Though my mom and I share an aesthetic and definitely see how our styles are an extension of one another, we have opposite body types and, thus, different ways of expressing ourselves through clothes. My mom is petite yet athletic, I’m tall and all curves. My mom feels most comfortable in masculine, oversized button down shirts, and I feel most confident in feminine, waist-accentuating pieces.
That's why we were so excited when Triumph Lingerie asked the both of us to create a What’s Underneath-style look-book around their new Amourette 300 & Spotlight series of bras and undies, where we styled each of their timeless pieces into our own style while celebrating these bras that cross generations and bodies. As a part of the look book, we shared what’s underneath our mother-daughter bond, as well as our relationships to our bodies, to aging, to style, to building a family business and the daily work of accepting ourselves, and finding The One Triumph Bra.
To read all of our stories and too see all of the looks, keep scrolling!
Elisa & Lily
Story & Look 1: Lily on how Elisa influenced her body image
I * Lily * never thought the day would come that I could be photographed alongside my mom in lingerie and not be envious of her petite body. As a teen, it was my dream to look like the models I saw in every magazine, and my mom and formative role model, in my eyes, fit that mold. She was the “hot” mom who could (and did) rock hip hugging, skin tight jeans while I awkwardly developed hips, thighs and boobs with no clue of how to handle them.
My mom also wasn’t always as positive of a force in my life as she is now when it comes to me wholeheartedly accepting my body. She, too, was inundated by the images we were consuming during the 90s that associated a certain weight with health/happiness, and out of a desire for me to be my happiest self, she would often encourage me to lose a bit of weight. That, combined with my desire to look more like the mainstream image of beauty, were the primary fuels for my adolescent years spent obsessively yo-yo dieting.
It wasn’t until starting StyleLikeU together, when we began to feel more empowered to accept our bodies (for her, it was accepting being flat-chested) by interviewing other strong women of all backgrounds, ages, shapes and sizes who owned theirs, that we both began to un-learn our conditioning about what is beautiful, healthy, etc, for a woman. We’ve come so far that it’s hard to remember a time where we ever thought that beauty could be limited to a particular “ideal.” I think it’s important to honor my mom not for being perfect but for how she’s been willing to look at herself and work with me to undue any unintentional pain she may have caused. Now, she’s my most authentic cheerleader, and I feel most beautiful when she’s photographing me because I know the beauty she sees in me.
Story & Look 2: Elisa on her flat chest and not letting gender limit the clothes that you wear
When Triumph Lingerie asked Lily and me to model their new Amourette 300 & Spotlight SS16 collection, Lily laughed at the idea of me in lace bras and undies. It was understandable, as my wearing anything so unquestionably feminine with my androgynous style doesn't happen every day. In other words, girly, in the conventional sense, I am not, at least when it comes to my boyish physique, flat chest and infatuation with rock and roll and the enchantment of Edwardian tailoring. However, my mind was not hindered at all by these supposed gendered limitations, and I was on a creative high thinking of how great it would look and feel to be juxtaposing the romantic underpinnings of Triumph’s beautiful Amourette pieces, with my button-downs, waistcoats and trousers. I am so grateful that, at 58 years old, I can say that I feel so convinced that being a woman, feeling sexy and exercising the power of my femininity can not be confined to the status quo of large breasts, demure dresses and pumps. My self-expression has become increasingly free and unapologetically me with time, whether I am channeling Prince or Anna Karenina, and the sky is the limit as far as my sartorial impulses and whims of the day.
I threw off my last super padded bra in 2009 when we shot our very first video for StyleLikeU. It was the very beginning of our Closet video series, where we went into the homes of authentic individuals and explored how their style reflected everything about them. In retrospect, these episodes foreshadowed our What's Underneath series in that we were always interested in getting deep down into the soul of a person, and how their individual spirit is reflected in style. In that particular episode, our subject, Erica, talked about how much she cherished her flat chest, one that mimicked mine, and I was swooning over how good it looked on her. After that day, my style then became much more about embracing my zero cleavage, often with a button-down shirt that had one too many buttons open (because like Erica in her Closet video, I grew to love that part of my body), rather than trying to change myself to look like I had bigger breasts than I did. Even though I’ve felt liberated in ditching my padded (and I mean padded) bras, deep inside, I am a romantic, with a soft spot for lace and the contrast of feminine with masculine and my 19-century day dreams of being a seductive heroine wearing an ascot. These dreams were recently answered when Triumph — a brand dedicated to helping women #FindTheOne perfectly fitting bra for them, no matter what their ages, size or shape — decided to support Lily and me in our fight for self acceptance.
What I have learned lately is that liberation is not about what you wear or don’t wear; it is about your own radical self-acceptance and expressing that on the outside. People often ask Lily and me how we've learned to love ourselves more and the answer is that each and every person that we have had the privilege of interviewing for our videos is a large part of the answer. By turning our brain power to images and ideas that make us want to feel more and not less of ourselves has been the first step towards recognizing that feeling sexy and beautiful is not limited to one age, body type, gender, race, sexuality or physical condition. I have never felt better in my skin then I do now at 58 — with a flat as a board chest, wrinkles, happily married to a man for 30 years and yet continuing to explore and value being my own person and enjoying my increasing awareness of my mix of ever fluid feminine and masculine traits. I wasted far too much time when I was younger not owning my beauty, so please don’t be fooled into believing that you are not beautiful in your own extraordinarily unique way. Every stage of life is precious and not to be thrown away, you are only beautiful if you feel that you are and no amount of things from the outside will replace the glow of that good energy.
Story & Look 3: Lily on training herself to be comfortable with how her body looks
I was ecstatic and giddy last month when I got a box of Triumph Lingerie sent to my mom’s apartment with a goody bag filled with perfectly fitted bras (I always thought I was a 36D until I got fitted and found out that I am apparently I’m a 34F, who knew?) and undies. After the cathartic experience of participating myself in The What’s Underneath Project back in 2014, I’ve wanted the chance to photograph myself in lingerie again for a long time, to continue the challenge of baring all and breaking through my remaining self-image complexes. It has been quite a journey since starting our Closet series at the beginning of StyleLikeU in ’09, when I was 19 and just still coming out of an adolescent daze where, to me, style equaled being thin, wearing skinny jeans and generally looking waif-y and Kate Moss-esque. I was only just starting to realize that there might be a link between the people whose style I admired and self-love, and that there was more to style than the trends that I was seeing in magazines, but I was still totally unsure of how to uncover that confidence and individuality within myself.
Now, seven years later, I have pushed myself to places I never thought I could go in terms of feeling comfortable in my skin and discovering my own sense of style, but there is still more to uncover. Participating in What’s Underneath, was a big moment for me. I was petrified to do the interview, and even more scared of the reaction I would get when the video and photos were released. I was still at a phase where I was very judgmental of myself, uncomfortable wearing body conscious clothes, let alone exposing my raw, undressed self to the world online. The first time I looked at the images and video, I was far from thrilled (I’m pretty sure I cried). However, after watching the video and looking at the photos a few more times, my perspective shifted. There was something transformational about letting go of what people would think and looking at myself head-on, normalizing my so called “imperfections" instead of hiding them under baggy clothing. Quickly, the limited idea I had ingrained in my mind of what I should look like washed away.
After watching the video 3 or 4 times, I suddenly perceived the same exact images of my roll-y stomach and my cellulite-y thighs to not be overwhelming and too much, but to be powerful and strong. It’s safe to say that that experience catapulted me at unprecedented speed on my journey towards self-acceptance to the point that I can genuinely say that today, that if someone asked me if I could trade my body for a traditional model figure or lose even 10 pounds, I would say no. When I get on the scale at the doctor’s office, and I hear the #, I don't cry afterwards or even cringe. And when I look at myself in the mirror or in a photo, I like what I see, rolls in my stomach, cellulite on my thighs and all. It's not to say that I’m all the way there yet (I don’t think there is a “there " when it comes to self-acceptance, it’s a daily practice… and I still have plenty of work to do), but it’s amazing to feel how much my body has become almost a non-issue in my life when it used to be an all-consuming one.
Story & Look 4: Lily on her decision to work full-time on StyleLikeU with Elisa
When we started StyleLikeU seven years ago, I * Lily * was a freshman at USC and my mom was a stylist in the fashion industry. After conducting our first few Closet video interviews, we were both hooked on the incredible inspiration that we uncovered. Euphoric from the connection to these truly brave and authentic individuals, we knew that we wanted to continue on a path of collaborating and capturing the beauty and empowerment of people who think for themselves and reflect that independence in their style.
The thing is, while I Lily *was drawn towards these spirits for how they were teaching me to be more free, I was painfully shy and terrified that I was embarking upon this journey with my mom at a time when I should be “breaking away” from her. She’s a big personality and I feared I would remain in her shadow and not develop into my own person. After a lot of indecision and near-quitting, I took a risk and followed my love for what I was doing (instead of doing what a girl at my age of 19 “should” be doing), and moved back to NYC to be closer to her and at the epicenter of our work.
This was the best decision that I’ve ever made. When diving headfirst into something for which my passion and drive has no end, it turned out that working within the confines of our closeness had the opposite effect of what I feared. We are unspeakably unified towards accomplishing our mission of radical self-acceptance as the new fashion, and because of how out-of-the-box the journey of making StyleLikeU into sustainable work is, through mistake-after-mistake and learning as I go, I’ve lived a more independent, risk-filled existence than I ever would have had I run away from my mom and took the more traditional route with my career. One of my favorite quotes is “within structure, there is freedom,” and that couldn’t be truer in terms of my working relationship with my mom.
Story & Look 5: Elisa on how she and Lily work so well together despite their opposite personalities
People often ask us what it’s like to work together. It has been a journey of many ups and downs, awkward growing pains, fights and misunderstandings, coupled with breakthroughs and high highs. Weirdly, though, it feels so natural to us at this point that neither of us could picture spending our lives in any other way.
Since starting SLU, we have grown more into being each other's best friends, despite our opposite personalities and all of the tensions of starting something from scratch that we have poured our entire hearts and souls into. All while trying to maintain a healthy autonomy and respect for what we can teach each other as a result of our different approaches. Lily, a multi-tasking millennial who sees the big picture, is the yin to my detailed perfectionist yang. I * Elisa * am from the dark ages of the pre-internet, obsessing on every nuance of a creative decision (if it were up to me, our videos would be 45 minutes long, while Lily chops them to be relatable).
Lily’s got something called a to-do list that she actually gets through, while I can't read my own handwriting, let alone make a chart or a game plan. I am all ideas with no plan, while Lily makes sense of (and often reigns in) my creative whims - and not always in the kindest manner. In other words… she can be a bit over-the-top bossy sometimes. However, the truth is, I have given birth to the best leader I could dream of and my boss. I am her mother, but she is my hero.
Story & Look 6: Lily on how self-acceptance is a winding journey
A couple of weeks ago, after months of feeling better than I ever had in my skin, getting more confident in bikinis, tight clothes, lingerie (a la this campaign), etc., I sat down with my team to screen some footage from our #IAmWhatsUnderneath documentary. For a split second, when I saw the shots of me appear on the screen, the voice of my teenage self popped into my mind, a former self who hadn't yet embraced the beauty of her curves or her hips. It took me a moment to regain my perspective, however, after a few minutes, I re-emerged from out of this headspace and remembered the truth of my confidence. I was reminded that my old thought patterns aren’t real, nor worth my time or energy. I remembered how the way I feel inside my skin is what matters the most, and that buying into society’s standards is what keeps us all from emanating true beauty more than any physical trait ever could.
With this knowledge, I snapped back into my swag, feeling empowered ever since. It’s important to be reminded of how self-acceptance is not a solid end-goal. Self-acceptance is a fluid, winding journey that requires daily nurturing and love. To me, true beauty isn't just about out-in-out confidence, but about the strength we find through recognizing our own power to change, evolve and redefine beauty for ourselves. Today, I stand tall and confident in knowing that I have transformed my past struggles into my strength, harnessing the power of being born into this strong body. I am a big presence, and that is a gift, not something to hide or try and reduce.
If we could all recognize the power we possess to change the way we think of ourselves, we can change the entire foundation of our culture from one of deficiency to one of wholeness. Participating in this campaign and photographing myself in your stunning lingerie has granted me an opportunity to push myself to uncover even more confidence in myself -- rolls, love handles, cellulite and all than I ever imagined was possible.
Story & Look 7: Elisa on culture's attitudes about aging
Last night, I went to a tarot card reading done by an 81-year-old Chilean woman, Nancy, who we are trying to woo to participate in an episode of What's Underneath. I was totally girl-crushing on her ageless beauty and authentic free-spirit. With her high cheek bones, black-beaded choker and waves of long grey curls, she remained as cool as her stories about the 70s impromptu loft parties in Soho that she used to go to (sometimes 4 in one night).
During the reading, she told me that I was a rebel who didn't fit into the pervading norms of our culture and who was often misunderstood for it. This was not news to me, but it always helps to understand your fate and to embrace it, no matter its hard parts. So I wanted to take this moment to utilize my outsider status in defiance against our culture's negative attitudes about aging. I wholeheartedly refuse to cave to the notion that post-40 ish women are anything less than growing more into their magnetism and power as time goes on. In fact, because aging is really the one thing we know will happen, why not embrace it and make it a wildly amazing experience (health permitting, of course)? If someone refers to me as old, I feel such a disconnect to its present connotations, that it makes me cringe.
The reality is, at 58, in most ways, I feel more alive, comfortable and happy in body, mind and spirit than ever before. So, if that is old, I will take it. I welcome the challenge to feel beautiful, sexy, vital and wide open to all of life in my natural skin, no matter my age. My dream is that I will be someone else's girl crush at 81, like Nancy is to me. When you feel good it shows, you can't fake youth any more than you can fake anything else. So thank you, Triumph, for supporting me to voice my belief that beauty, style and age is deeply internal and a state of mind -- not a number.
Story & Look 8: Elisa and Lily on the mission of The What's Underneath Project
Whatever our mood might be, neither of us can walk out the door and function at our best without feeling like we are acutely expressing ourselves with our clothing. So why, on a platform all about style, all the undressing? I * Elisa * have always said to Lily that I can tell if someone has style when they are naked, because style has nothing to do with clothes. In its truest form, style is your spirit. It’s the way you move in your clothes -- it’s the way you walk and talk, the way that you live your life, and the way you exist in your skin. Style has neither boundaries nor prescriptions, and its expression through clothing is so empowering to us that we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to possess.
Many of us, though, have been held back by a society that tells us that style is externally sourced. In other words, style is attained from things outside of ourselves, whether it be wealth, fame, the newest trend, or conforming to a limited standard of beauty. With What’s Underneath, we remove the outer guard of our clothing to reveal the truth about style. As each person symbolically removes layers of their cultural conditioning while cathartically sharing their truths, their boldest and most magnetic selves appear. Sitting in your underwear on the internet with no filter allows you to say once and for all: “I’m okay as I am.” In the end, What’s Underneath reclaims our bodies from objectification and unattainable beauty ideals, sanctifying them as our own. It is this unshakable belief in our natural selves that makes us unapologetic warriors when getting dressed.
So, thank you again, Triumph, for challenging us in throughout this campaign to feel comfortable revealing our raw selves while undressing to your timeless laces. We deeply appreciate your support of our movement for self-acceptance from the place of of no conditions and no facade. This is where the healing begins, where we own the power of our unique identities and find the truth of our uncompromising style. We are not broken, we are not deficient, and, because of our "imperfections," we are whole and beautiful.