Here's How ThirdLove is Changing the Lingerie Game


A sexy brassiere may seem like the last thing that could be empowering, but thanks to a growing shift towards body positivity, the perception of lingerie has also started to change. Instead of corsets being used to please a lover, women now see undergarments as a symbol of embracing their own femininity. Bra startup brands like ThirdLove see this notion as ‘taking back the reigns’ on the lingerie concept, especially since most lingerie ad campaigns are usually geared towards pleasing the opposite sex.

“There’s an antiquated idea that still drives a lot of lingerie brands' marketing — at the core, it’s about what is sexy to a man,” says Heidi Zak, Co-Founder of ThirdLove. “At ThirdLove, we actually don’t use the word ‘lingerie’ at all, instead we empower women by giving them back the reigns when it comes to finding their bra size.”

"We empower women by giving them back the reigns when it comes to finding their bra size.” - Heidi Zak

Launched in 2013, the ThirdLove brand was co-created by Heidi Zak, an ex Google employee, who was was tired of ill-fitting bras and awkward department store fittings. Focusing more on fit, and less on appearance, Zak’s ThirdLove bra line offers cup sizes A to F, as well as in-between cup sizes to guarantee the perfect fit. Technology is also a key asset to finding the perfect ThirdLove bra, as the brand uses a special Fit Finder quiz and Sizing App tool to help size yourself at home.

“We provide women everywhere with the tools they need to size themselves from home through our Fit Finder and Sizing App,” says Zak. “We offer both an iOS App to size yourself from home (a few snaps in the mirror with a fitted tank top and an iPhone are really all you need), plus a Fit Finder quiz to find your perfect size in seconds on our website. It’s our goal to make it incredibly simple for women to find their size and the bra recommended for their shape at the click of a button.”

Interactivity and customization through social media also play a big role to the brand, as Zak states that platforms like Instagram and Facebook have allowed the brand to start helpful and honest conversations with customers. This helps the brand develop new styles and campaigns, as well as learning what consumers exactly want and need in a bra.

“We use social media as a place to educate women on breasts, bras, and sizing and help them find their perfect fit — answering many questions along the way,” says Zak. “We also use these communities as a way to ask about potential new styles, colors, or campaigns — we have a free focus group right at our fingertips.”

However, empowerment still is a big part of the ThirdLove mission, as Zak states that all women should always feel sexy and confident in all undergarment pieces. And being that no two women are the same bra size, the brand is always committed to using using real life women in their ad campaigns.

"Real women wake up in the morning and put on a bra, not lingerie" - Heidi Zak

“We design beautiful and comfortable bras and underwear — because real women wake up in the morning and put on a bra, not lingerie,” says Zak. “Yes, bras and women can be sexy — but they can also be so much more than that. Women are mothers, bosses, leaders, partners and so much more. Our customers wear our bras to work, while they’re out with friends, and when they’re just hanging out with their families — and we want them to always feel comfortable and confident.”


A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.

Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.