Bare it all
Lingerie in the era of body positivity
Bralettes are worn as shirts; Instagram models post photos wearing lace corsets with sweatpants.
Lingerie is no longer resigned to the bedroom.
The 2010s have marked an era of body and sex positivity, a shift that can be seen in the changing lingerie offerings. Brands like Aerie have eliminated photoshop. Rihanna’s lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, incorporates models of all body shapes and sizes. Current styles accentuate nudity as chic. Lingerie, like all fashion, has evolved alongside changing values and cultural norms. Historians and students discussed what the current state of negligee means, and why so many are embracing lingerie in every-day wear.
Alexia Hall, a digital media studies major, said lingerie isn’t only for one context or body type. She said certain brands are becoming more popular by promoting body positivity and expanding their target audience.
“They’ve been using so many different models with different body shapes and I’m pretty sure Aerie stopped photoshopping women,” Hall said. “So it shows the real body positive image because it’s not like there’s one model to look like, not like Victoria’s Secret.”
Hall said more women are feeling empowered to embrace the style since lingerie is now made for more people than in the past.
“In the past you had to look [a certain way] whether it was bigger or skinnier,” Hall said. “It was like ‘if you didn’t look the specific way don’t wear it.’ But now they have so many different sizes and bigger ranges, anyone can wear it.”
Kaitlyn Rushton, a sophomore psychology major, said she would wear lingerie casually and likes how lingerie has become normalized for everyday outfits.
“It used to be like, it would make you feel more confident but that was only for you and someone else but now you can just wear it all the time,” Rushton said. “It’s becoming more like casual attire now. And I love it.”
Arlesa Shephard, assistant professor of fashion and textile technology at Buffalo State College, said societal values are reflected in style.
“Fashion and culture are always interconnected,” Shephard said. “Over time, the ideal silhouette has evolved and even today, the ideal body shape is not entirely natural and requires support from lingerie and foundational garments.”
Patrick McDevitt, an associate professor of history, said female sexuality has historically been perceived as a binary, with women portrayed as either promiscuous or virginal.
The body positivity movement is trying to dismantle this view of sexuality.
Because of this, lingerie has begun to expand into aspects of fashion beyond undergarments and the bedroom. Lingerie as casual attire is now commonplace.
Shephard said this trend can be seen on and off the runway.
“In more contemporary fashion, it is not surprising to find designers sending models down the runway in sheer tops (with no bra). … Performers have been wearing bra-like garments for decades. Some trends of everyday dress today allow for bras to become part of the woman’s ensemble. For example, in athletic wear, it is acceptable for the sports bra to be worn as a top.”
Denae Rossi, a junior social sciences major, said lingerie is no longer only meant for intimacy.
“A lot of people own it, it’s not like just for when you’re married,” Rossi said. “I think it definitely got more positive, and girls are buying it just for themselves.”
McDevitt said people can wear lingerie for more than promoting sexuality.
"For many women, dressing in a provocative way can be empowering,” McDevitt said. “If Rihanna walks down Fifth Ave. wearing lingerie, she is proclaiming her confidence and her control over her body."
Jacklyn Walters is a Co-senior News Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JacklynUBSpec.