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The Message Of Fit: Just Let Me Be Myself

February 22, 2017

By ALI CUDBY

I’m addicted to this song by Grace. It’s not a new song, in fact, it’s a remix of the classic by Lesley Gore, “You Don’t Own Me.”

Don’t tell me what to say,

And don’t tell me what to do.

Just let me be myself

That’s all I ask of you.

Wherever you look, women are sharing that message.

When I had my first transformational fitting in a Cambridge UK lingerie store 13 years ago, it sparked a huge AHA moment for me. In finding bras that fit, I felt like the message was much bigger.

I felt like I fit – not just in my bras, but in my body.

That moment was the inspiration for my business, my book Busted! and the FabFit Academy, my bra fit training program.

Along the way, I’ve heard from women all over the world. And they want to fit, too.

But what does “fit” mean these days? Because it seems to be changing.

At one time, fit seemed to be the pursuit for a single answer to the question “What is my bra size?” As if there was a single answer to the question.

Customers were destined to be frustrated by trying to find an answer to that question. Because there is no magical formula that leads to a single size.

And women didn’t want a solution that led to them being “right” or “wrong.”

Fit boils down to helping women feel empowered to be their best – and how that translates will differ from woman to woman.

As professionals, we can offer our best advice about which bras will work best on customer’s unique body.

But anyone who sells by telling women they’re wrong ends up hurting everyone. They hurt buyers by sending negative messages AND they hurt themselves by turning women off.

Across the spectrum of life, more and more women are rejecting rules and norms that have been pushed on them.

We see it in politics.

We see it in the workplace.

And we see it in the fitting room.

What we’re witnessing is the voice of cultural change.

What does this change mean for lingerie professionals whose bread and butter comes from telling women how bras should fit?

Simple – the leading professionals are listening to the customers they serve and guiding them to look and feel their best by the customer’s definition. They share expertise without judgement about what customers choose in the end.

Don’t tell me what to say, and don’t tell me what to do. Just let me be myself. That’s all I ask of you.

In listening to women and seeing this shift, I’ve been inspired to make changes to my business. It started when I rejected the statistic so many lingerie professionals relied on for years – the one that said “70-85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.”

To keep a consistent business message, I eventually chose to pull my bestselling book from the shelves. Sharing that outdated (and false) statistic was no longer supporting the women I served.

But keeping my expert advice from women didn’t feel like the right answer, either.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to find the balance between empowering women to select the best bras for their bodies while giving them the means to assess fit for themselves. The result is my new book, based on Busted!

It’s called Fit My Bras.

At Curvexpo in New York, I’ll be unveiling Fit My Bras in the Best of Intima booth. I’d love to meet you, talk about the art and science of bra fitting in this new world of women, and answer any questions you have. Hey…you can even get a signed copy of the book.

I share all of this because, like you, I’m a business owner trying to make things work in a changing world of empowering women. That’s what She Buzz is all about.

Shifts in the world of women affect every lingerie professional, and we all benefit by hearing about them and discussing how they’re impacting our business. I look forward to continuing the conversation with you – both here and in the real world.

 

 

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There’s the Rub: The Empowerment of Fit Beyond Bras

January 20, 2017

by ALI CUDBY

When it comes to lingerie and self-image, intimates professionals are well versed in the connection between bra fit and how a woman feels in her body. Countless articles have been written on the topic – some of them were probably written by you, the She Buzz readership!

But bras aren’t the only part of a lingerie collection that impacts women’s self-image.

Any time a woman wears a garment that makes her aware of her body in a negative way, there’s often a direct connection to negative self-talk. It can start a negative shame-spiral that rivals scarfing a large pepperoni pizza – with extra cheese.

And that’s no bueno.

Recently, there’s been an obsessive focus on “thigh-gap.” In case thigh-gap has escaped your notice, it occurs when women can stand with their feet together, yet still see sunshine from apex to knee. According to Marnie Consky, founder of Thigh Society, “Thigh gap is actually very rare, it’s not something that most women have.”

For the rest of us, there’s the less flatteringly named “chub rub.” As the moniker implies, when women’s thighs chafe from friction during normal activity, like walking in a skirt or dress, that’s chub rub.

To review – thigh gap is only biologically present in a minority of women, but is held up as a gold standard for women’s bodies by members of the media.

Well, it’s not hard to see how the thigh gap standard creates a negative self-image message for most women. The implication is thighs that rub are somehow overweight.

As Consky says, “Chafing comes down to anatomy and friction, and it’s not just plus-size women whose thighs rub. I get product requests for women as small as size 2-4.”

Thigh Society’s product is a different category from shapewear. It’s a seamless bike short that functions rather like a boxer brief designed for a woman’s unique body shape. Just like an amazing bra fitting, products that eliminate chafing can be life affirming for customers. Sharon, from St. Louis MO says of Thigh Society, “You have literally made being in the heat a comfortable possibility.”

Another aspect of thigh friction impacts the hosiery market. Too often, even boutiques that focus carefully on the importance of bras that fit miss the mark with hosiery. They don’t provide hosiery products in a range that actually fits their customer base.

Says Tim Gettler, of Glamory Hosiery, “It all comes down to three things. 1) Having sizes that are a true reflection of a woman’s body – not just saying Plus/Queen on the label. 2) Making sure you’re carrying the right sizes for your customers. Any time a customer ends up in a product that doesn’t fit, it can lead them to feel ‘too big’ for the product, which creates self-image issues. And 3) Understanding how hosiery should fit. Thigh highs – whether they are hold ups or stockings – should reach the top third of the thigh to encase and cover the areas that would otherwise rub.”

Gettler further points out that proper fit for thigh highs means women can wear them with a wider range of clothes, since they come up higher on the leg and reduce “muffin top.” With a size range that goes up to 4X and a 32-dress size, Glamory covers women whose sizing needs are unmet by most of the hosiery market.

At the end of the day, when a woman stops worrying about chafing, she frees her mental energy and any negative thoughts that detract from confidence. When clothes feel better – from bras to underwear to hosiery – YOU feel better.

Feeling better is a great foundation for going about every day as your best self.

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What A Year! A Look Back at 2016.

December 20, 2016

By ALI CUDBY

Ali Cudby on Lingerie Briefs2016 has been a big year — personally, politically and otherwise. And it’s been a big year for women. We’ve covered a lot of ground here at She Buzz: World of Women.

Back in January, we waltzed down the glamorous Red Carpet at the Golden Globes. Beyond the fabulous dresses and resplendent ladies, we examined the foundation of award show fashion. Standards for women – and the way Hollywood sets impossible standards for both celebrities and mere mortals – can impact the way women see themselves, and it’s not always pretty.

When we looked at the power of self-image in March it was a matter of life and death – literally. One lingerie boutique owner’s engagement with a customer was so positive and powerful, it changed the course of that customer’s life. It was a great reminder of the magic that occurs when people feel connected and valued.

In May, it became clear that creating a business that empowers women goes deeper than your customers. Employee engagement are another vital part of success. To truly create a business that celebrates women – and builds your bottom line – it’s important to ensure that every member of your team feels valued and appreciated.

Fast forward to August, and we were deep into Olympic fever. Men and women were setting amazing records on the track, in the pool and across Brazil. Unfortunately, the media wasn’t covering those achievements equally. Seeing coverage of women be defined and overshadowed by men was a disappointment. Women still suffer from bias, even in their moments of triumph.

The question of bias in sports got personal. As I started thinking about my own life, I saw ways external factors impacted my own self-image. In September, I looked at the relationship with my body and my curves – and how other peoples’ opinions used to derail my self-image. Happily, for the younger generation, it seems like times may be a-changin’. A wider array of women’s bodies are seen as beautiful today, and “thick” is no longer an insult. Women actually want to have a little “junk in the trunk.”

Just when we were optimistic this trend toward inclusiveness might continue, the political climate shattered the illusion. It was hard to see the positive spin for women as we rounded into the Fall. The political became personal. Many women shared stories of sexual assault and aggression. Owning a story I had hidden away since my teenage years was a personal act of empowerment, and one of the most incredible moments of my life. Telling my story on She Buzz changed how I felt about being assaulted. For once, I took charge of that moment. I could see it differently, and all the shame I carried with me disappeared. I’m grateful for the She Buzz readers who reached out personally – some with stories, some with kindness, some with appreciation. Even after getting an unkind note from a family member, I felt seen, heard and valued by you and I’ll never forget it.

And now, here we are – at the end of a dramatic year of change. And the biggest change is yet to come! Joe and I are relocating from my hometown, where I know everyone (and their mother) to Indianapolis, a town where I know nobody.

It feels like an amazing metaphor. After the roller coaster of 2016, I’m excited to begin 2017 with a fresh chapter and a new adventure.

To all of you, may you have a fantastic holiday season. Come January, I’ll be sharing more She Buzz from the new HQ.

Happy New Year!

 

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What Was I Thinking?

November 23, 2016

By ALI CUDBY

women's issues on Lingerie Briefs

“WHY would you write about that?”

That’s a message I got in response to my last She Buzz column. The one where I shared a dark story from my past – a story too many women have experienced, in one form or another. 

I was surprised by the message, but I shouldn’t have been. It came from a well-meaning family member – someone I didn’t think read my columns.

Sometimes I forget how many people read She Buzz. I’m grateful for the reminder.

When I got the email, I went through a range of emotions. For a moment, I felt exposed. Embarrassed. Angry. Even scared to have shared something so personal – once it was published, I could never it take back.

Then I thought more about it and realized how empowered I felt when I shared the story. For years, I carried a lot of baggage from that day in Paris. It changed something in me. I thought I – as a child – had somehow done something to attract this grown man’s sexual attraction. I buried what happened in a grim box of dark shame because I believed, on some level, what happened was my fault.

Writing the story and sharing it was like shining a bright light on the truth of that day at the Eiffel Tower. Just like scary monsters hiding in our childhood closets, the fear only exists in the dark. Bringing in the light allowed me to see there was nothing to fear from the truth.

When I got that email, my shame reaction was immediately replaced with a fast and powerful, “NO.”

NO – I will not stay quiet about being groped when I was 13 years old.

NO – There is no shame in what happened.

NO – I did not ask for it in any way.

NO – It was no my fault.

NO – It wasn’t OK to pretend it didn’t happen so the family vacation could go “smoothly.”

NO – It’s not OK to judge my choice to share the story now.

As you go into the holiday rush, it’s worth considering. Learning from a powerful NO can benefit your business.

You are in the business of helping people – mostly women – look and feel better. Some of your work is addressed by the lingerie you put on a customer’s body. But only some. Most of your engagement goes deeper.

When you create safe spaces for women to feel seen, heard and valued a fundamental shift occurs. When women feel safe, they are drawn to you. They become loyal. They feel emotionally connected to you.

When women like the version of themselves they see in your business, they visit more often.

More visits mean more revenue. More referrals. It’s a virtuous cycle.

When businesses set up systems to create the safe spaces women deserve, it’s good for customers and it’s good for business. Everyone wins.

I wish you all a fantastic holiday season and a deeply engaging – and profitable – Black Friday

 

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What Women Feel

November 9, 2016

By ELLEN LEWIS

iris-kollidafemale-bodysizeI’ve been doing some thinking since Ali Cudby posted her last two articles in our She Buzz column. Her forthright foray into her past and those incidents that caused her the kind of shame that many women encounter, hit a nerve. Maybe it’s the entire dialog flooding the media today about a woman’s right to be respected. But whatever the reason, I decided to contribute a bit of personal testimony to the discussion.

From the time I was very young, I have not had a very positive relationship with my breasts. I grew up in 50’s coming to my teens in 1963.  I was on the cusp of feminine change. My very early exposure was more Mad Men. By the time I first menstruated I was wearing a bra, underwires and all. I was larger than my friends. I have a strong memory of climbing the 4 flights of stairs to science in junior high school praying that the boys would not pull my bra strap. My mother’s solution to this debacle was to tell me not to wear sweaters. I went through high school pretty wary of the intentions of the opposite sex. It informed many social decisions in college and after.

Throughout my teens, my mother urged me to consider a breast reduction. I pushed back not understanding why it was on the table. But in my early 20’s, when I was forced to wear bras under a leotard to the beach, when a walk to work through an iffy neighborhood invited cat calls and oogly eyes from construction workers and purchasing a bra became a major trip to Saks for a special fitting, I relented. At 25, I took a few weeks off from work and had the surgery. Returning to my office, most people believed I had been deadly ill, had lost 25 pounds. I was complimented on my figure. Because I had kept it a secret, they had no idea what I really had done. In fact, I had lost only 3 pounds, discarded a boatload of misguided modesty and began to buy clothes that I could never wear before.  I was now a 34C cup, could shop for bras anywhere, wear the same swimsuits as my friends, fit into the status quo. I no longer stuck out.

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I don’t remember being particularly aware of my breasts infringing again on my life much until I had my first child and breast feeding became a challenge. Was this a result of my operation? Perhaps. Or it could have been my once again well-meaning mother, whose concern about her granddaughter’s nourishment coupled with her own uptight upbringing pressured me into bottle feeding. Breast issues picked up their pace after 3 pregnancies. By the 9th month of my son’s incubation, I was going braless just to avoid the pressure of a bra. The real uptick in my breast disdain revival occurred after menopause. Here I am, body thicker, boobs back to where they were before, even bigger, and my days controlled by what bra I must wear, want to wear, can wear and how fast I can get home to take it off. Once again they are controlling my life. But this time it’s not about shame. It’s about pain. Should I do it again? I am 66 years old and finally able to accept that I will never be a 6ft drink of water. I resent my breast’s infringement on my life, don’t want to undergo a knife and can’t stand my own personal preoccupation. Thank goodness, the market has found a way to accommodate women of a certain size, young, pregnant, mother mode and beyond. I guess now it’s up to me. But I believe that had I been raised to be proud of my body in the first place, this whole journey could have been very different.

 

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The Importance of Being Heard ~ My Story

October 19, 2016

By ALI CUDBY

woman being followed on lingerie Briefs

In last month’s She Buzz column  I wrote about body image as an important part of empowering women.

I saw a photo of myself on a family vacation when I was 13 years old. At a point when I was trying to figure out how I felt about my curvy body.

It must have been prophetic, choosing to write about that moment in my life.

A few days after that photo was taken, I experienced something that colored my perspective as a maturing young woman – and it’s not a story I ever expected to share.

My family visited Paris, and I fell in love with the city. The fashion! The food! The architecture! I took it all in with unabashed wonder. I couldn’t wait to see the Eifel Tower. We went up the Tower, and the views were breathtaking. I wandered away from my parents to check out a different perspective on the city skyline.

Slowly, I sensed someone standing behind me. A man wearing a trench coat and a Tyrolean hat.

I can still picture that hat.

At first, I thought he was simply being inconsiderate of my personal space. It soon became obvious it wasn’t so innocent. He pinned me and touched my body in places my 13-year old self couldn’t understand. He pulled me and tried to force me onto the elevator with him.

It all happened quickly and, fortunately, I was able to wrench myself away and get back to my family. I tried to explain what happened to my parents – I couldn’t bring myself to say all the words, but it was clear something was wrong. I remember clinging to my Dad’s hand.

When we got to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, the man was waiting.

Staring at me.

He followed us through the streets of Paris. It seemed like forever – but eventually he melted away into the crowds. For the rest of the day and night, I looked over my shoulder. I was terrified.

And yet, in the aftermath, the episode was quickly dismissed. I wasn’t hurt. The moment was over. To preserve the vacation, I moved on and pretended it wasn’t a big deal.

It was a big deal.

I had felt helpless. I couldn’t figure out how to talk about what happened in a way that stated the facts without “being melodramatic.”

Decades later, when I think back to that day, my heart still races.

Yes, it could it have been worse. And it doesn’t compare to what other women have experienced. But that’s not the point.

Just because it could have been worse didn’t mean it hadn’t been real.

I was shocked.

I was embarrassed.

I was ashamed.

I was afraid.

I wasn’t sure anyone would believe me.

Even if they did, I didn’t want to relive it.

And it could have been worse.

Mostly, I just wanted it to go away.

All those thoughts stem from a culture that lets women know – implicitly and explicitly – that speaking up is more likely to go badly for the victim than the aggressor.

For women to be empowered, society must stop diminishing and invalidating assault. It happens far, far too often. To women of every age, race, size and appearance.

Girls and women deserve to be safe. And when they aren’t safe, they deserve to be heard.

Anything less creates an environment where women are inherently inferior – and that’s the opposite of empowered.

 

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she buzz

 

 
SHE BUZZ is the place to go to tune into the world of women. From news stories and trends to the issues women uniquely face in the world by virtue of being women. It may be fun and festive, or sad and serious. This column will be guided by current events and personal opinion – all on the topic of women’s experiences.
 
The lingerie industry is about more than fittings and finery. It’s about connecting to women and creating an environment that’s supportive – both physically and emotionally.
 
Ali Cudby will bring you a range of topics as diverse as women themselves.
 

 
 

ALI CUDBY teaches a proven method to transform the customer culture for businesses that sell to women. With Ali, businesses lay a strong foundation for building the deep relationships customers crave as the antidote to isolation in the modern economy.
 
The result? Customers are inspired to buy more often and refer like crazy, while businesses thrive and change customers’ lives.
 
Ali is a bestselling author and has been featured in TV, print and online for publications such as Cosmopolitan and Essence Magazine, among others. She holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and spends her spare time in her pottery studio.
 
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:
 

 

Ellen Lewis, editor/publisher of Lingerie Briefs