Lingerie for Every Body

by | Jan 21, 2022 | Personal Style

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A crimson silk thong and matching lace bra wrapped in a Luca Falcone couture power suit. Your confidence? Through the roof.  

Today’s femme has only but to unlock her phone to discover an endless supply of delicate (or not so delicate) pieces that style, elevate, and define. A woman’s right to choose when and how (or if) she wears her underwear has had no previous historical rival.

And that means?

Your underlayer deserves just as much thought as the wardrobe the world sees. 

Contrary to the media’s sex-obsessed role of lingerie, what you wear underneath is for yourself. It’s a transformative foundation that can allow access to your greatness through Alter Ego practice, giving you a physical reminder of your own power. 

Great undergarments make running easier- whether that’s running a marathon, running a boardroom, or running the bedroom. 

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to find the perfect lingerie for your body. Because lingerie’s power is for every type of body. As a boudoir photographer for women, men, and gender fluid people of all body types– I’ll share my insight into how best to find lingerie that reinforces your strength, embraces your favorite body features, and has you walking with confidence. 

There’s never been more diversity in the lingerie industry. While that’s great for a modern changemaker like you, how did we get here?

Function Over Form: The History of Underwear Before the 20th c.

Woman in undergarmentsLingerie had a humble start. 

The first ‘lingerie’ of history was just a strip of fabric worn by Roman women to support their breasts. Like every historical trend, lingerie has gone through countless iterations to arrive where we are in 2022.

As centuries pass, lingerie has become more… and then less… complex. More pronounced, less flashy, been worn inside clothing, then on the outside as a stand alone fashion piece, been adapted for the popular fashions of the intervening centuries- and so much more. 

Elaborate dresses made from yards of fabric are long gone, but in the past a woman’s underpinnings were determined more by form and function of her wardrobe than by anything to do with feeling good.

Until recent history, panties weren’t even part of a woman’s trousseau. A lady taking her turn about the garden (or working her ass off in that same garden, depending on class status) would be doing so with nothing under her gown but petticoats. 

Why were women throughout history going commando? 

Practicality. Women’s dresses weren’t ‘wash and wear’ before the invention of machines and synthetic blend fabrics. Ladies needed to relieve themselves without soiling their dresses. Underwear, as it exists today, would have made this near impossible.

That all changed in the 19th century. A new stiff cage underskirt made of bone or cane, the crinoline, made its debut. The result? Skirts were held out further away from a woman’s body.

The days of wearing just a linen shift and petticoats under the folds of a dress had come to an halt. Wardrobe functionality demanded a new way to move with modesty. Borrowing a page from the men, ladies began wearing “drawers” under their elaborate skirts. Just a simple cotton or linen set of legs drawn together at the waist with a tie that were actually… crotchless.

Flappers and a World War…Created Underwear???

Lingerie: Woman in bra

You might be wondering how we got from simple cotton underpants to the skimpy thong displayed in the window of the local boutique. We owe it all to the flappers… and the start of women’s emancipation during WWII. 

Caresse Crosby was the accidental inventor of the bra. Tired of the restrictions of her corset, at the age of 19 she created a successful prototype of the modern bra fashioned from two handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. 

Other women were impressed with Caresse’s ability to move comfortably and asked about her new, corsetless figure. On November 3, 1914 she submitted a patent request for a backless bra.

With fashions and politics changing fast, corsets were on their way out. The roaring 20’s ushered in a counterculture movement the world of fashion had never before seen. Gone were the starched petticoats, elaborate bustles, and yards of fabric. 

Cocktail dresses of the early 20th century were hardly more than the slips worn but a couple decades prior. New silhouettes required a shift in undergarment fashion: knickers changed from pants to sleek bloomers before pairing down further into the close cut panties of today. 

During the wartime efforts of WWII, functional clothing and their corresponding underthings became vital for every woman working outside the home in labor intensive jobs. Once again, function drove the evolution of women’s underwear. 

How Lingerie Became Self-Care

Woman posing

Women’s clothing began to shift from ornamental to functional in the early 1900’s. Coco Chanel’s jersey knit and the creation of other stretch synthetics meant clothing was no longer binding and uncomfortable. Women no longer needed specific pieces underneath to support and shape. 

Fueling this transformation even further?

Second wave feminism. 

Women burned their bras in protest of male dominance and lingerie kept pace with the social shakeup. Manufacturers responded by shifting to softer, more comfortable fabrics, enticing customers to continue buying their wares in the age of bra-lessness. 

The 21st century has seen even more divestment from bodies as commodities. No longer content to be used as a sales tool, women are reclaiming their skin as a sacred vessel, meant to be nurtured and honored. Negative self-talk is as outdated as the crinoline. In the wake of embracing all body types, our social conversation has turned to the body as an expression of  self rather than an object meant to be slammed into a box of fast-fashion.

That sounds easy, but the execution can be more complex. Flushing away our internalized insecurities is challenging. Most of us still have a foot in the world of 90s Cosmo mags, dreaming about photoshopped and filtered perfection while setting our own power aside. 

A body that hikes up a mountain to breathtaking views or paddles into the ocean to enjoy a sunset is much more than a commercial commodity of parts. While still sex sells everything from perfume to bourbon, our world is fast embracing the charisma, confidence, and empathy over a woman’s body measurements. 

Physical form is so much more than just a route to next quarter’s sales sheets. Your body is the home for your heart. This is the container for your wild and beautiful soul. 

This is why the right lingerie can be such a powerful tool. It can help to focus on creating positive thinking habits, not just for your body but for your personhood- stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. 

As a professional who has helped dozens of people celebrate themselves through nude and nearly-nude photography, I can tell you that finding a piece of lingerie you love and love to live in is one of the few life-changing purchases you can make. 

How To Choose The Perfect Lingerie For Your Body

Girls getting readyThe multi-billion dollar lingerie industry comes at you fast. What was once considered “unmentionable” now saturates our feed.

In previous decades, ads for underwear featured digitally manipulated, impossible-to-achieve bodies. 

The good news? After years of backlash to these unrealistic beauty standards, advertising images in the lingerie market are changing. 

Major contenders like ThirdLove and Playful Promises are not only championing body inclusivity front and center in their marketing campaigns but have actually created lingerie built to meet the needs of the entire range of female shapes and sizes.

It’s not just the reality of stretch marks and skin folds taking the main stage. Differently abled bodies are also featured in major brands like Aerie, while startups like Slick Chicks and Anaono have created functional underthings meant to empower women with a range of needs. 

Perhaps even more exciting is the evolution of lingerie to include the entirety of the gender identity range. Companies like TomboyX are creating sustainably produced, gender neutral undies meant to outfit everyone on any point on the gender spectrum. 

In short: it’s much easier in 2022 to find pieces that will work for you. No matter who you are.

Want to know how to find the best pick for your body type? I’ve written this brief guide to help women of most body types find a great fit. Because choosing lingerie is a decision you’re making for you, I’ve broken down this guide into tips based on whatever part of your body YOU love the most about yourself: Top and breasts, mid section/waist, and hips and below. 

Love your entire body? I love to hear that! Read on. You’ll find plenty of great styling advice, ethical purchasing options, and more within these sections. 

For the Décolletage

Woman in red lingerie

In the 1700’s it was the height of fashion for a woman to wear gowns so low cut, it wasn’t unusual to see a partial nipple reveal. While the nipple remains a 21st century controversy, breasts are a powerful symbol of confidence for many women. 

As for me? My bust bloomed early. I’ll admit- I wasn’t a fan of the resulting inconvenience or the attention it brought. At least, not at first. It wasn’t until I found a great bra that actually fit did I begin to feel pride and confidence in my own shape. 

When it comes to supporting your chest, proper sizing is key. Whether you’re endowed or barely filling a cup, picking a bra with a good fit unlocks both comfort and confidence.

Have you always hated your bra? You aren’t alone. Most women are wearing an incorrect size. 

And with a pandemic still raging and even high-end boutiques postponing measurement services,  it’s more difficult than ever to find the right fit. 

Fortunately, I have the perfect tool to recommend:

A Bra That Fits to the rescue.

Meet online bra sizing- taken to the next level. 

Using this tool, you’ll discover the secret to your perfect fit is volume, not projection, and this online tool goes beyond the traditional methods of measuring to account for exactly how much fills your cup. 

Now that you know your size, let’s talk style.

If cleavage is your thing- and you don’t have to be a bigger cup size for it to be your thing- there’s no end to the choices. What styles pair best with your breasts?

Beyond the Push Up

Cosabella Bra

In an era of bra-burnings, the wonder of The Wonderbra dazzled the market in the 1960’s. This underwired and padded brassiere was designed to replace the girdle and was marketed as the ultimate confidence booster. 

But the pushup bra, however sexy, isn’t exactly synonymous with comfort. 

If you have a smaller volume up top and you’d rather have lift without the “push”, look for styles like a balconette, demi, or bandeau. These cuts will comfortably flatter your chest while giving day long, comfortable support. 

A demi-shape in a sheer fabric like this one from Cosabella is perfect for everyday use. The flat seams will disappear under your favorite tee while the light underwire will gives lift.

Balconette bra

A balconette from I.D. Sarrieri offers a similar shape for smaller to medium breast sizes in a classic black lace. The stretch will keep you comfortably supported during the day, but the black lace inspires classic elegance well into the evening. 

Other great choices for smaller cup sizes? This bandeau will be your bestie or try a cupless bodysuit to feel sexy as hell- and ditch the bra altogether.

Buxom Babes

Padded pushup bra

Mother Nature grant you lush and beautiful breasts? Sometimes they can feel more of a curse than a blessing (I know!). The truth is: heavy breasts need a different level of support. 

Keywords to look for while shopping: plunge, longline, full coverage, and yes, even push up (but skip the padding to keep your natural shape).

Demand for loungewear bralettes have skyrocketed in a post-pandemic WFH world. But for women with larger breasts? It isn’t easy to find a comfy non-wired bra that could actually, you know, LIFT. 

V-neck and razorback bra

Let me introduce you to powermesh, possibly the greatest invention in soft bras for bigger breasts. Support, comfort, lift. I own this one from True & Co and it’s a fave when I need less underwire in my life. A lacy racerback number with built in curvy girl support from Cosabella is also on its way to my closet right now. 

Something else to check out in the new year? Flexible fit sizing

Butt-Loving Lingerie for Peach-Loving Ladies

Fleur De Mil Thong

In the early 1800’s, a revolutionary gown was making waves in Parisian fashion houses. If you’ve ever watched a Jane Austen period piece- you know exactly the kind of gown I mean. 

What made this style so tantalizing? The shape of a woman’s actual bottom was no longer hidden under enormous “bum rolls”. A new and natural erogenous zone had been born. 

If you love your backside the best, read on to discover the best bottoms to add to your top drawer. 

A thong -like this one from Fluer du Mal in aquamarine with a racy lace up detail- is the boldest stroke for highlighting a beautiful butt. What’s more, correctly sized, and you won’t constantly want to adjust. You can even grab them in a high waisted version, like this one from Thistle and Spire, if your midriff needs a little more support.  

Thistle and Spire Lingerie

Loungewear is also an excellent choice. A pair of silk shorties or this Bronze silk satin with lace floral trim are an elegant choice for an evening in. 

Lingerie shorts

When it’s time to invest in your wild side, this strappy, sexy number is not going to let you down. Or go a little naughty and play up your feminine mystique at the same time with frilly black sheer panties from Fluer du Mal

Bordelle Webbed Suspenders

The ultimate cut in panties to really highlight your butt? Brazilian! Especially when they feature a high leg and Italian Jacquard lace edge like these from La Perla

Lingerie: Thong options

ABsolutely Fabulous

Human infatuation with a toned midsection can be traced back to at least the ancient Greeks. And here in January? My social media feed tells me everyone who hasn’t dropped their resolutions yet is still obsessed with the illusive six-pack.  

But let’s get one thing straight: athletic abs or a Peter Paul Ruebens model, shape does not determine whether or not you are ‘allowed’ to love your midsection. As corsets and strapping make their comebacks throughout the fashion community, we’re finally embracing that sexy has more to do with confidence. 

When Dolce and Gabbana piloted underwear-as-outerwear in the late 80’s, they updated your great grandmother’s corset to modern haute couture. From fully boned with laces to underbust with garters cinching up is easy with this fantastic tutorial from The Lingerie Addict. 

Corset picks

A traditional lace-up corset is an ideal choice when you book a boudoir photo shoot, but it may be too complicated for your everyday. A bustier offers a similar look with less restriction. Layer it under a blazer to bring edge to the every day. 

Our favorite full body harnesses range from flirty and lacy to downright vixen.

Flirty and lacy harness

Perhaps nothing else calls attention to your middle quite like the classic girdle+stockings. Bonus? The visual effect will lengthen you, too. This pair from Anya Lust is one piece and requires no complicated attachments- and a set I often recommend to boudoir clients looking for a piece that’s exceptional and functional. 

Girlde and stocking

My favorite piece of lingerie, hands down, is a black bodysuit. Simple but far from plain with alluring cut outs, perfectly placed lace, and amazing support. This one from Thistle and Spire couldn’t be any more perfect. 

One more recommendation from my boudoir shoots: If you want to wear revealing pieces…but you’d like to warm up to the finale- throw on a robe. I’m fond of Old Hollywood drama to make a statement. 

Kimono robe

More Than Mainstream

Lace bra + panty sets may be the standard of the lingerie industry, but they don’t set everyone’s world on fire. The explosion of niche market branding online has opened the door to lingerie for everyone’s tastes. 

The conversation around kinks exploded when 50 Shades landed in bookstores. Suddenly, brands offering lingerie for playtime were no longer hidden in the back of an adult store. From catsuits to erotic dresses and bondage items, if salicious is your lingerie vibe, there’s plenty to fit your needs. 

Body harnesses

For gender fluid options, companies like Origami Customs and TomboyX offer a wide range of lingerie for tastes that don’t fit the classic “fluffy red Valentine’s Day nightie”. Best of all? These Binders, boxer briefs in fab prints- and these transfemme cheeky undies – are all made sustainably.

Transfemme cheeky undies

If understated elegance or modesty is your idea of ultimate beauty, this classy (and gorgeous!) silk slip from Ginia or this sweet romper from Journelle are perfect for channeling your out-of-time goddess fantasy.

Sadie dress

How To Choose Valentine’s Lingerie For Yourself

Garter set

This Valentine’s, can we set aside the worn-out troupe of the sexy strip and talk about lingerie’s power to give you the confidence you deserve every day? Lingerie is about so much more than just looking alluring for a partner. 

The best pieces celebrate your body, fill your everyday with a sense of self-luxury, and elevate your best features- inside and out. Choosing pieces that you’re excited to wear is one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

Love the skin you’re in. Cliche? Perhaps. But the sentiment holds up. When you honor what you’re really about from the skin out, you cultivate the confidence to tackle life’s biggest challenges. 

Buying well-fitting lingerie that makes your heart happy isn’t actually the key to living life as a renaissance woman- but it’s a good place to start. 

Stay sexy,

Chantel Harvey

Creative Director