The thing about lingerie is that it's often a lacy litmus test revealing how a woman views herself. I soon found out that age, like push-ups, is just an illusion. The lucky among us don't register sags and wrinkles, but get more and more comfortable in our skin with each passing year.
I once got a hefty commission from an 80-year-old hellbent on revamping her bra collection. Double D’s at that age are not a joke. I spent two solid hours helping this delightful woman lift, shift, and clasp. The thing that really tickled me was the fact that she had such a solid love for her every lady lump.
"Honey, I don't think this one will work. My husband, Morty, really likes the lace. Do you have this one in the lace?" she asked.
Ironically, the high school and college girls that came in and dropped dime on some of our priciest items seemed to be the most common victims of self-loathing. Not all, of course, but enough pretty young things were convinced they came up lacking.
"Ugh. Look at this flab. It's so gross," Claire, 22, would say, tugging on the side of her lithe stomach.
She was a regular, with a svelte coke-bottle shape that could put Gisele to shame. And the irony wasn't lost on me. Would she only realize how beautiful she was as she got older and doughier?
We’d often engage in conversation about what our ideal body type was, and that's how I learned the source of much of Claire's self-hate: The guy she was enamored with liked the Calvin Klein model-y types. You know, the ones who look like they’re too bored to eat. That sounded crazy to me, who, to this day, loads up on carbs so that I can have a more J.Lo-esque derriere. But, hey, different strokes for different folks.
I don't claim to know how it starts. I'm not blaming men—or the media—for this insanity. That would be a cop out. We can push out babies for pete’s sake, we should be able to squash the pain of physical insecurities with our pinky finger. If it were only that easy.
After a few months, I definitely detected a pattern. The women in their 40s and 50s complained a lot less about "cottage cheese thighs" and focused more on finding the perfect balance of comfort and beauty. I bet many of them would have been daring enough to try some crotchless stuff—had we sold it.
Meanwhile, with the twentysomethings, it was always something: Boobs too cone-shaped, too low, too high…
By the end of that summer, I concluded that love must really be blind, because the women who showed their body the most self-love were the ones who simply refused to see the dimples, the stretch marks, the pudge.
And that was a beautiful thing.