EDIT: An expanded version of this critique was published on AUTOSTRADDLE. YOU CAN READ IT HERE
EDIT: An edited, tightened, and more cohesive version of this critique was picked up by Interrupt Mag for their Second Issue on Body Image. This version also includes some communication between Chrysalis and myself. You can read the new updated version HERE!!
I was super excited about Chrysalis Lingerie’s new line of lingerie that caters to trans women. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the site’s store launch for years now. Their launch has been delayed multiple times, but now Chrysalis is finally coming to mailboxes near you. Today I saw a post on my tumblr dashboard saying that the store is finally online for pre-orders that will ship on May 10th. I clicked the link for the store, and then my jaw hit the floor. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
I first found myself blown away at just how expensive the products are. Chrysalis is charging their customers 75$ for a bra and 85$ for their control t-string. I’m wondering if Chrysalis did any market research when preparing their products, because honestly there is no way I can spend 75-85$ for even one piece of their lingerie. Most of my trans friends are barely making their rent on time and finding enough money to buy food. They are simply not able to spend this kind of money on lingerie, even if it is made especially for trans women. That’s not even mentioning their bra inserts that will cost you 175$.
Personally I’m usually a Target kind of girl when it comes to my underwear. It’s all I can afford. I was preparing to pay “victoria secret” prices when Chrysalis released their line. I’d even be willing to pay a little more than I’d pay at Victoria Secret. But 75$-85$ is simply too high of a price tag. That’s almost an entire day of work for me, and I make a pretty decent wage of 14.50 an hour working full time. And I know that I’m really economically privileged compared to most trans women. Many trans women don’t have the earning power that I have.
Upon further examination of the new shop, I came to an even more startling and disturbing realization. Even if I had the money to drop on a beautiful brand new pretty Chrysalis bra, I wouldn’t be able to buy one that actually fits me. Now I’m not that big of a girl, but I am a trans woman and my frame is a little bit bigger than that of lot of most cisgender women. I’m a 38B when it comes to bras. I didn’t think my band size would be that big of a deal since Chrysalis is supposed to cater to transgender women. Many trans women’s shoulders and upper chest are quite robust from the years that testosterone had free reign on our bodies. So it goes without saying that if their clientele is entirely trans women, surely they will carry band sizes up to at least 40, maybe even higher right? – Evidently, wrong.
The largest band size that Chrysalis is currently selling as of the launch of their website is a 36. And they don’t even carry a 36A. Which doesn’t make any sense. I would think that Chrysalis would carry small cup sizes on larger bands since many trans women don’t get great breast growth results from hormones alone and cannot afford implants. It is very common for trans women to have a large band size but a small cup size because of this. Chrysalis has produced the exact same sized bras that are available in any Walmart, Target, or Victoria Secret. I still can’t get an easily accessible bra in my size.
But, maybe us “big girls” just aren’t sexy enough for Chrysalis’s dreamy promos, or something… And I’m not even that “big” of a girl.
Honestly, it kind of seems like Chrysalis’s launch wasn’t very well planned or researched. Many of the people who were excited about this launch, like myself, will only be disappointed to find out that Chrysalis wont be making lingerie for their budget or their body size.
When I read Chrysalis’s “About Me,” it made me expect something different. They talk about “changing the dehumanizing stereotypes,” and “ taking transgender women beyond the marginalization imposed by the media and society and represents them as beautiful intelligent women with prowess, and the embodiment of feminine sensuality.” I’m all for all of that. The “About Me” made me hope for something “better” than what is currently available on the market.
I was hoping for something that not only flatters our bodies but also actually fits them. I was hoping for something that celebrates our bodies. I was hoping for something that says that women come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But unfortunately, that is not what I found. I found a product that reinforces traditional beauty and body size standards for women. A standard that is often unrealistic for all women, not just trans women, to live up to.
A word of advice to trans women: Go to your nearest target. Buy a two pack of pushup bras (24$ for 2), and target’s bra inserts (12$). Then go to your nearest Walmart and buy the Vasserette Control Shapewear Panties (2.50 each), they do wonders for tucking. You just saved yourself a lot of money, and you still look fabulous in my opinion!
To say I’m disappointed in Chrysalis’s launch is an understatement. I’d love to support the business venture of other trans women (especially when they cater to the trans community, but because of the current state of my wallet and my body size I find I will be unable to buy from Chrysalis’s store.
photos from: http://www.lingerietalk.com/2012/03/26/lingerie-news/were-done-hiding-a-first-lingerie-line-for-transgendered-women.html