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Dear Full Bust Brand, Please Don't Sexualize Me

The Curve New York show was tremendously fun. I feel Taylor-Swift levels of gratitude that I was an attendee and I hope to be part of more industry events in the future. I'm obsessed with the new styles I saw and I will always be enthusiastic, supportive, and curious when I hear of companies or individuals creating products in a full bust size range. I wanted to reiterate this again because what I'm about to communicate is a little difficult.

I saw a line at Curve that I've worn before and that I'm a huge fan of. I've read positive reviews from other bloggers about their bras and I was contemplating ordering another one of their sets with my next paycheck. I'm a big supporter of their company and was eager to see more of their bras in person. They didn't disappoint. I saw a model wearing a new style and the colors, the cut, and the material were all adorable.

However, when I opened their catalog, I was horrified. Their marketing material included photo after photo of "sexy situations" where a model posed seductively in their product. There were no playful tones, confident stands, or encouraging, happy smiles. Instead, I saw pages full of risque looks, suggestive imagery, and overt body language. Nothing turns me off faster than opening a catalog for a D-G line and seeing a bunch of softcore porn snapshots. I have a complex relationship with my body and buy lingerie for myriad reasons, but the primary one isn't to look like a prostitute.

When a bra manufacturer creates a promotional campaign with images that are overtly and exclusively sexual, they're playing into a cultural fantasy of what large breasted women are like. Instead of reflecting the complex reality of living with a full bust, they reinforce the stereotype that every D+ woman is a slutty sex goddess. This might seem obvious, but I live with my breasts day in and day out. They're not a cute accessory. They're not something I only have on "date nights". They're sexy, but they can be decidedly unsexy too. Especially when this one physical characteristic is sexualized over and over...by strangers. By co-workers. By old guys at bars. And now, by a company I thought understood the needs of full busted gals.


                                               Full busted girl in sweats. The complexity!

I know I must sound like a Puritan. Believe me, I understand that some lingerie is meant to be sexy. I want to feel smokin' hot too! I also believe that every woman, no matter their size, should have the opportunity to feel sexually attractive in their lingerie. From an AA to a K cup, I would like every woman to strut their stuff. Additionally, I appreciate publicity photographs where there's an element of sex appeal. I love flipping through the pages of the Elomi and Masquerade catalogs for exactly that reason. The full busted or full figured women look glamorous, elegant, and sophisticated, as well as sexy. The 'characters' in those campaigns aren't one-dimensional sex objects; their sex appeal is one part of a greater 'story' about the lingerie and full busted bodies.


                                                 Joan Harris: Busty AND Competent

This one ad campaign hasn't changed my mind about their product or their brand more generally. I understand that WHAT they make and HOW they sell it are two different parts of their company. I still believe their designs are phenomenal and I'll be buying their bras in the future. I'm just a little disappointed this time around. I suppose I feel the same way I do when I'm at a bar and a strange, leering guy offers to buy me a drink. Thanks, but no thanks.

8 Comments

  1. Now I wish I could see the offending pictures myself. I see what your saying, you just want to buy lingerie and not be bogged down by what others may think of as sexy and if you fit that mold of sexy-ness. In that way I can see how you feel about that.

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  2. Ugh, I understand what you mean about over-sexualized pictures... I don't relate to those at all! I've always appreciated the Bravissimo catalog, for example, because it's full of fun, happy poses rather than sexual ones.

    That said, I don't think it's a large-busted women phenomenon. All of the Victoria's Secret catalogs and ads are full of (thin, small-busted) women in very sexual poses! I'm disappointed when any bra company has ads like these, regardless of the size and shape of the models.

    Hopefully the company you're referring to will reconsider the way they're presenting their products in their next catalog!

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  3. Although I was purposefully vague in the post, I think you might eventually see the pictures I'm referring to. It's an ad campaign so I've seen the photos in sidebar ads of lingerie sites and in the autumn, some online retailers might choose to use the company's promotional photos rather (or in addition to) their own. I think they'll stick out as well since they're noticeably more steamy.

    Also, that's a great of putting it! I do feel "bogged down" by other people's expectations of 'sexy'. I don't mind sexy, I'd just prefer if it was a little more complex. Like sexy and flirty, or sexy and sophisticated. Full bust women are complex so ads aimed at them should be too! :)

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  4. That's so good to hear! While I was writing this, I was worried I'd be the only one who felt this way. I agree completely about the Bravissimo catalog. I can relate to the women they photograph and tend to feel more confident, in my own body, by seeing those women who are all curvy, beautiful, and busty. I think Curvy Kate deserves a special shout-out here since Star-in-a-Bra is a such a genius campaign.

    I see Victoria's Secret a little differently. Those women are small busted, of course. They have to be, to fit into Victoria's laughably limited size range. However, I think they're meant to be "read" as full busted by their customers. The idea behind their ads is that big=better and that push-up bras (anything that provides "rolled-together cleavage") is sexy. It's ironic because the women who have the breasts they're "selling" as sexy don't fit into the bras they manufacture. It's a little sad too; it devalues the bodies of small-breasted or truly petite figures.

    I hope the company changes their mind about their marketing direction as well! Maybe in the next catalog, their models could be all studying at a library or enjoying a spa trip. Hehe. A girl can dream...

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  5. You don't sound like a puritan at all! And while this type of imagery is cringe worthy to me regardless of the models size, when it is aimed at busty women, it feeds into a stereotype, which brings a double dose of cringe on my part.

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  6. Exactly! Double-cringe. Hopefully, they reconsider their marketing "direction" for the next season. I think their bras are innovative, it'd be great if their ads matched their products and they put the silly stereotypes aside.

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  7. Do you really think that being vague is a good idea as a consumer. If the bottom line is what most companies respond to wouldn't be better to name the said company. Don't you think if you believe in something or are against something that speaking up vaguely isn't really enough.

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  8. I completely agree. I think that it's important to be as articulate, direct, and specific as possible when taking a stand. With this particular post, I hoped to begin a discussion rather than take a stand. I wanted to begin the conversation with my own reaction to this type of advertising strategy. The brand I referred to is one I decided to use as an example because it's the most recent, but it's by no means the only company that advertises by using fuller bust women as one-dimensional sexpots. I also realize that some fuller bust women might react positively to this marketing method and that's ok too. It's not a message that inspires me to buy more product, but I was curious to see if other women had noticed this trend or felt the same way.

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