I have just returned from the International Lingerie show in Paris. It's the world's largest professional trade show for the lingerie industry. I can assure that you've not seen nor experienced anything like it. Companies put on elaborate fashion shows featuring the latest in lingerie. Part of the focus is a catwalk on which (I must say, hurray), even those professional lingerie models have bits that jiggle as they walk! The floor is littered with scantily-clad (and I do mean scanty) models teetering along in 5 inch heels wearing nothing but teeny push-up bras and g-strings. A booth near us hosted a burlesque show every 2 hours that featured models stripping down to sparkling tassels on their nipples, which they spun in time to the music. And who could forget the woman parading around in a full see-through fishnet body stocking and nothing else? My description cannot do this place justice – picture a Victoria's Secret fashion show, remove a lot of fabric, multiply by 100 and you might get the idea.
Bravado exhibits at this show. Much like at other shows where we highlight our wares, we include our own model. In our booth we feature a local, beautiful pregnant woman with the singular goal of better showcasing our collection to buyers. This year our model was Sam – she was 30 weeks pregnant with her second child, and simply radiated motherhood, warmth and beauty. After losing two babies – including one at 20 weeks – she was understandably joyous, proud of the impending arrival of her newborn, and she literally glowed. She was funny, warm, energetic, and eager to do a good job. She looked simply beautiful – complete with her lush curves which were modestly – certainly by this show's standard – covered.
Sam attracted a lot of attention. Major French and Italian television stations filmed her, as did numerous smaller international ones. Journalists popped into our booth. Customers loved her warmth and her ability to showcase our products. Italian men called out "Bella Mama" as they walked by, and I lost track of all the well-wishers, double-takes with smiles, and congratulatory remarks that she received.
All in all, you could say that it was a great 3 days for showcasing the beauty of pregnancy and motherhood, not to mention the commitment Bravado has made to creating wonderful products specifically suited to a woman's changing body, her changing needs and her desire for both care and comfort. Except. Except...
Except for the looks of disgust – and no, that is not too strong a word – that Sam engendered from more than a few passersby. The frowns, the disdainful glances, the muttered whispers. The pointing, the sneers and the general looks of horror that a pregnant woman dare to show her curves. And just who were these people? Not men (young or old), not conservatively-dressed women. No, the primary attackers were young, fashionably dressed European women, too stylish for their own good and apparently too hung up on their own selves to appreciate that beauty comes in many forms.
This was not a question of someone being offended by partial nudity. This was a judgment that pregnant women should be hidden away, covered up and shoved in the closet until they are no longer offensive to look at. And this I am afraid is spot on with the American outcry at the Curve show as featured in the New York Times. So this prejudice seems to know no boundaries geographic, industry (yes this happened at the ABC Kids Show as well) or otherwise – and still we show up. We are, and we have, Bravado.
At Bravado, our primary goal is to support a woman at the most wonderful, yet challenging time of her life: having a baby. Yes, we provide her with the products that she needs to successfully navigate through pregnancy and new motherhood. But above all we offer her support and comfort in the larger sense: tools, encouragement and a sense of community that bolsters her self esteem and sends her with confidence onward to make her own personal choices. We are incredibly proud to stand up and shout from the rafters that pregnant women are beautiful and inspiring, as they literally create new life. And we will not bow to nay-sayers and those who stand in judgment.
At the show, Sam took the negative looks in stride and her smile never wavered... at least publicly. Privately she acknowledged that it was difficult to be on the receiving end of negative judgments that a pregnant woman has no business showing her belly. Remember, this was a trade show – not open to the public – and there were literally hundreds of virtually naked women parading around, flaunting their barely-there outfits. Sam looked fully-clothed in comparison.
I was very proud of Sam and her ability to showcase motherhood at its finest. I am ashamed that in this day and age, at a trade show where nudity is de rigueur, that the biggest obstacle to promoting pregnancy as a time of beauty was the young modern women who will one day be walking in Sam's shoes.