My name is Emma Butler and I am the CEO and founder of Intimately.co, a marketplace for all kinds of disability inclusive lingerie, and a community of empowered women to share experiences about disability.
I became aware of the need for adaptive apparel and specifically disability inclusive lingerie through my mom. Growing up, my mom was a fashionista and my role model. She could do anything she wanted and shop anywhere she wanted. That all changed 10 years ago when she was diagnosed with several different autoimmune disorders that left her disabled.
Her old body was seemingly something of the past and she found herself in what felt like a new body with new functionality, so she needed a whole new wardrobe to accommodate for the new needs she had in dressing herself. One of the biggest struggles she now faced was putting on intimates. Bras and underwear often have complicated fasteners and uncomfortable materials that are not accessible for many disabled women. So we decided to go shop for some new stylish clothes to make her life easier. When we went online to shop, especially for bras, all we could find was ugly medicinal underwear. It was anything but stylish, mostly only modeled on elderly people, and the opposite of sexy. In my mom’s words, she described the experience as “dehumanizing.”
When I got to college, I realized this problem is so much bigger than just my mother. I met so many women with the same disabilities as my mother and many different ones. In fact, there are 600 million women worldwide that have some sort of chronic pain or physical disability that affects the way they dress. Over the last two years at Brown, I’ve been conducting over 100 interviews with women with disabilities and asking about their relationship with their clothing. My mother was not alone, disabled women all over the world deal with the lack of adaptive apparel and specifically intimates on the market.
My solution: Intimately- an online marketplace that has the most functional and fashionable undergarments for all women. Some of the products that we offer include side opening underwear, which allows for easy dressing in a wheelchair. We also have period absorbing underwear, which allows for women to avoid changing sanitary napkins and go through their period without any hassle. Many women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s go through early onset medicated menopause when they have a disability. We have bras with easy fasteners so that women with limited dexterity or even breast cancer survivors are able to put on their bra with ease.
In the lingerie industry disabled women are treated as an afterthought for so many brands. If they do offer any adaptive options they usually only cater to one or two kinds of disabilities. At Intimately we understand that no body is the same, and different disabilities require different designs. Not only do we carry physical products, but we also have a community function on our site where women can share their experiences and struggles as well as provide advice or answer questions for others. Our mission is to create a place where women with disabilities can feel included and belong for the first time in their lives, not be an afterthought. It’s time for an Inclusion Revolution in the fashion industry, and we’re here to start it. Come join!