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“Body Positive People Still Want You To Choose Thin”: An Interview with Avigayil of Lingerie Detective

Avigail of Lingerie Detective

Avigail of Lingerie Detective

Today I’m chatting with Avigayil of Lingerie Detective, a blog that focuses on plus-size and indie lingerie. I was lucky to grab some of her valuable time to chat about how it feels to be a plus-size blogger in the lingerie industry, as well as how advertisers and brands can improve how they work with plus-size customers. This is a long interview, but I promise it is worth your time!

Avi:  Hi!

me:  Hi! I’m so glad that you wanted to do this.

Avi:  It is very exciting.

me:  I feel like there are so few of us plus-size lingerie bloggers that we need to band together when we can.

Love Letters Babydoll from Sheer Show by Dottie's Delights

Love Letters Babydoll from Sheer Show by Dottie’s Delights

Avi:  Very true. You were the first plus-size lingerie blogger I ever knew of actually.

me:  It’s nice to not feel like the only plus-size blogger! I really like your writing. Your blog has a great point of view. And the piece you did on bras and income levels was genius.

Avi:  Oh, thank you! I was not sure how it would be received as it seems somewhat of a taboo topic.

me:  It is, but that’s part of why I liked it. I wish bloggers in general talked more about money. It effects consumer access and how popular bloggers are made so profoundly.

Avi: I think it comes almost without saying that if you are blogging – you are coming from a place of privilege. If you have professional photo shoots for everything and $1000+ robes, then from a place of a lot of privilege. To pretend that you then have less privilege or equal privilege to just ‘basement bloggers’ is insulting.

me:  Exactly. It’s not that you can’t blog, but pretending that you have no advantages isn’t fair.

SYL + TERRY Mondrian influenced set by Paranoire

SYL + TERRY Mondrian influenced set by Paranoire

So, let’s get started. How does being a plus size blogger change your interaction with the lingerie community in general? Do you feel more accepted or less accepted?

Avi:  I like to think of myself as a blogger who is plus-size rather than a plus-size blogger. However, as a plus-size blogger I feel more accepted but less popular.

 

I am ‘more accepted’ as I have this ‘right to have a voice’ as I fall outside the norm. However, I am not pretty enough, skinny enough, or rich enough to be popular. It is sort of like – I have permission to talk but not be heard.

me:  Ooh, I like that. And can sadly relate to that feeling.

Magdalene Virgin Print Bra and Harness Brief by Playful Promises

Magdalene Virgin Print Bra and Harness Brief by Playful Promises

Since I know you also cover indie lingerie companies, do you feel like your size label also impacts the way you interact with companies as well as readers and other bloggers?

Avi:  With companies and boutiques, I spend most my time going “oh I really like that, does it come in my size?” It is really tiring after a while as I am – obviously – not their ideal customer or target market. Plus-size is actually rather lacking in the indie world unless you go custom.

Custom is a whole other kettle of fish as many designers who make core sizes do not grasp that plus-sizes have different shapes…they cannot just be scaled up from a current design. Most my custom items sit in my drawers.

me:  And I agree, it’s so frustrating to see nice item after nice item and know that none of it will look right on you even if it’s custom made.

In the interview I did with Bluestockings Boutique I talked about the pressure that I think many plus-size people feel to be “better” than skinny people to fit in. Do you feel that in your life? Do you feel that in blogging?

Harley Quinn Merry Widow by Ravendreams

Harley Quinn Merry Widow by Ravendreams

Avi:  As for readers and other bloggers – I find there is a distance. I am plus-size but I am only barely full-bust. My breasts simply aren’t big enough to draw interest from the full-bust or plus-size community, if that makes sense.

me:  No, that does make sense. Do you think there is a standard image of an accepted plus-size figure?

Avi:  I think plus-size bloggers are expected to be body-positive: no, required to be body positive.

You must think being plus-size is the best thing in the world and ‘claim it’: act like you have chosen this lifestyle over being thin.

I think that is harmful and a load of crap. I also think there is more pressure on plus-size bloggers to wear makeup, do their hair, shave, etc. – things to ‘make up’ for being plus size.

me:  I agree! Doing more to fit in is required to even get a foothold in the blogging community. And there is so much to unpack about having to be the “model plus-size person” all the time.

Avi:  Plus-size bloggers are expected to have an hourglass figure: big boobs, big hips, cute little tummy. If they happen to deviate from that – as in have a large tummy – then they must have very large breasts (and shapely legs) it seems. It is odd, but people seem to think plus-size women are simply full-bust women with a little extra weight.

Dessous Bra by Claudette

Dessous Bra by Claudette

me:  Do you ever find it tiring? Having to be basically an ambassador for plus-size people at all times? I definitely get mental fatigue from it.

Avi:  This is a difficult question actually, as most the time I am not trying to be a plus-size ambassador.

This is why I play with terminology: I am a blogger who is plus-size. Instead of integrating it into my identity, I rather use it as a descriptor for my current state of being.

However, I do find it tiring. For one, people are always trying to pigeon-toe you into a certain identity and certain role. Also, I find it tiring constantly negotiating for my size to be represented.

 

me:  I guess that’s what I mean. Even if you’re not trying to be a plus-size ambassador, do you feel like you’re forced into that role by other people or the community at large?

Avi:  Yes. I think people love their little boxes and the only way you get anywhere is by allowing yourself to be nicely tied up inside one of them and take on the label. Whether you see yourself as that or not.

me:  Also, I love the differentiation you make between plus as a state of being versus a total identity. That needs to be said loudly and way more often.

Glitter Wings Wrap by Kriss Soonik

Glitter Wings Wrap by Kriss Soonik

We’ve touched on this a bit in passing already, but I wanted to talk about it more specifically. Do you think there is an unconscious bias against bloggers who are plus-size, even within the body positive lingerie blogging community?

Avi:  Yes, in several ways. First, beauty sells. Instagram can tell you that in two seconds. If you are not an extraordinarily beautiful plus-size women, you will always be less popular. Even among other bloggers, your photos – reviews – articles – etc – will be retweeted, liked, hearted LESS than a thinner woman with approximately the same quality of content. This is especially true if you carry weight in your face.

Secondly, people are afraid that plus-size bloggers are promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

Sadly, some people equate body positivity (when it comes to plus size) akin to smoking: a lifestyle choice that is detrimental to your health, the healthcare system, and should not be encouraged.

This is a very sad comparison for so many reasons. It assumes that being plus-size is a choice and completely ignores the deterioration in the quality of our food from the deterioration in the quality of our soil, GMO food, food marketing, sugar addiction, genetics, allergies, hormones in food, etc. Oh my, I could talk endlessly about that.

Second, even if it is a choice, few people even following the body-positive movement think it is a ‘good choice’. It is sort of a paradox: you are supposed to embrace being fat like you want it and then if you do that – you are still supposed to self-depreciate to some extent.

If given the choice, body-positive people still want you to choose thin.

Essentially – love yourself as you are unless you can be smaller than you are and then anyone with common sense would choose that. You want to be prettier and you want to be accepted, right?

Curvy Minnie Bra by Buttress & Snatch

Curvy Minnie Bra by Buttress & Snatch

Avi:  Essentially – love yourself as you are unless you can be smaller than you are and then anyone with common sense would choose that. You want to be prettier and you want to be accepted, right?

me: I feel it too from other bloggers. People say they accept you as you are, but they also would like you to change. Which isn’t really being body positive.

I see it when body positive bloggers comment on how fat and ugly they feel like look in private forums, etc. If you’re a blogger who is plus-size, you then know that person can’t really feel like you’re fine as you are.

Avi:  I think we are all pressured into being body-positive and then feel like hypocrites when we look at ourselves and go “I hate my stretch marks.” But it isn’t cool to hate on yourself if you are plus-size. However, thin girls can hate on their love-handles and the world acts like a pacifier. “Oh you are so beautiful the way you are.” Plus-size bloggers have to be their own pacifier.

There is a bit of anger laced in with that. Too many times I hear women much smaller than me vocally hating on their own body and when I speak, they are all “but you carry your weight SO well”!

me:  Yes, exactly! We have to be both advocate and cheerleader, with no room to be just people.

Oh god, those comments about carrying weight in a flattering way are the worst. I get them too.

Avi:  And they think it is a compliment.

me:  I know! I always get it from people I know are nice, well-meaning, etc. They just don’t know it’s offensive. Or, “But your waist is so tiny compared to the rest of you!”.

Avi:  I remember when I lost weight a while ago – I went from 230 down to 145. I was SO sick due to lack of nutrients and major calorie restriction… but the compliments I got from people in my community who saw me but never spoke to me before – wow. The balls they had to walk up to me and say “Wow, you look wonderful. Keep up the good work…etc”

me:  How awful. But again, a common experience. One of my parents once told me that “a flu is a good start to a diet”.

Avi:  I have said the same thing though. I think most of us have. So much of how we are treated and how we treat ourselves is based on weight. We are taught that from a very young age.

me:  Agreed. It’s a cultural bias that everyone takes in, whether we mean to or not.

Just to add in another facet, how do you think current plus-size lingerie advertising reflects or doesn’t reflect this bias? Do you see progress in the campaigns from the past year? If not, what would progress actually look like?

Curvy Emilie Bra and Detachable Babydoll Skirt by Buttress & Snatch

Curvy Emilie Bra and Detachable Babydoll Skirt by Buttress & Snatch

Avi:  Plus-size lingerie advertising is funny: it sets out to prove that women with curves can still be sexy – therein reinforcing the bias in many ways. Whereas, lingerie for core sizes doesn’t need to prove that. You also see far less variation: there is SO much focus on ‘plus size is sexy’ that other themes seems rarely presented. The book worm. The girl next door. The sport-lover. The nerd/gamer. The animal lover.The surfer girl. etc.

I think plus-size women need variance in advertising that targets different parts of their personality – not just the same old trope of “plus size women are sexy too!”

I see some progress, but generally from companies that make plus-size but are not exclusively plus-size. I like Dear Kate’s tech-women advertising with plus-size women.That was terrific. I have seen some work from indie designers where the focus is more delicate – introverted in a way – than explicitly selling our potential.

Nichole Bra by Tutti Rouge

Nichole Bra by Tutti Rouge

me:  Yes, that campaign was awesome. And the latest Tutti Rouge campaign.

Do you think this point of view trickles down to what kind of lingerie is manufactured for plus-size customers?

Avi:  I am not sure. I still see a lot of full-coverage lingerie for plus-size women as if covering up plus-size bodies is sexy whereas uncovering core size bodies is sexy. I saw a new plus-size swimwear like that was gorgeous – all the right fabrics and great colours – but so much coverage. It is a ‘safe sexy’ that is marketed to plus-size women.

Goodness knows I have searched high and low for BDSM-themed plus-size lingerie to no avail so the industry still has a problem with the ‘dangerous sexy’ being associated with plus-size women. A major problem.

Scantilly is certainly a deviation from ‘safe sexy’ – to some extent – and I look forward to the new Playful Promises plus-size collection being released in the summer. However, and I might be alone on this, but I find the Scantilly collection rather safe.

me:  I think it’s interesting that so far the new Scantilly collection has seemed to be such a love/hate thing for bloggers. I think it’s really safe as well. And I’m also really excited about the new Playful Promises stuff, although worried that I won’t fit in it due to my boobs.

Red and White Stripe Boxers by TomboyX

Red and White Stripe Boxers by TomboyX

Avi:  As a side note to our discussion as it just occurred to me: plus-size women are totally expected to be feminine. If you are androgynous – I really wonder where your lingerie is coming from because plus-size lingerie is not androgynous friendly.

me:  I’d like for there to be more BDSM inspired lingerie, but the strappy thing is really played out. Yes, I think that’s true! I don’t think you have many choices if you don’t like the feminine aesthetic.

Avi:  BDSM is not necessarily strappy – I think that is a common misconception. Rather it is pieces that can be used in play. Such as O-rings or D-rings built into pieces – as an alternative to straps. However, a collection such as that would require openness of mind not currently seen in the lingerie industry: that plus-size women can have vibrant and alternative sexual lives.

me:  I agree! I think in general, there should be more options for all variations of sexy represented by plus-size lingerie companies.

Avi:  I agree.

All Wrapped Up Set by Scantilly

All Wrapped Up Set by Scantilly

me:  So now that we’ve talked about what we’re not in love with, let’s talk about the stuff we do love! What are your current favorite lingerie brands, both indie and non? What lines and new releases are you really excited about?

 

Avi:  Dottie’s Delights is always a treat for plus-size as their size range is so inclusive. Paranoire Design – on Etsy – is also refreshing as she sizes underwear by hip measurements and her size range is generous. I am at a loss for bra & underwear set companies as most full-bust retailers max out at an XL underwear so I often buy bras without matching underwear (or try and wedge my way into their largest size). Buttress & Snatch is now my dream for luxury lingerie with their recent expansion into the plus-size market: their underwear now goes up to a UK22.

I am most excited about the Playful Promises release this summer – while I have had many fit issues with PP over the years, their aesthetic and continual desire to push the envelope just a little bit farther (like their open nipple bras) is extraordinarily exciting.

me:  I am really excited about the Playful Promises release, mostly because it would be the first time I could fit into their stuff! Their full bust line was amazing. I’m also excited about Buttress & Snatch and Blue Reign, since they are two lines that look to be genuinely different.

I feel like I must have the opposite issues from you. I can fit underwear but bras never come in my size.

Avi:  It sounds like it!

me:  What are your most reached for lingerie pieces currently?

Sarafina Dreams Full Swing Nightgown

Sarafina Dreams Full Swing Nightgown

Avi:  In bras, I would say my Claudette Dessous – it is like the perfect dependable bra for everyday wear. For underwear, I am at a loss right now as my hips recently increased by a couple inches and few of my underwear fit. In the big wide category of lingerie, I find myself curling up in my vintage kimono (bought on Etsy) so much, as well as well as a Kriss Soonik Diana Wings Robe. I throw on my Sarafina Dreams Full Swing Nightgown often – and then avoid my cat. You could practically fit an entire village under that gown!

me:  Ooh, you have that Diana Wings Robe! That has been on my list for ages.

Avi:  They are great lounge wear pieces.

me:  Also, I hear you on throwing on great loungewear and then avoiding your pets. My dog likes to play with the tassels on my Trashy Diva robe.

Earlier you touched on issues surrounding custom lingerie – do you want to expand on that?

Avi:  I think the issue of custom needs to be addressed. Often when I ask for larger sizes, people say “just get custom.” There are so many issues with custom work. First, you are often asking someone with little experience in plus-size lingerie to make plus-size lingerie. I think this accounts for why the majority of my ‘custom’ orders have been absolute failures and sit in my drawer doing nothing (as they cannot be returned). I admire the socks off Sonata Lingerie but my custom lace bodysuit for $260+ after an extra round of alterations is still a terribly poor fit. Who does the fault lie with? Part of the problem is that weight distribution – where weight settles on the body – is so difficult to convey in just a measurement or two, even with pictures. Custom-made lingerie is NOT the solution for plus-size women.

me:  That’s very true! You need a designer who is used to working with plus-size bodies and all of the variations that it entails. And the same measurements can represent two very different body types.

Avi:  Exactly. There is huge body diversity within the plus-size range.

me:  Do you think there is room for speciality plus-size designers like Ravendreams then? What’s the ultimate solution?

Avi:  I do. I am excited about the emergence of Ravendreams although most her designs are not my personal aesthetic . She is designing specifically for plus-size women – therefore she has far greater understanding of and experience with the challenges plus-size women face. I am not sure of a solution except that lingerie companies need to stop making lingerie for the ideal woman and make it for the existing woman.

I think it becomes more difficult to delegate that task just to just plus-size lingerie companies when a plus-size woman may fit a core size bra but plus-size underwear. Or a plus-size woman may wear plus size bras but core underwear. Therein that categorization problem: where does plus-size start? Can part of your body be plus and not the other part? I have no idea as to the ultimate solution but I do believe we are heading in a better direction.  ☺

me:  I think it’s really true that the problem is exceptionally complicated. Do you feel like more progress has been made because companies are catching on that statistically plus-size women are now the average size in the US or for some other reason?

Red Flapper Robe by Trashy Diva

Red Flapper Robe by Trashy Diva

Avi:  I think that is part of the reason – but a smaller part. I think internet and social media is a big part of progress – an individual person with no power and no voice can comment on a company’s FB page, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and say exactly what they want or what is bothering them. In an effort to keep up a positive image: companies either placate or eventually change. Plus-size bloggers help out a lot as they demonstrate need, desire, and act as a critique of the current system.

I also think ‘backlash’ is an exceedingly good tool for pushing progress. The VS “I’m no angel” and “The perfect body” advertisements that were parodied by Dear Kate and Lane Byrant are triggers for change: they show customers what tripe they are being sold and then show an alternative ‘universe’ wherein the average woman is included.

me: Thank you so much for doing this today, Avigail! I really appreciate it.

Did you make it through the entire thing? What are your thoughts about the state of plus-size lingerie and lingerie blogging?

4 Comments

  1. Great post! It’s a lot to think about and I can totally relate to the issue with custom orders.

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