Playful Promises Blog

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The Playful Promises Blog covering all things knicker-related! Bras, girdles, corsets, panties, knickers, gstrings, thongs, longline bra, bra sizes, la bra, suspender belts, garter, dresses, clothing, boutique, stockings, seamed stockings and more!

Why John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is Still as Relevant as Ever, and What Lingerie Brands Can Take from It

     It’s undeniable how much John Berger has shaped my personal views on the depiction of the female body and the male gaze. I am one of many who was exposed to his work during university when asked to critically assess the way we portray women in our work. This piece of work is invaluable to both creatives and people in general who want to be more aware of what we see in advertising and art, and is as relevant now as it was then. As a brand, John Berger’s works have been instrumental in forming the way we allow the women in our campaigns to be depicted.

Ways of Seeing openly discussed female empowerment, agency and the relationship they have with their bodies, as well as how they are seen by men and even by the women we feel the need to compete with. Famously, Berger said “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity,” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for you own pleasure.” – a sentiment which poses the question about the way women are portrayed and the ideas imposed upon them, causing a complete contradiction of ideas. Let’s not deny the obvious – most people enjoy looking at the bodies of beautiful women – beauty being a very subjective term. However, whether it’s a selfie, an ad campaign or any other form of presenting the female body, these women are often slandered for being vapid, vain, and often promiscuous. It’s seems hypocritical to insult females who allow themselves to be depicted and viewed, only to be condemned by the men who gaze at them. On the flip side, a woman who does not allow herself to be seen is prudish and stuffy. It seems women simply can’t win!

Let’s take a well-known example of a female who puts her body and image out there regularly – Kim Kardashian. The original “sex tape” that boosted her fame was something she consented to making, but did not consent to the distribution of it, and by and large she is the one who has taken the brunt of the abuse from it, not the man in the video or the one who leaked it. She’s not embarrassed about her sexuality, and it’s refreshing. The man who released this video allowed her agency to be stripped of her, and yet she managed to turn it around and have a career. She’s famously known for her selfies, which are an image she constructs (seemingly) by herself.

A very brief look at the comments on one of her selfies brought up phrases like “Why r u so popular u r dumb and immature and your a mother how do you live with yourself”, “your a bad mother”, “You want to show your mouth but you show more tits to have more likes” and “your tits saggin”. Not everyone agrees with the Kardashians and how they choose to make money, but if we assess this impartially, here’s a female who has used the power of her body to create fame and a career for herself, and it’s worked. Yet, these comments strip her of her agency. Claiming someone is a bad mother because they show their cleavage is nonsensical at best. Condemning a female because she’s showing her body, yet you’re the one viewing it is hypocritical, and finally body-shaming a woman for having the confidence to show certain, hyper-sexualised parts of her body says more about that person’s jealousy and resentment than it does about her. John Berger was an advocate for females having control of their own image, and in a way a promoter of the selfie. His point was not about female bodies themselves, but how they are presented negatively by the same people who enjoy looking at them.

This idea - women allowing themselves to be gazed at by men – is something we have a lot of experience with as a lingerie brand. Of course, our imagery features scantily-clad females – something hard to avoid in a lingerie brand – but what is always interesting to us is the way people react to the women in the photographs. Often men impose their sexual fantasies on them, and women, while mostly positive about the women in the photographs, condemn themselves for not looking like them. It’s not so much an issue of the portrayal itself, but the way people react to it. The subject becomes the object, a 2-dimensional woman to be looked at as opposed to a person with agency and purpose. As John Berger succinctly put it: “men act and women appear”.

Comparing the comments women write on our photographs with the comments men write is an interesting exercise. As aforementioned, women are mostly positive about other women, but often compare themselves to other female bodies:

“hot pic it’ll look quite different on me since my (peach emoji – modern shorthand for buttocks) is bigger lol”

“I’m too self-conscious to wear anything like this cause I’m not flat 'down there'”

“I've had a hard time embracing my new body, the extra curves, the purple stretch marks on my hips, belly and beasts, the squishy belly. I feel like something sexy like this would boost my confidence and help to make me feel feminine, and beautiful again.”

Men, however, sexualise and objectify the female bodies:

“Beautifull brazzar & boobs”

“Look very nice and sexy and hot picture of you and nice sexy body and sexy lingerie and sexy boobs”

“WOW,....have to comment again...really LOVE Women in Stockings and LOVE to see a Woman wearing Stockings...wish I could say this is true for my other half....it's hard to get her to wear anything!”

 “I kiss your pusy”

To elaborate on the idea of females envying women presented in art and advertising, Berger makes an important point about how consumers are made to feel about themselves;The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself.” This proves that the way retailers make their customers feel about themselves with their imagery is imperative in relation to sales and reach. As a brand who try to present a range of body types and shapes, models and non-models, we still experience women comparing themselves to others regardless. Never being truly happy with your appearance is almost expected of women, and we as females know that and internalise it. If we were a brand like Victoria’s Secret, who only present one body type, this notion of enviable beauty ideal would be much more prevalent as proven by comments on their last Instagram post:

“Damn I wanna be like you!!”

“Wish I look like that” (disturbingly, this account is run by a girl under age 10)

“I’m so ugly”

These comments differ from the examples taken from ours, as they are directly saying they want to be the model, or that they are ugly, instead of assessing why they feel that way.

It’s not healthy to try and incite envy with imagery by using unrealistic standards of beauty as a default, to sell a product by making women and girls struggle with the reality of their own bodies. This creates a negative message. In fact, brands should use a range of models (where possible) so that consumers can relate to them instead of put them on a pedestal. This creates a healthier body image as well as a more moral approach to advertising and commerce. For every comment we get on our social media wishing to look like other women, we also get comments from people who are grateful to have their body type represented:

“Thanks for posting this, especially on a curvy shape like this. I had really liked this but was wondering would it look good on me because of my bust and shape. I like the way you switch it up. Thank you for showing all shapes and sizes.”

“Great models! Real women, real figures I relate to. Thankyou” (as much as we dislike the phrase “real women”, we get what this is trying to convey)

“this company sells really nice stuff and their diverse line up of models really helps you get an idea of what things would look like on different bodies!”

The point John Berger makes to the enviable body relates to this. Women should not have to justify loving themselves by buying a product to look like the women in the photograph, but they should be justified in loving themselves by seeing their bodies represented positively.

Interestingly, the subjects of the art from centuries ago that John Berger speaks about still encapsulate what we see as the marks of beauty today; buxom, white, hairless bodies. Surely this incites the question about whether our current beauty ideals are outdated. Trying to diverge against these ideals is not always easy when it’s been so ingrained in society for this long, but brands are slowly latching on to this idea of being more diverse and critical about their models of choice. The goddesses in the art are still prevalent in today’s advertising, only photographed instead of painted.

John Berger was an advocate of females having control of their own presentation, and not under the thumb of the male gaze. As females in an industry that widely designs products for females, allowing the women in our imagery to have agency and be empowered is something always at the forefront of our minds. We won’t allow the male gaze to impact our brand, and we don’t create imagery with men in mind or facilitate the derogatory comments imposed on our models. Brands should all be aware of Ways of Seeing, and apply it to their image accordingly.

Strappy Lingerie - Not a Modern Concept!

The 21st Century is often lauded as a time of sexual liberation, innovative design and a more "ouvert" approach to lingerie. Today's contemporary lingerie designs feature bondage-inspired strapping and harness detailing. However, this is not a modern concept at all! In fact, the lingerie and sexual fantasies of people of the past were just as debauched and naughty as we are today!

A Strappy Brief style from Diana Slip, and our Leila Brief

A Strappy Brief style from Diana Slip, and our Leila Brief

An early purveyor of this seductive style in the 20s and 30s was fetishwear company Diana Slip. Elegant lace and ribbon adorned the thighs of the models, clad in knee high boots, fishnets and armed with riding crops, shot by Brassai and Robert Schall. 

A lace-up ouvert back by Diana Slip, and our Amelia Brief

A lace-up ouvert back by Diana Slip, and our Amelia Brief

Diana Slip disappeared in World War II, however their provocative designs that would still be lusted after today prove that there's still a demand for lingerie with a side of whips and chains.

Sally Keith, a burlesque dancer in a strappy costume, and our Tamara Briefs

Sally Keith, a burlesque dancer in a strappy costume, and our Tamara Briefs

In the 1940s, burlesque became what we know it as today - the art of striptease - rather than the variety acts the word used to describe. The costumes, often handmade, regularly featured the strappy elements of lingerie we see in contemporary designs, revealing a tantalizing amount of skin, yet still covering up enough to get around censorship laws!

Rudi Gernreich's monokini, and our Hope Brief and Bra set

Rudi Gernreich's monokini, and our Hope Brief and Bra set

Rudi Gernreich designed the monokini in 1964 as a protest against a repressive society, not intending to manufacture it commercially, however due to their notoriety and powerful message about body autonomy, they eventually went into production. Whilst 3000 were sold, it is only known to have been worn in public twice - once at a nightclub, and another by an artists model who was consequently arrested. These never really seemed to catch on, even now people are unjustly offended by breasts! However, their strappy halter-neck style has inspired today's lingerie, especially our harness briefs!

An illustration from a Frederick's of Hollywood catalog in 1966, and our Tamara bra

An illustration from a Frederick's of Hollywood catalog in 1966, and our Tamara bra

Frederick's of Hollywood generated much of their sales through catalogs which were beautifully illustrated and featured erotic lingerie such as frame bras, shelf bras and ouvert briefs. The subtle strap across the top of the breast is a simple design addition that has inspired many bras after.

Strappy lingerie and harness elements have been part of design history for decades, and this revival of this style has been translated to suit modern tastes, paired with coloured satins, eyelash lace and uniquely printed fabrics. This poses the question about whether anything is truly original! Either way, we love the strappy styles of the past, as well as of the present! What do you think of the trend that shows no sign of fading?

Shop our strappy lingerie here.

 

Playful Valentine's Day Gift Guide

Whether you're loved-up or your love life's lackluster, V-Day is coming and you can't escape it. Either way, stay away from those fuzzy cutesy teddies holding hearts saying "I Wuv You", pre-written cards with heartfelt, cheesy poems, and boxes of Cadbury's Milk Trays and get your beau - or yourself - something they/you actually want this Valentine's with our gift guide!

Which ever way you see Valentine's - a day or romance, or another money-grabbin' holiday - let's not deny the importance of showing love for others, and most importantly yourself. Any day with an excuse to either buy and wear pretty lingerie and get loved-up is alright by us. We have pieces for every kind of beau this year:

 

1. The Retro Romantic

If your beau is into retro style and a total sweetheart, the Bettie Page Ostritch Feather Babydoll is the ideal gift! Just pink and fluffy enough to be cute, and sheer enough to be a little sexy. The babydoll comes in sizes UK8-18, and as it's nightwear you can be a little lenient on the sizing if you're not totally sure. Your boo will also appreciate something comfortable to wear after a big V-Day dinner! If you really want to spoil them (or yourself), pair with the Peach Corsolette for a super-sweet peachy pairing! 

 

2. The Vintage Vixen

If your lover leans towards the sexier style of lingerie, and Bettie Page is their style icon, then the Bettie Page Eyelash Lace set is perfect. It also has a matching suspender belt which you can pair with our authentic Fully Fashioned stockings to complete the look. Perfect for a little surprise underneath a fitted dress if you want to do a big reveal at the end of the night!

 

3. Sparkle-Loving Sex Kitten

For babes with a penchant for gold and sparkly things! The Karine is ultra-feminine, but not too cutesy if your beau is a little on the sultry side. This set is available across our entire size range, so no stress about finding something for yourself or your partner's tricky size! Adorned with velvet bows, this set is a real showstopper.

 

4. The Fashion-Forward Fancy

If bae is all about current trends and a lover of simple styling, then the Betsy set is ideal! The soft triangle bra ensures comfort and perfect for those with petite busts or like non-wired bras for lounging. The detachable harness can be used to enhance any outfit, making this set transitional from underwear to outerwear. 

 

5. The Sexy Squeeze

And finally, something ultra-sexy, in a red-hot colourway and adored with eyelash lace, the Tamara Rust is an absolute perfect set for Valentine's! Ideal for a naughty night in, the Tamara features the perfect amount of strappy detail and is available across our size range.

Shop our complete Valentine's Gift Guide here

The Independent Brand Love-In

Every year we take part in the lingerie ‘Secret Santa’ with a host of wonderfully creative independent brands organised by Karolina Laskowska. It is an opportunity to get gifted some amazing lingerie and to help promote our community to the wider world. The world is becoming a more homogeneous place every day and by independent brands working as a community we can try to counter this as well as help foster creativity.

I was ill the week before Christmas and I popped into our studio on Christmas Eve and there was a parcel from Chile on my desk. I felt so curious. I didn’t remember ordering anything from Chile but there it was something all the way from Chile on the desk inmy office in London. I love it that our community is spreading so far and wide.

Inside it revealed that I’d got the amazing Toru & Naoko. They were generous enough to send me 3 sets as a gift. They were in a sparkly gift bag and each set was in cased in its own pouch (I’ve already used my 3 pouches for hair and make up products!) I love a bit of pretty but useful packaging.

My absolute favourite set was the Alexia Bra with Sharon Panties. These are so me. I love strappy sets. The fit was excellent. I wear a 34C/34D and despite not having any wire the fit felt very comfortable. I also really liked how the knickers had adjusters on all the strappy cut outs so they could be adjusted to my exact measurements.

What I noticed generally was the quality of materials and attention to design detail. There are lots of clever little twists to the design. I also liked how they had managed on The Tempest panties to make cotton panties feel glamorous. They are a lovely soft fabric but with daring detail. I haven’t seen this done before and it felt innovative.

Here’s a few snaps of me to give a feel of how good the fit is and how great the design.

Fully Fashioned & RHT Stockings

Playful Promises is full of exciting new things at the moment! First it's the much anticipated Bettie Page collection, then the gorgeous Spring Summer 2017 arrives with styles in ALL the sizes, and now, we've taken the plunge and decided to create our very own Fully Fashioned and RHT stocking range for the Bettie Page collection!

Elmer Batters, 1967

Elmer Batters, 1967

The range includes Fully Fashioned Stockings in Black and Chocolate, and RHT Stockings in Black, Chocolate, Electric Blue and Champagne.

And why is this range so special?

Well, Fully Fashioned Stockings and RHT stockings are not widely manufactured. This is because these types of stockings are made on original Full Fashioned 1950s machinery that knits the stockings from 100% Nylon - only a small handful of these machines still operate today, which makes these stockings extra rare! After the stockings are knitted, they are glass ironed. As for the seams, these are created on original Union Special machines. To know if you have a genuine Fully Fashioned stocking, you'll have a "finishing loop" on the top of the stocking which is used to finish the seam. They are then dyed and steamed on a flat metal leg to tighten the knit and shape the stocking.

Our Fully Fashioned Stocking collection, in Black and Chocolate!

Our Fully Fashioned Stocking collection, in Black and Chocolate!

This process creates a stocking with little to no stretch, yet fits the legs perfectly because they are shaped in such a way. The iconic seam on Fully Fashioned Stockings have a purpose to join the stocking together, as opposed to modern seamed stockings where the seam is added on afterwards. What you're left with is a stocking with a seam up the back, from the heel (which can be a point heel, a Cuban heel, Havana heel or a Manhattan heel.) 

RHT Stockings are a little different, and don't include the seam or fancy heel. RHT stands for Reinforced Heel & Toe, so on these stockings - you guessed it - the toe and heel are reinforced. They're for anybody who doesn't want seamed stockings and want some simpler!

Our RHT Stocking selection, in Black, Chocolate, Natural and Electric Blue

Our RHT Stocking selection, in Black, Chocolate, Natural and Electric Blue

Our RHT and Fully Fashioned stockings go perfectly with our Bettie Page range for an authentic retro aesthetic. Pair with wiggle dresses, pencil skirts and any of our suspender belts for a beautiful 50s look!