 90% of men’s interest in me was based on fetishism, thanks to being just exotic enough. I’ve spent years feeling ignored or dismissed while being asked, “So… What’s your mix?”

    • marillenbaum says:

      This! I hate this so much! I’m biracial (B/W), and it really irks me when someone describes me as looking “exotic”. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but it seems like saying “You’re pretty…but you aren’t white!” in a surprised sort of way. It feels token-y and patronizing.

  31. I agree with you, feel your frustration, and included this post in this week’s link round-up. However, as a big advocate for bigger bra sizes, I have to tell you that this is all part of the same issue. Those women outside the dictated “standards” cannot appear in any ads or images because nothing fits. (This lack of properly fitting undergarments affects the ability to comfortably and appropriately leave the freakin’ house!) Beauty shouldn’t be thought of in such a context that it is limited to a size or a color any more than it should be limited to whatever idea of “preferred normal” exists. Marketing ought to consider the numbers involved here — not just the easy demographics of proportions, ethnicity, age, and the like, but the number of people who are offended by narrow definitions and standards too. I may have to write more on this when I have the time to properly articulate what’s all in my head and heart… But for now, just know that I feel the heat of your pain as expressed here. Your concerns are valid.

  32. Miss Melody says:

    Thank you. Thank you for writing and sharing this with us all. I’m honestly feeling at a loss for words. This post embodies so much of how I feel about being a Black pinup model. Minorities are so incredibly underrepresented in this “industry” and I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. It only makes me work harder, don’t get me wrong…but why should I, or others like me, have to work so hard? *sigh* I can’t really articulate how I feel about this post, so I just stop babbling and just give you a hug. *hug*

  33. Annmarie says:

    Thank you for tackling the racial issue head on. As a long time reader of this blog you have already made me be much more aware to most of the issues mentioned in this article. But I can’t recall reading here before such a long, well-written, detailed piece dedicated entirely to race issues in the lingerie industry.

    Judging from the so many supportive comments you got in such a short time I’d say this must be an issue simmering underneath that certainly needs to be addressed.

    Thanks for your courage for bringing it up to the surface, as well as summarizing it in such an intelligent, engaging way.

  34. Mel Worthington says:

    I am so glad you found the courage to write this post. No one wants to be defined by these sentiments any more than than they want to be underrepresented, you really put yourself out there and what you are saying is so important. I am deeply sad for the damaging words and messages along the way and can only hope that you know now, completely and without fail, how stunning beautiful you are just as you are. Your words echo so many things I have been thinking about over the past few months. I was quietly outraged when Elle MacPherson named a sand colored bra “American Nude” while happy to see her Obsidian Maria set modeled in Essence. I’m sad every time my mother tells me lingerie isn’t for her, I have yet to convince her that it can have an even greater impact on our confidence now that we are no longer spring chickens. As a photographer I know that seeing is believing and its really frustrating when we don’t get to choose the images we are shown.

    As weary as the sizing conversation gets within the lingerie community, I know it needs to continue for the sake of both sides of the spectrum (the small busted women aren’t winners here either, believe me, just because they sell it everywhere doesn’t mean you know to buy it). But man oh man, if only we had our own American version of Ewa Michalek with a whole array of beautiful models to show off sizes big and small! Maybe I’m hoping for Bra-topia here but my wallet, while not big, speaks loudly. Thank you for continuing to seek out something to make each and every one of us feel strong, lovable, beautiful, and capable of anything.

  35. Emma says:

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking post. I appreciate that it was difficult for you to write, but it definitely needed to be said.
    Whilst I don’t identify as a minority, I agree that, not just the lingerie industry, but the fashion industry (and many others) do not adequately represent society.
    I’m Australian, and I have never seen an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in any catalogue or local fashion show. Samantha Harris is the only Aboriginal model I know of who is doing well on international catwalks, but no one talks about her about in Australia in the same way that we heard about Gemma Ward or Miranda Kerr, and I haven’t seen her in any of our magazines. And she’s just as beautiful.
    I think there needs to be a push to have greater representation of ALL people, and judging from the comments this post has received, you’ve brought up a topic that many others feel strongly about.

  36. Frank says:


    I obviously can’t say in any real way I know how any of this feels, but your frustration comes though loud and clear. If that offends anyone, so be it. Sometimes thoughtful writing will do that, and as long as its not written only to offend – which your post clearly isn’t – I’m all for it.

    Maybe since I live in a more diverse college area, I don’t think about this as much. You see mixed couples every day. Yet, even here I’ve noticed hints of some of what you’ve mentioned. I’ve heard black people discuss ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in ways that seem strange to me. I never got why. And – as if think any racist would note a distinction anyway? I’ve had an Asian women joke about her bad driving, while driving several of us around flawlessly.

    I’d hear of the famous doll study mentioned in the documentary, but not seen that contemporary clip. Anyone who wants to be frightened, watch the video – it’s only seven minutes long – at Treacle’s above link, ‘Black Ugly/White Pretty’. I have no clue of what to say after that, it’s just ..sad. As to body image, it reminds me a a friend of ours. She told my wife a story of her daughter asking her ‘Mommy, why do men stare at breasts so much?’

    She’s seven years old.

    And I happen to know her father isn’t a lecherous or crude man.
    I don’t know what the hell we’re teaching kids, but something is not working.

    Thanks for a great post. And very on-topic to this blog.

    ps – In case I never commented on the specific posts, on behalf of my small-busted wife and I, thanks for all the posts here that made her feel included, especially after a lot of other media messages to the contrary.

  37. Rosie says:

    Treacle, I am a busty Asian with darker skin. I totally feel you. While reading your article I remembered growing up everyone always commented on how dark my skin was. My sister is very light skinned and petite while I am 5’8″ 220lb 38D. People joke about how i was adopted or had to have some black in me. You can just imagine how hurtful this was and how it made me feel like I was a freak or didn’t fit in anywhere. I am so tired of what is mainstream in our society. I am happy that there are people like you that do bring up these issues. Even though we are different, we are the same. Please keep blogging. I always manage to find happiness here. :)

  38. Jewell says:

    I feel very similarly about “alternative” models, although with the resurgence of the “rockabilly” trend and Suicide Girls it is becoming more common to see heavily tattooed women show up in the lingerie industry (Pin Up Girl Clothing is a good example). That said the issues of “inclusion” affect us all, but I think sometimes some groups that get a lot of focus for being under represented (like the full figured community) feel like theirs is the only plight out there.

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re look (and that includes your god given skin color) is jaw-dropping gorgeous.

  39. Gary says:

    Exceptionally well done article, Treacle, very poignant and no doubt difficult to write as you say. There is such diversity in beauty that any company not embracing it is shortsighted and potentially alienating a segment of their audience. While individual beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are lovely women of every race, every age and every size. I, for one, would love to see a 40-something VS model. And tonight on the news I saw a story about that young woman who lost both her legs and both her hands to a rare flesh-eating virus. A beautiful woman with a wonderful attitude whom I hope turns up modeling anything somewhere.

    And no afterthought, that is a stunning photo. I absolutely love the pink RHT!

  40. Rachel Cash says:

    I feel that your candor, deserves only candor in return. When I first stumbled upon you on Facebook, the first thing I noticed is that you are black. After that I fell in love with your natural hair, your fearlessness when modeling lingerie, and a little jealous of how great light colors looked on your skin tone. You represented a new kind of pin-up that I had never seen before, and unfortunately haven’t seen again. You always seemed so comfortable in your own skin, that it never thought about your own point of view, on this issue. I think it’s our own self centered nature that makes us think that our own issues are the most important issues. Thank you for another fearless post, and broadening my view on the issues that face women in the lingerie industry.

  41. Emily Watson says:

    Beautiful photo and well articulated post, thank you. I do believe we need to wage a battle against the mainstream ‘look’ here and take a look at how “us women” look. I think it would be great if the women who read this and the friends/moms/sisters of those women could unite in a project to BRA-den (my silly spelling of broaden) the scene and point out the beauty of every woman. By contributing to a big, picture collage or something- US-the supporters of diversity here- should strip to the skivvies and show the world what we are made of, inside and out! Pretty is as pretty does…how about it?? Emma Lovely ;)

  42. You are right and with apologies, being white middle class and English, I had no idea. But my God, you are so right. And it’s so easily fixable (for me, on my website) I’m on this – watch this space.

    Together we can all put this right. We have to make sure our little girls know they are gorgeous no matter what size, colour or ability.

    A big thank you for your honesty and integrity, it’s lit a fire in my heart

    Jules x
    Lux Tenebrae

  43. This is a really great post – thank you for opening up. I obviously write as a G+ blogger, but so much of my frustration with the lingerie industry is the homogenous – and frankly bland – ‘spectrum’ of women used to advertise to the rest of us. I don’t just want to see more shapes and sizes (although I do want to see more) – I want to see women of colour, and women beyond their twenties (and forties. And *gasp* beyond…) too.

    For me the ideal is not about needing to have models who look like me (although there’s no doubt that it’s a helpful affirmation for previously ignored groups) – in a way it’s more about having more models who don’t look like me: about getting over the notion that there is one superior dimension of beauty out there (be that the classic young, thin, and white, or full-figured, or whatever). I want the industry I love to celebrate all beauty – not by making special cases or gimmicks (one off ‘real women’ campaigns make me furious) – but by permanently showcasing a truly diverse array of models and spokespersons. If there is no ‘normal’ there can be no ‘other’: and we all deserve better than the two dimensional crap we’ve been putting up with for decades.

    Thank you for a great post

    Beckie x

  44. Azza D says:

    As a white woman (albeit a fairly tanned one, my skin is sort of olive-y) of the size that most would consider ‘perfect’ in the lingerie industry I would LOVE to see more black, asian and especially eurasian women represented in the industry. I think that Asian and Black skin colours are so rich and beautiful and pull of white, patterns and bright and bold colours so much better than most people with a skin tone more like mine. One of my friends decided to get back into modelling after a long hiatus due to health reasons and was told by her former agent “The eurasian look isn’t really ‘in’ right now”. She is one of the most beautiful women I know and a spectacular model and I can’t imagine an agency saying to me “Sorry, the ‘white’ look really isn’t in right now”.

    Screw the people who say you are crying racism. Represent your beautiful skin colour that the industry seems to think comes and goes in popularity. Real women know that all skin colours are beautiful all the time!

  45. Merry M says:

    I am impressed and put in a strange position with this article. TECHNICALLY (since apparently it needs to be said… found this out the hard way) I am mixed Western European-African from America (there is a difference in African and African American as well, apparently). I’m like a female Obama, but with less ostentatious ears. I definitely agree that there should be more diversity in modeling across the board, especially with lingerie, where skin tone really does make a difference.

    When my white friend where white lingerie, it makes her look pasty in a most terrible way. As indicated in your wonderful photo, I look significantly better. What better way to showcase a product than to allow the colors to offset certain skin tones to their advantage?

    Which is why I LOOVE Kiss Me Deadly’s “new” black and Asian models. They are gorgeous, and offer a wonderful contrast to some of their pieces.

  46. CCR Tina says:

    Really love this post and admire you greatly for speaking your mind and you do look stunning! I agree with all said on here but also would add that agreeing with that yes, the modelling industry has a certain look they prefer both with traditional and the plus size models – well, there are so many who can’t relate to them simply cause we do not look like them, despite the skin colour. The eyes, the lips, the hair – nothing like those models – many getting extensions and artificially plumping up their lips with poison. Think the issue is with the whole beauty industry – they make so many people feel not pretty cause they only have 1 look basically. Do admit that there is a far worse lack of majority when it comes to skin colour and disabilities but it’s still a topic that touches all that don’t represent that beauty. Being from a Nordic country – asian and darker skinned beauties just look so exotic and oozing attraction!

  47. Bonnie M says:

    Loved the article (and love your site). I’m not black, but I comprehend about not seeing ads that represent you. I’m white, overweight (we weigh the same – but you look MUCH better than I do – might I ask how tall you are?) and older.

    Looking for clothes and lingerie online is a joke and ads don’t relate to me. All the ads seem to show emaciated waifs who are younger than my grown kids.

    Ads are supposed to tempt one to buy. But if one can’t imagine wearing the outfit because no model comes close to looking like one, how effective are they? Are thin white girls the only important demographic? Frankly, I have more to spend now than I did at 18 or even 25.

    For lingerie, I’m in a horrid group. I’m a 40C. Good luck finding nice bras. 38C, tons. 40D, plenty. But the mismatch in band size and cup size causes me no end of grief. And lest people say, “Well buy online!”, I can’t. Because sizes vary widely and bras are the one thing that I absolutely must try on to make sure it fits properly. Occasionally, I can make it into a 38, and one brand put me into a B cup. Bras are not cheap and I don’t want to get stuck with the wrong size.

    I guess it’s a lost battle with ads. No one in the advertising industry seems to care about anyone who isn’t a size zero and young. That’s great if you fit that demographic, and some do, but it leaves the rest of us out in the cold.

  48. On a related note, Sydney F. Lewis, a doctoral candidate and instructor at the University of Washington, wrote a similar article about “Women of Color in Burlesque.” My wife took an excellent class (“Burlesque and Feminism”) from Sydney last quarter at UW Bothell.

  49. Gemma says:

    Just had to check Marks & Spencers, one of the bigger lingerie retailers in the UK and they have black and Asian models. They even have an older model, though only the post op range. Strangely, their plus size range is only modelled by the same models that do the main ranges. But guess what, the lingerie looks good on all of them, and all of them look good in it, plus the world didn’t spin off its axis!

    To me, being a good model is more than just filling a set of criteria, being tall, thin and white doesn’t mean you can work a camera, same as not being tall, thin and white doesn’t mean you can’t beautifully show clothes and lingerie off.

    In the UK there’s been an attitude change towards disability following the Paralympics, I hope this can translate into fashion, I hate the idea some people have that disabled people aren’t entitled to be into fashion or to have a sexuality.

    BTW I adore that photo of you! Gorgeous!

  50. Tina Omer says:

    Thanks so much for this article. As a Lingerie Boutique owner in a Predominately black neighborhood (and yes, I too am black), it’s next to impossible to find black models in the lingerie industry. If they are there, please point me in the right direction. It’s important to make strides on this issue, because as we all know, lingerie is not only about wearing what’s functional; it’s about feeling good about yourself from foundation to shoe. Although I service women of all colors/sizes, the majority of my customers are black, so this “lingerie” thing is new to a lot of them and they’ve been very receptive. Not only do they feel more comfortable coming into my boutique as opposed to a “big box” retailer, they also know that the owner can relate to their need to feel pretty and that lingerie is not just about a sexual encounter. Thanks again for putting this out there!
    Aphrodite’s Closet
    San Antonio, TX

  51. Jorun Åkerblom says:

    LOVE your blog today, serious and well written.
    Jorun 53 (years and proud)

  52. “We live in a world where, when asked why they didn’t use more models of color, brands respond with, “Well, we couldn’t find any good ones.””

    That’s an excuse I simply do not buy coming from big brands. There’s a plethora of fabulous models of every ethnicity, nationality, and color available to those who have a big budget and can fly models in. So there’s clearly some other motivator for them to use caucasian models almost exclusively.

    I do understand why we in the fashion industry use models who are 5’8″ or greater. It’s a proportion thing, it elongates the presentation of the clothing and makes a greater impact on film. It is my own preference to use models who are 5’8″ or taller. However, being a corsetiere, I do tend to work with a range of dress sizes. My work is all about curves and that’s what people want to see when they shop for corsets.

    I will say that it is is harder for smaller brands like me to track down women within my preferred stats who are not just your average caucasian model. I struggle with this every time I am casting for a shoot. So if it’s ok with Cora, I’d like to extend an invitation to Latina, Black, and Asian models, especially, to contact me via my website I’m based in Columbus, Ohio so if you are in reasonable traveling distance, let’s talk! I have been looking for the right Asian model literally for *years*. :)

  53. Angelina says:

    I am new to your blog…I actually only found it yesterday…and new to blogging in general.
    I have noticed the plus-sized models but I never even considered the lack of racial diversity. To be honest, I didn’t realize there weren’t any plus-sized models until all of a sudden there were.
    Your article has given me something to think about. Thank you.

  54. Amber says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post, Treacle. As a disabled woman, this issue touches me to the core. I’ve almost NEVER seen pictures of disabled women in beauty/lingerie ads (or any other for that matter). In fact, I read an article about a show on British TV where the host only had one arm due to a birth defect and people wrote the station saying she should be removed because SHE WAS SCARING THEIR CHILDREN. Seriously, google it. I wanted to cry. I, too, have noticed that while lingerie ads are now moving to include “fuller figured women”… It is still all about women with that same hourglass figure. The standard of beauty has not changed, truly. /sigh.

    • Amaryllis says:

      Cerrie Burnell, on the pre-school channel Cbeebies. It was a nasty vocal minority that complained about her, a lot of other people thought different and she had an outpouring of support. My children like her, the four year old asked if she had been in a war and we had a positive little talk about the reasons people are different physically. Although it works in lots of people’s interests to make a fuss – campaigners to get their point across, newspapers to sell stories, etc – she is actually a wonderfully positive role model and is appreciated as such by the vast majority. When the hate campaign started against her, there was a huge outpouring of support, which is probably less reported.

  55. Amaryllis says:

    I actually feel this is very similar to the points raised in your “End Body-snark” post – why do people feel the need, when arguing for more ‘diversity’ to push only for their own brand of ‘diversity’? And, often, attack others, as if there is only a finite amount of diversity available and they’re damn well going to fight everyone else off their patch. Really, what we need to do is embrace everyone else who is underrepresented and find common ground.

    I do second those who say that these issues are better represented in the UK – I notice it particularly when I look at US companies and suppliers, but other European countries don’t always do very well either. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of ground to cover, still, especially on the older demographic I feel we don’t do well. But I’d add to the list of companies using women of colour, as well as those quoted above (KMD, Bravissimo, Curvy Kate) – What Katie Did have also featured women of colour, as does Marks & Spencer (also different sizes and ages).

    And, while it’s important to campaign by changing the minds of those who are failing to represent their customers, I think it’s also important to celebrate those who do, especially if they’re making a first step. So, if you see a company that has expanded their range of models to be more inclusive, would it hurt to drop them an email saying how much you enjoyed that ad campaign? Positive re-enforcement is a powerful tool, and there is already far too much negativity about body image, and an injection of positivity and celebration of those leading the push to change things could do a lot – to encourage a better industry attitude AND to remind us that there is progress being made, even if it’s not in our particular area or exactly representing us.

  56. Lovely post Treacle!! I enjoy your blog so much. The posts and pictures are always top notch. Here’s my story as it relates to today’s post. Almost 15 years ago I went to work for some friends to help out with the bookkeeping and payroll for a few months. It’s a minority owned business. At the time, they had about 15 or 20 people working in house. I was the only white woman there. It was the most incredible experience. Honestly, white people have NO clue what people of color deal with on a daily basis. The racism, the discrimination, etc is totally lost on most of them. (I am not saying this to excuse anybody’s lack of empathy. I am simply making the statement.) To be completely honest, it was lost on me as well. I had no idea what my well dressed, master’s degree holding coworkers were putting up with out in the world. That job was one of the best of my life. The way I was welcomed with open arms and included in everything was unlike any other job I’ve ever had. EVER!! I still miss all those awesome people. But, life goes on. I am saddened that all these years later things have hardly changed in the white psyche. I am thrilled at the stunning photos you post of women of other colors. Please, keep it coming!!!!!!! I am about sick and tired of looking at all the scrawny, blonde white women paraded daily across media outlets as the beauty standard. Since we’re all revealing something personal, I will say I’m older, close to 50, heavier set, freckles, short hair. But I love beautiful things. You have shown today that not only are you posting and writing about beautiful garments, you are beautiful, yourself. I would LOVE to see more photosets with you modeling. Knowing the heart and mind that accompany the lovely visage put you in a class all to yourself. Keep up the amazing work!!!!!!!

  57. Sean Kinney says:

    It might seem strange that a middle aged white man would find this interesting without sounding creepy.

    However, I like well-written editorials/stories and find points of view on diversity help focus my opinions – both the informed and uninformed.

    First of all I’m a man so my perspective on bras and breasts is…um…very male and as such I spent most of my youth trying to separate the two.

    Secondly, I’m white male middle class living in a midwestern suburbs so my circles of color are…um…non-existent. Tragically.

    Thirdly, my only interaction with “women” magazines is when there is a health emergency.

    Lastly, being estranged from my daughter I’ve never had an experience watching how women mature through the body images and stereotypes of what is sold as “right”.

    As such, I truly have NEVER given much thought to these intricacies of these particular issues.  I appreciate the food for thought.

    Thanks Andrea Hausmann Photography for sharing this article on FB.

  58. Lucy says:

    Bravo! Diversity is not something to be ashamed of, or ignored, or belittled.
    If I had a nickel for every time somebody tried to pigeonhole me, I’d be swimming. When I was younger, I wished I looked white. When I was a little less young, I wished that I could be *anything* as long as it was recognizable, because I was stuck in racial limbo. And other people get agitated when they can’t immediately categorize something. Minds have a need for polarity, it seems. Wear my hair up, others have (literally!) said “someone get this Mexican a taco.” Wear my hair down, people say “Go back to the Middle East.” Tell people that I’m mostly African by bloodline, people get offended that they guessed wrong (?). Tell people I’m Canadian by nationality, born and raised, people roll their eyes and say I’m “white on the inside”. True, there are days when I don’t focus on my race/ appearance and I don’t realize I’m “not fully white” but in that same vein I don’t realize that I’m not fully Black, Indian, Chinese or Native, although I have a bit of all that in me too. I represent them all, even if I’m visually unremarkable. But nobody should be called racist (or conversely, accused of crying racism) to be proud of what/who they are. I’m the result of my ancestors going against law, tradition and religious doctrine to marry the one they loved.
    I’ve been called both chubby and skinny by different people on the same day. I’ve been called both old and young. I’ve been called both short and tall. I would *love* to see a greater range of models: more Blacks, South Asians, Native American and East Asians in the magazines. Thicker models, shorter models, older models, handicapable models. I’d also love someone “mixed”, “middle aged”, “average weight” (whatever you call it but not quite one or the other), to show that you don’t have to be easily defined to be beautiful as well.

  59. Inez says:

    Thank you!! This bugs me to no end. I work at Victoria’s Secret and I’m embarrassed when people refer to the beige tones in the industry as nude. I go out of my way to remind my co-workers of it often, in the hopes that it will stick in their heads too.

    Treacle I think it was you that brought this issue up someplace not too long ago, maybe on Tumblr somewhere, but every time I reblog an image of anyone not white in lingerie I always think of you and say a little thank you in my head for talking about it. :)

  60. Scarlet says:

    Never be afraid to “cry racism”, Treacle. Haters will hate but the real women of the world thank-you for your words. I’m a white woman and I love seeing different models of different size, colour, ethnicity etc. Real people are beautiful – Lingerie brands need to start focusing on the ‘real’ and not their silly ideals of what they think beauty should be.

  61. Kitty says:

    I’m fat. Not curvy, I’m fat. I’m 5ft 11. I also have small boobs, a B at a push now I’ve lost some weight. It is almost impossible to find bras, never mind actual lingerie, because once you get into the larger back sizes the cup sizes don’t start at A, they start at C if you are lucky, or more usually a D. When I find a bra that fits, I buy multiple of it, in every colour! I don’t have nice lingerie sets. I think I maybe only have one set full stop, and I LOVE lingerie. It isn’t for lack of trying! It amazes me that in this day and age so many people are excluded in fashion, I don’t see people who look like me, and I’m a tall, white girl, which gives me a reasonable head start on a lot of people, but being an overweight girl with a tiny bust means I’m then immediately neglected. It baffles me. These companies are ignoring huge parts of the market, can you imagine if they suddenly started using different women and making sizes that fitted everyone? I know I’d go crazy and buy them up! It’s why I like Playful Promises, while they don’t make anything that fits me, they do use an awesome variety in models and I love to see that.
    While my experience has nothing to do with race, it is another example of being ignored in this industry, and I think we all need to keep talking about it!

  62. Jessica says:

    One of your best articles, if not the best! Thanks for writing this. You’re an amazing writer, and you have great things to say about an important topic.

  63. This is a great post. I can tell by reading it how emotionally involved you are and how much this issue means to you. That is one thing that keeps me coming back to your blog, you have an intense passion for everything you write. And no matter what you post you let your readers share the opinions, no matter what those are.

    I am often put into a category of a full bust blogger, just based on my bra size. But that is not completely what I’m about. I’m about helping women who have had breast implants and breast reconstruction find bra, lingerie, and clothing options to work with their new body, no matter what the size. I know there are women with implants all over the modeling industry (side note- many VS models are mistaken to have implants, they don’t it is a bra fit thing), but they are models for specific markets, not bras and lingerie. Women with implants have the same support needs and I would love to see them represented in the lingerie modeling world.

    We base our diversity wants based on individual needs while the lack of diversity is based on industry ease. There has to be some kind of middle ground that will make strides in meeting some diversity wishes. But what I really hope readers take from your article is that everyone feels the same way for some reason, that those reasons are all different, and none of them are less valid then the others. We need to respect those reasons for all women. More respect amongst our own voices will speak much louder.

  64. June says:

    I realized I had a lot more to say about this. One thing you might be interested in (granted it’ll be in Portuguese but I hope to provide some English coverage when it really gets started) is in Brazil they’re running a modelling competition called Top CUFA: which is going to take one constestant from the ghettos in each state of Brazil and put them in a modelling competition akin to America’s Next Top Model. Looking through the candidates there’s a wide of skin colors (granted, all the candidates still fit other modelling criteria such as young, beautiful, thin, tall etc) but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was that age/disabilities really just doesn’t get brought up enough either, which is especially disappointing because lingerie fits VERY differently as you get older and have different needs! I know when I look to bra reviews I need drastically different types of bras than younger bra bloggers who have never had kids.

    One last thing… WHY do lingerie ads show models advertising maternity/nursing bras on models who have clearly never been pregnant or nursed before in their lives???? I can’t even tell you how much that bugs me. Although, HotMilk did a series of high-fashion shots of a mom wearing their bras WHILE nursing her child in the shoot. They are just amazing:

  65. Mark Van Valkenburgh says:

    Dear Treacle,

    As a man I am not sure if I have the right to comment too much about this issue, and I am not suggesting there ought to be more men cross-dressing and appearing as models for lingerie producers/vendors. But as a man that both appreciates my sweetie wearing nice, sexy, and fashionable lingerie and who enjoys looking at lingerie catalogs/web sites and appreciating the lovely women who model the outfits I enjoy seeing women in. I am aware also of the dearth of women of color in lingerie advertising especially Asian women. My wife is Chinese and I often wish I could see an Asian woman modeling lingerie, both so I could more easily imagine how it would look on my wife, and because I appreciate having the chance to see lovely Asian, and other women of color as well as lighter complected models. I hope that soon the models will represent all women, in all their beautiful and sexy glory! Best to you, I enjoy your blog and the tips you provide on good buys and vendors of lingerie!

  66. June says:

    I definitely, definitely agree with you 100% that there needs to be a great range of diversity (and not just size either) in the lingerie industry. Curvy Kate is really one company that seems to be pushing the envelope there (and I wrote a post awhile back too about Krista Cousins winning and was hoping that there would be a push for more shades of “nudes” in their line because of it).

    There are some lingerie bloggers out there who are non-white so I just wanted to point them out too (granted they are all full-busted but those just tend to be the blogs that I read). One that I love is she had a really great post on lingerie and feminism awhile back. Also Krista Cousins does have a blog but it’s more fashion-orientated: .

    But this is one issue that makes me infuriated here in Brazil. If anything, Brazilians tend to have darker skin/hair/eyes than the average American, yet it is almost impossible to see that amongst their models! Even finding dolls that are NOT blonde/blue eyes are almost impossilbe (although it has gotten better) and sometimes they are more expensive! My daughter would be considered mixed in the states (locally she’s considered white by Brazilian standards, though) and I want to be able to get dolls that look like her. I want her to be able to see people in the media that represent her. What is it telling children when all the characters they see on TV are caucasian? All the dolls that they get are the same and then when they get older all the models showing of their clothes are also caucasian? It just doesn’t make sense at all when they don’t represent the majority of the population.

  67. Avigayil says:

    I have never understood why diversity is not embraced in the lingerie world – from a purely asthetic point of view, though I get the race thing. Frankly from this short, curvy pale chicks opinion (who is also part of a minority, though not as visible), some things just look far better on darker skin. From a purely esthetic point of view… Light colors look wicked beautiful on dark skin as apposed to light pasty skin. Why stick a white chick in white silk undies and bra when you can stick a black chick in the same outfit and have it pop? Even color… I think darker skin makes reds, oranges, yellows and many other colors look amazing.

    As for nude, haha. Nude has always been dark on me so very early I learned that nude is only nude for certain people. I found a website called Nude Barre… You should really check it out. They make like 16 shades of nude!!!

  68. Sweets says:

    Thank you for writing this, especially with such passion. It still blows my mind and makes me cringe when I open a catalogue or browse an online retailer and see no women of color, no women over 35, women who are all the same size (either curvy or slender), hell, sometimes even no women with short or curly hair. Beauty IS diverse, and it’s shocking that we’re still being sold one version of it. I agree that the UK lingerie industry is, unsurprisingly, ahead of the US on this (seconding the Kiss Me Deadly, Bravissimo, and Curvy Kate love, and adding that Nordstrom seems to feature more women of color and varying ages than the sad “norm”), and it’s frankly embarrassing that more retailers don’t embrace true diversity: size, shape, skin tone, style, age, and ability. That would be a better reflection of the wonderful women in this country. I hope more people sit up and take notice of your words!

  69. Thursday says:

    Bravo, Treacle. A great crystallisation of the thoughts you’ve been expressing across your platforms for a while now.

  70. YES, Treacle, YES. I feel like people try to gloss over race because it’s such a “tough issue” (ya think?). That Victoria’s Secret includes people of color is pretty amazing and definitely a plus on their end. One of the things that I’ve always appreciated about them is that they sell brown bras (aka “nude” for people with darker skin). When I first shopped there, I bought plenty of brown bras (despite being white– for me it was a color like any other, so shame on anyone who feels like white people “can’t” wear brown bras, come on) and it wasn’t until later I saw how truly rare that was! The only three other lingerie brands that even use black models are Kiss Me Deadly, The Lake and Stars and Curvy Kate. That’s a pretty small number.

    It’s also irritating that people tend to turn any discussion around diversity/representation/discrimination into a talk about the own way that they feel excluded, which is just NOT helpful. So the next time you feel tempted to say, “I know how you feel as x because I am y” just stop. The only way you know what it’s like to be x is to be x.

  71. Jewel says:

    I agree with you 1000%! I have been searching the internet for pictures of BLACK women either full figured or not modeling lingerie to get an idea of how it would look on me, and I have yet to find any! And trying to find a variety of full figured black pinup models is damn near impossible too. Having read your article putting into words how I have been feeling and expressing to my boyfriend everyday is refreshing but so very sad. But I am glad you wrote it so that maybe women will stop attacking you about the whole size diversity issue.

  72. astrid says:

    Dang! I just realised that you were modeling in that picture! I was checking back to see where it came from. You look gorgeous!

  73. astrid says:

    I’m a busty black woman and I just realised while reading this that you tend to see more black and biracial women in the D+ cup world for some reason. Websites like Bravissimo or Brastop seem to employ at least one black model on a regular basis and there are usually Black women in the Star in bra competition finalists. Could it be that they are more sensitive to the need for diversity than A-D cup retailers?
    On another note, I hate the word “nude” applied to beige bras, I’m more likely to applaud a company for expanding their size range, than for expanding their colour range, because ultimately just having access to a small range of bras in one’s size should be a given and that is still not the case for say women wearing a 26 band size.
    I think you’re doing a great job with guest blogs from other perspectives to include various women.

  74. Cheryl says:

    This is why I’m so happy to see Krista Cousins alongside th mose other Curvy Kate models. Bravissimo also have the most striking model, but the more the merrier. I’ve noticed a lot moreso colour variety here in the UK, so it’s about time America caught up!

    That said this article actually made me think about how empty the industry is of young (what on earth do prr teens buy in this day and age?) Which is why I was so happy to see Lady Muk at Moda this year. Also model s over 35…

  75. Riya says:

    Delurking to tell you this is why your blog is in my RSS feed, and why you’re not just another topical blogger – thank you for this!

  76. Marlena Dali says:

    Treacle, your post is wonderfully poignant and thoughtful. I’m very glad you posted this despite how tricky it is to discuss the ‘delicate’ issue of race. And of course, not discussing race is one of the major contributors to the continuing plague of racism. It seems as if many people (of all races and genders) are blind to underrepresentation; as if since the equal rights movements and 2nd wave feminism of the 60s many people (in predominantly white nations) think everyone is equal, or equal enough. But there in lies the problem. People are blind to something they are not shown, so how could they see it anyway? You catch my drift?
    Pick up a history book, an art history book and you will find mostly white men and maybe a few women, even fewer of which are women of color, and when they are mentioned (if mentioned at all) are segregated to sections only about ‘famous thinkers/artists/etc of color/that are women.’ Or movies; how many women, particularly women of color are represented in mainstream films that are not ‘black movies’ or ‘chick flicks?’
    I was born and raised in Los Angeles, a very diverse city. I was also born during the LA riots, however I will not delve into that. I moved to Sydney Australia (another very diverse city) a couple years ago. Early on I noticed there were NO people of color in any ads. NONE. And as I’ve continued to live here I have yet to see any representation of people of color in any ads. In sports, and US and UK shows, yes, but not ads. I brought this up amongst ‘friends’ and they said, ‘Well, there’s ads with all different races in the US because there’s a market there. There’s no market for blacks here.’
    Bull shit. There’s so much wrong with that.
    It’s a denial of difference, a denial of a NEED for change. The saddest thing is that this underrepresentation is normalised. Many women of color aren’t as aware of their underrepresentation because it is just normal; it’s just how things are. Underrepresentation is a very sly and sneaky form of racism because it is a ‘not-seeing’ as opposed to seeing, witnessing oppression. It is deeply embedded in us. Then there’s the fear of pointing out that this lack of women of color in everything, especially the world of lingerie, will make you a radical. You mustn’t disrupt the norm, oh no.
    This is why your post is essential. You are giving a voice to women of color interested in lingerie that aren’t Victoria’s Secret models. Thank you very much for this.

  77. denocte says:

    Treacle, this was so touching!
    Thank you a lot for writing this. I will make this a perm link on my blog. It is such an important subject, and you have really put this in a great context.
    Diversity is more than just a size.
    (and btw, I know the the “bohoo, you’re not “allowed” to feel discriminated against, you’re a C-Cup ;) )

    I guess it’s an even bigger subject in Europe/Austria where I live, because the US are decades ahead concerning ethnic diversities. Austria is pretty much not a big ethnic melting pot, hence nobody feels “the need” for diversity in models etc.

    There were some Palmers campaigns like ten years ago with some really stunning POC models, but that’s pretty much everything I can think of…

    And just think of the french Lingerie brands – it’s all whitey white.

    And yes, I think it would be very important to stretch diversity to its full spectrum. body shape, age, skin, ability.

    Feel tightly hugged for this awesome post.
    and btw, you look extremely stunning in that picture!

    xoxo denocte

  78. Jame (@jameane) says:

    I sort of feel like I need to choose a side. Do I want more black models. Or more full bust models? Or more size 16 models. I straddle all 3 groups. I am happy you are here covering all of the sizes, brands large and small. And other issues. I used to play the “count the people who look like me” game when I read magazines. I don’t do that much anymore. It is already abundantly clear that dark skinned black women need not apply. So for now, I am just trying to follow all of the ones that I find. Thanks for putting this out there!

  79. Trinity says:

    First of all, thank you for writing this. I thought a bit about this topic after you re-tweeted something about supposedly “nude” bras. I always knew that they weren’t the right nude for my skin, but I’d never thought about them in regards to other people. That then got me thinking about how not seeing more racially diverse models could/does impact lingerie buying. There are plenty of colors that I’m not sure would look good on me, but if the model’s skin color is close to mine then that can help me decide whether to buy that color lingerie or not. I’d imagine that this is difficult to do for women of color unless you stick to colors you know will look good on you. It’s the same for seeing women with my body type, but I digress.

    I call b.s. on the “we couldn’t find any good ones” argument. If you’re a large brand working with an agency then you should be able to get models of a variety of races. Even if you’re a medium sized brand, if you’re in a decent sized city, you should be able to find models on Model Mayhem.

  80. AshleyNicole says:

    I must say.. I was very surprised to see this post and truly touch.. i feel like this was what I’ve been waiting to see! lol.. There’s sooo much to say about what you’ve wrote but I can say I really appreciate the insight.. I’m a brand new upcoming designer, customizing in luxury lingerie, I’m also very late and new to blogs :/. I am African American 23 years old I just graduated from Clark Atlanta University and I was studying abroad in Milan, Italy for a whole year. So I definitely can relate to some of the things you’ve said. And how different the world is from an African american woman. not everyone gets that… but I would LOVE if we could chat further. My business customizes for alll women especially black women because not everyone can fit into a Victoria Secret. And i know allot of sexy African american women of all shades and sizes who I accept as models with open arms! I know it really took a lot of thought and strength to write about this type of topic and I think you did a great job! Thank you, hope to hear from you soon! oxox

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