Lingerie marketing is dominated by the male gaze. A new book aims to change that.

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Cora Harrington’s new book <em>In Intimate Detail</em> takes an inclusive approach to lingerie.” src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/ciqgPNHWPF0oR28sxSrUGPQYKvs=/149×0:4698×3412/1310×983/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/61464865/lingerie.0.jpg”></p>
<p>Cora Harrington’s <em>In Intimate Detail</em> wants to shift how we think about underpinnings.</p>
<p id=For a decade, Cora Harrington has channeled her personal interest in intimate apparel into the Lingerie Addict, a blog that’s attracted a cult following and changed perceptions about the significance of underwear. Now the knowledge Harrington has gleaned about undergarments over the years is available in book form, In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie.

Rather than positioning lingerie as attire people wear for the sexual enticement of others, In Intimate Detail reframes it as something to put on simply to delight in oneself and the joy of beautiful garments. In a year when the dialogue about inclusion in clothing has also extended to intimate apparel, the book (with a foreword by burlesque queen Dita Von Teese) recognizes that lingerie lovers come in all sizes, genders, colors, and health statuses. Shortly after its August debut, In Intimate Detail was chosen as a New Yorker-recommended book.

Harrington told me that she filled the book with everything she wished she’d known about lingerie a decade ago. That’s when the writer, who developed an interest in undergarments after not finding any she liked, began her transition from ordinary consumer to what Forbes magazine calls “the woman changing the way we think about lingerie.”

I spoke with Harrington about the origins of her blog, her new book, and common misperceptions about underwear.

Cora Harrington of the website the Lingerie Addict has written her first book, In Intimate Detail.Penguin Random House
Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail.

Nadra Nittle

In Intimate Detail really reflects the spirit of the Lingerie Addict. What were your hopes for the book?

Cora Harrington

I wanted it to be a modern-day inclusive guide to intimate apparel. I wanted the book to have illustrations instead of photos. I wanted to talk about wash and care for lingerie and everything I wish I had known 10 years ago. It’s what I put in this book. I was lucky and fortunate that I have an editor who agreed with the vision — the gender-neutral language or help if you have fibromyalgia or if you’re [gender] transitioning. We tried to cover as much as we could and keep it a decent size. Hopefully, it covers enough. No matter where you are in life, you can find something that helps.

Nadra Nittle

The discussion about size inclusion in lingerie has really picked up this year, especially because of the launch of Savage x Fenty. Why has it been a challenge for brands to offer an array of sizes?

Cora Harrington

A good range can have 40, 50, 60 sizes. A lot of people have never really thought through the scale that is involved. A size range of 40, 50 — it’s not small. Expanding a size range can take years. It takes time to develop the fabric to support an H cup. It can be a few years.

Nadra Nittle

What about this idea that most people are wearing the wrong bra size? I’ve heard this is a myth to get customers into stores.

Cora Harrington

The thing about these studies is there really isn’t publicly accessible, third-party research like there is for the general garment industry. Eighty percent of that data comes from boutiques, from their generalizations about consumers that everyone is wearing the wrong bra size. But we have to keep in mind even how we define the wrong bra size. There isn’t a consistency, a standard. Every single 34C doesn’t fit the same way. You could be a 34C or a 32D. I wear a 34C, and I’ve been told, “Oh, my God, you’re wearing the wrong bra size. You’re a 30DD.” But a 30 band is too tight for my build. I’m wearing the bra size that’s comfortable for me.

Nadra Nittle

Do you think our society needs more education about intimate apparel overall? How to choose it? How to know it’s fitting properly, etc.?

Cora Harrington

I don’t expect everyone to be interested in lingerie, but the conversation around it can be limited. It’s discussed in strictly practical ways, like you need to wear beige Spanx to look skinny, or in a super-duper sexual way, like you need it to look good for your man. But there’s not many conversations going around about wearing lingerie for yourself. Learning more about lingerie also takes a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and its relation to you in a way that’s not focused on how other people perceive you, like looking good for your man, getting him excited.

Nadra Nittle

You often discuss how the press can do a better job reporting on lingerie. What bugs you the most about lingerie coverage?

Cora Harrington

Well, I think the major issue is the press doesn’t know a lot about lingerie. When they get a press release from a company, they don’t question whatever is transmitted. It’s the case of doing the reporting. There’s not a lot of lingerie [specialists] in journalism. There aren’t enough reporters who are knowledgeable enough about the niche, and what’s in it and who’s doing what.

When Everlane introduced its underwear line, they got a lot of press for including a model who appears plus-sized, but their underwear isn’t. Then ThirdLove said they were the most inclusive brand with the most bra sizes. It wasn’t the truth. It was easily disprovable. Companies like Lane Bryant had more sizes. There was a kickstarter for a brand that said it would have 68 bra sizes, but if you look at their size chart, there were duplicate sizes. I just wish there was a little more diligence in interrogating their claims.

In Intimate Detail by Cora Harrington aims to cover lingerie in an inclusive manner.Random House
Cora Harrington’s new book, In Intimate Detail, is about enjoying lingerie for oneself, not for others.

Nadra Nittle

On the Lingerie Addict, you not only post pictures of beautiful lingerie, but of yourself in beautiful lingerie. Did posing in your underwear for an audience feel weird at first?

Cora Harrington

The first shoot I did for myself was probably six or seven years ago. It was a fun thing. I just wanted to dress up and put makeup on my face and take pretty pictures. It was a way to wear pieces of my collection. I don’t think of it as a weird thing but as doing something fun or expressive.

I’m not a model. I don’t have the face or body of a model. There’s not a lot of black people in the lingerie industry, and there’s not a lot of people in their mid-30s. But for my readers I’m showing that basically everyone who’s not a lingerie model can have lingerie be a part of their life. They deserve beautiful things in life just because, and that’s the message I want people to take away.

Nadra Nittle

You posted a very emotional video of yourself getting the hard copy of your book for the first time. Can you describe what you were feeling in that moment?

Cora Harrington

It’s so funny. It was National Lingerie Day, and I was doing an event. I’d seen the layout and the art for the book and had the PDF files. I got a sense of what the book would be, but that’s different from actually seeing the cover, the pages, the full package. There was so much thoughtfulness and effort to make it feel like a book that I could experience and enjoy. I felt overwhelmed. I dedicated an entire year of my life to bring this to life, and I recognized what an incredible privilege it is to be an author, to have a published book that anyone can buy.

For my grandmothers, it would have been an impossible dream. My parents grew up during a time when they couldn’t go into a public library. Now, they have a child with the opportunity and privilege and the blessing of living in a time where she could fulfill her potential in a way their ancestors never could have. I could never take that for granted.