Last week, if you were on the east coast, where temperatures hovered around the 100 degree mark, chances are you were pretty sweaty. And if you're a woman who has to wear "corporate attire" everyday (it turns out that, unlike at Fashionista, some workplaces don't view cutoffs and tank tops as appropriate office attire), all that sweat probably made getting ready in the morning a whole lot harder: There's sweat stains, body odor and then the ensuing cost of dry cleaning to consider.
That was the predicament Michelle Shemilt, a former equity sales trader, kept finding herself in during the warm weather months when she'd report for duty on the trading floor at Royal Bank of Canada. And it's precisely the problem she's addressing head-on with her new venture Nudy Patooty, a line of undershirts that eliminates sweat stains and body odor.
"I got the inspiration to start Nudy Patooty from working in finance for four and a half years, and wearing corporate attire every day," Shemilt said. "I realized pretty quickly that A) perspiration stains were a problem and B) my dry cleaning bill was insane."
"I looked around for a good undershirt for women--most guys wear one under their suits--but there was just nothing on the market."
Eventually that need would grow into a business idea--but not before Shemilt did a brief stint as a model. At 28, Shemilt quit her lucrative job at RBC and went back to modeling, a profession she'd dabbled in earlier in her life. "I was just uninspired at work, and I wanted to get out," Shemilt said of her decision to leave RBC. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and modeling was something I had done before, so I just kind of fell into that. I just moved to New York and then to London."
Modeling was never a longterm solution for Shemilt and sure enough, after just a year in the industry, Shemilt was itching for a way to satisfy her business-minded brain. She started to dip her toes back into the world of finance, interviewing with a handful of hedge funds--and that's when the idea for Nudy Patooty really cemented itself.
"It was an 'Aha' moment when I realized: I love fashion, I love clothes, I spend a lot of my earnings investing in my closet--and one day I realized that I wasn't wearing my favorite clothes, because I was worried about getting sweat stains and having to dry clean them immediately," Shemilt said. "I was saving them for a 'good' day. It was silly."
Silk, for instance, is pretty--but can't withstand constant moisture and is a bitch to dry clean. Synthetic materials, like polyester and viscose, don't breathe and can cause body-odor. Cotton is great--except that it shows (and holds) sweat stains easily. And then you have those gross yellow stains from deodorant to deal with too. "We wear underwear under our pants for a reason, and underarms are another area where you're prone to get stains," Shemilt said.
Shemilt broached the subject with some of her female friends working in the industry and found they'd had similar issues. "Whether it was sweat stains or body odor or having to go to the dry-cleaners every single day...the more I started the conversation the more I found that this is a problem that a lot of women are silently suffering from."
Nudy Patooty undershirts are made from 95% bamboo fabric--a material which is anti-bacterial and three to four times more absorbent than cotton, a sort of one-two-punch against body odor (which is caused by bacteria) and visible sweat. The other 5% of product is made of spandex to ensure proper fit and stretch.
The underarms on Nudy Patooty undershirts, which come in nude and black and various sleeve lengths, are further reinforced for extra absorption. I was worried wearing an extra layer underneath a blouse would just make things even worse in the heat, but Shemilt assured me that's not the case. "The nature of the fabric is that it regulates body temperature and is 100% breathable."
One of Shemilt's goals is to break the taboo about women and sweat. "There's that saying that, 'women don't sweat, they glow,' but that's not the reality. And actually there are a lot of women who feel really bad about their sweat. It's something I definitely struggled with as well."
Shemilt, who is a fan of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, also hopes that Nudy Patooty will play a small part in helping women to feel more confident in the work place--especially in a male-dominated one like finance."
"Women right now are being told to lean in, put your hand up--you need to feel good about yourself to do that," Shemilt said. "If you're worried about sweat stains or body odor you're not going to put your best foot forward."
Head over to Indiegogo to score a Nudy Patooty for undershirt for $35, and help crowdfund the venture.