In attempts to celebrate one woman’s work, reports disregarded the work of another.
In 2013, Cy Lauz soft launched Chrysalis, a lingerie line catering exclusively to trans women. After she had consistent difficulty with finding comfortable underwear after beginning her transition, Lauz took the initiative to create her own collection of stylish lingerie for trans women like her.
“There was nothing that made me feel good about being a trans woman and who I was as a professional and most importantly, who I was as a person,” Lauz told Fashionista in a 2013 interview. “I think every woman, trans or not, face challenges when trying to find undergarments. But as trans women, we have very specific needs unique to our experience. The obvious are finding ways to create a bust line and ways to ‘tuck’ comfortably, all while keeping your dignity and sense of self in tact.”
The line launched with some criticism, seemingly due in large part to a fundamental misalignment of many queer trans women’s understanding of their own trans womanhood versus the aesthetic Lauz was trying to achieve with Chrysalis designs, but price point and size disparity were also valid concerns.
When covering their potential relaunch in 2015, The Lingerie Addict offered this insight: “Cy has not stated publicly whether they are queer or not, but she is clearly approaching trans issues without the feminist theory and queer community that a lot of younger trans people have to draw upon… When I was first exploring transmasculinity, I read an article about ‘passing’ that advised me that if I created the basic masculine body shape, a lot of other, subtler cues would be overlooked by most casual observers. Cy may be using that same principle here: create an hourglass body shape on a trans woman, and she will read as female more easily, pass more easily, survive more easily.”
Despite these issues, Chrysalis exists as part of this history. But, earlier this month, outlets began to report that the world’s first lingerie line for trans women was finally here — GI Collection by Carmen Liu. In doing so, those who reported on Liu’s line as the first of its kind effectively erased the contributions of Cy Lauz and Chrysalis. Cora Harrington, writer of “In Intimate Detail”, was one of the most vocal about this erasure, using her platform on Twitter to offer necessary insight.
Harrington offered her analysis in a brief interview with Wear Your Voice.
Would you consider yourself a lingerie historian? And why is it important to properly keep the history of this industry?
“I wouldn’t call myself a ‘lingerie historian’ — after all, there are people who get degrees in lingerie history — but I am very invested in the history of intimate apparel, and especially what it says about the world we live in. It’s important to be aware of this history for the same reason I believe it’s important to be aware of the history of anything. If you want to understand the world and how it changes and why, that requires an understanding of history. How can you fully understand the peoples and cultures of the past — their likes, their dislikes, their priorities, their grievances — without history? Lingerie, in particular, is a niche that is often regarded as unimportant (I believe, because it often concerns women’s lives), but we can learn so much about people from what they wore.”
How did Chrysalis innovate in the lingerie industry?
“While naming any brand as ‘the first’ is always subject to question (because there are so many brands that disappeared and left no records behind, particularly brands serving the LGBTQ and sex worker communities), Chrysalis was the first lingerie brand in recent memory to focus exclusively on trans women. When they debuted, there were not a lot of mainstream conversations happening around trans women and what they might want from intimate apparel, and Chrysalis pushed a lot of those conversations into the general fashion discourse in a way I believe we take for granted today, even though it’s only been a few years. Unfortunately, when Chrysalis debuted, they were subject to so much criticism — much of it rooted in a lack of awareness regarding the realities of production and manufacturing regarding intimate apparel — that the designer effectively disappeared a few months later.”
Why do you think it’s so easy for some to overlook Cy Lauz’s work and instead recognize this new trans-focused line as the first to do it? Do you believe this is a pattern?
“I think there’s a tendency in general to overlook both the contributions of LGBTQ folks and women of color in the lingerie industry, and when someone is both trans and a woman of color, I believe that tendency is amplified. This is a case where implicit – or perhaps even explicit – bias comes into play. People have expectations about what company founders and industry gamechangers should look like…and those expectations do not include trans women of color. In addition, the finance and funding piece is crucial. It is no accident that the companies with the most funding, who are therefore able to afford the best PR teams, are the ones most media outlets discuss and that most consumers remember. While appreciating and celebrating the advances that have been made in this space, I also think it’s important to not forget the people that paved the way. And to not render them (and in the case of Cy, their sacrifices) invisible.”
This is a reminder that keeping history is all of our responsibility, especially when the work of trans women of color is involved. In attempts to celebrate one woman’s work, reports disregarded the work of another. Chrysalis may have premiered to valid critiques, and it may never be fully launched in the way that its creators envisioned, but it still deserves to be acknowledged for its place in the history of trans lingerie.
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