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My surprising discovery at the lingerie show

I debuted Embrago at an international lingerie trade show in New York last weekend. At shows like this, brands traditionally hire young, beautiful models to show off their samples. So, as a woman well past 50 modeling my own designs, I was in a category of one.

But many of the buyers and retailers attending the show were women my age or older. Many, like me, have mature skin that is pale from long days at the computer, and bodies that are full-busted in a softening midlife kind of way. They dress in understated business clothes – t-shirts, blouses, blazers, cardigans -- as they browse and shop for lingerie intended for very different bodies than their own.

Ready for the shocker?

These mature businesswomen are secretly, stunningly beautiful, but no one sees it. Least of all themselves.

Here's how I found out:

When they came to my booth, these buyers would look confusedly at my designs on the rack, unsure of what they were seeing. No lace? No sheer panels? No colors? This isn't what they were used to.

I would explain the concept as they listened intently. Surprised when they realized I was wearing the designs myself--they look much different on the body than on a hanger--their gaze would snap sharply to my torso, scanning me intently with practiced, analytical eyes. Evaluating.

They took in the fact that I was, indeed, older. Like them.

They noted that I was, indeed, generously full-busted. Like them.

A few skeptically suggested my cup size might be smaller than I claimed. (Nope, I’ve been measured by the best and I’m a certified K.)

Initially declining my invitation to try it on, they were clearly thinking, “Me, no. I can’t go without a bra. That’s for younger, smaller women.”

But before long, after another scan or two of my bust and sometimes a good feel, too, their curiosity got the best of them, and they agreed to try it. They selected a style and carried it over to the nearby dressing rooms, an unfamiliar look on their faces: hope.

After a few minutes, they would slide open the fitting room curtain and step out (or shyly stay in, waving me over for a look) with a genuine smile on their faces that twinkled all the way up to their brightened eyes and spoke volumes.

They looked goooooood. And they knew it. Not just good-good. Stunning-good.

I saw this happen so many times over the weekend. Smart, savvy businesswomen, confident in so much in their lives but not in their own beauty anymore were transformed before their own eyes. They saw their own feminine elegance and loveliness again, something they haven’t seen in years because most clothes offer only discouraging reflections of what they are not.

I loved seeing the light radiating in their eyes, their delight at experiencing that forgotten simple pleasure: feeling pretty. It was at once heartbreaking to understand how deeply discouraged they had become, and then thrilling to see how their spirits were lifted in a New York minute.

They suddenly saw something very different than what they were used to seeing in the mirror, something so much better than what they have come to expect from their clothes. They were seeing how beautiful they are -- real as they are -- right now.

Clothing gives us a sense of identity and dignity, and at its best, it complements the bodies we have while allowing our soul's light to shine more brightly than the designs.

I was touched, humbled, and frequently emotional as I saw the impact of my designs on the mature women who tried them on. Embrago clothing really does complement a woman's body at whatever age and point of life she finds herself. She doesn't have to be different than she is or be forced into uncomfortable silhouettes. Embrago simply reveals the beauty of the real woman, compassionately honoring the body that has carried her through life, and showing her at her unfettered best, right now.

(I’m not crying, you’re crying!!)


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