How big smalls got beautiful: For years sexy underwear has only flattered tiny sizes... but not any more
- For plus-size women, it is hard to find sexy lingerie that flatters the figure
- Now, that is all changing and plus-size women finally have some choice
- Ashley Graham has launched a range of seductive smalls in bigger sizes
For many women underwear is about so much more than just something to slip on beneath your clothes.
Most split their smalls into categories. First comes: ‘Everyday’ — the most substantial category. This is full of the simple, practical and comfortable undies worn at work and weekends.
Next is: ‘For my eyes only.’ Here you’ll find the cosy, tatty favourites that should have been binned years ago. The knickers will be big enough for two while the plain, no-nonsense bras are faded, fraying on the seams and with an eyehook or two missing.
Curvaceous: Plus-size model Ashley Graham shows off her new collection
Finally comes: ‘Lingerie’ featuring the lesser-worn delicates. This is kept in a special drawer all of its own. Here you’ll find expensive, frothy confections that were bought with many things in mind — comfort and practicality most definitely not being two of them.
For plus-size women, however, that third category was once no more than a wistful fantasy. Slippy silk scanties and lovely lacy things were not for us. Only thoroughly functional, super-upholstered reinforced bras and pants were considered fit for purpose.
As anyone in possession of more than a handful up top (with a juicy bottom to match) will tell you, voluptuous women have not been well catered for when it comes to seductive lingerie.
Now, thankfully, that is all changing and ladies who wear cup size E and beyond can finally have their pick of beautiful underwear alongside their slimmer counterparts — underwear that isn’t about boring things like ‘support’ and ‘wearability.’ Underwear that fits in the ‘Lingerie’ category. Underwear that deserves its own drawer.
Ladies who wear cup size E and beyond can finally have their pick of beautiful underwear alongside their slimmer counterparts
The stunning American plus-size model Ashley Graham has just launched her own range of seductive smalls in bigger sizes that gives the likes of Victoria’s Secret a run for its money. There’s French lace, boned corsets, balconettes and negligees galore — not a boulder-holder bra or apple-catcher knicker in sight.
And it’s not just Ashley blazing a gorgeous trail in plus-size lingerie. There’s the fantastic Curvy range for online retailers Asos. Their black lace collection oozes sex appeal but is still classy and elegant. The Tutti Rouge range at Simply Be goes up to an L cup and features beautifully stitched and detailed bras in soft cottons and lace that look as if they cost far more than their £30 price tag.
For those who like their undies with a vintage feel, Curvy Kate, stocked at John Lewis, is also a good shout — particularly their slightly naughty Scantilly range.
What it means is that plus-size women finally have some choice. For too long we’ve been the Cinderellas of the lingerie world. Stuck at home in our plain undies, lusting after the beautifully made and slightly risqué underwear worn by thinner women and wondering if we’ll ever be invited to the party.
Why it’s taken so long is a mystery. The UK lingerie market is worth £1.5 billion, the plus-size clothing market is worth £5.4 billion, the average dress size of a British woman is 16. Somebody has been missing a trick.
The collection includes French lace, boned corsets, balconettes and negligees galore — not a boulder-holder bra or apple-catcher knicker in sight
Rivkie Baum, editor-in-chief of Slink, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for women size 14 and above, agrees it’s been a long time coming. She says: ‘Attitudes in the fashion industry have totally changed towards plus-size women in the past few years and that is now trickling down into the lingerie market.
‘Finally we are seeing underwear designed for different body shapes and not just to a standard, block size. It has taken designers and retailers a long time to cotton on, but now the penny has finally dropped. The plus-size market is worth billions and it stands to reason that the same woman who wants stylish, fashionable clothes in her size also wants the same from her lingerie.’
Previously, when it came to lingerie in bigger sizes, the problem wasn’t always lack of availability. It was often lack of imagination.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a fabulous 34B bra on the hanger in a shop and asked for it in my size (36E — usually brought from the stock room, because retailers like to hide big sizes away) only to think: ‘Where’s the bra I asked for? Why’s she brought me a child’s hammock?’
On closer inspection I would see that it was the bra I asked for but, in my size, the saucy little number looked hideously frumpy and mumsy. The dainty straps had been replaced by two-inch wide ones, there were two extra eye hooks and enough fabric to turn it into a dress.
Finding beautiful ‘special occasion’ lingerie has always been a chore for plus-size women. It took the arrival of a new millennium for retailers to realise that women size 16 and over are as interested in fashion as women three dresses smaller
As somebody with a chunkier figure, finding beautiful ‘special occasion’ lingerie has always been a chore. It took the arrival of a new millennium for retailers to realise that women size 16 and over are as interested in fashion as women three dresses smaller.
They don’t want to hide their figures beneath voluminous tents or suffer the humiliation of going to a ‘special’ shop to buy clothes. At 50, I’m old enough to remember when Evans was called Evans Outsize. Who’d want to walk around with that emblazoned on a carrier bag for heaven’s sake?
But, over the past five years, eager to cash in on the plus-size pound, things have started to change. Now most High Street fashion retailers go up to at least a size 18 — and many beyond that. Hallelujah. But, strangely — until now — they forgot to upgrade the undies to match.
Yes, good old M&S goes up to an E cup in most ranges but we’re talking about bras designed with slim, small-chested women in mind. The Rosie collection at M&S is a stunning, hugely successful range and is available in up to a size 40F. Victoria’s Secret also go up to a 40E, but there’s no escaping the fact they’re designs made originally for smaller busts and with little consideration given to how they’ll look on a fuller figure. And you won’t get any clues in store because all you’ll see is the bra on a size 8, B cup model.
The collection is designed for the curvier figure and modelled on the curvier figure. Finally you can see what they actually might look like on you
It’s why today’s bigger size ranges — like Ashley Graham’s — are so important. They’re designed for the curvier figure and modelled on the curvier figure. Finally you can see what they actually might look like on you, rather than imagine what they’d look like if Rosie Huntington-Whiteley gained 4st.
Do they look comfortable? Not really. Will they give you a smooth silhouette under clothes? Probably not. Will they make you feel fabulous? Hell, yes. And that, after all, is what a woman buys luxury lingerie for.
A plus-size woman doesn’t need to boost her cleavage, it’s already big enough to hold her wallet. She also doesn’t necessarily want to minimise bounce either — that’s what sports bras are for. But she does want to look and feel sexy.
Chances are that for most plus-size women an enviable va va voom bust is her best asset.
Finally thanks to the plus-size fashion revolution bigger girls now have bras to match.
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