Staten Island mom creates lingerie line for transgender women after daughter comes out

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — In 2014, South Shore mom Karyn Bello and her family began navigating uncharted territory when her daughter, Lily, came out as transgender.

Seven years later, Bello, 51, created her own fashion line of lingerie designed for transgender women and hopes to be an example for parents of transgender people.

Her clothing line, named Zhe in reference to the gender-neutral pronoun, includes technology meant to fit transgender women’s bodies and help them feel comfortable in their own skin.

“They’re meant to help trans women navigate through the world and through their clothes comfortably without having to worry,” Bello told the Advance/ “They’re much more accessible and safe for them to be wearing.”

Bello’s underwear line is designed to help transgender women stray away from harmful do-it-yourself methods of tucking.

Tucking is a way to disguise the genitalia and create a more feminine appearance underneath clothing or in underwear. At times, it is achieved using duct tape or other adhesives, which can be harmful to the body.

“[These methods] are bad for your urethra; you get UTIs easily,” Bello explained. They’re just bad for your health. I was coming at it from a mom’s perspective. I want you to be healthy and take care of yourself, too.”

The Zhe underwear is made with technology to help achieve a similar outcome in a much safer way. Key features of the underwear include a wider gusset, multi-layered front panel, and spandex support.


Bello’s underwear features a wider gusset, multi-layered front panel, and spandex support. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)


Creating her own lingerie line was always a dream of Bello’s, but she never imagined it would come to fruition in the way that it did.

Bello was a stay-at-home mom for 25 years as her children grew up and attended school. Once her youngest reached middle school, she started to pursue her passion and took adult education classes for fashion design at Parson’s School of Design at The New School.

Lily, now 27, came out while Bello was taking classes.

“When I was shopping with Lily, I realized that there was a definite need in the market for women like her,” Bello explained.

She first started designing the prototypes two years after her daughter came out, she explained to the Advance/

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