A Bra That Fits Me: A Critique of The Chrysalis Lingerie Launch

feature image via Chrysalis on Facebook

Chrysalis Lingerie’s new line debuted this week in their online store. The company boasts new garments created “by trans women and for trans women.” Their launch had been delayed multiple times, but now their basic line is finally coming to a mailbox near you. Needless to say, I was excited about their launch and being able to finally purchase underwear specifically designed with trans women’s bodies in mind.

Chrysalis billed itself as something different, a company that would fill the vast hole as a producer of underwear that was designed to fit and flatter trans women. It was made pretty clear in all of the promotional material that this product would be a real change from what currently existed for purchase. On Chrysalis’s “About Me” page, they claim that Chrysalis was created to “help change the dehumanizing stereotypes and biases we are subjected to as a group and community.” They also claim that their product “symbolizes the acknowledgement [of the] diversity of our existence and provides a solution to our specific needs.” Finally they claimed that Chrysalis would take transgender women “beyond the marginalization imposed by the media and society and represent them as beautiful intelligent women with prowess and the embodiment of feminine sensuality.”

All of these things sounded really great to me. Chrysalis was going to be the best thing since sliced bread when it came to trans women. I was sold. So when I saw a post on my Tumblr dashboard saying that their store was finally open, I eagerly clicked the link for the store. My jaw subsequently hit the floor, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The product fell well short of delivering on their lofty claims.

First, I was blown away at just how expensive the products are. Chrysalis is charging their customers  $85 for their control “t-string” and $75 for a bra, with an additional $175 for the bra inserts that seem to be mandatory to wear their everyday bras. That means that to buy one bra for everyday use, you’ve got to lay down $250 dollars. I understand that a custom made product like this can be a bit more expensive so I wasn’t expecting cheap and affordable. I was expecting the pricing of a their garments to be a little more along the line of other lingerie focused companies Victoria Secret, $50 a bra, or Spanx, $35 for a pair of panties.


I could have gathered the money together to splurge and buy one or two bras and a couple pairs of underwear at the comparable price tag, but at $75-85 a piece, I really can’t afford it. That’s almost a full days wage at my job (after taxes). And I know I’m pretty economically privileged compared to many trans women. Most trans women don’t have that kind of earning power thanks to the intersection of transmisogyny and sexism (and often racism since there are many trans women who are also women of color).

How much, if any, market research did Chrysalis perform before preparing their final products? Chrysalis claims that this is their basic line, meant for “everyday wear.” Which means you would need at least seven of the underwear at $85 apiece if you planned to wear them every day (totaling $595). Chrysalis’s price tag is simply not feasible for most trans women.  Most of my friends who are trans women are barely making enough money to pay their rent on time and still buy groceries.

Upon further examination of the new shop, I came to an even more startling, frustrating, and disturbing realization. Even if I had the money to drop on a beautiful brand-new Chrysalis bra, I wouldn’t be able to buy one that actually fits me.

Now I’m not even that big of a girl. I’m often a 38B when it comes to bras. Realistically, I’m a 40A-B, but those are almost impossible to find in the stores I can afford to shop in. That’s why I was so excited for Chrysalis’s launch. Since the company caters to transgender women, I figured it would go without saying that I would find the higher band sizes and smaller cup sizes that my body requires.

For most trans women, our bone structure makes our shoulders and chests quite robust. Unless you come out and start hormone blockers before you hit puberty, testosterone has had a lot of time to adjust your bone structure. It’s one of the facts of life that trans women have to deal with. So it goes without saying that if Chrysalis clientele is entirely trans women, surely they would carry band sizes up to at least 40 and higher right? Wrong.

The largest band size that Chrysalis is currently selling as of the launch of their website is a 38D. They don’t sell a 38A, 38B, or 38C. Let me tell you, I’ve gotten great results in terms of my breast growth on hormones, but I have absolutely no chance of every filling out a D cup. Unless I pay to have surgical implants, which is not in my transition plan.


When Chrysalis mentioned on their Facebook that they were open to constructive criticism I decided to lend my voice as a trans women who had waited for many years to see Chrysalis’s product only to end up disappointed today. I asked about larger band sizes and I used my own situation as an example as a 38B. Their official Facebook responded: “As a brand we also have a specific look which is about looking “natural and proportioned” so we figured a band size of 38 would look most balanced with a D cup and nothing smaller.”

This response from their official Facebook page stands in sharp contrast to what founder and designer Cy Lauz claimed in an interview with Fashionista: “We’re not here to paint a picture of what a trans woman is supposed to look or act like, we’re here to add a different perspective in how we are portrayed and seen by the “outside” community. In the end there is no one person exactly like the other, and the same can be said for the trans community at large.” When did “we’re not here to paint a picture of what a trans woman is supposed to look like” suddenly become  “would look most balanced with a D cup and nothing smaller.” What went wrong?

For me, as a trans woman, their response exposed the real problem with this launch: in an effort to provide lingerie for the marginalized transgender community, Chrysalis has resorted to an attitude that does nothing to challenge traditional cisgender beauty standards. They have created a line of bras that fit trans women who mostly fit into our traditional model of “beautiful woman.” That’s their brand, “natural and proportional.” But they have forgotten that most of us trans women don’t fit those unrealistic cisgender beauty ideals. I guess that means that we get left behind in the Chrysalis movement. Those of us who do not fit their brand image are left feeling even more marginalized.

Instead of “acknowledging the diversity of our existence” as Chrysalis’s “About Me” claims, they have chosen to only acknowledge skinny trans women who have (or want to have) “natural” and “proportioned” breasts. Instead of helping to break down the marginalization of trans women when it comes to shopping for underwear Chrysalis has only marginalized those of us who do not fit their brand of “natural” and “proportioned.” How can you be a trans positive lingerie company if you continue to assert that anything with a band size of 38 and below a D cup isn’t “natural” or “proportional?”

I needed Chrysalis to challenge those beauty norms instead of continuing to perpetuate them. I needed them to be something different, something a step above what I could buy in Victoria Secret or Fredrick’s of Hollywood. I needed them to tell me that a pudgy trans woman with big shoulders and small breasts can be sexy and beautiful. But they didn’t do that.


A word of advice to trans women: Go to your nearest Target. Buy a two pack of push-up bras ($24 for 2), and Target’s bra inserts ($12). Then go to Herroom.com and buy the Vasserette Control Shapewear Panties ($2.50 each), they do wonders for helping your tuck. There you go! You just saved yourself a lot of money, you can afford to buy enough to wear every day, and best of all you look fabulous.


AUTHOR INFO:  teagan is an writer, artist, and academic. she thinks, writes, educates, and creates about gender, theatre, activism, and religion. she has lectured and presented her work at numerous schools and events across the united states. she has been published on interrupt mag and spectrum magazine. she is also a contributor to {young}istshe currently lives in the san francisco bay area but has previously lived in richmond virginia and various places in northern california. you can find her on twitter at @twidx

A version “A Bra That Fits Me” was originally published on interruptmag.com. It has been edited and expanded upon for this publication.

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Teagan has written 1 article for us.


  1. Bali Intimates has a decent selection of sizes.

    This bra, for example, goes up to a 42B

    Since they have their bras listed in the $30-$50 range on their website, I’d recommend going there to pick a style and then shopping around for a cheaper alternative. I was able to find that same bra for $24 and free shipping on a different website.

  2. One, before I forget, for some reason the ad on the bottom of the screen says “do you support tradtional (sic) marriage? vote now!” So that’s awkward.

    Two, back to the article. This is really, really messed up. I don’t see how they can target bras to trans* women and then not offer them in more realistic sizing. Am I wrong in thinking that trans* women could get a 38D or 40D bra from somewhere else for cheaper and then use inserts? So how is this even different, except as to be more expensive? Argh, this is so stupid.

    • As someone who seems to have an edging-on-unusual bra size (36DD/34F), finding bras beyond the standard is a horrendous and sometimes expensive exercise. I broke down in Victoria’s Secret one time after going to a stack of stores that didn’t carry my size and the only bra in VS doing so being close to $50. (Then I discovered that Ross has a STACK of bras in my size for cheap so I pretty much cleared out their 36DD collection. oops.)

      Inserts for cheap aren’t terribly hard to find; I just got a pair for my girlfriend for about $20 on Amazon. But finding a bra to put them in is a whole another pain altogether.

      • Brands to look out for if you are on the busty side: Panache, Elomi, Freya, Curvy Kate.

        I personally love Elomi! Those fuckers are capable of heavy lifting like no other brand and manage even Christina-Hendricks-like situations. Seriously, they are like armors and can keep everything secure/in place.

    • My (cis-gendered) mother wears a 38 A, and looks natural and proportioned.

      This is bullshit

  3. Ugh, Teagan, that sounds entirely frustrating. boo!

    For a little perspective, I’m cisgender and I’ve worn a 38C bra at some points in my life, so…was I not “natural” and “proportioned”? Or, more likely, was I not “proportioned” in the way that Chrysalis wants its shoppers to appear?

  4. I have also been extremely interested in the launch and I’m happy to read your critique. Anytime someone talks about what is proportional when it comes to boobs and bras it really makes me mad. The prices are also surprisingly expensive for what they are (I honestly can’t tell the difference with what you suggested) and the size range is disappointing. I would expect for a trans* specific line they would focus on the sizes that are difficult to get but more common with transwomen, such as 40A. Seems like they’ve missed the mark.

    • Agreed! Early on in this post, I was thinking ‘well, $75 for unusual sizes makes sense, even if it does suck in terms of financial accessibility’. But if you’re just copying the rest of the market, then it’s absurd.

  5. I think what upsets me the most regarding Chrysalis’ handling of this situation is that they’re proving themselves to be no different than a brand like Victoria’s Secret, which doesn’t carry band sizes above 38. Like you said Teagan, they’re just reinforcing these ridiculous standards of beauty that not everyone can fit. Who are they to say what looks ‘natural’ and ‘proportionate’? Everyone’s bodies are fucking natural, they’re bodies! Unless you’re a cyborg or a robot. For fuck’s sake.

    • Victoria’s Secret and similar stores basically construct what ‘natural’ and ‘proportional’ are by selling only specific sizes. Chrysalis takes it even one step further down the rode of awful by literally giving responses that body-police and are cissexist. The prices are completely unreasonable for a product obtainable for far, far cheaper.

  6. As someone who is definitely a 38A, and who wears a slightly uncomfortable, but at least somewhat flattering 36B, this is really disappointing. It’s no fun for me to go out to try on bras and figure out I’ve been too fucked up by testosterone to properly fit into anything available, I had kind of high hopes for Chrysalis, distant though they may be. I wonder if that guy who used to do the dangerous ribcage surgeries is still around…

    • If your bra is uncomfortable because you can’t find your band size, you might want to try a bra band expander (you can get them at walmart for like $5)

  7. I was also really disappointed! I don’t mind paying a little more to support small and particularly LGBT businesses but these prices are insane! There is no way in good conscience that I could spend $85 for a pair of panties!

  8. I think the most frustrating part of all of this is that Chrysalis has been really awful about the negative feedback they’ve received up to a minute after their launch. Their prospective customers aren’t happy, and honestly, they don’t seem to care. I want to help this company stay afloat because I believe the service they want to provide is an important one, but I can’t do that when they are so resistant to feedback. The first thread about the launch on facebook was flooded with critical comments that Chrysalis responded to defensively and then followed it up with a post that asked people to keep their comments CONSTRUCTIVE and POSITIVE. I thought this was really unfounded, since none of the comments I saw were even approaching rude. They’ve got polls up on their facebook where everyone should definitely chime in, but I think the probability of them being able to swim in this economy is dicey considering their target market is so overwhelmingly economically disadvantaged.

  9. I wear a 32I (am I “disproportionate,” Chrysalis?) and have gotten used to spending $100 for a bra every six months or so, but this just seems like terrible market strategy. It blows my mind that they’re so loudly being told what their customers want and need and they’re completely ignoring it. “As a brand, we have a specific look…” That’s ridiculous. When your brand image is more important than your customers, you goofed somewhere.

    • I think what it comes down is that they don’t want a “brand image” that looks trans but passes as cis. Which is really fucked up when you’re touting yourself as a lingerie brand for transwomen.

    • I can’t believe that a company who set out to serve the trans community and “break down stereotypes of how a trans woman should look” is now trying to tell trans women what sizes they should strive to fit into.

      I, too, was expecting a size range closer to 34-42 A-D, because there is a lack of bras out there made in large band sizes and small cup sizes, which is what many trans women end up needing. Even if they had to start with a small size range and work up to a better one later, it would be better to do something more like 36-40 A-C and then add 34/42 bands and D cups later.

      The worst part about all of this is their complete refusal to listen to the feedback of the customers they had originally promised to listen to. As a company who is trying to enter a niche market, they should be heavily relying on the feedback of the small percentage of people who are interested, because those people are their only hope to survive as a company.

      • I had to go to their facebook page to see some of their replies for myself. It’s just ridiculous that they’re so opposed to feedback. When anyone mentions their items are literally prohibitively expensive, their stock answer seems to be “well, it’s a fraction of the cost of SRS!”

        which is a bad answer for a lot of reasons.

      • Right, I mean, I guess you could *sort of* make the argument that any clothing company that carries a small range of sizes is passively telling women what size they should be — but to have the company actually come out and explicitly say “too bad, it’s actually your body that isn’t proportioned right” is unbelievable! My jaw totally dropped at that Facebook comment.

        – a cis gal with teensy boobs and a body that would also not meet their standards for looking “natural and proportioned”

  10. My goodness, it’s hard to find any good clothing nowadays for cheap. Also, bras, seriously what are you and why do you never ever fit. Ever. Oh well, back to Gap with their super sporty comfy ones. Or the thrift store.

  11. God, just reading their replies to feedback on their Facebook page makes me angry. They are being total assholes for no reason at all.

  12. I’m not sure if this might be helpful or not but I have some resources for bras with small cups.

    http://www.daintylady.co.uk : 28-44 AAA, AA, A, B

    http://www.catrionamackechnie.com : 28-42 AA, A, …, G

    http://www.littlewomen.com : 28-40 AAA, AA, A, B

    http://www.lailides.com : 30-38 AA, A, B

    The shops are UK based but they have world wide delivery. You also can simply look up the brands & specific bras and search for them in your local stores or on ebay.

    @ Teagan: I find it awesome that you let the company know how they fucked up :)

    • Thanks for this!
      I’m a cisgender female, and by Chrysalis’ standards, I’m not ‘natural’ – 36A.

      • You’re welcome!

        And … Holy. Fucking. Jesus! I just realized that they literally, actually, really used the expression (non-)”natural” to dismiss their customers complains. WTF?

  13. Wow, how disappointing, totally agree with you, definitely missing he mark. Also for anyone out there looking for small cup size bras with a large band size you can find nice bras at Lane Bryant, they are designed with bigger band size in mind but they at least recognize that girls have a variety of breast size. You can get them right in store (don’t have to special order online) and they are only like $35 each.

    • And they have really good promos like “Buy One, Get One Free/Buy Two, Get Two Free,” so then each bra only averages out to $20 each. A lot of their bras also have inserts & padding.

  14. Wow – that response about only carrying sizes that look “natural and proportioned” in insulting to all women, not just trans*. It’s frustrating not being able to buy bras in stores, but many more sizes are available online, for much more affordable prices. My mom, and my sister (all cis btw) are all atypical sizes – it’s not that unusual.

    I actually searched around recently to help a friend who was looking for a better fitting bra, and I found that barenecessities.com has a wide selection of less common sizes, such as 38A, 38B, and 40B, among others. 40A is also available, but for whatever reason almost entirely mastectamy bras. Could possibly work for someone interested in using breast forms though.

    There are over 400 bras available in your size of 38B – that’s not a very unusual size, and I’m very surprised at the rude response you received.


    • Unfortunately, for those of us with sensitive skin, extenders are also really itchy/pinchy. You know that itchy/pinchy/gotta-dig-at-it-spot you get right under where the bra hooks are… well multiply that by five and that’s what extenders do. :( I’ve checked out of the bra market altogether and am sticking with camis w/ support. Maybe they aren’t as hot looking but, hey, without airflow and comfort there is no sexiness.

    • Also using an extender flattens out the cup which (a) flattens the breasts and/or (b) cuts into flesh and creates a weird boobs situation similar to the “before” result -> http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l9ymxmL0SP1qbzabl.jpg(nsfw?)

      But if you absolutely must operate with an expander, go up a size in cups for every size your bra goes down in band.
      Ex: 38A ca. 36B ca. 34C
      It will still potentially flattens or cut into the breasts but too small cups are not healthy (and also uncomfortable and/or painful).

  15. For any Canadian women here,the last few bras I got from La Senza came with band extenders. I don’t know if that applies to all bras, or just their newer styles (with hella padding to), but I’d say it’s worth a look.

  16. Ugh, this is really disappointing. The size thing just seems completely antithetical to their alleged purpose. They obviously don’t want to acknowledge the reality of trans womens’ bodies or lives, just an narrow idealized version of acceptable beauty.

  17. How ridiculous. I’m cis and used to be obese. Lost 80 lbs. strength training and had significant pec and shoulder muscle growth yet lost a fair amount of breast fat. End result? 38B+. Last three bras came from the free box in my laundry room, but now I want to try the Target pushup! Teagan, you kick ass. Thanks for this.

  18. jesus christ, what even. joining the chorus of FAABs who apparently aren’t ‘proportional’ (what the literal fuck). starting to wonder if i couldn’t do a better job than this lot. at the very least i could fund a trans* woman to design some…

    hmm. someone make a kickstarter.

  19. Thanks for an excellent post. You hit the nail on the head as far as your critiques that they really seem to be contradicting their stated goals in that their available sizes are not only limited but arguably cisnormative, their cost is prohibitive, and their response to a real transwoman’s very legitimate concerns was a quick brushoff. I also can’t help but notice… although they make a point of using trans models (which is a good thing, I think), the bra models they’re using do not seem to be wearing the “inserts,” do they? They seem to have specifically selected trans models who have either had above-average effects from hormones or breast augmentation.

    I wish I could say I was entirely surprised, but companies marketing specifically to transwomen have a bad history of this sort of thing. I remember when I was first presenting female, looking at a few stores online that sold clothes supposedly made just for my body type. What I found was that the prices were insane and the clothes were generally ugly. I asked myself – why the hell would anyone ever shop at this store? Then, one reason became very clear as they prominently noted “discreet shipping,” and I realized why they could get away with selling crappy clothes at ludicrous prices – they were preying on people who were still closeted, who were too embarrassed to order clothes from a conventional online retailer whose packaging might be less “discreet”, much less actually go out to a store in the real world and buy clothes. It’s despicable.

    That may not be part of Chrysalis’s business model, but clearly they’re capitalizing on the desperation of some transwomen to have something particularly made to help them feel normal, which might not be a terrible thing if their products were actually going to help do that, which obviously, with these sizes and design, they’re not.

    • I think it might be part of their model. In the fashionista interview the founder talks a lot about how the biggest problem trans women face is access because we go out and get harassed when shopping because we don’t pass. But at the same time they don’t use imagery of trans women who don’t pass. All the trans women models they use are stunning. So it’s a little contradictory.

  20. i’m really shocked by this – I remember being excited when I heard about their launch, since it would have filled a real gap. It’d be one thing if they’d represented themselves from the beginning as being a trans* friendly version of Victoria’s Secret, but they chose to use language about inclusivity, accessibility, etc.. What on earth were they expecting the reaction to be?

    I’m left once again being so damn thankful for online sites, especially HerRoom (I don’t know if you’ve tried their bras, Teagan, but they’ve got a lot in 38B, as well as even less common sizes (up to 50A or 52B, though the selection does start to wane the bigger you go)).

    • I’d like to chime in here. Most of the site is pretty disappointing. It’s unfortunate that they don’t offer larger band sizes and their attitude about proportion and naturalness of breast size is absolute shit. In light of that, nothing else really matters.

      However, the measuring guide on Chrysalis’s site is pretty accurate, in that they don’t use the +4 method to determine the band. They use +0, same as the link KiraScarlet posted. So if the author were to follow it, she might find that her band size was more like 36 than 38, possibly making her a 36C. It’s something to think about, at least.

      The store seems more focused on giving women “natural looking” breasts by selling them expensive inserts to make them the cup sizes they carry, rather than manufacturing bras that will fit their natural breasts. I imagine they probably don’t yet have the funds to provide a larger variety of sizes, but the attitude is pretty unforgivable, and the author is spot-on about that.

      I’m familiar with the reddit link KiraScarlet posted and it’s legitimate. I used to think I was a 34B, but I measured myself there and it turns out 30E’s fit me a lot better, and make my breasts look fantastic. I’d encourage anyone who wears bras to try it out, if only for kicks.

  21. i would love for someone from chrysalis or anywhere to point to one thing anywhere that could validate its claim that anything is “natural” when it comes to bodies.

    there is no such thing as natural unless we are all natural.

  22. I am not transsexual, but I am a woman with an odd body shape (I am very short, very short-waisted, curvy and have large breasts but a small ribcage – I wear a 30E). Speaking as someone who’s gone to stores and been told ‘you should be supported’ only to find that in fact, unless you look like a model, you are not supported, this whole business that Chrysalis is putting out is absurd. They have set themselves up to support a particular community and in fact are being more oppressive than places like Victoria’s Secret, which does not purport to do anything but sell underwear.

    For anyone living in the Atlanta area, there’s a wonderful (although not inexpensive) place called Necessities by Sherrie, out in Snellville-ish. I buy all my bras there and have felt better about my body ever since, no matter how ‘weird’ I am. No one should ever conform just because someone says so.

  23. J.C. Penny’s lingerie department has become my friend! Not only will they expertly fit you, but they do it without attitude and they’re affordable. I wear a 44C, and I’ve found Playtex’s t-shirt bras incredibly comfy and smoothing/flattering.. I just wish they came in more colors.
    Thank you for this review. You’re SO on the mark! Best of luck.

  24. Chrysalis’ reply to your very valid criticism is just horrifying. What a huge disappointment.

  25. This really sums it up well, Teagan. Such a poor arrival by Chrysalis and what a way to alienate many potential customers!

  26. I have enough anxieties in my day-to-day without adding in the worry of whether or not my dog is going to drag any of these outlandishly priced products to the living room floor for complete destruction. A target 2 pack I can cope with, but I couldn’t even imagine my horror if I found one of these Chrysalis products ripped to shreds on our rug at the paws of our cute little monster doggie!!!

  27. I know that on this website the products say “for men” but some of the lingerie on there is actually really good. It isn’t for everyone, but the transwomen I’ve referred to it so far (I work in lingerie) have found it appropriate. Just a thought.

  28. Ugh, that’s so disappointing! I was really excited to see a line of lingerie for transwomen, but that’s total bull. Like, I’m a 40-42 B/C- and that’s all XX Chromosomes. ‘proportional’ depends on the body, not the size of the breasts. Sigh.

  29. There are good specialty bra companies like Lady Grace (they have stores in the Boston area, but can ship anywhere). These places specialize in hard to fit folks and the staff who work there are really friendly. I’m cis, but looking through their catalog I know they have LOTS of the sizes folks need.
    Also, Nordstrom has amazing lingerie, and their saleswomen are quite good. I can’t say if they are all transfriendly, but if you are in a big city, you could try. Maybe call ahead to ask? My ex is a transwoman, so I know the issues. I was with her during her transition, and I saw the variability in reactions.
    One thing: these stores will be more expensive than Victoria’s Secret, but the bras will last longer (if you take care of them) and will look much better. More like $40-$60, certainly not the ridiculous cost of this place.
    Good luck girls!

  30. This really irritates me – I’m GQ, but I’m still “trans-bodied” as a like to call it. My issue with this is the only body type where you could actually wear this every day doesn’t need it.. a body like mine. I grabbed a straight friend at age 17 and went to I forget which dept store and plausible deniability was my friend. Most people’s bodies don’t meet these completely artificial standards so this overpriced thing ends up being insulting to everyone.

  31. This just in: Chrysalis bras are for rich trans women whose upper bodies are already well catered to by the cisnormative fashion industry but for some reason want to pay extra anyway

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