HOW FITTING 'It's about feeling safe in your body and knowing we're all different,' says designer Rachel Blodgett.
As Valentine's Day clichés go, sexy lingerie ranks right up there with chocolate and roses. But what does lingerie mean to you and your body? That's a question the romance-obsessed holiday avoids altogether. But not local lingerie designer Rachel Blodgett.
Born and raised in Santa Rosa, Blodgett, 27, says she's "an artist, providing imagery you can wear." She studied printmaking and textiles at the California College of Arts in Oakland, and moved to Providence, R.I., after graduation to focus on her drawing and artistic vision. After a turbulent breakup with someone she'd known for a decade, Blodgett, who dabbled in lingerie-making in college, started her own brand, Serpent and Bow.
"I took a year of celibacy," Blodgett recalls, "and made myself a different garment every month."
For Blodgett, lingerie has nothing to do with cheap romance and seduction. "We're trained culturally to think of our body in a way that relates to the male gaze and objectifying ourselves, rather than seeing ourselves as a living, spiritual creature," she says. "Lingerie is a secret clothing layer, like a ritual for yourself, and for me, it's about manifesting how you want to feel about your body as an individual versus how you want to be looked at. It's a rare type of lingerie."
Serpent and Bow couldn't be further away from the lacy, see-through bras and underpants of department stores. The cotton-spandex briefs are high-waisted and roomy, and the rather loose bralettes are tied on the neck like swimsuit tops.
"They're not meant to be shapewear," she says. "It's more about letting your body do what it naturally does while being held."
It's also largely about the imagery. All garments are hand-painted in batik wax then naturally dip-dyed in indigo or seasonal natural dyes like marigold flowers. Moon Cycle, a staple collection sold on Boldgett's website, features eclipses, women's figures and mythical images, but a large portion of Serpent and Bow business relies on customized art.
"One woman ordered images from her childhood to cover a bralette she wants to wear during childbirth," says Blodgett, emphasizing the deeply personal aspect of her work. "People are drawn to mythology, plants and other symbols—ancient arts, tarot cards—but also things that seem not that important but we use on a daily basis, like teacups."
In the same way her garments are well considered, Blodgett thinks deeply about relationships, dating and other urgent Valentine's Day matters. She recently started an adult sex-ed class in Santa Rosa, hosting guest speakers and taking on topics like consent, fertility awareness and transsexuality.
"It's about feeling safe in your body, and knowing we're all different and need to communicate," Blodgett says.