Work and Money
How This Bra Company Is Helping Women Love Themselves
In the past, Victoria’s Secret has been the go-to when it comes to picking a bra. But lingerie experts say women have a 20 percent chance of finding a bra that actually fits their body type. This statistic inspired Carrie Charlick to co-found Essential Bodywear, a lingerie company that stocks over 60 bra sizes, in A thru I cups. A Girl Scout alum and CEO of Essential Bodywear, Charlick aims to help women feel supported — physically and emotionally — with her diverse underwear line.
CircleAround talked to Charlick to learn more about how Essential Bodywear is leading the way in bras with a cause.
CA: How did you get interested in the bra business?
CC: My best friend started as a bra fitter in a department store, and she showed me that a bra can make or break an outfit. What surprised me was that almost every person who walked into the bra-fitting room – grandmothers, mothers of three, young, old, thin, curvy, breast cancer patients, etc. – had something negative to say to themselves in the mirror. They would pick at themselves, looking for so-called flaws in their bodies, and I was shocked! But also, I realized I, too, was guilty of this behavior, and it needed to change.
I started a business with [my best friend] in 2003, and while that partnership ended in 2018, my company has doubled. We have achieved almost $60 million in sales, from starting with just $500, a good idea, and a passion for making a difference in women’s lives.
CA: What sets Essential Bodywear apart from competitors?
CC: I truly believe that a well-fitting bra can help a person stand tall, lead with their heart, and smile at themselves. And it’s not just about bra fitting. With building a sales force of women around the country who are committed to making women smile when they look into the mirror, hosting local body-positive talks, making videos, doing Facebook Live talks, and more, Essential Bodywear is a go-to resource.
We don’t just offer expert bra-fit tips, we also offer ways to support women through personal growth and financial opportunity with our career opportunities. We are a sisterhood of women here to help build confidence, and to learn to love ourselves inside and out.
CA: How does your company promote body positivity in the fashion industry?
CC: In 2018, we made a commitment not to use professional models anymore and to use women from all walks of life to represent our brand. You’ll also find photos with no airbrushing or photoshopping on anybody in our catalog and on our website. I realized it was one thing to talk the talk, and another to walk the walk. I started by posing in my bikini while on a cruise with O Magazine that past January, then started taking images in my swimsuit while on our incentive trip to Costa Rica. I have even posed for a lingerie shoot that we did with some of our bra-fit stylists.
We are on a mission to have people see themselves and love who they are. I am a 54-year-old wife, mother of three, and CEO of a lingerie company. I know there are more women like me, and if I can help them look at pictures of themselves and smile, that would make me the happiest. I hope that body positivity will keep growing so that, one day, it's talked about more than dieting!
"At Essential Bodywear we say it's our goal to make the world a better place, one breast at a time."
CA: How is Essential Bodywear committed to social-good initiatives?
CC: At Essential Bodywear, we say it's our goal to make the world a better place, one breast at a time. We are a company that cares, and are very proud of our efforts. We know that at this time, during the pandemic, typically charities start to see less in contributions, and so we are stepping up our efforts to help these organizations get funds and/or products.
We partner with The Pink Fund, and created a limited-edition bra and panty just for The Pink Fund, the Abbie Bra and essential panty in the color Mellow Rose. We donate 5% of all of that product sold, not just in October (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month), but all year.
Project Uplift is a program that we created in 2018 to collect gently used bras from our customers, and donate to an organization called I Support the Girls. When a customer purchases a new bra from us, we ask that they donate their older bras to us. Our fit stylists work together with their community to collect not just gently used bras, but to collect new menstrual-hygiene products, as well.
Starting in September, we will be helping to support an organization called Fighting All Monsters. We also have teamed up with them to fit the mothers of the children who are battling cancer by providing them with a supportive bra. We will be doing 2000 virtual fittings in the next couple months.
CA: Where is Essential Bodywear headed in the future?
CC: In March, we had to pivot our business to be virtual; in less than six weeks, we flipped it to be 100% virtual. We are updating our website to be more body positive and easier to use, and we will soon be working with body-positive influencers. I need to hire an executive team for business development, and while we are short raising the funds to do so, I am so proud of what we have accomplished in 17 years with that initial $500 investment.