Retro (Black) Glamour Featuring Bettie Page Lingerie by Playful Promises
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Retro (Black) Glamour Featuring Bettie Page Lingerie by Playful Promises

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Bettie Page Lingerie by Playful Promises. If you're just looking for the lookbook and fit notes, scroll to the bottom!

Bettie Page Retro Futuristic Bullet Bra ($32) in size L and Lingerie Skirt ($45) in size M.

Bettie Page Retro Futuristic Bullet Bra ($32) in size L and Lingerie Skirt ($45) in size M.

Josephine Baker. Dorothy Dandridge. Eartha Kitt. Lena Horne. Billie Holiday. Tina Turner. Iman. These women were the faces of glamour in my childhood. Beautiful, iconic women who were not only black, but also massively talented and gorgeous to boot. They were a balm to me, an answer to a society and a culture that made it clear girls and women who looked like me could never be "good enough."

Though pinup culture is stronger today than it's probably been since the 1950s, the history of black pinups is largely unsung and unwritten. Images of Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and yes, Bettie Page, are everywhere, but photos of vintage black pinup models are few and far between. Even the art of the era, which includes greats like Gil Elvgren, Bill Ward, and Earl Moran, is a largely white iconography. It would be easy, if one were so inclined, to believe black women didn't exist as pinups. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Often, when this disparity is brought into the open, whether in reference to vintage art or even modern day art and pinup photography, people respond with the claim that it's "impossible" to find black models. There's a belief that black women, both then and now, simply aren't photogenic enough or "pinup" enough to represent the genre. Of course, that reasoning is ridiculous. More than that, when we're talking about images are meant to be seen as an ideals or interpretations of beauty, what does it mean when that vision of beauty is exclusively white?

As we've talked about time and time again on TLA, there is power in representation and visibility. The word "empowerment" gets tossed around in reference to most anything nowadays, but there truly is something quite powerful when people who were largely unseen become visible.

I remember the first time I ran across photos of women like Lottie the Body, Miss Topsy, Jean Idelle, Joyce Bryant and Ethelyn Butler. It was a revelation to me. Yet mixed in with that elation was also a sense of shock. Why hadn't I seen these pictures before? Why was that part of pinup history hidden?

There are lots of reasons I like Playful Promises, but one reason - perhaps the most important one - is because this brand actively pushes against many conventions others take as a given. From speaking out on assumptions about Made in China goods, to centering entire campaigns around older women, to manufacturing their lingerie in core, plus, and full bust sizes (and shooting on models from each size range), Playful Promises, a self-identified feminist lingerie brand, has made responding to, unpacking, and defusing industry tropes an inherent part of what they do - all while creating stunningly gorgeous lingerie.

Vintage black pinups at the beach

Vintage black pinups at the beach

When Playful Promises first asked me to the face of this Bettie Page Lingerie campaign, I was flattered, of course. Playful Promises and I have a very long history. Among other things, they were the first brand to sponsor a giveaway here as well as one of TLA's very first advertisers. Now, they're the first brand to ever ask me to be a model for them, and I couldn't be more honored.

However, the opportunity to model for one of my favorite lingerie brands wasn't the only reason I said yes. I also said yes because Emma, the founder and director of Playful Promises, made it clear that she wanted me - afro, dark skin, full lips and all - to show another idea of what a pinup could look like.

For me, this shoot is a collaboration and a celebration, not just of Playful Promises and their wildly successful Bettie Page line, but also of glamour. And of showing that glamour can take many forms. Glamour doesn't have to be traditional. It doesn't have to conform to others' standards.

You - yes, you - can be a gloriously decadent, sensual, powerful human in amazing lingerie...even if the way you look isn't valued by the mainstream. And I love that Playful Promises is here for that. Because everyone who wants it should have gorgeous lingerie.

Being visibly yourself in a world that insists you should be invisible is a marvelous, extraordinary thing. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Bettie Page is an icon, and it's largely because of the lingering power of her photographs. Well something similar can be true for any of us. Show up, be yourself, incorporate beauty and pleasure and joy into your life...and maybe take a few photos along the way. Because you are good enough. And you deserve happiness.

For me, this collaboration with Bettie Page Lingerie is a way of connecting with my history. It's a way of paying tribute to all those unnamed and unremembered fashionable women of past eras and decades. It's also about shifting the story on what pinups can look like. And, lastly, it's about thanking Playful Promises for believing in this black pinup all those years ago.

If you've tried Playful Promises for Bettie Page, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I've included fit notes as well as the sizes I'm wearing in each caption, but if you have more specific questions about a certain item, feel free to ask in the comments! I'm happy to answer them.

Bettie Page Retro Futuristic Bullet Bra ($32) in size L and Lingerie Skirt ($45) in size M.

Bettie Page Retro Futuristic Bullet Bra ($32) in size L and Lingerie Skirt ($45) in size M.
Fit Notes: Both of these fit me comfortably. The bullet bra features super pointy cups which you may need bullet bra pads or some other kind of "stuffing" to fill out and ensure they don't deflate. The lingerie skirt is very stretchy in all directions, which would likely make it good for a range of body shapes. A quick note: the corset lacing at the back of the skirt is functional, not decorative; you can relace it if you choose for a looser or tighter fit.

Bettie Page Lingerie Black Faux Feather Babydoll ($38) and Black Faux Feather Robe ($45)

Bettie Page Lingerie Black Faux Feather Babydoll ($38) in size 8 and Black Faux Feather Robe ($45) in size 8.
Fit Notes: First of all, the Faux Feather Babydoll is an absolute steal at $38. While every piece in the Bettie Page Collection is a great value for the price, this is an exceptional value. It's also vegan-friendly since the feathers are fake. Unfortunately, the robe is no longer available in black, but you can still purchase it in peach. The babydoll is a perfect fit through the bust and shoulders but is just a smidge tighter than I would like through the hips and derriere, which makes sense as my hip measure would put me in a 10 US according to Playful Promises' size chart. That said, it's still wearable; I just prefer a slightly looser fit on my loungewear, especially when the material is non-stretch as this is. The robe is about mid-thigh length on me, and the sleeves to the robe are delightfully voluminous. I admit to feeling a little like Mae West when I wore it to type this post.

Bettie Page Lingerie Teal/Black Overwire Bra ($57) in size 34C, Teal/Black 4 Strap Suspender Belt ($48) in size 8 US and Teal/Black Z Stitch Highwaist Brief ($38) in size 8 US. Shown with Point Heel Stockings ($24) in size 10 and Mesh Gloves in O/S, both in Black.
Fit Notes: The Bettie Page Overwire Bra, 4 Strap Suspender Belt, and Highwaist Brief are all discussed further down in the Black/Peach colorway, so this caption focuses on the stockings and gloves. If you're into stockings, then you know it's basically impossible to find authentic, vintage-style, fully-fashioned stockings for under $25 in the United States, so if this is your aesthetic, Playful Promises has got you. The gloves are one size fits all, which made them a little tight on me (especially on my forearms), but at $16, they are an absolutely ridiculous deal, so they're still worth trying out (especially for you burlesque types who need a good quality glove to dazzle).

Bettie Page Lingerie Retro Eyelash Lace Bra ($57), Lace 4 Strap Suspender Belt ($57) and Mesh Classic Brief ($19)

Bettie Page Lingerie Retro Eyelash Lace Bra ($57) in 34C, Lace 4 Strap Suspender Belt ($57) in size 10 US and Mesh Classic Brief ($19) in size 10 US. Shown with Point Heel Stockings ($24) in size 10.
Fit Notes: Of all the bras I tried for this shoot, the Eyelash Lace Bra was the most comfortable and wearable. While I love a good overwire or a bullet bra, if you want a piece that's retro-inspired but can still be incorporated into your day-to-day wardrobe, this is it. Of all the bras I tried, the Eyelash Lace Bra had the best fit for my particular bust shape. I also like that the straps are removable, so you can wear it strapless style if you prefer. The suspender belt is full of beautiful little details, like pink ribbon roses stitched to the top of each garter grip and a wide, eyelash-lace trimmed center panel that feels more expensive than it is. I went up a size from my usual in the mesh knickers, and I'm glad I did. These have a cheekier cut on me. If you're built similarly to how I am, don't expect the same kind of rear coverage you see on the website model. Though I don't think you can tell, the garter belt in this size is too big for me; I don't remember why I sized up, but an 8 would have been a better fit on me (basically, I'm saying this style is true to size).

Bettie Page Lingerie Black/Peach Overwire Bra, Black/Peach 4 Strap Suspender Belt, Black/Peach Z Stitch Highwaist Brief

Bettie Page Lingerie Black/Peach Overwire Bra ($57) in size 34C, Black/Peach 4 Strap Suspender Belt ($48) in size 8 US and Black/Peach Z Stitch Highwaist Brief ($38) in size 8 US. Shown with Point Heel Stockings ($24) in size 10.
Fit Notes: I have coveted an overwire bra for ages, and Playful Promises delivers. I took this bra in my usual size, and was very happy with the fit and look, but there are some unique qualities about overwires you want to keep in mind. First, it's not a style made for support; there is no underwire at the base of the bra to lift or shape the bust. There's some side boning just outside the overwire to help center your breasts, but you may find you need to use bullet bra pads for this style as well, especially if you have a shallower bust profile (I filled out the cups with a bit of padding for this shoot). The garter belt and panty are both very comfortable. Aesthetically speaking, I'm very much into that diamond-shaped bit of topstitching near the hips; it's a great detail. The Point Heel Stockings shown are discussed above in the Teal/Black photo caption.

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.

21 Comments on this post

  1. Derek says:

    Thank you for putting words to true empowerment, and shedding light where it belongs!
    PS, it was wonderful to meet you at Curvexpo NYC. I might just have to make a collage portrait inspired by one of these photos, if ok by you.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    So beautiful. (Underwear is too). You reminded me of Iman, but you have your own beauty too. So glad Betty Page have asked you to model for them. Wish I could wear their bras. They are lovely.

  3. Alexis says:

    The first time I saw your photo, I told you that you look like a model. I am happy to see that you have finally become one!

  4. Kashayas says:

    Oh wow you look beautiful and I love the lingerie featured.

  5. Saffron says:

    You look completely stunning, and I feel like these photos look classic and contemporary all at once. love it!!

  6. Bree says:

    You look so stunning and sexy! I’m so in love with the futuristic bullet bra ❤️ I need to check this company out xox

    • Cora says:

      The futuristic bullet bra is so dramatic. It would be a great piece for styling as outerwear, especially for the evenings. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Erica says:

    The pictures are lush – you look beautiful!

    I have the bullet bra and love it, the fit is on point and its great quality for the price point. Cannot wait to try over-wires next!

    • Cora says:

      Thank you, Erica! I completely agree with your notes here. And especially now that the overwire is available in a black/black colorway, I feel like it’s a must-have.

  8. Amber says:

    This post made me super emotional. Cora, you look so damn good, and the lingerie actually looks like it was made for you. I love everything about this entire lookbook and I am so excited for you and for PP for this amazing shoot! Beautiful photos…you look stunning, lady! xoxo

    PS. I also appreciated the fit notes, I was super curious about the fit of some of these pieces (especially the overwire) and your notes made me feel more confident about a future purchase from this collection.

    • Cora says:

      Hi Amber!

      Thank you so much for your support and encouragement over the years. Like I said, I couldn’t think of a better partner for my first collaboration like this, and I’m so glad you like the images. Thank you for sharing it to your blog as well.

      With affection,

  9. Thursday says:

    Stunning photos Cora, and a perfect collaboration. I didn’t realise TLA and Playful promises went back so far! I’ve been loving the Curve offerings although am a bit disappointed that only the black/peach set seems to be coming out in the plus sizes. I did order the suspender belt and highwaist brief, but I haven’t fully tested them out for wear (I don’t tend to wear stockings much when the temps fall below zero). The fit seems slightly smaller on the UK22 than the main ranges and unfortunately one of the bows trimming a suspender popped off when I first slipped it on. I did also purchase the overwire bra in a sort-of sister size but I’m not sure it’s a shape that works for me. Strapless bras in general don’t tend to suit my bust, but I think I’ll try some padding to help with lift from underneath. I would have liked the option of straps, which I think I saw have been included with the most recent colourways?
    At any rate, you make it all look amazing in this shoot!

    • Cora says:

      Hi Thursday!

      Yes, we do. It’s been wild, and really, an incredible honor to have such a long partnership with a company that’s believed in TLA from the very beginning.

      Thank you for sharing your fit notes on the Curve collection too. Have you shared any of your feedback with Playful Promises? I feel certain that they’d want to hear your thoughts, especially regarding the bow trim popping off and any fit discrepancies. If you have time, I’d love to hear what you think about the overwire bra when you receive it. I’m interested in hearing how it works on different sizes.

      Thanks again for your support and kind words,

      • Thursday says:

        You know I love what you do here at the blog, and you keep going from strength to strength. You’ve earned every bit of my support through hard work and dedication :) And stunning editorials like this!

        I have been reviewing items over on the Playful Promises site when I get the chance, but I am a bit behind. And I don’t like to compose a review until I have worn each item a few times – and other than the first test for fit when they arrived, my Bettie Page items haven’t been worn at all. As I said, I love what Playful are doing and am happy to help them get better and better.

  10. Amber DeSadier says:

    You look stunning and it is amazing to see a black woman represented in lingerie modeling. Representation matters and you show off their stuff so well. Thanks Playful Promises for supporting women! I can’t wait to buy me some Bettie Page Lingerie. I have wanted some forever, but this is significantly more of a push to support a great company.

    Btw, you look stunning.

    • Cora says:

      Thank you, Amber! A lot of brands call themselves feminist or “for women” or what have you nowadays, but I feel like Playful Promises comes closets to walking the walk. What they’ve done with their size expansions in particular over the last few seasons is unparalleled.

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