This Hasidic Woman Runs a Thriving Lingerie Shop

If I could take a guess, I would say Hasidic Judaism and lingerie don’t often go hand in hand in the minds of many out there. Often, the narrative presented in the media is that couples can only have sex through a sheet, or in shows like Unorthodox, solely at the whim of one’s husband. Women are second-class citizens and certainly do not have any sort of relationship with their own sexuality, right?

Well, this article is about to challenge all of that and reroute any preconceived notions just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I sat down with Rechy Rosenthal, the owner and founder of Myself Lingerie, a thriving bra fitting and intimates business that operates in Brooklyn, Lakewood and online. They sell everything from bras and underwear to sleepwear and swim.

They specialize in making sure any woman entering the shop feels good about herself when she walks out the door. It’s about self-empowerment, not buying things just because someone else might like you in it.

Here, Rechy speaks about her journey to starting this company, how Judaism and sexuality intersect in her mind and how you can use lingerie shopping to feel just a little more empowered.

Can you tell me about your personal background and upbringing?

I grew up as an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jew, and was always the entrepreneurial type. In high school, I started a cake business that I ran for two years. I sold cakes and other mini desserts to a catering company which kept me pretty busy. Then, I taught for a bit and then joined my parent’s business which was a Judaica company. I worked for them for nine years and built up their entire online sales, learning it all as I went.

That’s amazing. How did the idea of the lingerie business come up?

It was actually my husband who suggested it 11 years ago. I was married with three kids under three. He came to me and said, “You know, I feel like there’s a need for a lingerie store in Borough Park.” He knew I had online experience but I had no interest in being “the bra lady.” I told him if he wanted to do it, he could do it on his own, and so he did. He scouted and found our original location and designed it himself. He even hired a professional bra fitter who had experience working for Macy’s in the ‘70s and ‘80s. 

As the business moved forward, I ended up helping him place orders from home. I was still working for my parents full-time, then I would put the kids to sleep and work for the lingerie business. I was working around the clock. I realized it was silly to keep doing this — and I was exhausted — so we decided to go all in on the lingerie business. We took our life savings, put it into the company and here we are today.

I did a lot of research on bra fitting and the whole concept of intimate apparel — there’s a whole psychological aspect to it. After that, I went in and learned everything hands-on. Our company really focuses primarily on making sure a woman has bras that she feels good and confident in. That’s how it all started.

Now, I run the day to day operations and am very busy with marketing, content planning imagery, etc. We do everything in house.

How did you come up with the name?

We wanted to create a safe haven for women. The idea was to come get fitted for bras and feel comfortable doing so. We wanted to create a spa-like experience. I spent my days listening to women, hearing their stories and requests. 

Bra shopping has a negative connotation to it somehow. What we’ve been working on is revolutionizing that. We want to take away the whole shame and anxiety aspect. I put so much effort into training the staff to be gentle and kind. So many women have been abused or body shamed and they’re really uncomfortable in their body. Our goal was to turn it into a beautiful experience. 

One day I was in the store and a woman came in and shared that her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had been taking care of him around the clock and ran herself ragged. Her friends told her she needed a self care day and she agreed. She decided to use that day to come to Myself Lingerie. I remember that moment so clearly, it was such a pivotal moment for me because it’s everything we were looking to build. I really accomplished that mission. She felt so good coming in and getting herself pretty things.

When I come home after a day of work, I feel so accomplished — the women feel so good about themselves afterward. When she feels good, that spills over to everyone else in her life. When you see a teenager even feeling confident in her skin, there’s nothing better. That’s what I wake up for every single morning.

How do you view the relationship between sexuality and an Orthodox Jewish life?

The way I view it is that sexuality and femininity are at the core of a Jewish life. That’s really where it all begins. The beauty in Judaism is that it’s kept modest. We don’t go out there and talk about our intimate life publicly or advertise that “I bought this cool piece of lingerie.” We keep it special within our marriage, and it’s the fundamental pillar in every Jewish home. The intimacy and affection between a husband and wife is the foundation of where the whole family life begins.

When a couple has a beautiful relationship, that spills over into the home environment and the culture. You can feel that good energy.

I love that. How do you help women feel confident getting in touch with that sexual side of them when they may be more nervous to do so?

Here is the big thing. I don’t view lingerie as for the man. Lingerie is for the woman. Sometimes women will come in and say, “Oh, my husband doesn’t like…” and I’ll look them in the eye and say, “What do you like?” I always try to open them up and reframe it. I’m not saying to buy something that your husband specifically tells you he doesn’t like, but you have to feel beautiful. If you don’t like it, you don’t buy it. When you feel pretty, that will be the vibe you give off. You will be confident. If you don’t feel good in your body then you can put on the prettiest piece of lingerie and it’s worthless.

Lingerie can make a strong impact in a marriage but it always begins with the woman. When she feels beautiful and sensual, everything else falls away.

How do you help people who are struggling to feel good in their body?

This is important. I’ve been working in this business for 11 years and I’ve never met a woman who went into the fitting room and said, “I love myself just the way I am.” There’s always something. It’s the tummy or they want to be bigger or smaller or flatter. We are so hard on ourselves. I really try and share with them that they are pretty just the way they are. That’s how G-d created you. 

Unfortunately, places like Victoria’s Secret made women feel that if they don’t look like a model, they’re not beautiful. Women come in all shapes and sizes and we all have to be aware of that. I have mothers that come in and say, “Give my daughter a minimizer,” and I say, “She’s an A-cup, what do you want me to minimize?” They’re preaching the wrong things to their daughters. Tell her she’s beautiful the way she is. We don’t want to look like men, we’re created to look like women.

We get pregnant, we give birth, there’s a constant fluctuation of weight and size. I also struggle. Everyone wants to be that perfect size 0 but it doesn’t exist. 

I once heard someone say that when you get in a car to go to an appointment, you’re using that as a mode of transportation. You’re not criticizing the car, it’s just a vehicle to get you from point A to point B. It’s the same with our bodies. Our bodies are vehicles we were gifted to get us through life. 

This is obviously not a side of the Orthodox world that is usually shown in mainstream media. Do you get any criticism for what you do?

Yes. I have a super special folder that I use to save all the letters that people mail to me criticizing me. I have a separate folder though of beautiful letters of people praising us and thanking us. I think the criticism comes from the fact that we serve such a wide range of people. There are some ultra-Orthodox members who don’t want to see the color or have their teens exposed to the pretty stuff. We do have the lingerie in a separate area for that reason. So I do my best to display the blacks and neutrals in the front and keep the more revealing stuff private but you can’t please everyone. I’m not here to make anybody upset or uncomfortable but it’s okay if not everyone is happy. 

You’re a mom of seven children and work to make Myself Lingerie amazing full time. How do you manage all of it?

First of all, I have an amazing husband. We’re in this business together. I also have a great team of about 30 employees now. I could never do this on my own. It’s definitely a juggle though. I am a very organized person by nature so that helps. I have my day down to a science. I’m up between six and six-thirty every day. I need an hour or 45 minutes of quiet when my kids are still asleep. That’s also when I get a kickstart for dinner. I can cook a five course meal at 6:30 in the morning. My Shabbos meals are cooked by Thursday morning. 

My workday ends at three. That’s when it’s all about my kids. I go home and try to be present. I will say I’m an amazing homemaker. I like to cook and bake and my family isn’t neglected in any way shape or form. I also have a nanny for my baby, I’m not embarrassed to say that. 

What else would you want people to know about Myself Lingerie?

We really cater to all types of women. I come from the Chassidish community but it doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is. If you’re a woman, we’ve got something for you. We have all different types of sleepwear, headwear, swim, we make sure you have everything you need.

We also accommodate different heights and body sizes. At this point, we go up to a 6x in swim, for example. None of the local stores catered to a larger chested woman and I was so embarrassed to not have anything in larger sizes either. So slowly, we started carrying more and now we have items up to O cups. I never want a woman to come in and feel ashamed that we don’t have anything for her.

I understand women may be nervous to step into the world of lingerie but you don’t have to feel shy. Our area is in a sectioned off place in the store so you can have privacy in your own little oasis to shop. I put tote bags in every dressing room so you can bring your items to the cashier in them if you don’t want others to see. Our website is entirely modest — you won’t see lingerie on models, only on white backgrounds. You can order online and pick up in store as well. I’m always trying to make it more accessible.

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