Bluestockings Boutique is giving queer women who wear lingerie a safer space

on

Bluestockings Boutique is an online lingerie boutique that specifically caters to queer folks—and it’s currently the only of its kind. They stock everything from packing briefs to negligees, and all of their products are ethically sourced. I sat down with out owner Jeanna Kadlec to talk about starting her own business, what separates Bluestockings from the mainstream lingerie industry, and her dreams for the future. 

jenna

AfterEllen: You describe yourself as an academic turned entrepreneur, which is interesting. Can you give a little bit of backstory about how that career shift happened?

Jeanna Kadlec: I came out to Boston about four or five years ago for grad school—to start a Ph.D program—which is what I feel like brings everyone here, just about. [laughs] But I got a few years in, and it just wasn’t for me. I was thinking about career shifts and was simultaneously thinking—hey, I love lingerie. I’m increasingly into it, I read all these blogs, and there don’t really seem to be many queer spaces here. I got this idea so I looked into it, and realized after a bit of research—cue the academic side of me—that there wasn’t a store like this anywhere in the country. It was 2014 and [that] was really surprising to me. There are plenty of other areas in the fashion industry at this point, like brands and stores, that are focused on different segments of the queer population—why not this? And for some reason, despite of the fact that I didn’t have a business background and that I was still in graduate school, starting a business seemed completely logical. [laughs]

 

AE: Were there any specific challenges that you faced starting this business in an industry that does seem really focused on one specific type of person—a skinny, white, cis, feminine type of girl?

JK: [laughs] I think that you nailed the target audience. In some ways, it was easy to start the store, and then to get on social media and connect with like-minded people. The hard part has been talking to brands and being like, “Hey I’m applying for wholesale with you, and I’d like to sell your stuff, and this is what I do and what I’m about and this is who my audience is.” And them being like, “Well, that’s not really our audience.” Or, “This is what our minimum order is,” but they quote me some obscene amount that they know I can’t afford. I go to the big lingerie trade show in New York City, Curve. It’s twice a year, and it’s so conservative. I walk in and I’m wearing color, as opposed to black [laughs]. Everybody’s so buttoned-up and if you have an online boutique—they’re not OK with online, period, let alone being queer focused. They don’t really know what queer is. And so a lot of where I’m at right now is just trying to exist outside of [the industry] and being OK existing outside of that—without the institutional backing that so many boutiques get.

 

AE: Can you talk a little bit about the research you did? What people have told you about experiences in stores, stuff like that?

JK: I tried to be as smart about it as I could. I did surveys—self-reporting surveys, essentially. I tried to get it out to as many people as possible, just preliminary: What are your experiences in boutiques? What would you be looking for? What kind of products are you interested in? I sent it out to friends, who sent it to their friends, who sent it to their friends. So in some ways that’s not a very scientific sample. I wrote an article for Qwear, Sonny Oram‘s website—they’ve just been so supportive of Bluestockings and totally pimped my survey at the end of it like, “Hey, all queer readers should go take this survey.” So in some ways it was very self-selecting in terms of the populations I was getting feedback from, but I had almost 1,000 responses at the end of it. And the experiences were pretty much uniform in terms of a few groups. Either we feel—in terms of plus size people—we feel way too ostracized when we walk in. And then people who are even remotely non-femme presenting, saying we walk in and it’s, “What are you doing here?” we get ignored, we get treated really badly. And people who are femme presenting saying—hey, we walk in and we look like their target customers, and we get treated like we’re straight. That’s really upsetting—there’s no respect for any non-straight identities. There’s no ability to think outside of that paradigm.

0458f156cd757bd4879c76bbae99c3d1_grandeForest Green Tomboy Boxer Briefs by Foxers

More you may like