Archive | March, 2012


Lingerie, Gender and Identity

March 30, 2012
Learning to Embrace the Transgender Experience

by Richard Vincente

A year ago, a Toronto family made international headlines for their decision to not reveal the gender of their new baby to anyone outside the immediate family — in effect, raising a ‘genderless’ child.

It wasn’t a publicity stunt or provocation. The parents were highly educated and caring people who simply wanted their child to develop (at least in its early years) free from the gender-based behaviors, social codes and expectations that are imprinted on us from the moment we are given our first pink or blue booties.

As you might imagine, their story ignited howls of condemnation from around the globe. Nothing threatens the security of our social order more than people who mess around with gender, those two pigeon-holes we are all slotted into at birth.

Chrysalis Lingerie, a new brand that will be North America's first fashion lingerie label for transgender women when it launches this spring.

I thought about that a lot this week when I published a feature article on Lingerie Talk about Chrysalis Lingerie, a new brand that will be North America’s first fashion lingerie label for transgender women when it launches this spring.

To be honest, I didn’t think most readers of Lingerie Talk (or Lingerie Briefs) would be future customers of Chrysalis, but their enterprise seemed important and deserving of attention. I braced for whatever criticism might follow.

Surprisingly, that article quickly became the most widely read piece we’ve done this year and was retweeted and syndicated all over the web. What was going on? And why would so many people care about what I thought was a niche product and a niche issue?

Jenna Talackova, a contestant in Miss Universe Canada pageant was kicked out after it was learned she had been born a male.

At about the same time, the discrimination faced by the transgender/transsexual community was getting exposure elsewhere.

In Vancouver, a contestant in Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Canada pageant was kicked out after it was learned she had been born a male and later underwent sex reassignment (or gender confirmation) surgery to live life as a female (she calls herself “a woman with a history” – how awesome is that?!). An online petition seeking Jenna Talackova‘s reinstatement has so far gathered more than 40,000 signatures. Watch for developments in this benchmark case next week.

Then, in another coincidence of timing, the Dr. Oz Show yesterday devoted an extraordinary hour to the challenges faced by TG/TS women and their families. If you didn’t see it, look for it: it was edge-of-your-seat television filled with tension, emotion and plenty of raw truth.

The most interesting person to watch on the program wasn’t one of the heroic women who came forward to tell their stories; it was Mehmet Oz himself, the admired and empathetic doctor who has done so much to transform health and wellness education. Even though he’s addressed this topic before, he often appeared disoriented and nervously struggled to find the words to phrase his delicate questions, like he was tiptoeing through a sexual, social and biological minefield.

He admitted to knowing little about the medical issues related to gender transformation and, in one awkward moment, suggested viewers watching at home might want to have their children leave the room.

This isn’t a rap against Dr. Oz: it was simply fascinating watching him struggle toward understanding the issues faced by TG/TS people and find room for that new knowledge in his own belief system. And I think his experience will make it easier for others to do the same.

The Dr. Oz Show discusses the challenges faced by TG/TS women and their families.

I know how he feels. When I interviewed Cy Lauz, one of the co-founders of Chrysalis Lingerie, for our article, we talked about my comparative ignorance and how to communicate Chrysalis’ mission in a way that avoided the stereotypes and misconceptions that dog transgender individuals.

That article would be a big learning experience for me, too. Although I’ve had many, many gay friends over the years, I’ve only had the most peripheral acquaintance with two people who identify as transgender (one M-F, one F-M; both of whom underwent hormone therapy but did not pursue sex reassignment surgery). Their experience, to me, seemed unbearably heavy and fraught with barriers at every turn. I found it hard to imagine the eventual payoff that could ever make such a painful journey worthwhile.

Delving into the topic challenged me to open up, to learn without judging, and to embrace a truth that goes beyond our binary view of gender. Nature, as Cy reminded me, is infinitely varied and for every social or biological template their are innumerable permutations. And all are part of the human family.

Like many of you, I won’t be a customer of Chrysalis Lingerie, but I’ll support what they’re doing in any way I can and I hope the fashion lingerie community welcomes and supports them too. After all, lingerie, as most people in the industry will tell you, is all about your sense of personal identity — how women view themselves, how they want to be viewed, and how they can transform themselves.

The Chrysalis team isn’t just selling undies, they’re inserting themselves into the fashion and media mainstream as a way of advocating for change, acceptance and empathy on behalf of people who have to fight for their chosen identity every day.

Like everyone else fighting this battle, they deserve to be welcomed — in the words of the teen daughter of a transgender woman on Dr. Oz’s show — with an open heart.

Transgender woman  You can read Richard’s profile of Chrysalis Lingerie on Lingerie Talk here.



BRIEF ALERT! Private Arts

March 29, 2012

This Week’s Intimate Discovery:  A New West Coast Panty Company Creates Undie Art

Private Arts is a LA based panty company that caught my eye at the recent CurveNY show.  I am intrigued because their DNA is right up my alley.  Founded by three artists, every design is hand drawn and then transformed into a print using the modern technical expertise available on Photoshop.  Combinations of original illustrations, photography and graphic motifs are colorfully intermingled on stretch lace to form a gallery of Undie Art.  By using underwear as their personal canvas, the artist creates an interesting synthesis of creativity and intimacy. Made exclusively in the USA, each collection is an interpretation of a unique theme.

“A Great Artist Can Paint A Great Picture On A Small Canvas.” ~ Charles Dudley Warner


 READ: INTIMATE INTELLIGENCE on Learning to Embrace the Transgender Experience



Resplendence and Restraint

March 28, 2012

by Nivara Xaykao

As the dust settles on the Fall/Winter 2012 season, my colleagues and I at Stylesight are beginning to decipher the footpath of trends along the runway. In the area of intimates, inspiration materialized in subtle ways, from an intricate body map of seams to a plunging square neckline. Overall, collections were governed by dueling ideas of resplendence and restraint; and perhaps no two labels illustrated these incongruous approaches more than Milan-based Jil Sander and Dolce & Gabbana.

Dolce & Gabbana are the traditionalists, epitomizing much of what has come to define ”Made in Italy”: opulence, sophisticated sensuality, Old-World craftsmanship and a design brashness that often runs in one direction and on one speed (fast). This season, they revved up the luxury, decorating their signature bodysuits, sinuous sheaths and even socks with elaborate needlework and gilded appliqués. The Baroque interiors-inspired pieces made an uncompromising statement for decadence in light of the past few seasons of minimalism. The clothes were undeniably beautiful, their lacy, florid extravagance tapping into a woman’s most fantastical inner desires.  However, underneath the ornate displays were highly supportive, flattering garments that elegantly cling to and accentuate a woman’s every curve.

While Dolce & Gabbana may be the sartorial equivalent to Luchino Visconti’s lush costume epic The Leopard, Raf Simons’ final collection for Jil Sander was more Alain Resnais’ surreal study Last Year in Marienbad, from its mid-century-inspired frocks to the somber, hypnotic runway procession. While his last few seasons were influenced by mannish proportions and sportif graphics, Simons took an understated, unabashedly feminine turn for Fall. A poetic vision of sweet pastels, engineered body-hugging panels and buoyant fabrics, the designer’s swan song was unlike any other collection this season, reportedly moving many in the audience to tears. While its exterior of couture polish made for a pretty picture, a closer examination of the collection revealed intentional cracks in the surface – a PVC-lined rip in a dress here, an extra mass of fabric there. For Simons, it was about a day in the life of a relationship in all its joyous, depressing and unexpected turns. It was also a sublime expression of womanhood, the tender moments and imperfections making the clothes all the more beautiful and special.

So in the battle between resplendence and restraint, perfection and fragility, who wins? While I think the Jil Sander collection is one of the most exquisite in recent memory, I don’t believe either is more or less effective in exploring and capturing the feminine spirit. The popular belief is that lingerie falls into one of two categories: what you would wear for yourself on an everyday basis and what you would wear for your boyfriend/romantic partner. In the case of both collections, they managed to strike just that right balance of aesthetic forwardness, function and fancy while retaining a modicum of modesty (and mystery) that is surprisingly sexy in its sincerity. They lovingly and reverently display the female form, celebrating the strengths and vulnerabilities that make us who we are. And as disparate as their approaches are, both labels exhibit a creative boldness that should set the stage for an interesting and unique design season.




Brief Redoux ~ Wacoal Retro Chic

You must know by now that  I am deep in the process of packing in preparing to move.  Searching through my intimate drawers the other day in hope of paring down a bit, I uncovered my Retro Chic bra from Wacoal, which I first wrote about when it launched in the marketplace.  As you might imagine, I have a lot of bras and sometimes they get buried away.  I forgot how beautiful this style is, and how well it fits.  I wore it the whole day during my estate sale.  After all, it was nice to hold on to something that reflects my current conundrum: which elements of the past are worth retaining and how to embrace change.  This bra recalls my affinity for vintage and my need for absolute comfort and state of the art fit.  No wonder it is now part of the Wacoal basic assortment.  Check our previous blog Old Is New Again.



Introducing Gaetano Cazzola!

March 27, 2012

by Cristina Casciano-King

The Italian’s make some of the finest Hosiery in the world.  Each brand brings its own unique hint of trends for the coming season.  The newest Italian brand to hit the US is Gaetano Cazzola– a family owned Italian Fashion line, that has it all the glam and sophistication. One of my favorite new looks, the “Tattooed” Legging. A brand that states it is “Radically Altering the intended use of its product” and the “Klemy” or as I like to call “The Girl with the Lace Tattoo” has broken the mold for Springtime Leggings.

These Leggings give the illusion of tattoos climbing the leg. The craftsmanship, style and quality are exciting and fresh. The Nude leggings are durable yet fine (they made it through an afternoon at the Central Park Zoo without any damage).  The pattern is ornate yet clean,  and with the varying hem lengths of the season, these layer perfectly under basics and trends alike.

The rest of the Spring Collection of Gaetano Cazzola doesn’t disappoint either, catering to every taste from the Romantic Bride to the Williamsburg Hipster. The price point is also very friendly ranging from $18-$35 all which are equally as beautiful as the next.



Suit Up For Summer

March 26, 2012

By Jené Luciani
8 Steps to Finding the Perfect Swimsuit

This time of year, the barrage of bra questions I receive on a daily basis inevitably turns instead to those regarding something that’s just as tough to find the right fit – swimwear.

When it comes to quintessential California-chic fashions, few designers come to my mind more quickly than Trina Turk. Turk’s women’s wear collections – known for impeccable fit and gorgeous prints and colors inspired by the Southern California lifestyle – has been a high-end department store mainstay since 1995. In 2007, the former surf-wear designer forayed into the swimwear category and is now celebrating the launch of her first capsule collection with Grace Bay Club resort in Turks & Caicos fittingly called Trina Turks & Caicos.

I caught up with Turk to get a sneak peak at the collection just in time for summer and of course find out her 8 steps to finding the perfect swimsuit.

Step 1: Figure it Out
Identify your body type and then choose a silhouette to flatter it best.  For example, if you have a smaller bustline, a padded style, ruffles or horizontal stripes will add volume up top.  Also, triangle bikini tops really look best on smaller busted women.  Conversely, if you’re busty, choose a supportive style with a halter neckline that has a band under the bust and a wider strap that ties behind your neck, a one piece with a v neckline, or a bra-sized swimsuit with built-in underwire.

To minimize your booty, sometimes a lower rise cut or rings on the sides gives the illusion of smaller hips. Avoid buying too tight—if elastic is digging in it makes you look bigger.  Another trick is to wear a darker color bottom with a lighter color top—dark always minimizes.  If you really want hip coverage, go for a sash bottom or a boy short. And to completely distract from your hips, go for a one piece with a plunging v-neck.

Step 2: Get Comfy
The most important thing is to be comfortable –Whether it’s more coverage or less, feeling comfortable will ensure your confidence while you’re bearing your bod!

Step 3: Quality Time
Pick a quality suit with fabric that will support you.  If the fabric feels thin in the dressing room, beware of it getting baggy as soon as you hit the water.

Step 4: Try Before You Buy
Take the time to try a variety of styles and sizes, and try things that might not appeal to you on first glance.  Swimwear shapes and prints can surprise you– sometimes the thing that doesn’t seem like “you” ends up being the most flattering.

Step 5: Color Counts
Choosing the right color suit can make all the difference! Try a variety of colors and see what looks best with your skin tone.  This season it’s easy to choose bright color over basic black—there are so many gorgeous options available.   Also, don’t be afraid of taupe, browns and other tawny neutrals—they can be super chic!

Step 6: Avoid Over-accessorizing
No Beyoncé-on-the-yacht looks, here. Skip coordinating jewelry and pick a suit with unique and striking hardware. Trina Turk swimwear often features hardware with cabochon stones or organic, textured shapes.

Step 7: Don’t Forget to Cover Up
Cover ups are a staple for every trip to the beach or tropical destination. Throw it on after a sunning session and head in for a bite to eat. It travels with ease and instantly flatters any silhouette, and can be worn as a dress with heels for a poolside party.

Step 8: Rear-View Mirror
Saggy behinds or creeper-uppers, beware. Don’t forget to look at yourself from the back! The backside view counts as much as the front, especially in swimwear!