Jun. 14, 2018
The energy of a room changes when Justina Blakeney walks into it. It gets lighter, happier. When she visits the ThirdLove headquarters in the DogPatch neighborhood of San Francisco she’s casually stylish in a black one-piece with a sophisticated v-neck. She greets the staff like old friends even though many of them have just met.
Blakeney is used to getting real. She’s usually vulnerable and raw on her design blog Jungalow. Her authenticity and honesty gives the designer and author’s readers the freedom and permission to open up, to start their own conversations about the things women have often been told they shouldn’t be talking about.
ThirdLove brought Blakeney into our office to chat about women’s empowerment, size, self-love and confidence. This was our conversation:
Heidi: Tell us a little about your first bra shopping experience. Everyone we know has a story and most of them aren’t great.
Justina: I was probably around 11-years-old. I remember shopping for bras before my bat mitzvah and I had this cute little dress and my mom was like “I think it’s time for you to wear a bra.” I was excited and nervous and also a little sheepish. I remember the woman in the dressing room helping me measure my size told me I was a 36C. My mom was like “No one in our family has ever worn a 36 and I remember turning flush and red and thinking something’s wrong.”
Heidi: Did it get any better after that?
Justina: I mean, I wore a sports bra through most of my high school career even though I wasn’t athletic. I was hiding under the sports bra and would wear baggy stuff and it wasn’t pleasant.
When I was first starting to own my sexuality when I was 19 or 20 I remember my boyfriend at the time thought we could go bra shopping together. I thought it would be such a fun thing, that we’d have our own sexy moment in the bra shop, but nothing fit. Not even close.
It’s something that I’ve dealt with for so long, knowing I’m not going to be able to find a bra that fits me and having to figure out how to make due. That’s why it’s so important for me that companies like ThirdLove are taking these steps to make everyone feel beautiful.
Heidi: How does wearing the right bra make you feel more confident?
Justina: How I look and how I feel is important to my business. Not feeling confident or comfortable can grossly affect the outcome of my business and my life. It’s just been a struggle that up until now I’ve had to accept.
For me having the right bra helps me to feel confident in so many different ways. It means just having one less thing to think about. I’m a busy lady I have stuff to do.
Heidi: What does it mean to you that ThirdLove has decided not to call our 24 new sizes plus sizes?
Justina: After my daughter was born was the first time I was shopping in the plus section. I used to teeter between a 12 and 14, but then I was teetering between a 14 and 16. I was kind of embarrassed and I remember looking around to see if people were looking at me. It’s just a very powerful statement to put everything together. Why were they ever even separated in the first place? I don’t understand where it came from or why it needs to be that way. It’s not helpful to anyone to be looking at all the smaller sizes and then when you get to a certain size you have to go to a different area. It’s like I’m being ostracized to a different area. It’s definitely important to me that all different sizes and shapes and colors can all be in the same portal together in the same place. The second I have to go and search for a special size it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me.
I’m almost 40 and very confident, but I have to wonder what it does to women who are working at having more confidence.
It’s so important for retailers to make your message a part of their DNA. Women come in all shapes and sizes. All of them have money. All of them want to feel beautiful and want to look beautiful. It seems very basic, but for whatever reason it hasn’t been.
I also never talk bad about my own body in front of my daughter. If my daughter ever comes up and squishes my belly and says “you’re squishy” or “you’re chubby,” I say “yeah I am, and isn’t it cute?”
Heidi: It does seem basic and yet very little has changed in 100 years.
Justina: I know. You also usually have to pay extra to get something in a larger size and that’s a point of shame for a lot of people, thinking “wow, I’m so much larger than everyone else I need to pay more.” There’s just too much shaming going on. That’s why I appreciate that ThirdLove isn’t charging more for your new bras.
Heidi: What do you like the most about the ThirdLove bras?
Justina: As someone who does have a large cup size I find that it’s difficult to find something that’s a good medium between something super low cut and something that comes up to my neck. It feels great to have a bra that I can wear under anything and still feel confident.
My favorite feature of the ThirdLove bra that I have on right now is that it fits and that it’s super comfortable. It sounds so basic but that has not been a basic thing for me. It’s been almost impossible for me to find. I wear an H Cup. I can’t tell you how many people don’t even know an H cup exists. They’re so difficult to find. When I do find one I covet it.
Heidi: Being comfortable is a big deal. It matters way more than most people think it does!
Justina: It’s so important for women to feel comfortable in bras from a young age, right when they start wearing them because it sets the tone for your whole womanhood. For me it was almost alienesque how quickly my body changed and having a bra that fits make you feel like you’re good. Not finding one that fits sends the the opposite message. To have this confirmation that your body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, and it’s doing it well is such an important message we just haven’t been sending.
Heidi: What have you been doing as a mom to inspire confidence in your little girl?
Justina: I really think that confidence and self-love is the most important thing in raising little people. Once you have that the rest falls into place.
We have Wednesday afternoons where we hang out together and we usually go to this spa that’s separated by men and women and everyone is nude. I’ve taken her there since she was 8 months old, so she has grown up seeing women of all different stripes, races and sizes, women with tattoos, real breasts, saggy breasts, no breasts. It’s so important because our society can be puritanical and really weird about nudity. I think bodies should be celebrated and I think growing up and seeing lots of different shapes and seeing how beautiful we are in our natural state is something we’re missing from this culture.
I also never talk bad about my own body in front of my daughter. If my daughter ever comes up and squishes my belly and says “you’re squishy” or “you’re chubby,” I say “yeah I am, and isn’t it cute?” Embracing that and not making it be something negative is so important.
Ten years from now she’ll be a teenager and the idea that she will not have to face the same struggles I had is magical to me. Pulling back the curtain and opening up the conversation is so important.
I’m excited that companies like ThirdLove are joining this conversation in a really powerful way.