detective Carma Clark, left, helps with the design
of the pants on the form. Naomi Gonzalez, center,
and Fran Dunaway, right, co-founded the clothing
company called TomboyX that specializes in making
boxer briefs for women.
— It was spring of 2014, and Carma Clark was at a
crossroads. But it wasn’t the type of turning point
you might suspect from a 46-year-old detective in the
Seattle Police Department.
was having a boxer-brief crisis. Her favorite line of
underwear from Calvin Klein had been discontinued, and
her investigation of other limited offerings wasn’t
panning out. She found few pairs made for women, and the
ones made for men didn’t fit right.
in the androgynous zone, and most women’s underwear
are not comfortable and are not me," she said.
for Clark, she met a pair of women at a WNBA Seattle
Storm basketball game later that month who felt the same
early 2011, Fran Dunaway and her spouse, Naomi Gonzalez,
founded TomboyX, a women’s clothing company in Seattle’s
Interbay neighborhood, after Dunaway dealt with similar
frustration. She wanted a shirt that fit well and was
made with high-quality fabric, but she couldn’t find
it in women’s departments, and men’s shirts didn’t
said, ‘Well, how hard is it to start a clothing line?’
and then off we went," Dunaway recalled. "Oh,
my god, it’s incredibly difficult."
part that wasn’t difficult was finding an audience.
TomboyX put a couple of products up on a Kickstarter
campaign and raised more than $76,000. They found people
really responded to the "tomboy" label for
recognized it had meaning to people," Dunaway said.
"People see the word ‘tomboy’ and think, ‘That’s
company grew so quickly that Dunaway and Gonzalez
entered a startup accelerator, Boulder’s MergeLane,
and raised more than $330,000, according to a Securities
and Exchange Commission filing. The pair are just about
to wrap up a road trip across the U.S. called the
"Not Your Granny’s Panties" tour, showcasing
the briefs in a custom-wrapped RV.
its start, TomboyX experimented with shirts, hats, tank
tops, you name it. But now the company has found its
core product — boxer briefs for women.
joined Gonzalez, a sports-massage therapist, and
Dunaway, who produces political ads, in a warehouse with
a pile of boxer briefs to experiment on the best way to
make a pair for women. Clark’s wish list included a
soft waistband and buttons.
created samples and brought in women of all different
body types to try on the pairs again and again.
months of trial and error, the Good Carma line, which
sells for about $27 per pair, was born. It was quickly
joined by the Feeling Frisky and the Bobbie — all
paying homage to women in uniform.
first run of boxer briefs in fall 2014 sold out in two
company sees constant interest from police officers,
firefighters and nurses, as well as many other women who
wear a set uniform for work. The line is also drawing in
athletes, as well as women who want the comfort for
Custis, a middle linebacker for the Seattle Majestics, a
women’s football team, first heard about the clothing
line when she saw an ad on her Facebook page. She
prefers the style of underwear, and cuts made for men
just weren’t working.
you like that kind of underwear style and you’re
female, they are all designed for men," she said.
"This gets away from that."
not the only one who thinks so. Dunaway and Gonzalez,
along with their four full-time employees, sift through
dozens of pictures every week from women all over the
world who want to model the underwear.
clothing lines for tomboys are slowly popping up as
well. HauteButch has a wide array of shirts, Scouts
Honor clothes the San Francisco tomboy, and CharlieBoy
carries everything from T-shirts to accessories. But
TomboyX is one of very few that specializes in
still creates and brands other products, but the boxer
briefs are the defining product. The undies bring in 75
Percent of TomboyX’s total revenue, Dunaway said, and
more than 8,000 pairs have been sold. She declined to
disclose revenue numbers but said they have quintupled
year over year for two years.
company sells mostly online, and its wares are sold in
one boutique in Provincetown, Mass. TomboyX has no plans
to change the retail model for now — they can barely
keep the website and boutique in stock as it is.
briefs for women may differ a bit from the Nordstrom
suits and REI jackets that highlight Seattle fashion
trends, but Sydney Mintle, founder of publicist firm
Gossip & Glamour, said they’re just what the
market needs. It’s all about giving people options,
she said. Skimpy or feminine lingerie just doesn’t
resonate with everyone.
want to be empowered, and for a lot of women that starts
with how they present themselves and what they
wear," Mintle said. "I think that giving women
underwear that resonates with them really helps."
no time to slow down. The company is working on a line
of flannel pajamas and is considering making soft bras.
The biggest requirement of all the lines is they must be
inclusive of all women; TomboyX makes every underwear in
a size XS through a 4X.
Clark, the police detective or "underwear
connoisseur" as Dunaway calls her, has introduced
the line to a few co-workers and has taken to wearing
the boxer briefs around the house, to work and in
crisis has been solved," she said.