Monday, February 27, 2012

Bullying and Bras - What You Can Do


This Wednesday is Pink Shirt Day, an awareness day that raises awareness about bullying in schools, in the workplace, at home and on the Internet and more importantly, how to stop it. On Friday I attended the CKNW fund-raiser in aid of Pink Shirt Day (proceeds raised went to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Vancouver) because I know what it's like to be bullied and especially as a busty teen.

One Amazing Parent Can Save You From Bullies
As an adult of course I know that my bullies were insecure girls lashing out but at the time it was very difficult. I was very fortunate that I had a fabulous Mum who knew how to buoy my spirits and stop me from believing the hurtful things being said about me. That was the key, keeping me from buying into the dreadful things being said about my body/hair/behaviour. In later life I found out she hoisted her own formidable bust round to the parents' homes and confronted them about their children's behaviour - she's a force to be reckoned with!

What Moms AND Dads Can Do
The role of parents in supporting girls who are being bullied is absolutely critical and it stems from not being a bully yourself. I know this sounds harsh but too many women have stories of being made to feel a freak by their own families. If you are a small-busted woman whose teenage daughter develops very quickly or substantially I understand that it is foreign territory. The best thing you can do is find someone who has the knowledge to get, and keep, your daughter in the right bras. A great fitter will know that you need to fit teenagers with sensitivity and education. By instilling a sense of confidence in a teen then her boobs belong to her and not the bullies or testosterone driven boys. As the father of a well-developed teen it is vital that you don't make her feel ashamed of her figure. Insist upon age appropriate clothing, of course, but there's a difference between dressing appropriately and being made to feel you have to hide your shape. Some men will always judge her for her shape, don't be the first one to do it. 

The Long-term Effects of Bullying
The lasting effects of being bullied about having large breasts can be a self-loathing or embarrassment about your body. I speak to women every single week who want to hide their boobs or make them appear much smaller. This is rarely a style thing and almost always stems from a lack of confidence in their appearance. It breaks my heart that they feel their body is 'wrong' or 'bad'. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being busty, it doesn't say anything about your personality, it's just genetics!

I know it doesn't help that Society equates large breasts with promiscuity or lack of intelligence. Through my 20s I was constantly battling the stereotype of blonde and big-boobed (my favourite was an editor at The Times newspaper saying "I mistook you for blonde but really you're a business woman.") But I do know that you can defy and stand against the stereotypes as long as you believe in who you are.


Investing in our Daughters and Ourselves
Last week I wrote a response to a blog where the author was berating her breasts for being too big as a teen, then too small in her 20s, then too uneven, then too deflated. She used the word hate several times and it just frustrated the life out of me that we're bullying our own bodies. One reader left the most beautiful response, she wrote:

"I hope that I can help my daughter, by buying her great bras that fit beautifully at all stages of her development, by talking to her about what it means to have breasts and be sexualized. By being and recognizing that I am an attractive and confident person, despite my breasts and because of them. It's a complicated relationship but a worthy one to get right."

In one sentence she summed up the key to 'breast happiness'. "I am an attractive and confident person, despite my breasts and because of them." Our breasts don't define our personalities but they're also nothing to be ashamed of. This is the message we need to instill in our daughters and in ourselves. It's never too late to shed the layer of skin that we allowed other people to define and see yourself in a whole new light.

I hope that if you or your child is being bullied you start talking about it to someone you trust. Bullies thrive on inaction. By exposing their behaviour they quickly have no where left to hide. Most of all I hope you don't allow a bully to define how you or your daughter feel about yourself xx

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Have to Stop Hating Our Boobs

One of my wonderful 'followers' included me in a thread about a blog post entitled, 'Stupid Boobs'. I read about boobs every day so it takes a lot for me to be taken aback. However, the author of the post, Alexandria, is living a daily hatred of her breasts and on top of that she's angry at them for making her vulnerable to breast cancer (a disease she doesn't have and hasn't had).

There is so much in this blog that makes me sad and the reason for my response is that we can change this today, right now. Alexandria's story is littered with the things most of us have experienced. Whilst girls get boobs boys are sustaining a 2 year-long erection which drains the blood from their head so all they can muster in the sight of something they don't understand (but crave with every fiber of their being) is stupid rhymes and point or giggle inanely. We can't change teenage boys. However, as women, we can change the way our daughters feel about their boobs.

The moment Alexandria's Mom lifted her shirt (uninvited) to look at the 'Problem' of her uneven breasts (btw, fewer women have even breasts than don't), the die was cast that boobs needed to be a certain shape/size/perkiness etc etc. The teenage boys and the long haired, blue-eyed girl (who was probably stuffing her bra because her mother said something equally undermining) are childish comments that you can put into perspective as you move into adulthood. But the comments of an adult, a mother or father, they will set you back years.

Boobs are bizarre when they show up and if they arrive as quickly as mine did (no bra to a 32C in 6 weeks) then you worry you have the plague. This is the crucial time that we need to make BOOBS BELONG TO THE OWNER NOT THE SPECTATORS. So many women I speak to have stories of other people making them feel bad about their boobs. They would all feel differently if they'd had one person saying, you are beautiful and blessed (to be healthy and developed for a start) and reassuring that no one in the world looks like you and that's what makes you so utterly unique. Feeling a sense of pride about our bodies (from the tender age of 11, 12, 13) rather than shame, is the strongest self-esteem building block you can create. Now I'm not suggesting that you can make teens with impenetrable force-fields.  When the kid at the back of the bust makes a 'missile smuggling' joke, it's going to hurt, but that girl goes home and has a safe place to land, talk about it and reclaim her breasts.

I would love to ask Alexandria, what did you expect your boobs to be? What could they have done that would keep you from this 'Hatred'?

The fact that after successfully breast-feeding two children (a feat that many of my friends would have loved the chance to do) Alexandria still 'hates' her breasts is so sad. She states that it's the daily fear of breast cancer that leaves her detached and resentful of her breasts. This is going to sound blunt, but you'd be better off loathing your heart and brain because you're far more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. If that sounds ludicrous, good, it should. Fearing and loathing our body parts is not the answer. Nurturing them, looking after them and getting educated is the best thing you can do.

There are tonnes of things you can do to get educated and keep on top of your own breast-health. And indeed not settling with one answer if you feel you need to take it further is great. No one knows your body like you do. But is hating your boobs because they have the potential to become cancerous really the best defense or the message you want to give you daughter?

I really believe that we need to reclaim our bodies - they have belonged to the media, men and other people's opinions for so long we've forgotten to just chill-out and celebrate the life we have in the one unique body we have. Your body might not think that much of you, but you never hear it complain! I very much hope that Alexandria can find the peace and confidence to put her boob-hate behind her and be thankful to the 'lumps of flesh' that have done their best (despite enduring daily hatred from the one person they've been trying to impress). xx

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do You Shy Away From Lace Bras?

I am, and have always been, in love with lace. I remember the first time I went to Italy when I was 16, I saw a woman with flawless ebony hair, cream pencil skirt and black satin blouse that draped elegantly at the neck revealing the merest hint of a fragile black lace bra beneath. Perhaps because I was just coming into young womanhood, that image has stayed with me all my life as the epitome of sophistication. She was powerful, elegant and seductive - an amazing trio.

Since that time I have always owned at least one lace bra. I can't imagine opening my bra drawer and not seeing a delicate lacy bra with a pattern that feels as unique as a snowflake. Whenever I wear lace I feel more sophisticated, no matter what I put over the top.

Lace Isn't For Me
In North America there is a wide-spread perception that lace is too flimsy to support large breasts, it shows through clothing and it's scratchy and uncomfortable. Modern lace has come a long way since the Victorian looking fabrics. Modern lace can be so flat that it doesn't create lumps and bumps under your clothing and it's often mixed with elastane (like spandex) which gives it a soft, stretchy quality.

There has been a gradual erosion of style choice in many North American stores. A sea of molded cups greet you in lots of boutiques and department stores, and while a molded bra can be great it's not the only option in life. The natural shape of your breasts can be enhanced and celebrated in a lace bra and there's no need to compromise on support because inner slings and cup design can give you great support. 
Jasmine is a favourite design for its use of stretch-lace

Lots of styles combine the support and smoothing of one fabric with the breath-ability of lace. Stretch-lace is often used in the upper-cup section because it can improve fit for women with differently sized breasts. Jasmine is a great example of this kind of design.

Lace and Breast Health
Lace bras designs are usually 3 or 4 part cup designs which means there are seams. However, the seams are usually flat and as I've discussed elsewhere, they help to enhance your natural shape. Many molded cups can bisect your breast tissue at the armpit giving you displaced breast tissue. The soft but supportive nature of lace means that the tissue at your armpit is brought forward into the cup rather than being forced outside.

Idina is a great example of a stretch-lace bra that works really well for women wanting to retrain migrated breast tissue back into the cup. 

No matter whether you are a busy working Mom, professional or student, you can add a touch of lace to your lingerie collection and still have support and a beautiful shape. If you've been habitually wearing molded bras for a long time then maybe it's time to give something else a try. xx

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is the Pink Ribbon Holding us Back from Ending Breast Cancer?

I recently saw the Canadian produced documentary 'Pink Ribbons Inc', a very thought-provoking film asking whether breast cancer pink ribbons have become a profit-making rather than disease-eliminating industry. The film has had a big impact on me and I believe that part of Butterfly Collection's job is to be responsible to your breast health as well as your comfort and style so I want to share with you some of the themes from the documentary.

Pros of the Film
  1. It raised questions about how many chemicals in our food and cosmetics mimic the hormone estrogen,  something that is linked to breast cancer. 90% of the 100,000 commercial chemicals in the US have never been tested for their effects on human health - we're eating and wearing some of these chemicals!
  2. It asked whether we've become too used to the Pink face of breast cancer and forgotten the ugly reality which should make us want to demand better legislation about our consumable products and environment.
  3. It showed a group of women who will die from breast cancer talking about how alienated they feel from the breast cancer fund raising because it doesn't resonate with the reality of breast cancer. (Check out this incredible photographic tribute to women facing breast cancer

Cons of the Film
  1. The commentators didn't come down on the women who walk, run etc for The Cure however, they implied that they were being completely pink-washed with the warm and fuzzy marketing. It neglected to acknowledge that the reason Pink resonates with these women is because it represents the love they feel for their sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends etc. The warm and fuzzy part is the love we feel for one another and that's why millions of women around the world want to get out and fund raise.
  2. They went a bit overboard on the sinister background music while a lone runner pounded the roads of San Fransisco. 
  3. There wasn't quite enough clear direction on the things women can do TODAY to change the breast cancer funding and knowledge available to them.

How Quickly Things Got Off Track
The original breast cancer awareness ribbon was salmon coloured and attached to a postcard made by Charlotte Haley, a woman whose family had been widely affected by cancer, and distributed to her family and friends. The postcard read “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” The original message was all about cancer prevention and research transparency.

Estee Lauder wanted to buy the rights to Charlotte's ribbon to use as the symbol for fund-raising, Charlotte said no, it was a symbol of demanding rights and change not money.  Estee Lauder changed the colour to Pink and so was born one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time.

Pink Product Overload
Over the last few years there has been an alarming increase in the number of 'pink products', many of which are obviously not breast health friendly; the most frightening example is a pink ribbon bucket from KFC! Although the specific causes of breast cancer are not known it doesn't take a genius to figure out that filling your body with saturated fat isn't part of 'The Cure'! So why are we jumping into bed with anyone willing to donate a few dollars to The Cure?

The Fairy Pink-Mother
The company behind all the Pink Ribbon affiliations (including the KFC debacle) is Susan G Komen for The Cure (most recently under fire for stopping funds for breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood centers). The film looks closely at the activities and motivations of this company and asks whether advances in breast cancer research are being harmed not helped because SGK has lost sight of ending not perpetuating breast cancer.
Great resources at Worldwide Breast Cancer website
North American has one of the Highest Breast Cancer Rates
Breast Cancer rates are higher in North American and Western Europe than the rest of the world. Because the rates are so high in Canada, America, the UK and parts of Western Europe you'd expect a lot of money is being spent on working out which environmental factors have an impact on breast cancer rates, right? Wrong.

Does the Pink Ribbon Prefer 'The Cure' over 'The Cause'?
Over a billion dollars has been raised for all sorts of different researchers looking for a cure. A cure would of course be an incredible breakthrough and change the face of mortality rates across the world. The pharmaceutical company that finds a cure will literally make billions so the stakes are financially high and this is the biggest reason the focus is on The Cure and not The Cause of breast cancer.

If we still don't know The Cause why are we focused on The Cure?
The short answer is, Money. Firstly, pharmaceutical companies can make billions from a cure but they won't make a penny if it turns out we can eliminate The Cause. Secondly, studying which environmental factors contribute to breast cancer would include poking around the manufacturing processes and chemicals used by companies like Revlon, Avon and Ford all of which generate millions of sales from Pink Ribbon activities. 

The Vicious Pink Circle
Some of the major players in Pink Ribbon fund raising could also be some of the biggest sources of chemicals in our daily lives that are causing the very problem they're promoting the cure for. It's like buying cigarettes to find a cure for lung cancer. If big players like Susan G Komen continue to distribute funds in a way that doesn't upset their biggest sponsors then we may never get to the root of the problem.

Revlon's pink ribbon slogan, 'The Beauty of Giving', probably best sums up the vicious circle of some breast cancer fund-raising tactics.  
  1. The beauty of giving is that you can keep giving (or buying makeup in this case) as long as there's a cause to buy for.
  2. By making breast cancer more 'beautiful' in a pink bow it doesn't seem as scary or urgent to solve so we keep buying products (that potentially cause the problem).
  3. By giving some sales proceeds to charity Revlon can avoid being asked to research whether chemicals in their make-up contribute to breast cancer, because no-one's going to bite the hand that feeds them.
Five Things you Can Do To Change Things
The message that struck me most is that we need to shift from finding a Cure to finding the Cause. Something has changed in the last 40 years to cause more women to get breast cancer - we can find out what that something is and prevent it from killing women. Prevention may very well be The Cure.

1) Download this Think Before You Pink Toolkit to find out how to spend your pink ribbon dollars effectively

2) In the US there are no restrictions used on body care products. You can demand change by contacting your Representative and asking them to support the Safe Cosmetics Act.

3) Canadians can demand changes in cosmetics laws by filling in this super easy pledge at Environmental Defense.

4) Become familiar with Dr Susan Love's website, it has a no-nonsense approach to preventing, treating and researching a cure for breast cancer. Read her take on the Race for the Cause not the Cure.

5) Join the campaign for Safer Cosmetics, including getting toxic chemicals out of baby products.

I'll be doing a follow up blog with more info on the cosmetics side of this story - I for one rely on my war-paint but I'm not willing to risk my life on looking fabulous. I've found some great companies doing beautiful (inside and out) work in the cosmetics and beauty industry.

Pink Ribbons Inc is jam-packed full of details about the fund-raising methods, disposal of funds and general 'pink-washing' that keep us from eliminating breast cancer from our lives. For those of you who are able to go and see it I highly recommend it, for everyone else I hope some of the points in this blog get you thinking in a new way about our role in demanding a cure for a disease that kills 59,000 women in North America every year. xx

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meet a Company That Gives 'Two Figs' for D-G Sleepwear

When I hit my 30s I made a commitment to my nightwear drawer to look more like Rita Hayworth and less like Bart Simpson during my sleeping hours. One of the few companies making gorgeous sleepwear for D+ women is San Fransisco company Two Figs Lingerie. Their pieces echo classic Hollywood so you can look amazing while you sleep or generally swan about looking fabulous!

I was very fortunate to receive a lovely tweet from Two Figs asking whether I'd like to boob-test one of their creations on my girls and of course I jumped at the chance! Our lovely guest-blogger Holly was simultaneously trying out their Empire Gown so we were putting Two Figs to the H cup test on both sides of the border.

Big Boobs Like Nighttime Support Too
Two Figs makes D-G sizes but I always find with sleepwear that there's a much bigger margin than regular bras so I was confident that a G cup would suffice. Even though you don't need high impact support during your sleep it does help to have sized sleepwear that minimizes the movement of your breasts. I never recommend wearing a bra during your sleep as the elastic can cause skin irritation and damage breast tissue. Soft support from specially designed sleepwear is completely safe.

Luxury Takes Time
As most Canadians know you can have a wait on your hands when you order products from the US. The package took 10 days to arrive then I had to pay extra border duties on it at the post office - a pretty typical experience, especially for luxury goods. I very excitedly hurried home, tore open the box and whipped off my clothes (my poor neighbours must call me the crazy lingerie lady).

I'm a big fan of beautiful packaging, it sets the tone for the whole experience so I was really thrilled with the care that went into the packaging. The tissue paper was great quality and tiny clothes pegs were a lovely touch. I appreciated that for about 40 seconds before tearing into the next layer.

The gown was folded expertly so as to avoid crushing the lace or creasing it too much. At $175 USD you expect this level of thought and Two Figs don't disappoint. I asked to be surprised so I didn't know which piece was coming and I was thrilled to discover they had sent me the knee-length Halter Chemise. Some of my favourite sleep pieces are halternecks.

The Fit
The reason I like halternecks for sleepwear is that you can lift your girls to different levels depending on what you're doing. Seducing - get them up there! Sleeping - at ease, ladies ;) The cups are a little on the small side for me but as I said before it doesn't bother me for sleepwear.

The cups are darted at the bottom which looks very elegant but I think it might be part of the reason my boobs felt a bit bottom heavy. Perhaps with a bigger cup my breast would have sit slightly differently in the cups. I love that the cups have slings in them (an extra layer of material that creates side support and stability inside the cup).

The Back
One of the things I really love about the chemise design is that it has two ties, the halterneck and a band tie. This gives total control over the fit of this piece. The ties are really long which I LOVE! You can tie them into dramatic bows or leave them long and flowing for a romantic feel.

The Details
The Indigo colour is sumptuous and elegant, not a common colour so it feels extra special. The Swiss lace center panel gives the whole piece a delicate and decadent feel. The skirt is rouched into the lace panel which I felt was very flattering on me. Apart from the lace I'm not sure what the chemise is made of because there isn't a materials or washing instructions label in the garment (I'd never machine wash it but it would be helpful to have some guidance and details).

You can check out Two Figs retailers list on their website for places you can buy their gorgeous D-G sleepwear range. I can safely say that I will be flouncing around my apartment pretending that I'm Jane Mansfield and loving the splash of glamour this Two Figs piece brings to my life! xx

Monday, February 6, 2012

Does Shopping Online Mean Compromising Personal Service?

If you've ever read my interviews with Fuller Figure Fuller Bust or Busts4Justice then you'll know the story of how Butterfly Collection came into being. I purposefully set out to create an online store as opposed to a brick and mortar store because I wanted women in the most remote parts of North America to have the same access to D-K cup bras as someone living in a major city (and even in some cities it's hard to find good D-K cup bras!)

Since 2009 we have sold bras to women living in parts of the Canada and the US that are only accessible by helicopter or sled! The emails I receive from women in these areas are some of my most treasured. Changing the 'bra-life' of a woman you've never met face to face is a uniquely wonderful feeling.

I recently received such an email and I wanted to share it with you because it's what prompted this blog:

"My Personal Boutique: Hi Claire, I just had to tell you how impressed I am with the service I've received from you and your team. In the last 4 years I've only bought two bras (and I knew when I was buying them that they didn't really fit!) Since I found Butterfly Collection last July I've bought 6 bras and 4 of those were recommendations from Lucy which she got totally right! I feel like you know me because you listened to what my life is like and I am loving my lingerie for the first time in years, thank you."

This email brought home to me that having a personal experience doesn't rely on being there in person, it relies on paying attention. I've been in many shops where the assistant was obviously just going through her commission-fueled paces and couldn't give a toss that my hips are being segmented into six parts by the too-tight jeans. One of our fabulous Twitter followers recently mentioned that an in-store fitter simply wasn't listening to her or why she needed the bra, she just kept saying this is how it should look. You know when it looks right!
I totally understand that some women worry that shopping for bras online will lack that personal knowledge and experience you get in a traditional boutique.What I've come to realize about the approach we have here at Butterfly is that we aren't just interested in your bra size but your 'life size' too. What shape does your life have, how do you feel about your bras and body and what does your bra need to be to work for you.

I think that's why I got my knickers in such a twist over the Playtex Calculator debacle because they are an enormous company capable of bringing great bras to many women but they forgot that the bra has to fit the woman not the other way around. If you are a bra professional then you have a responsibility to give women the support they need to live a busy and pain-free life.

By asking questions over email, Skype and the phone (1-888-225-0474) we get to know the woman and her life because we can't just rely on looking at her body. I feel like we are closing the gap between an in-store and online bra shopping experience and that's something of which I'm very proud. What matters most to you in good service? xx