I was privileged to speak with Tia Lyn, creator of Tia Lyn Lingerie and owner of the Madison, WI, boutique, Contours Lingerie, who has turned the lingerie market on its ear by winning the coveted “Best Plus Size Collection” award bestowed by the Contours International Lingerie Awards (CILA) twice thanks to her vintage-inspired pieces with an everyday feel for the modern woman. Tia knows what it takes to make a curvy woman look and, more importantly, feel sexy and gorgeous, and she was kind enough to share that secret with you, as she did with me for my second wedding anniversary!
EM: What do you feel are Tia Lyn Lingerie’s biggest points of difference?
TL: Tia Lyn Lingerie has always been complimented for our designs. I am constantly thinking about not only how my designs will look and feel on different body shapes but how they can be used in more than one way. I want all of my pieces to be highly functional both as inner- and outerwear. For example, the Essentials Collection was designed to be a series of slips that can be worn multiple ways and at multiple lengths to ensure that you’ll always have the perfect underpinnings for every dress. The camisoles in my Core Collection are often worn with a blazer or cardigan during the day but can be easily slept in as well. When I design, the intent is always for multiple uses.
EM: Why did you create Tia Lyn Lingerie and what challenges did you face?
TL: I have to admit: I started Tia Lyn Lingerie because I personally could never find lingerie that fit my bust! The more I looked into the lingerie industry, the more I noticed that a designer-quality lingerie brand for plus sizes was missing in the market. Not only were the cup sizes too small, but the silhouettes were geared towards a very young, college-aged consumer. I felt and still feel very strongly that women of all shapes and sizes needed something that made them feel pretty, fit, and flattered. So I modeled my lingerie on a full busted cup but kept it in the full size range of a small to a 3X. I can’t tell you how many friends I had who were relieved that they finally had beautiful and sexy things to wear that actually fit and helped them to reclaim their own bodies after starting a family or a career that had taken priority.
EM: What did you like best and least about attending New York City’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology?
TL: I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City as a part of a one-year program to achieve my Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Textile Science and Apparel Design through my education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I fell in love with New York City and the Fashion Institute of Technology! I was so excited to attend a school that had such a focus on fashion. I primarily studied intimate apparel design. I was enthralled that I could use my scientific side and my creative side to produce apparel that fought gravity yet were beautiful and airy. Professor Wong was definitely my inspiration. Aside from that, I fell in love with New York City and the fashion industry.
EM: Who were your biggest supporters when you launched Tia Lyn Lingerie?
TL: I would definitely have to say that Levan Lam from Golyta International was one of my biggest supporters with the Tia Lyn Lingerie line. She was always there to help with the multitudes of details on each garment and spend countless hours with me testing materials until we found the ones that were just right! I’m really glad I got to have her on this journey with me.
EM: What is your favorite piece in the current collection and why?
TL: My favorite item from the current collection would have to be the High-waisted Garter Thong from the Core Collection. I love that it can be worn as lingerie with garters and thigh highs as well as a regular undergarment paired with a coordinating camisole for a cute date night outfit. I think it’s very sexy with the garter and stockings.
EM: Who was your biggest competition for CILA’s Best Plus Size Collection award and why do you think you won it not once but twice?
TL: Receiving the CILA award was a great honor because it was judged by a panel of boutique owners who knew how important lingerie is to their own clientele. I think the Tia Lyn Lingerie brand has been a standout since it is one of the only lingerie brands that addresses the full cup and the full size range in a way that is light and airy. The brand is meant to celebrate all curves and flatter a woman’s figure in a way that she feels beautiful and sexy. Often times, when a company decides to make plus sized garments, they just make the garments bigger and it ends up looking very boxy. That is where my lingerie brand has an advantage as we design our plus sizes based on real curvy women and look at how we can accentuate their curves while keeping the garments detailed yet sensual.
EM: Why do you think so many designers refuse to create plus size lingerie?
TL: I actually think that the fashion industry is changing in that perspective. There are now several intimate apparel brands that cater to the plus size and fuller cup figure. Tia Lyn Lingerie is different in the respect that we do design for the full size range of a small to a 3X but address the full-cupped market at each size. I have designed my garments to compliment those boutiques that specialize in professional bra fittings. My store, Contours Lingerie in Madison, WI, specializes in professional bra fittings and my customers have loved finally have lingerie and undergarments that are meant for their curves!
EM: What would you say to critics who claim that encouraging people to accept their bodies as they are will only add to the obesity epidemic?
TL: I personally think that it is important that every woman deserves to feel beautiful and that doesn’t happen until you become more accepting of your own body. Once a woman accepts her own body, she begins to care for it a lot more. Women who are comfortable in their own skin, no matter their size, tend to make more choices that help them become more physically and mentally healthy. From personal experience, I have been multiple sizes in my life. Once I started to accept my own body, the healthy choices just came naturally. I have loved my body every step of the way.
EM: What are your hopes for yourself, Tia Lyn Lingerie, and the fashion industry over the next 5 years?
TL: I am seeing a trend already that smaller boutiques and independent retailers are extending their size ranges to include all shapes and sizes. I have also seen this push for healthy mental image, such as the outstanding Dove “Real Beauty” commercials, and I hope that that only continues into the future. The more the media accepts all shapes of women and the more different brands embrace natural figures and feature a variety of body types, women’s mental images of themselves will be healthier and they’ll see the beauty in their own body shape. I think certain celebrities, like Sofia Vegara, Star Jones, and Christina Hendricks from Mad Men, are great examples of role models in the spotlight who have healthy body image and I think that will only continue to inspire society as a whole.
For more information about Tia Lyn Lingerie:
For more information about Contours Lingerie:
6102 Mineral Point Rd
Madison, WI 53705