Source: Lonely Label Lookbooks
We all know the fashion industry is big business. A huge yet skinny white arm of that is lingerie. It is worth over $110 billion dollars globally; people love frilly knickers. While we can’t get enough of matching sets, the industry as a whole has been pretty selective in what it wants. The both tall and sculpted-skinny babe with flowing locks enticing you into her bedroom has dominated campaigns.
The female form is beautiful. I’m a straight girl and I can understand the sex appeal of boobs and bums. So, surely embracing all kinds of bodies is even sexier? The modelling industry is founded upon beauty; I’m sorry but that’s just the reality of lifestyle advertising and branding. However, what is seriously an issue when it comes to lingerie is what that ‘beauty’ has been defined by: Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Don’t get me wrong; Rosie’s lingerie brand for M&S is one of the best on the market for the price range (I’m wearing a set right now) but what do these three women have in common? They are all tall, skinny, blonde models with legs for days and the shiniest hair known to Instagram.
I don’t want to undermine these women. They are powerhouses of the lingerie industry and I salute them for their business-savvy in creating lingerie empires. Nevertheless they shouldn’t be our sole definition of what is beautiful in a thong. While they are undoubtedly stunning, so are many other women.
New Zealand brand Lonely Label is fighting these stereotyped images within the world of lingerie. Their advertising campaigns feature armpit hair, a range of shapes and sizes and gasp black women. Fashion as a whole has been notoriously awful at representing people of colour but lingerie is by far one of the worst offenders of the fashion faux pas. The concept of ‘nude’ underwear in the West has always focussed on pinky-beige tones with the occasional murky pop at a darker tone. Nubian Skin is offering what they call a ‘different kind of nude’ to cater to the often-ignored women of colour: they make a variety of shades for lingerie and hosiery and are available from House of Fraser.
Source: Nubian Skin
Many lingerie brands are also now offering an entirely sexual experience for their audience. The sultry and luxurious Coco de Mer has everything from the French knicker to straps on and leather ball gags. They do a gag in a lovely ‘wine red’. Some of their dildos are actually artwork including the delightful Fornicouture Fuji Glass dildo and whip at a slight £900. There is also a dildo in a floral ceramic but that just conjures up too many memories of my Gran’s tea set. Coco de Mer UK’s Instagram currently has over 34,000 followers, people are embracing the fapp-worthy revolution of women’s lingerie.
Source: Coco de Mer
The industry has also come on in leaps and bounds in how it includes size. While I’m against the condescending phrase ‘body type’ – hello, you can’t just Dewey System our figures – long gone are the days where we were all measured as a 34B, no matter what. No longer are we all forcing our poor boobies into the wrong cups and backs. Better training and an encouragement to get your boobs regularly checked for size has meant that the industry has had to cater to our new demands.
Recently, co-founder of luxury British lingerie company Agent Provocateur and son to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Joe Corré said that he would burn £5 million worth of his memorabilia in the protest of the mainstream’s adoption of punk culture. Agent Provocateur was founded on this punk attitude in 1994 in the hope of bringing sexual and fun lingerie to the masses. Although I’m not entirely sure what’s ‘punk rock’ about charging £195 for a thong, the sentiment was nice. Brands like these are bringing erotic lingerie to the masses with no shame attached. Want to wear nothing but your nipple pasties? Go for it gal, you’re liberated, no matter your booby or body size.
Let’s not demonise the gazelles of Victoria Secret and their media extravaganza every year. They are beautiful women and they make great lingerie models. They are athletic, lean and voluptuous all at the same time. However, the homogenisation of this industry has been damaging and is slowly being addressed.
It’s 2016 and we are (I hope) at a watershed in sexy lingerie in both the campaigning and what is on offer to us, the lowly non-Angels. Just because you’re not a size 6, white, blonde female, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the wonders of modern lingerie. Get your suspenders on or your M&S cotton briefs, the lingerie industry has grown up and so have you.
By Anne Devlin