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Monday, March 21, 2011

In Loving Mammary: My Week Sans Bra

My insights on going brassiere-free for a week are summarized in the following article. Enjoy!

In Loving Mammary: My Week Sans Bra
Mallory Strange

After deciding what product to deprive myself of, my bra, I anticipated the week of deprivation and what it may result in. I wondered if my attachment to my bra would weigh heavily on me, as I have both been wearing one for years and working at a lingerie store. Knowing the detriments to not wearing a brassiere, I was a bit nervous of the damage that I might do to my ladies in the course of one week, especially after a professor of mine had commented on running without a sports bra.
The night before beginning my week of deprivation, as I was laying my clothes out for the following morning, I hesitantly put away my bra. To accommodate for the lack of undergarments, I decided on laying out my favorite shirt for the day ahead due to its double layers, knowing that it would be more censoring than some of my other shirts. Waking up, I found that I instinctually grabbed for my bra first, feeling slightly disappointed when reminded by its absence that it wouldn’t be there all week. Getting dressed, I felt hideous. One of the first entries in my journal made comment about how I no longer felt feminine, in fact, I felt so negative that I remarked “I do NOT feel very pretty or feminine today, rather, I feel very, well, manly.” After dousing myself with my favorite perfume, I felt slightly more at ease. While getting dressed for work one morning my roommate (who knew that I was doing the deprivation assignment) commented on how I had a nice shape to my breasts. We got into a long discussion about how we both felt that we couldn’t go braless because our ladies were awkwardly shaped. This is something that I have heard from previous friends as well. Women seem to think that the nature curvature of their breasts is unattractive. It is of no surprise that women tend to have body issues, but this seemed to be a more common trend than I had previously thought. Accompanying this image discontent, is the concern about breast size in relation to the rest of the body. One thought that crossed my mind was “I wish that my abs were as tight as when I was in high school, I feel like my gut is hanging out past my boobs.”
As the week continued, I realized that I never quite felt fully dressed because my routine was based solely around starting the day by putting on my brassiere first and then getting dressed. I realized how much effort I typically spend trying to ensure that I wear the right bra under certain shirts. Getting dressed took much less time than when I would wear my bra. It sometimes could take a full thirty minutes just to decide on what bra to wear (especially if I kept changing my mind on the shirt).  
My relationship with my undergarment was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought that I might miss it more than I did. Although at first uncomfortable, I quickly learned new and interesting ways to mask that I was brassiere-free. Many of my summer shirts and dresses are constructed so that you can wear them without a bra.  I found myself dressing in them quite frequently; thankfully the weather was warm enough that I could. Along with this, I tended to wear more free-flowing shirts, and scarves to cover up. The curious trend that emerged was that the reactions of the people around me who knew that I was conducting this assignment were far more concerned with my lack of a brassiere than I was. It seemed that everyday someone would make a comment or joke about not wearing a bra. I also found that my peers were quite hesitant to actually say the word “bra.” The subject would be brought up in ways that alluded to the provocative topic yet never distinctly mentioned. I began to wonder whether this might be due to the geographic setting I was in, as it had never been a provoking subject before. Could the South (specifically speaking the Knoxville area), be more conservative in discussions regarding feminine undergarments? I had to laugh a bit to myself at the conversations that were started merely because I wasn’t wearing a bra, and the lack of knowledge that women had concerning theirs. At work we see around 80% of women who don’t know the simplest thing---how to properly wear a bra-- and because of that women get the wrong size and feel discomfort throughout the day. Spurring discussions about feminine needs and associated products would ensure that women are well educated, comfortable, and their focus was on something more imperative than an underwire poking into them. Certainly when it concerns comfort women need be better informed.
Finally reaching the end of the week, as I was putting my bra on for the first time in over 7 days, the first thing that I noticed was how uncomfortable it was. However, the emotional dependency to my bra won over, as I once again felt feminine. I once again felt that I was fully dressed and ready for my day. “My outfits immediately changed too.” I began wearing shirts that were more form fitting. Less concern was placed on covering up.
The insights that I have gained are centered mainly on the emotional attachment that I had with my bra. With such a routine item, I hadn’t expected the emotional pull to be so strong, however, the one thing that I thought about every day was the feeling that I wasn’t feminine enough. In regards to applying this information in advertising, using Taylor’s Six Segment Strategy Wheel as a guide to building strategy, my attachment to my bra would be most appropriate in an ego and socially combined strategy. The positioning strategy that would best work for me would be to use a user image tactic that reiterates the emotional gain received through wearing a brassiere. A user image strategy would be the best approach in acknowledging the often dismissed emotional attachment that women have to their brassieres, and creating an image in women’s minds that by using a certain product that you will emerge more feminine, both internally and externally. Women want to feel beautiful, and by presenting something to her that meets those needs, advertisers will relate to her on a level that she may not cognitively recognize, but nonetheless will respond to.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Brassiere Deprivation

My week without bras was quite interesting. One thing that seemed to be a trend was how when something so common is taken away, you begin to realize how important it really is to your daily routine. My bra made me feel feminine in a way that other clothing, jewelry, and perfume couldn't.

I will stop here, as I am currently working on analyzing my journal entries. I'll post my full report as soon as its done!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ban on Bras

So today in class we were assigned a deprivation assignment, the premise of which is to choose something from your daily life and give it up for a week. The whole notion of the assignment is to understand the implications of the product in a consumer's life.

So ladies and gentlemen, my class voted and this upcoming week I will be giving up....drum roll please...BRAS! Stay tuned, this should be an interesting study.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lipping out

While sitting in class yesterday I noticed a fellow peer was dressed up for an interview. This girl does not usually dress quite this way, and looked very nice, however I noticed one thing about her outfit. Because her shirt was made of a lycra material, you could see that her bra did not fit her properly. By this, what I mean to say is that she had a "ridge" where her bra lipped out, creating a gap between her and her bra. This may go unnoticed by men, however, women tend to nit-pick about this very phenomenon.

What a simple solution it would have been for her to just get a bra that fit her correctly....problem solved. After class I was discussing this with my friend, and she, too, commented on how she had recently gone to a conference, dressed up, and had the same problem. She made reference to her cup size changing recently, saying that she knew that was the cause of the shirt mishap.

Two things stand out in my mind from these situations: 1) women don't seem to know how often to be fitted (every 6 months if you were wondering), as they continue to wear bras that do not fit and wonder why their clothes don't look quite right and 2) women seem to think that the reason you can see that shelf line is because of the shirt, not the bra. Both of these circumstances are opportunities where a salesperson did not assist the customer in TEACHING her about her bra. I wonder sometimes why women think that its an untold rule of thumb that we all know how to properly fit ourselves? But it's not. Most of us didn't have the "bra" conversation way back when.

Moral of the story: make sure that your customer knows not just the features and immediate benefits of the product, but what that product applies to outside of expected uses, and how that product fits into their lifestyle. Guaranteed your customer will appreciate you taking the extra step, and in turn trust in your company the next time that they need something.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Weekend Trend Alert!

     One trend that I've noticed over the course of my three years working for a lingerie store is that no matter where you are in the country, the personality types that you see on Saturday and Sunday are consistent. I have now worked in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Tennessee and regardless of the state, you can count on Saturday traffic to be friendly, talkative, and overall desiring of an associates help.
     Sunday, however, seems to be the day that everyone is much more guarded, refusing assistance and being much more irritable. At first I found this a strange phenomenon, but after discussions with other sales associates and friends, I think the proximity that Sunday has to Monday has a large part in the attitude change.
      So what should you do to assist customers on Sunday when even a simple "hello" provokes their guards? Make sure to allow them the space to feel that they are not being bombarded by salespeople. Offering a friendly "Hello, my name is......I'll be right here if you need any help finding anything today" helps to establish your presence in case of need without pitching sales right when they walk in the door. I've found that after a few minutes of perusing, if you then reengage with him/her, he or she will be much more accepting of help, sales pitches, and promotional offers that you have to address.

Monday, January 31, 2011

To be a Jackie, or a Marylin?

        While relaxing this past weekend, watching Mad Men, it dawned on me how clueless some advertising agencies can be when it comes to targeting products to the female psyche. The episode focused on the Mad Men coming up with an ad campaign for Playtex that would rival that of the competitor Maiden Form. After a boys' night out brainstorming session, the Mad Men come up with the idea that all women either want to be a Jackie Kennedy or a Marylin Monroe. The client ultimately decides to continue with their current, more conservative approach.
        I had to laugh a little when I saw this episode. True, there are women out there that strive to be a Jackie or Marylin, however, with women becoming more empowered everyday, these Mad Men miss the boat on understanding who women really are and what women really want.
       The majority of women that come into my store aren't buying bras to please men (with the exception of V-day and anniversaries), instead, they are making purchases based on what they want. Appealing to this demographic is more about making her feel good in her own skin. Tapping into the female psyche is much more complex than forcing her to fit into a predetermined iconic mold. When targeting women, concentrate on who she really is, rather than what is the preconceived image of who she may (or may not) be.

Mad Men Episode Guide

1960's Maiden Form Advertisement:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love is in the....lingerie?

       In the past couple of years the fashion trend for the post-Christmas season (entering into Valentine's day) has been primarily focused on animal prints, and spring colors such as bright greens, purples, and blues. However, it's refreshing to see that this year the traditional colors of red and pink are back! Just in time for Valentine's day, stores are unloading new designs that are more vibrant than ever. The addition of sparkle has been added to these traditional colors to really make them pop.
       Traditional reds and pinks tend to sell best for this holiday, and have been long awaited. I have had customers who have turned right around and walked out the door because in past years she did not have the choice of red or pink for her lingerie. Black for a long while had been a top seller, but black is considered the go-to "sexy" lingerie color. Women tend to purchase this color year round and opt for something fresh and different when given the option during holidays. For Valentine's day women want something unique and representative of the day of love. Take into careful consideration the colors you pick for launches, and more importantly, the time at which these colors are launched. This can have great influences on whether your customers are excited to shop with you or whether they decide to shop somewhere else.