Owners of a gender-inclusive undergarment shop on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive are thrilled to pass the one-year mark as one of B.C.’s only specialty underwear retailers for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
The owners of Your Open Closet, Lesley McHale and Ann Boone, say shopping for underwear can be emotional and alienating for individuals living with gender dysphoria. They feel their first year of success demonstrates the need for inclusive retail spaces for gender-nonconforming people.
The store sources items mostly from local designers and has a diverse inventory including chest binders and other lingerie pieces that will fit a wide range of body types and gender identities.
Unlike conventional underwear retailers, Your Open Closet does not have mannequins on display nor images of models of any gender in the store.
“We take labels off of clothes that have bodies on them, so we are not surrounding people with messages of how they need to look,” McHale said.
Your Open Closet’s deliberate efforts to create an inclusive shopping space are appreciated by many people in the LGBTQ2S+ community.
[email protected] Campodonico, who identifies as gender non-binary and goes by both Carlo and Carla, said the clothing industry is still invested in “categorizing people into boxes of gender.”
The lack of gender-inclusive underwear at retailers means many people outside major cities like Vancouver have to depend on online shopping resources instead.
“I need to know who can dress me and where I can get things,” Campodonico added. “And it’s hard to be yourself when it’s not mainstream.”
A retail space where customers have a say
Since opening, Your Open Closet has depended heavily on customer feedback to determine what pieces are sold in the store.
“We don’t like to tell people what they should want,” McHale said. “We need them to tell us.”
Customers are also often invited behind the scenes to participate in fittings and provide input before items make it to the store racks.
“They come in and stand while we poke and pull to make sure we’ve gotten things right,” McHale said.
Boone has experienced many touching moments and positive interactions in the past year, saying that some customers have felt so elated that they’ve worn items straight from the change room out of the store.
“We get many tears here,” Boone says. “Happy tears.”
As they embark on their second year, McHale and Boone hope to adopt a more visible marketing approach and continue showing gender non-conforming folks that they are anything but broken.