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Diversity in Lingerie: Why I've Been Scared to Talk About Diversity Lately


Earlier today, June of Braless in Brasil launched a Diversity in Lingerie campaign. It's all about bringing attention to the lack of diversity in the lingerie industry, and in addition to posting a picture of themselves with the hashtag #DiversityinLingerie, bloggers are also encouraged to write a post on what diversity means to them.

My thoughts on the absence of diversity within the intimate apparel industry are no secret; I've both written blog posts and published guest posts from others on the subject, and I felt it was important to participate in this event because diversity is and always will be a subject close to my heart. However, as the deadline approached for getting my post up, I found myself struggling with what to write. At first, I was confused. After all, I have no shortage of things to say on this particular topic, but then I realized... over the last year or so, I've become afraid of sharing what's on my mind. Put another way:

Diversity is one of the most important subjects in the lingerie industry to me right now, and yet I'm scared to talk about it.

This fear didn't happen overnight. In fact, I don't think I even realized it was happening at all until I started writing this post. Nevertheless, when I look back over some of what's happened the past year, I began to see how and when and why I let myself get here. There wasn't one major, disruptive event. No, it was a series of tiny occurrences, of small happenings that gradually undermined my resolve to be that person who talks about diversity.

My conception of diversity is a broad one. It goes beyond dress size or bra size or "curviness," and includes greater representation of older women, trans women, women with disabilities, women of color (including biracial women), women with muscular/athletic body types, and plus sized women (I'm thinking especially of women who wear larger than than a size 16US or so). In short, it includes those women who are all too often marginalized, neglected, or outright ignored in almost every conversation about lingerie.

Because my perspective on diversity differs from what's popular right now, the responses I've gotten have also differed from the norm. In the past year, I've been called "angry," "aggressive," and asked to stop making people "uncomfortable" for writing about diversity. I've been told that being black is just like being goth, having stretch marks, having broad shoulders, having large breasts, having small breasts, having tattoos, or having piercings. I've been told that my blog "harms women" because it focuses on issues other than bra fit. I've been accused of "crying racism" for talking about cultural appropriation and of "ignoring important issues" for writing about ethnic stereotypes. I've been told I talk about diversity "too much," and I've been called "nonsensical," "dumb," "dogmatic," and "disappointing" for having the audacity to suggest that the conversation on diversity is at least as important as the one on bra fit. And those are just the public remarks made in my own comments section, on Twitter, and on lingerie forums from other lingerie bloggers, lingerie brands, and lingerie enthusiasts. If I started talking about the angry ALL CAPS messages I've received in my inbox, we'd be here all day. But all that together makes me wonder... if one post on diversity every once in awhile is enough to elicit that kind of response, what would happen if I dared write more?

I'm not saying all this because I want sympathy. I'm saying it because I think it's important to understand that there can be a very real, very distressing penalty for daring to talk about a version of diversity that includes race or gender or sexuality... a penalty that is nonexistent for other, more popular issues (like size). When you're a member of a minority group, you're not only slighted by that initial lack of representation, you're also marginalized again and again by all the people who communicate, via words and actions, that "more diversity" doesn't really apply to people like you. When a website is unafraid to publicly say that issues affecting you aren't "real issues," it affects you. When a brand insists that other types of representation are more important than representation which applies to you, it affects you. When a blogger tells you that it's okay to feel strongly about one type of diversity, but that it's inappropriate or "upsetting" to have similarly strong feelings about other kinds, it affects you. And the ironic thing is that you become hesitant to even bring up this issue, because the very act of admitting that there's a problem is a problem in and of itself.

(Let's take a quick breather for a second. Get a sip of water and come on back.)

Of course, it's not all bad. I've gotten a lot of amazing emails from other readers and brands and other bloggers who were thankful that someone was "brave enough" to talk about an expanded notion of diversity. But the unspoken side of emails like that, the part that's only implied, is that it's really very frightening to be publicly pro-diversity. And when barely starting a conversation has this many negative consequences, it becomes even more important for that conversation to happen. It makes me sad that so many people are afraid to write on these subjects because the negative consequences would be too great. It shouldn't be like that.

While we're on the subject of negative consequences, this seems like a good place to mention the other part of this campaign... namely, encouraging lingerie brands to be more diverse in their selection of models. While the idealist in me would love nothing more, the pragmatist in me knows that brands suffer some very adverse effects when they use a model too far outside the mainstream. Lingerie brands lose when they utilize a model of color, a model with a muscular body type, a disabled model, or an older model in their ad campaigns. Stores refuse to pick up their lines (often with the excuse that the imagery isn't a good "fit"). Customers make fewer, smaller purchases. Press of all kinds --- from magazines to trade journals to bloggers --- becomes reluctant to talk about or feature images from the brand. And these detrimental effects disappear with the use of conventional models.

Diversity in Lingerie has to be about more than demanding diverse representation, it also has to be about promoting diverse representation. The lingerie community is incredibly homogenous, at nearly every level --- from brands to bloggers. When a brand takes a chance on a non-traditional model, there's a responsibility on us, as bloggers and members of the media, to help ensure that brand doesn't suffer for doing so. This is absolutely an instance where being silent and passive contributes to the problem. And though I've been open about this both here and on my social platforms, I want to say it again... if you're a designer from an underrepresented group or you're a brand using a non-traditional model, I want to know about you. Write to me. Message me. Tweet at me. In addition, at the bottom of this post, you'll find a list of lingerie brands and stores that have made diversity a core part of what they do. If you know of other names to add, please tell me in the comments.

This past year has brought some of the most exhilarating highs and some of the most crushing lows of my blogging career. On the plus side, I finally feel like I've found my "tribe" in bloggers like The Lingerie Lesbian, Fashion Pirate, Sweet Nothings, That Je Ne Se Quois, and Scarlet's Letter. On the negative side, I've struggled with feeling out of place as certain aspects of the lingerie community have made it clear that some forms of diversity are more equal than others. But I'm optimistic. I think there are more good things to come. And I like to think the #DiversityinLingerie campaign can be a part of that.

What are your thoughts on Diversity in Lingerie? Would you be interested in contributing to the conversation either on your own or on this blog? What does diversity mean to you? For more bloggers participating in the Diversity in Lingerie event, take a look at Braless in Brasil's blog post announcing it, and for more reading about diversity, check out the links below:

Brands That Use Diverse Models:

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.

72 Comments on this post

  1. London says:

    One of the best things you do is advocate for those you don’t specifically relate to. Most of us don’t remember to stick up for a different form of diversity from our own. I am a slightly overweight athlete with huge boobs. I forget about a lot of cultural diversity that doesn’t come from my own looks/feelings/daily rituals. And that’s what you do best. I probably read more about your diversity writings than I do your articles on specific lingerie.

    No matter what: keep being uncomfortable and stretching yourself to talk about this. There won’t be a day it won’t be necessary. You’re doing good work.

  2. Ju Verly says:

    your post is really amazing! Congratulations!
    I´m a Brazilian lingerie blogger and I´ve just joined the campaign. If you can, please have a look on it:

  3. Amy says:

    I love that you talk about diversity, because it IS an important topic when talking about womens’ bodies, womens’ fashion, and feminism. Not all site and their owners have the maturity to discuss it in a productive and constructive way, just last year I had to disengage from a fashion blogger networking site because the site owner couldn’t handle discussions of diversity in fashion blogging without defensive posturing and using similar language you experienced. Sure the conversation can be uncomfortable, but going beyond your own front yard and experiencing the world and its people and listening to their experiences is uncomfortable, but that’s what happens when you become an adult.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing these sheltered peoples a service in opening their eyes to a bigger world out there other than their cloistered front yards. And I for one enjoy hearing all the different perspectives.

  4. Jamie C. says:

    All I know is that I’m a white woman with a brown daughter. And all I know is that when my daughter was 3 and 4 she colored all of her “people”- fairies, princesses, Mickey Mouse, Strawberry Shortcake- brown. All skin was brown all of the time. Because SHE is brown. And then when she was about 6 she stopped coloring her people brown. They ALL became light-skinned. Even her own drawings of herself. This made me quite sad- but I understood that by age 6 she had taken in hundreds and thousands of images of fairies, and princesses, and dolls, and Mickey Mouse and Strawberry Shortcake, and being a girl who wants to do things correctly- she learned that all things have light skin. Now she’s 8. I have dubbed September as “Color Your Apples Green” month. I asked her which apples were our favorite to buy- and she knows it’s the green Granny Smith kind. I asked then why is it that apples are always colored red ALL of the time? It’s because people just got used to coloring them red, but realistically we never buy the solid red Washington apple, we always buy either a green or pinkish-yellow apple. And when you color the apple green it seems wrong somehow. But it isn’t wrong, it’s very right. – As you know, the white person is the red apple. So this month to honor diversity, I encourage everyone out there to encourage your children to color the apples on their worksheets the color that you actually buy. Strangely enough I think this exercise will help all people see how ingrained certain images have become. I have encouraged my daughter to color her people brown as she sees fit, and I bought her the People Color crayons from Lakeshore Learning. She loves those. I never directly linked my apple questions to skin color, but I think it did raise a certain awareness in her…

  5. Darlene says:

    Be sure to add Malia Mills to your list! I consider them a forerunner on this issue.

    • Cora says:

      Can you link me to something Malia Mills has written? Or, if they’re a brand, a link to their lookbook? I’ve not heard of them.

  6. franku says:

    Cora* —
    About the only thing I can think of to say is, You spoke about struggling to write. I’d suggest you not blog about this any more. Or blog about it any less. Write when you feel *the need*, otherwise its putting too much pressure on yourself to write for the sake of it. The issues are still here, so you’ll address them when you see a way. Also, I’m sure before you blog, there weren’t many Lingerie blogs dealing with this or other issues aside from ‘Why can’t I find a decent bra-fitter?’ or ‘How long will this brand of underwear last?’ Then there was, and now that’s what TLA is – a place for both. People can always read someone else if they wish. Or they can read only selected posts. Or, maybe even read more and think about things they haven’t?
    *I still have the urge to address you as Treacle ; )

  7. Beth says:

    Thanks for sharing your feelings on this subject, Cora! As an online retailer, I’m constantly looking for lingerie brands that use diverse models, and am constantly disappointed in the lack thereof. I want my boutique to feature images of woman of all kinds, and I have a very difficult time finding brands that feature women of color, of various shapes and sizes, etc. I’d like for every woman to find something to relate to when she’s browsing my shop, and not to ever feel “less than” for not seeing anyone like her represented. Thank you for acknowledging that this is a real problem, and for seeking to promote lingerie designers who think outside of the box. I look forward to researching the brands you’ve listed here!

  8. Brittany says:

    This was brilliant, from your post to the care you’ve taken in responding to comments made. You’re covering ALL aspects of diversity in lingerie and THAT’s what’s important. It’s not just about size, in fact I would dare to say its hardly about size. There’s so much more that is an issue. I’ve experienced people’s thoughts that anytime you mention race or ethnicity, that you’re crying racism and its never the case. It’s quite easy for people to say that, even believe it when they’ve never experienced it. I applaud your bravery in tackling and addressing the issues of diversity and have been following you and some of your “blog tribe” and must say love ya’lls boldness, camaraderie, acceptance and love of each other. Write on my darling, write on.

  9. Annmarie says:

    So sorry I missed this post when you first published it and hope it’s not too late…
    In any case, I want to thank you for this as well as previous posts about the subject (not to mention being accepted as who I am years ago when you first started this blog).
    I hope the high number of positive responds you already got here will offset the negative ones you may get or got in the past. And while it may be very discouraging and upsetting at times I think that change is imminent. I want to believe that attitudes are changing and the lingerie industry as a whole, and hopefully everyone else, is realizing that true diversity is in everyone’s best interest.
    Thank you for doing your share in such an honorable, eloquent, brave way!

  10. Angela says:

    You forgot about Curvy Kate.

  11. AcheKah says:

    Despite being a slender Caucasian, almost no ads look remotely like me. Kiss Me Deadly is close, but as the lucky lady with 32G breasts, the line is yet another brand to say anything past DD is bad.

    I love my black hair. I love having long hair. I love my athletic build. I adore my big, strong legs that mean I can pick up my 83 pound dog without a problem. My never pronounced right name is the best. My husband loves me exactly as not trendy as I look.

    But, sigh. So many diversity posts are skin tone only. Yes, it’s a problem. But, you don’t see ladies who wear Meow foundation in 0 either. A “nude” bra looks dark tan on me. But, skin isn’t what impacts the fit. It’s the body and breast shape. How a bra fits a size 4 is not how it fits a size 14. Perfectly perky ladies look very different from ladies who want to snooze in the sand. Firm boobs fill a bra differently than squishy boobs. And grrrrrrrrrrr, what on earth is the point in modeling a too small bra? Even if I want that much on display, unless I go crazy and stuff myself in a D, I won’t reach that standard.

    Sure, different skin tones look better in some colors. I will never wear baby pink or lemon because those won’t work on me. But, since most bras have multiple color options – I know what I can wear but how can I know if a bra fits if it’s modeled by a beautiful, dream worthy boobed woman who is wearing a bra that’s 4 cup sizes small.

    • Cora says:

      I would disagree with you. While size diversity is absolutely important, I find that the majority of the lingerie industry – bra bloggers included – only talk about size. In fact, most of the articles written by other sites in this #DiversityinLingerie campaign are focused on some aspect of size. I believe it’s important to talk about multiple types of diversity, and to not let other kinds fall by the wayside simply because there are some who believe size is “more important.” I’d encourage you to read the articles in my “Diversity is More Than a Bra Size series” as well as my piece on “Why I’m Not a Bra Fit Blogger” and my article on “The Problem with the Word ‘Tr*nny'” (wherein I also discuss my athletic build). You’ll see that, first of all, we cover more than skin tone and that, second of all, we believe there are more issues affecting women than fit.

      I also believe there’s a serious issue with reducing someone race and ethnicity to just a “skin tone” problem. While women of color may share some difficulties with you in finding foundation or “nude” bras, there is quite a bit more going on with the race in society issue than just those two things. And insisting that fit is more important than say, ethnicity or sexuality or gender identity, is exactly the kind of mindset this blog is trying to combat.

      Finally, regarding Kiss Me Deadly in particular, she’s never said breasts past DD are bad, and she, unlike most brands, has written extensively about why her brand literally cannot afford to extend their size range at this time. She’s also shared articles pairing her girdles and garter belts with bras from other brands so women can have a complete look. I’d encourage to take a look at her blog for those pieces.

      • AcheKah says:

        I don’t think you are wrong, but then again, I don’t think I’m wrong either. I fully suspect it’s related to what we individually see. I see many blogs saying “I’m Caucasian, so I’m not joining in.” But I’m sitting here going “But I’m not blonde and beautifully tanned, so why don’t I count?” While I’m positive being Caucasian has made my life easier, it’s not all good when you don’t fit the standard. I’m too pale, my hair is too dark, I’m too curvy and darn it, why can’t you just look normal is entirely too common. But, since I’m used to looking at clothing and going “Not in that color!”, I do admit that I’m probably too willing to accept that as normal when it shouldn’t be.

  12. Ellen says:

    Hi Cora,
    Since I am in a niche bra market, I have made every effort to showcase our products on small busted models. Our current model, Kerstin, is a 34AA and looks absolutely beautiful in all that we put on her! It had never occurred to me that small busted women did not know what they should look like in lingerie that fit their body types until we started getting a lot of emails and phone calls from customers who were moved to tears after seeing the 34AA models on our site. Mainstream media and many lingerie company’s approach to small breasts is that anyone who has them must immediately want to “supersize” themselves with padding, more padding, silicone enhancers and anything else that might make them appear to have more breast tissue. And, you rarely, if ever, get to see women with small breasts in lingerie in the media (didn’t Keira Knightley get Photoshopped so she was a B cup and would look okay in publicity photos for “Pirates of the Carribean?”). It is truly demoralizing to most of my customers, who are small busted and who are completely okay with their small breasts, to repeatedly get told that they should not be okay with their breasts, either visually through the media or through the bra selection that is available (I suppose this happens across the board with all sorts of lingerie and fashion items that are meant to “fix” you). What I find truly funny sometimes is that, if you’re small busted, you often get asked why you even need to wear a bra (true we don’t always have to). Well, all young girls going through puberty usually don a training bra and then a teen bra etc, which is what, of course, my small busted customers went through as well. However, suddenly, when the small busted girls become small busted women then the assumption becomes they don’t even need to wear a bra, which is completely non-sensical! Small busted women are still women and want all the choices that other women have.. but in their size! I think you make some excellent points regarding diversity and lingerie and I’m glad you continue to pursue this topic. I hope you’ll consider Lula Lu for your diversity list!

  13. Emma says:

    I just wanted to leave a simple little comment to say that I think your discussions on diversity are brilliant, though-provoking and intelligent and I really hope that you never stop writing. Posts like this are just as much a reason for me to read your blog as your posts on new collections etc.
    keep up the great work, it is valued and valuable!

  14. Michelle says:

    Lingerie and clothing companies are going to use a blank canvas that draws the least amount of attention to it for sale purposes and because females normally enjoy making role models out of celebrities and models. An ideal human being is one who takes care of themselves and takes care of others–sorry to say, if some one really takes care of their bodies, they are going to be more “fit” than a US 16 (unless they have a rare health issue). If they use a handicapped, transexual (my apologies if I’m using the wrong word), or even an African American women, the shopper isn’t first going to think, “What a great bra,” they’re going to notice the minority first–why would a lingerie company want that? It’s not a cruel scheme to bump out diverse models, it’s an effort to sell their items. I’m sorry if you’ve already mentioned this, but again, they’re not trying to destroy your confidence or those who are unlike the norm.
    Also, and I wish more people knew this, the fashion industry uses prominently very thin models: why? Because they are a blank canvas and most samples are made on a mannequin. If they wanted mostly plus size models, that begins to complicate things way more. Why? Because we all have unique body types and gain weight differently. Way too many adjustments would have to be made which is far more difficult on a luxurious item made of non-stretch material. They are NOT trying to say, “Skinny is the new sexy.” “We dislike overweight people.” They’re trying to put on a show in the most convenient/affordable way they can.
    It should also be noted: if a lingerie company doesn’t have any “unique” models, that does not imply they are evil, scheming, and not wanting a variety. Some smaller brands just hire local girls–and if they all happen to be thin and white, what’s wrong with that? There is a local designer where I live (the location shall remain anonymous) and there are absolutely no African Americans in this town–perhaps one Mexican but she would not be interested in modeling. This is one reason I, sorry to say, dislike the list you compiled. It’s almost like saying, “These are brands I approve of and suggest you buy from.” What if you missed some? It’s not very fair to some other smaller, struggling companies.
    You mentioned companies are responsible for trying to promote diversity: if it runs the risk of affecting their sales, why should they cross their fingers hoping some bloggers are going to be promoting them? I’m sorry, but it’s a bit of a gamble.

    • Cora says:

      You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, Michelle, but your entire comment reads like a response to an article I never wrote. At no point in my blog post did I mention anything about my confidence or my self-esteem being destroyed. Those are your words that you’ve added. As far as your apologies for “using the wrong word,” why not use the terminology from the blog post or the comments if using the correct phrasing was really that important to you?

      I definitely believe in acknowledging the economic reasons behind why a brand may choose to use homogenous models, and I actually said that in the article. It’s obviously important for that element to part of a comprehensive conversation on diversity. However, you can still critique those reasons, and you can still discuss their adverse effects. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

      In addition, nowhere in this blog post did I accuse any brands of being “evil” or “scheming.” Again, those are your words (and hyperbolic ones at that) that you’ve chosen to insert into this conversation. Please know that I’m very careful about making sure that the language I use to describe my point of view is an accurate representation of my thoughts. I’m sure you were trying to be helpful, but there is absolutely no need for you to come up with words or opinions on my behalf.

      Finally, you are more than welcome to dislike the list I’ve compiled. Based on your comment, the list doesn’t appear to be very relevant to you. However, putting together list of brands that use diverse models is no more or less unfair than putting together a list of brands who make plus size bras or a list of brands who manufacture in the United States. The subject of this blog post is diversity, and so I chose to spotlight those brands who make diversity a part of what they do…in the same way I choose to spotlight brands who are relevant to any topic I post on this blog. Are you similarly bothered when this blog recommends brands for other reasons, or was it just this particular subject that has you feeling so strongly?

      Thank you for leaving a comment which so vividly illustrated many of the issues I brought up in this post.


    • Jocelyn W. says:

      Michelle, who is “the norm,” and what makes them so?

  15. Sahar says:

    I saw you walking down the street on Sunday and I almost wanted to run across the street and shake your hand and fangirl you a little bit because of posts just like this one. I love that you do bring stuff like this up! Broader than lingerie, it absolutely sucks when I can’t give my full gusto into loving something because the people who make it don’t care about me as a customer. It’s hard to be forced to criticise something that you like… letting it go isn’t an option. When the way we represent ourselves in the media, advertising, etc. is so homogenous, it starts to play on how we interact with and treat each other and see ourselves in real life.

    Thanks for posts like this! I’ll definitely remember that while I am part of a marginalised group, my goal when I present my work should have an inclusive image. It’s not about just making sure that people who look like me are represented. Everyone deserves to see representations of themselves and to feel good about those representations.

  16. One more comment, I’d love to see more breast cancer survivors featured in “fashion” bras. There is good product out there for the post mastectomy crowd, but much of it is very utilitarian in nature. As a post mastectomy and prosthesis fitter, I have had a great amount of success in finding fashion styles that can be easily converted with a pocket to accommodate a breast form. These women deserve to reclaim their bodies and sexuality, and should be featured in fashion campaigns. We give a lot of discussion to breast cancer, and I feel that much of it focuses on the medical aspect. Seeing the glow on a woman’s face when she again sees herself as beautiful…is so incredibly rewarding and contributes greatly to the healing process.

  17. Iris says:

    As a short, curvy, brown girl it has always been a problem to buy clothes that flatter me. Mostly, they’re not made for people who have my shape. Does the brown factor into that? Only genetically. I’m not fat. I run marathons, I rock climb, I do yoga, I belly dance…I’m active. But no matter how much of all that gets done, I am still what I am. Even if I get smaller, it is proportionately. The curves, the butt, the big thighs, they don’t go away. One of the great comforts of reading your blog is that you especially make it clear that any type of woman is beautiful. You call out others for being rude, you intentionally explore the underlying topics that cover WHY not everyone can find the right clothing to fit their body. Don’t ever change. Please. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that reading your blog can sometimes make me feel better about my body than all the things I do to keep it healthy. Sometimes you just need someone else to say, “It’s ok to be you. Really. You’re beautiful.”

  18. Question for Doug. You admit to being overweight..but do you still wear Nike shoes or T-Shirt on occasion? Probably, you do. So why can’t an “unattractive” or “overweight” woman aspire to wearing Agent Provocateur? The fuller figured gal may not fit into their size range, but a woman with what society may deem an “unattractive” face certainly can! Aside from acknowledging the reality that economics is behind the lack of diversity in ad campaigns, I find your opinions offensive. Everyone IS attractive, because true beauty lies in spirit and in soul and radiates outward. That’s just not some Polyanna bullshit. I truly believe it. I have met some physically “beautiful” people who are so unpleasant it makes them ugly. And once their physical beauty has faded, they will be left with nothing. If you had a daughter or a sister with a birthmark on her face, would you tell her she is “ugly”? Would you? I sincerely hope this never happens, as you seem clearly ill-equipped in the compassion department. That being said, I hope some woman never chooses to judge you solely on your middle aged, overweight body.

  19. Hazel says:

    Hi Cora I would like to thank you for including Trans/ Cross dressers in your article and I thought you may be interested in this: It is intaresting to note that to model as a female he has to keep his body proportions to the accepted industry “Norm” I.E skinny!
    As a not to thin M to F cross dresser I have found a company that caters for the larger lady to buy cloths from. They do use fuller figure models in their Lingerie advertising and all the girls look beautiful, the company is called “Simply Be.” That’s enough of a plug for them.
    I also remember an add for pantyhose that ran back in the seventies called “Pegs” and I remember looking at this lovely long legged blond laying out seductively and the rather slow realization that she had only one leg and that “Peg’s” were designed for amputees. The most ineradicable thing was the add was being run in “Penthouse” a Playboy-esc magazine.
    Keep up the good fight and long may diversity reign!

  20. Larissa says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for A. discussing this important issue and B. calling us out for using diverse models! We really do make a conscious effort to hire a variety of models (which can be tough when you’re only hiring an average of one per season).

  21. Kitty says:

    Hi Cora! I’d just like to say that I’m very glad that you wrote this article despite your trepidations – not least because I hadn’t yet heard about the diversity in lingerie campaign.

    Your last comment about aspirational advertising got me thinking about something. I think one of the reasons I like Kiss Me Deadly so much is the way that the photographs used to promote the lingerie make women look strong and in control rather than the ‘sexy and passive’ often favoured by mainstream lingerie brands (my favourite example is Jess (top picture) in the Vargas dress: ). (I think my thoughts on this are not fully formed yet, and I will try to remember to comment again if I reach finding the words to express the point I know I’m reaching for)

  22. Doug Tingvall says:

    Disclaimer: I am an upper-middle-class straight white male speaking with little authority on the subject! With respect to commercial endeavors, diversity is purely a matter of economics — not political or social correctness. Lingerie advertisers, like all commercial advertisers, have a target market. They know who buys their products and their campaigns are designed to appeal to their customers — both current and prospective. Although I support diversity, I also respect a business’ right to determine their own best interests — including making their own mistakes. Just as Nike would be wasting its money to advertise to middle-aged, overweight fat guys like me, Agent Provocateur would be wasting its money to feature unattractive or overweight women in its ads. Critics will say that everyone is attractive — bullshit!

    • Cora says:

      Hi Doug,

      It’s funny you said that because I addressed this exact issue in the article.

      Also, I would argue Nike’s advertising is geared to “middle-aged, overweight fat guys” like you. That’s what aspirational advertising is…an attempt to sell you a product with the implied promise that it’ll bring you closer to societal ideals of youth, beauty, fitness, etc. And I think it’s absolutely worth talking about the implied values in those kinds of aspirational images, such as, for example, the implication that light skin is more attractive than dark skin.

      Thanks for stopping by,

    • Ms. Pris says:

      Gee Doug, thanks for explaining all that to us lil ol women.

  23. Cora, you know I’m a fan! And not one of those yeasayers, we have differences of opinion once in a while, lol. And as someone who is launching their own blog within a few days (eek!)..well, I’ve done my research and I have to say, I’m….sometimes aghast, dismayed? at the politics between the fashion vs fit camps. What’s wrong with a balance of the two? That’s where I will be focused. If a blogger chooses to focus on fit or fashion exclusively, fine, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of us out there having discussions on a variety of topics! That’s what makes the Bragosphere an interesting place, lol. That being said, I’ve also, unfortunately read some “fit” blogs that…make me…as a fitter very uncomfortable. I’m sure I’ll be ruffling a few feathers, if I haven’t already done so in some of my (epic) comments here, lol.
    Unfortunately, I think that women often approach bra fit and lingerie from a very…upset and untrusting place. As you mentioned, and part of my personal hatred for shape wear is that the lingerie industry is very focused on fixing “what’s wrong” with a woman instead of celebrating “what’s right”. Hence the angry all caps emails you receive, likely. I see it in my first time clients all the time. I spend more time talking women off ledges, educating and encouraging them to accept their bodies, than actually…sizing them. That’s the EASY part. Which now ties into diversity. As a fitter, an accomplished fitter…I see more bodies than most of us. A dozen a day for almost a decade. And not just bodies, the women who belong to those bodies. It goes SO far beyond size, musculature, colour, physiology…and into lifestyle, personality, biological age…and emotional age! Jesus, I cannot stress it enough…I have seen and see it ALL. “Normal” is a very, very narrow definition. And WHO has the right to define what is “normal”? And WHY do so many women crave it? You know what’s normal? Diversity is! And yes, I wish it were more celebrated by the industry. The independents and underground lines are certainly more accepting and yes, Big Business don’t want to take risks. Especially during a recession. It’s frustrating. So all we can do in the trenches…is keep on keeping on. I would like to see, as a sisterhood, women working together for the benefit of women, as opposed to snarky competition. Because that will just bring everyone to a negative place. I like to think that there IS a place for EVERYONE in Bra-land… my world, there is..and that’s a start.

  24. Mary says:

    As I sit here, trying to gather my thoughts, what keeps coming up in my mind is “Why?”. Why is there a problem like this anyway? There is nothing in nature that is the same size, color, etc. Everything from animals to plants are different. My kids were watching Nature and the adult pelicans tell their featherless young by the subtle marking on their skin and their eye color out of the vast amount of young on the ground. Why is this acceptable and they are animals but in people it isn’t? Don’t they get it? People are more important! It shouldn’t matter what nationality, color of hair, skin, eyes, life choices or even age. Yes, even ladies over 40 or 50 or whatever like pretty undergarments. I started feeling the lack of diversity when I had children. Sexy things are made for fuller hips and baby tummies, not to mention those of us women whose skin is so sensitive hair removal causes more pain and discomfort than having a cavity filled, but we are blessed with having dark hair on our heads or other physical problems. Personally, I would like to see more women who are a US size 12 or 14. I see “plus” size which doesn’t fit my measurements (to slender for them) but too big for most other things especially in the hips. Anyway, thank you! Thank you for tackling this again and again despite the lack of respect, kindness and caring from others.

  25. Jocelyn W. says:

    Cora, perhaps you have this vocabulary already, so please forgive me if you do, but you mention a number of things that sound like microagressions. Many examples here. And a lot of those responses you’ve gotten fall squarely into one of the Derailing for Dummies categories.

    I really appreciate you continuing to write about this, despite knowing that it is a topic that will tend to spur feedback that can be painful to receive. Now that you have this down in pixels, it would be nice if it were sufficient to point the oblivious toward it in order to end the discussion. Of course, the people who respond that way are often the ones most unlikely to realize their actions are problematic, right?

    • Cora says:

      You’re totally right. There’s a link to the Wikpedia article on microaggressions in the first paragraph (under “tiny occurrences”) but I don’t out and out use that language in this post. Though I’m familiar with the lingo, so to speak, I often avoid using those specific words in posts here on the blog because I’m writing for persons whose first exposure to these issues might be through TLA and I’m deliberately eschewing more academic language. But thank you for making it more explicit in the comments!

      • Jocelyn W. says:

        Ah, so there is! I forgot that you use bold for hyperlinks rather than color. I expect you’re doing quite a number of people a service by giving them, via lingerie, a soft entree to such matters that they might not have sought out themselves.

        • Cora says:

          Yeah, it was part of the new site upgrade. It can get a bit confusing though; I’m wondering if we should alter the code slightly to make hyperlinks stand out more.

  26. Amanda Bear says:

    I’m just starting my lingerie brand, and learning a LOT about marketing, especially with choosing models. You can check out some of my photography at . You’ll notice that I am using a fairly diverse group of models, since I am going for a more woman focused branding, and since my pieces are soft, the fit is a lot more flexible than say, underwire items, they look great on a variety of women. I have definitely noticed how sensitive people are to the types of models, the strange thing is that I think that if you use thicker, not straight size models, it automatically becomes “too sexy” to some people, think the way people respond to American apparel ads. There is nothing different about those ads from other fashion ads except more diversity, and less photoshop. I’m going to continue using diverse models, no matter what, but I think making it relatable is where the challenge is.

  27. Anna says:

    I am an ardent follower (okay, lurker) of your blog for so many reasons, and this article highlights one of the main ones. Thank you for bringing your considered, earnest, and forthright approach to these topics. It is appalling that anyone would respond to your words in an aggressive way, and it is commendable and inspiring that you have noticed – and are willing to discuss! – the effects of those responses on your writing. And then press forward in spite of it!

    It is a real shame that the “norm” in advertising is so limited, and that it helps reinforce stereotypes and prejudices (and on a more superficial note… isn’t it just kind of boring?). Of course some are more affected by this than others, as the Lingerie Lesbian noted, but at the same time I’m reminded of Desmond Tutu’s words about apartheid – that in dehumanizing others, they dehumanized themselves. Maybe it’s a stretch to apply his words to advertising, but I feel that even if one does happen to fit into the narrow definition of beauty/normalcy in advertising, it’s hard to feel good about it – maybe because so much of marketing towards women is predicated on making us feel bad about ourselves. That’s something that affects everybody.

    And maybe this is why it’s so ingrained and why designers get penalized for going against the norm – it’s almost like we’re saying “no” to ourselves more than to the retailer. Baby steps, perhaps. This is why efforts like this one are so fabulous, and why thought leaders such as yourselves are so key in challenging and shaking up tired notions and bringing in the new and better. Because really – if we can naturally and easily see beauty in the various landscapes of the world, why should it be so hard to readily see beauty (and take joy in!) in the natural range of human forms? And then buy the cute underwear they’re wearing? :)

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for commenting, Anna! I’m so glad you liked the post. :-)

      While I get what Desmond Tutu was saying, I don’t completely agree. Yes, a lack of diversity is harmful (dehumanizing, if you will) to everyone to some degree, in the same way sexism is harmful to everyone in some degree. But that doesn’t mean people are equally affected by it. As I mentioned in my response to Caro, I also have stretch marks and scars and a facial piercing, and when I think about what has the most profound impact on my day to day life, it’s not any of those three things. While I absolutely want there to be more conversations on diversity, I can’t help but be wary when people (and I’m not saying you’ve done this) imply that it’s all the same. Because it isn’t.

      You’re spot on though that marketing, including a lot of lingerie marketing, is all about making women feel awful about themselves. I think bra marketing is especially guilty of this. Women are told that bras will “fix” their sagging breasts and make them look like they’ve lost weight; why is it framed that way instead of as something more personally fulfilling?

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

      • Anna says:

        Oh goodness, I didn’t want to imply that all are equally affected (or that something like stretch marks or my tattoos/your piercing could possibly be equated with something like racism). The way I interpret Mr. Tutu’s words is that issues like these are everyone’s problem, even if one doesn’t seem to be affected at all, and everyone’s responsibility. Thanks for your reply and I look forward to future articles!

        • Cora says:

          Ah! Thank you for the follow-up comment. I completely agree. These are issues everyone should feel strongly about, whether they’re personally affected by them or not. :-)

  28. Sweets says:

    Cora, this post is amazing. It really is. I, like some other bloggers have mentioned, wasn’t sure how to participate this week: I’m white, cisgendered, able-bodied, and fairly young, and while I’ve never seen a model who looks exactly “like me”, I’ve seen so, so, so many who are close enough, especially with the rise of full-bust and full-figure brands. So I felt a little like it would be hypocritical for me to be all “we need more diversity.” Your post is a really important reminder that it’s not about “looking like me.” It’s about representation, it’s about conversation, it’s about education. I found this thought absolutely chilling: “And when barely starting a conversation has this many negative consequences, it becomes even more important for that conversation to happen.” I’ve noticed that I’ve really started to withdraw from discussions on sexism and feminism online, as I’ve seen the attacks that women writers like Anita Sarkeesian have to deal with, just for wanting to start conversations. Engaging with issues and asking for diversity DOES start to feel brave, and it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be courageous to ask to hear different voices, different points of view, or to honor or seek to understand differences of opinion. Thank you for your commitment to this important issue.

    • Cora says:

      Thank you for commenting, Sweets!

      I can absolutely understand your hesitation. I participated because I felt like it was important for me to be a part of the event. I’ve talked so often and so vocally about diversity (and about other bloggers getting involved), that I saw being a part of the campaign as putting “my money where my mouth was,” so to speak. But I don’t your misgivings were inappropriate or unjustified, and thank you for acknowledging that yes, a lot of models do resemble women who look like you. I think there’s a reluctance from some people to admit to that very real fact, and I admit that I’ve found it alienating.

      It’s interesting that you’ve felt the same reluctance to participate in discussions on diversity. I do think the penalty for speaking up is greater if you’re a woman, and I completely agree that it shouldn’t feel like an act of courage to start these conversations.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  29. Amber says:

    Cora, not to get all mushy on you…but this post brought tears to my eyes. You said everything I could have hoped to say and more, yet could never say myself. These words are yours, yet they speak for so many. Thats what has made TLA special from the get go…sure, it’s a beautifully designed blog, and yes you post lovely photos and lingerie news, but it’s always been you. You’re the one we come to read for, you’re the one we keep coming BACK to read for. Once again, your incredible knack for being open and honest about things that others often steer clear of, has made for a completely insightful and beautifully written post. THIS is what diversity in lingerie is all about. It’s not about changing the mind of brands, or just asking for new models, it’s about speaking out, making voices of diversity heard, and also listening. Listening to each other, listening to the needs and wants of other women out there who feel the same way that we do. It’s a lingerie revolution, and I have to thank you for your part in it. Thank you for being a voice, it’s a voice that we want to hear, and one all of us sorely need.

    • Cora says:

      Yes! Thank you for saying this. I completely agree that a conversation on diversity means both including diverse voices and listening to them. No matter how much lip service a brand or blogger pays to the concept of diversity, it’s all for nothing if it’s not put into practice. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment; I’m glad you liked the post.

  30. Thursday says:

    I’m sure I’ve commented before that one of the things that I love most about TLA is that this blog and your associated social media platforms are an all-welcoming community, and that diversity is more than just an ideal. I hate to think of you as “brave” for making it so, because it implies that what you are doing is so much against the norm that the push back from the lingerie industry is palpable. I admire you even more so for making it business as usual and authentic in the face of that. I knew early on, when you interacted with readers who are trans*women and crossdressers just the same as you did any other reader, that this was my kind of community.

    So, that’s kind of a way to get to me saying that your point about the need to promote diversity is foremost in my mind these days. I agree that to move forward, the industry needs to get on board with diversity as much as consumers need to demand it of the industry. And not just the kind of demands where consumers ask to see people that look like them, but demand as full a spectrum as feasible. And just because I’m a white, plus-size cis woman does not mean I cannot buy well-made lingerie from a brand using an athletic paralympian as a model – consumers need education in this as much as the industry.

    Clearly there will be more pain as this happens, but I do believe that because of people like yourself, Cora, good progress has been made. I want to move from thinking, “Hey look, such and such a brand are using a model with a disability”, to such things being normal. And I think you have inspired more of us to help make that happen!

    • Cora says:

      Hi Thursday!

      I like that you mentioned diversity has to move beyond seeing “people who look like me.” While it is definitely, personally important to me that I see more muscular black chicks in lingerie ads, I 100% agree that diversity can’t just be that one thing. Diverse representation is an issue that affects everyone, and an issue that everyone should be an advocate for. Thanks for bringing that up. And for the kind words. :-)

      • Thursday says:

        You’re very welcome:)

      • I think one thing that you said in your article that still needs to be stressed is that although diverse representation affects everyone, it has a much bigger impact on certain groups rather than others. We may all be affected, but we are not all EQUALLY affected, and if we pretend to that kind of solidarity, minority voices get drowned out.

        • Cora says:

          Yes, and thank you for reemphasizing this. I do feel like much of the conversation on diversity has been co-opted and watered down, and I’ve alluded to that in other posts as well. As someone with stretch marks, scars, a facial piercing, and dark skin, I can confirm that one of those four things has a profoundly greater effect on my life than the others, and it is really, viscerally distressing to me when people try to argue that they’re all equal. It only takes a conversation with a gay woman or a trans* woman or a woman of color or a disabled woman to understand that they are certainly are not and acting like they are is harmful because it minimizes and delegitimizes the concerns of others.

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