By Maïna Cissé
Early December 2018, I ran an anti-casting on Instagram for the underargument. The brand being about authenticity and embracing individuality, the casting selected models based on a story they had to share on the theme of anti-perfectionism rather than their physical attributes.
When Lily messaged me to feature in the anti-casting shoot she said: “I can write you a story about perfectionism and body hair if you fancy shooting a model with unshaved legs??”. To which I responded: “of course, looking forward to reading you”.
I said “Of course”, yet I cropped this image. I gave myself every justification in the book why I didn’t want to use the full shot, which I actually find beautiful. I love how Manon Ouimet framed it, I also love the shape of Lily’s body. I told myself I cropped it because it didn’t fit the image of my brand. I told myself it was “too distracting” (when it was the actual point of her story). The reality is, I’ve always been uncomfortable with body hair so I projected my discomfort.
Whatever the (poor) justification, it didn’t feel right to post an altered version of the image. So I posted both the full frame and the crop. Out of appreciation for the beautiful shot captured by Manon Ouimet, out of respect for Lily’s body and to highlight the waste of consciousness social media is sometimes conducive to. Why overthink showing reality to the rest of the world and featuring the real us we’re actually comfortable with? My guess is the dread of negative comments and the fear that our reality is not good enough.
Lily — like the other women who featured in this shoot — had the guts to strip down to a level most of us do not feel comfortable with (me included!). I know that in the era we live in, stripping off for virtual love seems current currency. It might be for some, but not for the women following my brand. Lily stripped down not only physically but also allowed herself to be vulnerable sharing her story and thoughts genuinely. The truth is, no matter how I feel, she does not have to please me or anybody else but herself. She is not offending anyone. The way some of us may feel about a natural body is about us. She doesn’t need our opinion.
This was an important shot for me because I designed the underwear she is wearing. And I made it, I have to admit, without thinking about how women who don’t trim, shave, wax, laser or whatever else we put ourselves through for smooth hairless skin. I had people like me in mind and for an inclusive brand, that’s not good enough.
Lily and I had a conversation over hair and how she felt like there was no representation of unshaved women around her growing up. This is why this photo had to exist in some way, even “hidden” behind a crop I felt more comfortable with and even if that’s a bit cowardly (the collection isn’t named For awesome // Against perfect for nothing and there’s a reason why I call what I make therapeutic lingerie!).
Lily and I talked about whether or not I should make styles that are more covering. As it turns out, for her it just doesn’t matter “it was actually extremely liberating to be photographed in your high-leg knickers and not worry about whether they met my hairline or not! It felt bold! […] I like the shape [of hipster shorts] but it can be difficult to find shorts that don’t go up your bum when you move […] I will totally wear the knickers from the shoot and was happy to be photographed in them!”.
What I will do with this information, I don’t yet know. I do not know how this might shape my collections going forward. I do not know if I’ll just sit back feeling comforted I had the green light of one woman to keep my ranges as they currently are. What I know is that clothing is meant to fit around you, not you within it. So with fashion like with the rest of your life, do not try to be perfect, just be your awesome-self in the way you’re most comfortable and happy.