Real, Sexy: Julianna Rae

Date: Feb 13, 2005

Publication: Boston Herald

Real, sexy: Julianna Rae's lingerie line targets women with curves

By Jill Radsken/ Sense of Style

In the world of intimates, there are two kinds of girls: Victoria and Grace.

Where you shop - Victoria's Secret or Lady Grace - pretty much determines your lingerie fate. Skinny Victoria gets the sexy stuff while Grace is destined to a life of practical undergarments.

But now there's a new girl - well, label - on the scene. Julianna Rae, an e-commerce company based in Burlington (, offers upscale styles for those who don't have the supermodel waistline.

``She's not a supermodel. She's not Twiggy. She likes the fashion magazines, but her own identity is not (defined by) looking like Michelle Pfeiffer,'' said company founder Juli Lee.

A concept several years in the making, Julianna Rae launched last fall. Though its sizing starts at 4, the bulk of the business comes from women who wear sizes 8 to 16, Lee said.

The Julianna Rae customer probably shops for her clothes at J. Jill, Talbots or Chico's, so the lingerie is priced for the upscale baby boomer. Bras are $72, chemises about $138 and pajamas can cost $115.

For all the fancy clothes she's designing, Lee is all business. It's no surprise, given that her background is computer science and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lee's first fashion job was for a local company that did private label for Victoria's Secret. Though she was hired for her business acumen, Lee ended up designing the company's high-end image items. Think purple teddy with spangles and see-through chiffon pajamas.

Of her first creations, including that purple teddy, Lee said: ``I think 50 percent of it ended up on the discount rack.''

The 36-year-old Lexington native vacillated between fashion and computer jobs for several years, spending time at Microsoft in 1997, then joining a Dedham private label that made clothes for Territory Ahead and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Repeated complaints from friends about too few lingerie options prompted Lee to start her brand. ``We wanted to design things that people liked, but that people need,'' she said. Though the company won't say how strong sales have been, Bill Keefe, company president, boasted that the return rate is just 5 percent. ``That's low,'' he said.

Future plans for Julianna Rae include a catalog and, at some point, a few stores. By then, maybe Julianna will put Grace out of business.