If Mae West were in her prime today, she wouldn’t make many headlines. Her famously bawdy double entendres would sound like lame Leno ripoffs, and her brazen man-eating persona would just make her blend in with the Real Housewives crowd.
To her credit, most of Mae’s lifelong battles against censorship and constrictive morality have been won. What would still make her stand out, though, and what could still get her a paying job, is that zaftig hourglass figure with its exaggerated curves.
Women today have a hard time relating to most stick-figure fashion models, but they can certainly identify with the challenges faced by bigger, bumpier girls. Just ask Kim or Nicki or Snooki.
Mae West might, in fact, be the perfect lingerie model for our generation, given the increase in average sizes, the emergence of numerous new labels targeting larger women and the corresponding boom in plus-size undergarment sales and, finally, the continuing fascination with mid-century vintage fashions.
None of this is lost on Lulu & Kath, a new U.S. lingerie and loungewear label that has adopted Mae West as its muse and takes as its motto one of Mae’s zingers: “Cultivate your curves — they may be dangerous, but they won’t be avoided.”
Lulu & Kath is not, strictly speaking, a plus-size label nor a vintage label either, though it straddles both market categories. Instead, it tries to deliver a kind of classic style to woman who may be just slightly past their youthful prime and looking for ways to retain their glamor and sex appeal.
“Lulu & Kath is for the woman whose body has changed, who is no longer the perfect little teenager,” founder Laura Wright told Lingerie Talk when we previewed the collection in New York last month. “Women are looking for something that makes you feel good about yourself.”
And Laura (below) knows all this from first-hand experience. A former schoolteacher, she was a stay-home mom with three kids when she conceived of L&K. Though far from being over-the-hill, the 40-something Dallas resident knew she needed to find new ways to maintain the passion in her life.
“If you’ve been married a long time,” she said bluntly, “you need something like this.”
The label’s name refers to different personas that most modern suburban women can identify with: the practical mom (Kath) and the sexy French alter ego (Lulu) that still smolders underneath.
There’s an underlying theme here which will likely strike a chord with many women: that passion remains long after you’ve stopped feeling confident in your body’s ability to express it, and that mature women need a different boudoir wardrobe than the silky thongs and lacey soft bras that aroused attention when they were younger and sleeker.
“I’ve designed Lulu & Kath for women like me,” she says, “real women with passionate stories and curves to hug. … And we all know that for real women, romance begins when we feel good about ourselves.”
Lulu & Kath‘s debut collection includes 16 pieces in sizes XS to XL (their XL fits a size 16-18), and is grouped into a range of basics and a more glamorous “Romantics” line which includes the show-stopping, vintage-esque Boudoir Gown shown in the main photo at the top of this post.
L&K is not strictly a shapewear brand either, but they’ve added structural “enhancements” to several traditional looks: for example, there’s a shaping teddy, a smoothing camisole, a corset dress and a push-up teddy. There’s a lesson here for other labels, too: many women today want to look glamorous, but they need a little help.
Which brings us back to Mae West, and the memorable quote about “cultivating your curves” that was inspiration behind Lulu & Kath.
“What does it mean?” Laura said. “It means you have to take what you’ve got and make the best of it.”
Here are some more looks from Lulu & Kath‘s elegant debut collection. Watch their website for information on release dates and retail points of sale.