As someone who is chronically single every February, I’ve never before felt moved to do a Valentine’s Day editorial for Sweet Nothings. I generally have a lot of resentment for a holiday that makes romance compulsory and often creepily patriarchal. Also, lingerie that’s worn only for someone else isn’t my ministry; my own lingerie is, first and foremost, for me, because I’m a vain monster.
Over the last year, though, I’ve started to interrogate my hostility to romance, and for reasons I don’t really understand, I impulsively started planning a shoot as soon as 2020 arrived. I’ve found myself seeking out love stories, movies, and romance novels, particularly ones that deviate from fairytale-Hallmark-movie plot points. I think I’ve struggled in the past with feeling like I’m not yet good enough for, or don’t deserve, or will never know, a Grand Romance, or even just a committed partnership.
It seems to me that that kind of long-term intimacy requires a level of vulnerability, delicacy, prettiness, thinness, smallness, and courage that I do not bring to the table. I’m big, I’m defensive, I can be closed off and loud and quick-tempered and all sorts of things that make romance feel unsafe and inaccessible to me. Seeking out new ways of thinking about and understanding new stories of how people love helps, in one way, to broaden my definition of who gets to love and how, but it also brings back to me, over and over, the isolating feeling that I’m stuck on one side of a locked door that everyone else has figured out how to unlock and pass through.
Turns out, trying to sit down and write a post about Valentine’s Day, a day that I know, intellectually, is a corporate grab for money, still bums me out. February is already the Worst Month™, and then every year along comes a big ol’ festive lovey holiday that emphasizes my solitude, makes me worry about the passage of time, makes me (cue this old song) feel bad about my body, and makes me feel, as I often feel, that there is something wrong with me. That I lack something: some courage, some vulnerability, some capacity for selflessness, some resource of the heart and mind and spirit, that my peers uncovered or learned or developed or invented years ago.
I wanted to style a shoot that was definitively romantic, but that captured the tension I feel between desire and anxiety. I wanted it bright and deeply saturated, with lush textures and sweet details heightened by sharp lights and a searing, burning hot red color scheme. I love red lingerie, and it feels warm and inviting to me, but I also can’t look at the pictures for too long before my entire field of vision goes red. I wanted this shoot to feel sumptuous but vaguely threatening: is she a princess? An evil queen? A vampire? Is she here to steal your heart, or your heart’s blood?
A happy and slightly sinister Valentine’s Day to you all!
(In all seriousness if you, too, find yourself Full of Feelings on the 14th, my own personal recommendations are booking a massage, lighting a favorite candle, drinking plenty of water, revisiting a beloved book, hugging your pets, and, if you’re like me, getting yourself a red velvet bed jacket despite the fact that you can’t actually wear it while reading in bed like you envision in the movie of your life because in real life you own the sheddiest white cat in all of creation)
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Playful Promises is a fashion-forward independent UK-based brand that offers daring, bold lingerie in over 85 bra sizes across core, fuller bust, and plus sizes. Evgenia Lingerie is a small luxury independent label, using classic sewing techniques to create gorgeous silk, velvet, and lace lingerie that evokes styles of the early 20th century “for the modern heartbreaker”. Freya, part of the Eveden lingerie group (in addition to Fantasie, Elomi, and Goddess), offers lingerie in D-K cup sizes and is one of the first DD+ brands I ever wore.
‘Eddie’ Crossover Wrap Bra and High Waist Brief by Playful Promises, also available at The Rack Shack in Brooklyn, wearing 36GG (US 36J) and XL. I’ve found Playful’s longline styles run tight in the band and just a touch small in the cup, so I sized up.
Red Seamed Stockings by Playful Promises, wearing US 12-14
‘Rebelle’ High Waist Brief and Bed Jacket by Evgenia Lingerie, wearing size Large in both pieces