Friday, February 24, 2017

In Defense of the Butter Pants

I've recently read a lot of criticism online about LuLaRoe clothing, and fairly recently a pretty scathing review of direct marketing companies by John Oliver. This is a blog post to provide a counterpoint about my experience as a customer of LuLaRoe, via their network of consultants around the country. A few disclaimers before I begin:

- I am not a consultant, although I have a few friends who are.
- If you believe that LLR and companies of this nature are all nothing more than pyramid schemes, I will most likely not change your mind with this post. I'm not sure what to tell you other than that I believe some direct marketing companies are shady, their practices questionable, and their recruiting strategies, predatory in nature. I also believe others offer a fully transparent and fun way for their consultants to make some money selling a product they love. I can't speak for LLR's business practices as I'm not a consultant. My friends who are consultants in DMs, including LLR, don't at all strike me as victims, and, in fact, are having the time of their lives. 
- I'm sure there are many great men selling products as part of DMs, but I'm focusing in on the women who are, who I believe make up the majority of consultants.
- If you've tried the product and didn't enjoy it or didn't find it worth the money, I will probably not change your mind, but I applaud you for trying something before judging it.
-This is my experience and my experience alone, about everything from the postpartum days, to my thoughts on LLR. Your experience, undoubtedly was different, or maybe contains shades of similarity, but nevertheless, I can only speak for myself.
- I am not a paid spokesperson for LLR but one time, I did win some free clothes by posting a funny Morgan Freeman meme on a consultant's Facebook page...

Ok, now that we got that out of the way...

I was pregnant for most of 2016 at a time when my friends had caught the LLR fever big time. I was invited to several Facebook and in-home parties, but declined. Buying clothes while pregnant didn't sound like the most fun thing ever. I promised my friends that I'd look into it once baby arrived, and true to my word, in my first month post-partum, I accepted an invitation to shop an online boutique. I bought 1 pair of leggings to see what the insanity was all about. They were comfy, colorful and fun to wear (they are often compared to "butter" for how soft they are, hence the title of this blog). I wore them at Thanksgiving and was glad that I had found something besides maternity pants to wear that fit nicely and didn't make me obsess over my post-partum belly- a belly had that grown and delivered three beautiful boys but was certainly worse for the wear. At 37, things don't always bounce back and no matter what, your body is forever changed by this miraculous and beautiful thing that's just happened to it. But the miracle and the beauty of it all is quickly lost when you feel flabby and out of shape and when the weight just isn't coming off in spite of your best efforts. And let's be honest, sometimes in spite of your most mediocre efforts because when you're exhausted, hormonal, and navigating postpartum bouts of baby blues or depression, sometimes your weight is the last thing you should be thinking about and questions about your overall wellbeing should revolve around more than just what a scale says.  

Many of my friends and myself included, wore maternity clothing long after the maternity leave was over, not because we wanted to, but because so many of us didn't see many viable options for those transition months. And as a postpartum mom who is already genetically predisposed to a pear shape, I can tell you, unequivocally, that clothing designers have not only let me down, they have forgotten all about me. I should mention here that LLR offers sizes from XXS to 3xl so a wide variety of women can and do wear the clothing, not just my pear sisters. Where you at, pear sisters? I like you and I cannot lie.

Shortly after that first purchase of leggings, I stumbled upon a consultant on Facebook who was going out of business and liquidating her inventory at a pretty great % off. I saw this as a good opportunity to try a variety of styles to see what I liked at a pretty low cost. When those colorful packages arrived it was fun!  I'm sure my husband and mail lady just had to laugh and shake their heads at the array of bright mailers stuffed with shirts, skirts and dresses that kept making their way to our doorstep, but it was like Christmas! Ok, it actually was Christmas at the time, but the gifts were from me and for me, my favorite kind of gift ;) 

Each mailer contained a business card and sometimes something extra- hair ties, candy, thank you notes, and jewelry were all little extras I'd find in my packages. The consultants with whom I had discussed going back to work, sent me messages of encouragement, assuring me that I'd be amazing and look amazing. The nice college-aged kid who rings me up at Target has never offered such affirmations. 

I decided that since it had been years since I really bought new clothes for myself, I would purchase a brand new wardrobe, almost exclusively from LLR consultants. I wanted my working mom clothing to be a show of support to the women working hard, selling these clothes from their homes, hoping to gain some financial independence and do something that is just for themselves. It also helped that I really loved the clothes.

My motivation for doing this was a personal one. I was raised by a young stay at home mom who was brilliant, creative, and charming. It's hard enough being a stay at home mom today, but imagine doing it in the 80s with no social media, no texts from friends and a lot of isolation from people your own age. My dad worked out of town so my mom was with her gaggle of young kids solo for most of the day, into the evenings.  When I was in elementary school she started selling Princess House crystal, doing in-home parties to the absolute delight of her customers. She was successful and had so much fun with it and if the demands of home weren't too great she'd probably have been their top saleswoman. I know those parties were a way for her to be independent, be social, and be herself, not her "mom" self, her own self. When I wear my "Nicoles", "Carlys", or "Irmas" to work and people tell me that I look great, I send a tip of my hat to the woman who bought, displayed, packaged, and mailed me that particular item of clothing. I think of my mom and it always makes me smile.

Fancy Princess House crystal mugs; an absolute staple of my childhood
I get excited to open up my closet every day and see the array of brightly colored clothing hanging there. I don't have anxiety about what to wear to work or about what will flatter me. The clothing I bought will work even as my baby weight comes off, it's designed to fit a variety of shapes and sizes and what is more form fitting today will be nice and loose over time.  It's comfortable, it's colorful, and it represents women like my mom. I imagine some lady in the mid-80s somewhere in metro Detroit being proud to host a dinner party because of the dishes my mom sold her. How excited she must have been to set out the fancy swizzle sticks that she got as a hostess incentive and serve dessert with coffee in real crystal mugs, not just the regular old Sunday morning mugs. To the many women I've purchased clothing from, thanks for being the reason I was excited the night before I went back to work after maternity leave. I stood in my closet staring at the options before me and eventually picked out a fancy "Sarah" cardigan, a "Perfect T" to wear underneath and some jeans. I got compliments all day, the clothing was bright and fun but the woman underneath them felt confident and that was the key.

If butter pants ain't your thing, I get it, (more for the rest of us... but I get it). I do hope if you're reading this, that you find some way to support women-owned or operated businesses, whether they're DMsor LLCs, franchises or small start-ups. Women, statistically still get paid less than men and only 5% of the S&P 500 companies have women as their CEOs, so we're not only underpaid, we're underrepresented in business. Women are still fighting to be heard, to be seen, and to be taken seriously. So here is my simple request, and it's not to beg you to try LuLaRoe. It's to pause the next time you're blasted on Facebook with party invites for makeup, clothing, books, nail stickers, lip gloss, or bags. Just pause and consider the woman behind the invite. She could be a single and savvy hobbyist who's hustling to make some extra cash, but in my circle, more often than not, she's a mom who is involved in a business that speaks to the interests and passions she has outside of motherhood. She's probably tweaking her Facebook page after the kids go to bed. She's selecting her favorite font for her business cards, and the clip art that totally speaks to the brand she's creating for herself. She's responding to emails and writing thank you notes while her kids watch Daniel Tiger and she's probably wondering if she's struck the right balance. I hope she's having fun with it and flexing talents that she might not be flexing in other aspects of her life. She's a lot like me, even though she works in her home and I work outside of mine. She's hardworking, talented and probably really tired of having to defend her business to people who are concerned she's entrenched in a scheme. So feel free to turn off the notifications for that party or group, but I'd encourage you to send her a quick note and just say "Hey, I don't know how you do it all, but I love that you're having fun with this and I support you 100%". Because regardless of whether her business is a wild success or not, she needs your support. 

Thanks to the ladies around the country who have given me a pep in my step and some cool new clothes. 

I support you 100%.

I have a list of consultants who I love to work with, who are responsive, hardworking, and absolutely incredible women, let me know if you need a recommendation :)