The Sexy Feminist Lingerie List

I’ve written before about how the right underthings can make a woman feel confident, sexy and invincible. But it’s also important for us to purchase our lingerie from the right places. A hot pink bra with black lace panties have a way of losing their feminist power if they’re acquired from a company that puts commercialism above all else—including, apparently, the common sense to not be blatantly racist in its campaigns.

Victoria’s Secret’s latest collection called Sexy Little Geisha was quickly pulled from its inventory after immediate, widespread backlash. And for good reason. The “cat woman” image of Asian women basically reduces them to sexual fetish objects (and, sadly, this stereotype is still quite prevalent in popular culture). Dear VS: Women don’t want to be angles, sexy school girls or wear bras with diamonds on them or thongs with chain metal g-strings. They just want underwear that works.

In our forthcoming book, Sexy Feminism, the editors of this website discuss in length the empowering nature of women’s clothing and lingerie. The next time you’re due for a new bra or want to spice up your sex life with a hot new underthing, shop consciously. Here are some brands that get our stamp of approval:

Betsey Johnson. She’s about the coolest lady in fashion,  period. Unapologetic for her sexy-ragamuffin style, BJ has become a fetish brand and a female businesswoman to admire. Her bras, quite simply, get the job done. With underwire that encases the whole breast (none of that tissue-stabbing demi-shaped nonsense), fabrics that conceal and protect, and adorable details, it’s clear these items are crafted as impeccably as Betsey Johnson couture.

Stella McCartney. She’s the daughter of music royalty but has become an empire of her own. Stella founded her brand on principles that protect the earth, and all of its inhabitants—from animals to garment workers. These ideals extend to her swoon-worthy lingerie collection.

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Guest Post: The No-Pants Challenge

Blogger Lyz Lenz writes about not shopping, her lovely daughter, and her love of chicken nuggets over on LyzLenz.com. Her work has been published on Babble, Guideposts, The Hairpin, YourTango and more. In this guest post, she tells us about her no-shopping-for-one-year challenge, which she hopes will show her young daughter that life is more than expensive clothes.

 

When I was eight months postpartum, I finally lost all the baby weight. As soon as I stepped off the scale, I rushed to the attic to liberate my clothes. But, when I unpacked my 30-gallon tub, I didn’t see the colorful and carefree wardrobe that I remembered from my pre-baby days. All I saw were piles and piles of cheap crap.

Halter tops. Unlined jackets with shoulder pads. Rompers. What was I thinking?

Perhaps it was the wisdom that comes with having a child, or more likely it was the aging process sped up by the months of sleeplessness, but when I looked at the mounds of cheap sweaters and flimsy, stretched-out dresses I suddenly felt lost. For years, I’ve been overspending my clothing budget in an attempt to amass the clothes I thought I needed. But the problem was, when it came to spending, I had a feast or famine mentality. Raised as the second-oldest of eight children, I had seen my parents file for bankruptcy and lose their home. And I suffered through high school in thrift-store finds and hand-me downs, until I was old enough to get a job. Then, I spent every cent I earned at the Gap and Abercrombie, just trying to fit in. I bounced checks, and my parents lectured me my finances, but I didn’t care. I believed that if I had money, I better spend it. Tomorrow it would all be gone.

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Oscars Fashion Redux: Why Can’t We Be Nice?

I adore fashion, particularly red-carpet parades of the rich and famous during awards season. It’s not the most feminist of customs (it’s the kind of idealism that can lead to a distorted self image) but it’s as American as baseball. Celebrity worship is one of our past times, for better or for worse. Seeing our icons float across a crimson sea in works of art, high on excitement is a form of voyeurism that makes me happy. If only it didn’t get so ugly, so quickly.

Fashion chatter—both professional and amateur via social media—has become awfully mean spirited. More often than not, women are the targets and the critics. It makes me wonder if loving the fashion parade is a betrayal of feminism.

It always starts out sweet and complimentary. Red-carpet reporters ask everone, “who are you wearing?,” tell them they look gorgeous and congratulate them. Moments later, the insults begin. Fashion bloggers try to out-snark one another. Newspaper reporters slip in casual insults to make their copy stand out on the wires. And the worst comments come from average anyones. Message boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook updates in the past 48 hours have focused on the “stupid,” “tragic,” “blah,” “slutty” or “boring” of certain women in certain dresses. In my feeds alone, Angelina Jolie was objectified (too hot) and vilified (too skinny). Jennifer Lopez was slut shamed (really too sexy). Meryl Streep and Glenn Close were called old (these folks have been unfollowed, trust). And everyone tried to find a way to insult Melissa McCarthy without calling her fat.

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Introduction to Queer Girl Fashion Part I: Androgny: Behold, Ambiguity

Getting my tomboy on in one of my favorite shirts ever.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. True, everyone’s got their ideal definition of what constitutes beautiful. (Not to mention, hot, sexy, and plain drop-dead gorgeous.) In the queer world, I’ve found variations spanning a wide spectrum, not unlike my straight counterparts. We girls who like girls just have a different set of categories: butch to soft-butch

to femme to lipstick to androgynous to hipster dyke to granola to tomboy and everything in between. (Supplementary glossary, anyone?) It’s partly what makes queer women so fascinating—there’s no one way to express yourself, including how you choose to dress.

As I sit here in my New York apartment—a city that is arguably an epicenter of fashion—I’m wearing plain blue jeans and a fitted black sweater. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve also got pierced ears and I’m wearing rings and a silver watch. To the casual observer, I’m just another chick with not terribly interesting fashion sense. But allow me to open my closet (and by extension, all queer women’s) to you. (And yes please go ahead and laugh at that ridiculously obvious pun—it’s too easy.)
Recently, a male friend and I have been sharing debates concerning the physical attributes of women—in other words, what makes a woman sexy. While we may argue over low-cut blouses versus button-down shirts (the latter being a favorite of mine), we can agree is that each woman’s style is as unique as the woman herself—which leads me to the fashion sense that gets my eyes wandering and my heart racing.I’ve got everything from a pinstripe suit to a very revealing little black dress in there—almost as many pieces of clothing as I have moods. On one day, I’ll wear Doc Martens and an army jacket I’ve had since I was fourteen. The next, purple tights and a crazy patchwork skirt. I see many shades of gray in the black and white of what constitutes so-called female beauty, partially because I’m gay. The point is it’s all awesome.

Androgyny: Behold, Ambiguity

I know some straight women out there are a bit puzzled by the term, “androgynous”—not only what constitutes androgynous-looking but what exactly the appeal is. Allow me to be your guide. These are some of the most beautiful women on the planet. It’s taken me years to articulate my gravitation toward the ambiguous, but now I know it’s the blending of genders, appearances, and even ideas that make androgyny, and therefore the clothing associated with it, sexy.

 

Putting on a sexy little black dress is easy--it's the shoes that kill.

To clarify, androgynous fashion, at least to me, is not simply a pretty girl wearing a man’s suit. She’s got to own the clothes. They’ve got to fit her perfectly—and not just in terms of size, but in terms of expression.

Take, for example, Jenny Shimizu. You may not recognize her name, but you’ll surely remember her from the infamous Calvin Klein CK One ads back in the mid-90s. I would venture that Shimizu was one of the first mainstream models to make androgyny, well, fashionable. Just think back to the cyclical nature of the ad, “we’re all one” and “a fragrance for a man or a woman.” The blurring of gender and sexual lines was what got everyone to sit up and take notice. Since then, it’s become more commonplace to see women in clothing that is not traditionally thought of as “feminine”—and not just on the runway or on a magazine cover.

I see it nearly every day on the streets of this colorful city. There’s a swagger to androgynous fashion. A boldness. A confidence, bordering on near-cockiness. (Most times, stepping quietly back over that edge.) A “I can carry my bag, drink a coffee, and still have the best upturned collar and sweep of hair across the face you’ve ever freaking seen” smile. A shimmering bow-tie paired with lace-up leather boots. It’s a dare. It’s a risk. It’s a cleverness to combine elements that most people would never imagine combining.

To be sure, not every woman can pull this look off. Like I’ve said, it’s not just about the clothes, it’s about the attitude. And after all, whether you’re gay or straight, isn’t that the ultimate turn-on?


Feminism and Halloween: Think Beyond Sexy Nurse

Tis the season for an endless array of girls and women dressing up as “slutty” or “sexy” versions of animals, cartoon characters, historical characters, monsters or domestic staff. Yes, it’s Halloween. As if the spike in reported crimes weren’t enough to spook us, the way in which the holiday has become about exploiting women has us wishing for the good, old days of pillowcases cut up as makeshift ghosts. Various blogs are reporting the top costumes this year as Sexy Neytiri (blue gal from “Avatar”), Sexy Batgirl and Sexy Gangster. What’s remarkable about this is that the regular, non-sluttified versions of these characters are pretty empowering. Neytiri led a revolution to save her species; Batgirl broke through the super hero glass ceiling, and female gangsters… well, ok, maybe not that one, but a nice period-specific 1920s character from “Boardwalk Empire” would be both on-trend and appropriately covered-up.

Little girls have it worse: They want nothing more than to dress up as Lady Gaga, a princess or a fairy–and by the looks of selections at amazon.com and my local costume shop, the skirts of fairies and princesses have been getting shorter and shorter. Plus, how long are we going to encourage our girls to aspire to be nothing more than uber-glam damsels in distress while boys get to be firefighters, astronauts and super heroes?

Our Halloween Feminist Action Plan:

Parents: Don’t let your little girls go outside half-naked. It’s exploitative–and it’s cold! Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to be a girlie princess for Halloween, but put some leggings on her under that sheer tulle skirt. And skip the Jon Benet makeup. Wouldn’t it be better to teach her that princesses are naturally beautiful just as they are?

Adult Women: You. Are. Not. A. Teenager. Anymore. So stop dressing like you’re rebelling against your totally-lame parents. Show the world you read more than US Weekly and dress up as a creative creature, newsmaker or feminist icon. Get some inspiration from Take Back Halloween, an awesome site that offers feminist alternatives to Slutty Cow or Sexy Shark Attack Victim. And you’re getting a history refresher to boot!

Happy trick-or-treating!


Is Fashion Feminist?

We've come a long way since not even being allowed to wear pants!

While I think most people would offer a resounding ‘no’, I submit that it is – or, it can be. At its most un-feminist, fashion is superficial, promoting personal expression through image alone, and attracts cattle-like trendmongers. But at its most feminist? Let me tell you about my own journey along life’s runway.

Fashionista qualities, to me, do not come from following in the footsteps of the Alexa Chungs of the world. In fact, according to my own personal definition, fashionistas don’t even necessarily have to be fashionable (i.e., trendy). I wouldn’t say a bag lady off the street is a fashionista – but maybe my unfortunate-looking, 10-year-old self was.

I used to wear this giant costume hippie shirt just about every day. I loved it. Every time I went out and I wanted to feel good, I would slip my lanky arms into its open and welcoming dashiki-patterned sleeves, imagining all the heads that would turn as I walked down Aisle 3 at BJs with my mom, or the model scout who would approach me as I stepped off the escalator at the mall. “Wow,” he’d say after catching up with me, panting, “I’ve never seen anyone with so much style and grace! Will you please be a model?” I’d whip around, my shirt rustling in the breeze of the air conditioning, flash him a winning smile and say, “Oh, alright, why not?” [Read more...]


Lingerie: A Female Rite of Passage

Whether yours are big, small, perky, droopy, real, fake, old or new, the two masses that rest above the chambers of your heart are extensions of yourself that you’ve learned to adjust to, live with, fully embrace, pompously glorify, and — at times — even sneakily manipulate.

Where would we be without lingerie?

Everyone’s experience with girlie undergarments is different, but we all started somewhere. As young women growing up, it was impossible to escape the reality of our ever-developing bodies. Somewhere around our pre-teen years, someone planted the seed that it was time to take our inquisitive curiosity to the next level. First step: the training bra. In the confines of our rooms or amongst our closest girlfriends, our flourishing obsession with lingerie grew. We never asked, ‘for what are we training our breasts?’ Instead, we couldn’t wait to graduate from stretchy, white, glorified tank tops to pretty, colorful pieces of supportive art.

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Shoe Suffrage

Carrie Bradshaw once nearly gave her life to spare her precious Manolos when being mugged in an alley, and we can’t blame her. Women have had an intimate relationship with their shoes for centuries, sometimes bleeding for them. After all that struggle, we think a woman’s right to bear stilettos is almost as important as her right to vote.

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The Power of the Mini

The miniskirt, in as it may be this season, has taken quite the media beating over the past few years.

It seems to have started in 2006, when the all of America shared—or perhaps overshared—a certain view of Ms. Britney Spears. Before the even more famous getting-out-of-the-car crotch shot incident, in the middle of an extremely high profile interview with Matt Lauer, she shifted in her chair and gave the world a preview of what was to come: Because the skirt she had chosen to wear was veryteeny and her moves weren’t discrete enough, flashed her unclad female bits to the cameras—and, by extension, millions of watching viewers. Within hours, photos and video were everywhere, jokes and insults were flying, and Britney’s dignity (what little she still had left) was pretty much history.

In the wake of Brit-Brit’s first of many future incidents, similar gaffes have proliferated among high-profile starlets who cherish their teeny frocks. Lindsay and Paris spring to mind as repeat offenders, but so many women have been caught by now that Glamour magazine actually ran an end-of-2007 salute to the handful of celebrities they could find who hadn’t been caught crotch first in their mini-skirts (congrats, Evangeline Lily and Mandy Moore!). So predominant is the trend that articles have actually popped up offering step-by-step instructions for how to successfully exit a limo or car without showing the goods.

It’s enough to make minis seem so slutty and overexposed at times that we want to pack up all of our formerly favorite flirty little numbers—which, incidentally, have always made us feel sexily in charge, when worn at just the right moments—and give them to Goodwill. But the embattled garment responsible for such incidents has fought such image problems since its creation nearly 50 years ago. So we ask: Is a high hemline a sign of empowerment, or overexposure? Is it feminist—“I may be smart and capable but I can still be sexy”—or just foolish?

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Sexy Feminist: Stacy London

“I feel very strongly that style is about the individual, not the industry.”

Strong words for a woman who’s made a name for herself outfitting the poorly dressed masses in the industry’s coolest duds on TLC’s addictive “What Not to Wear.” But Stacy London knows better than anyone how to walk the fine line between everyday practical and couture-level stunning. As her new talk show, “Fashionably Late with Stacy London,” hits airwaves, the down-to-Earth fashionista spills on faking it in the high-fashion world, walking the line between snarky and bitchy, and learning about herself through the transformations of others. Feel your girl-crush intensifying yet?

No More Drama!
As a woman, it can be difficult to get women to love you. There are so many petty, catty girls in the world, and all of us go through that stage at one time or another. But women who support other women wind up with an incredible support system of friends. I’ve been able to bolster that in my life by helping people find their own sense of self esteem. My avenue is through wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it some other way. Allowing women to recognize their own beauty and confidence is my job, and if I’m able to convey that, whether it’s on “What Not to Wear” or “Fashionably Late” or whether I’m speaking or working with charities, then I’m conveying the right message. I think if women feel supported, they feel less threatened.

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