RM AT NOMAD

(Photo: Courtesy of Rachael McCrary)

For me, the word “shapewear” invokes some pretty uncomfortable memories of trying to squeeze my body into constrictive pieces of Spanx, a punishment for not being thin. So when I heard about Jewel Toned, a body-positive line of shapewear that was meant to be seen, I was immediately intrigued.

Rachael McCrary is the founder and designer of Jewel Toned. She was raised in Wilmington, NC by her scientist grandmother, a woman who knew firsthand the importance of being independent. “She taught me to always keep my own bank account, to value education, and to never, ever understand the word ‘no,'” said Rachael.

Her grandmother’s lessons stuck, and they helped lead Rachael to launch her own line of rule-breaking shapewear. Here’s what Rachael had to say about the shapewear industry, what sets her company apart, and where she’s headed next.

(Related: Introducing SmartGlamour, The Body Positive Brand That’s Actually For All Women)

The Gloss: How did you get your start in shapewear design?

I made mini dresses in high school and had always been obsessed with tiny garments. I love the details and trims of intimates, as well as how they make women feel. Eventually I decided to go major in fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco. I also took specific classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology for bra and booster design. My first job in New York City was as a temp at Victoria’s Secret. Over the years I was a designer for various intimates retailers, designing  bras and panties that were sold in every mall in America. Most recently, prior to launching Jewel Toned, I was the vice president of design at Maidenform.

RM WITH JEWEL TONED MODELS

Rachael wears a black Major Mini dress while posing with Jewel Toned models. (Photo courtesy Rachael McCrary/Jewel Toned)

What makes Jewel Toned pieces different from traditional shapewear products?

When speaking to women of all ages, I found that shapewear was the only intimates category bumming them out across the board. I wondered why that was, and after surveying the intimates market, I noted that shapewear hadn’t changed much over the last decade. I decided to make a more body-positive, fun, and sexy option. Jewel Toned pieces are the first meant-to-be-seen shapers. We’re the first shapewear company that doesn’t come in “nude,” because we know it doesn’t match everyone. Our products are a bit different and are made to work as more of a fashion accessory than exclusively as undergarments.

I love that your pieces can easily be worn as outerwear. What are some of your styling tips for taking pieces like the Major Mini from shapewear to streetwear?

The Major Mini dress is our bestselling product and is often layered with casual pieces, like a twill blazer, flannel, or a lace tunic. It has a built-in bra for comfort and a clean silhouette. A lot of our customers throw a T-shirt over the dress and pair it with Converse or Doc Martens. Lately I’ve been rocking our bodysuit with high-waisted pants, flatforms, bohemian jewelry, and my hair up. It feels like pajamas, but I get a lot of compliments.

What beauty and skin care products do you have in heavy rotation during the fall?

I have fair, porcelain skin but secretly love the sun, so I’m fanatical about products and care. I love Juice Beauty’s Green Apple acid peel, Pratima’s Kumari liquid cleanser, and La Mer’s hydration mist. Oh, and Fresh’s Black Tea Age-Delay eye concentrate cream is to die.

JEWEL TONED BODYSUIT

A model wears a Jewel Toned bodysuit under a sheer pink skirt. (Photo courtesy Rachael McCrary/Jewel Toned)

What’s next on your professional bucket list, and what’s next for Jewel Toned?

We’ve had some plus-size retailers ask us to partner, and it’s an option we’re exploring. Our current pieces fit sizes 2-16. And as for me, after raising venture capital for Jewel Toned myself, I learned that I truly love the process. I mentor students who major in entrepreneurship and I have a soft spot for those who dream big, so I’d love to be an early-stage investor in the future. I want to support not only the curves, but also the dreams of other women.

To learn more about Rachael and Jewel Toned, check out her website and follow her on Instagram!

Do you know someone who should be featured in an upcoming 5 Questions For column? Tweet me or send me an email: kristynfilip@gmail.com!