Well, needless to say, it all kicked off at this year’s Victoria’s Secret Show, and no, I don’t mean in a good way. In a world that’s starting to really embrace diversity, the once celebrated, highly-idolised annual catwalk show left a lot of women feeling a bit disappointed... and those comments made by CCO Ed Razek about not wanting to hire plus-size and transgender models?! (Yep, those didn’t go down too well, either).
For a long time, women have been expected to sit back and cater to fashion’s impossible sizing standards, rather than let fashion cater to them and their bodies. (Trust me, I know. I’ve succumbed to it, too.) For years, I’d buy clothes in smaller sizes with the goal of slimming into them. I’d buy clothes supposedly deemed 'fashionable', but that didn’t flatter my body type in the slightest (think low-cut jeans or triangle-shaped bikinis), in the hope I’d somehow morph into the skinny celebrities I’d see papped in Heat magazine; pinning Victoria’s Secret catwalk models on my wall as “thinspiration”. Like millions of other women, I allowed the fashion industry tell me what was considered beautiful, doing anything I could to be accepted by it. But times have changed, and whether people like it or not, brands are now having to listen to what women want instead.
You know what, Ed Razek is right - the Victoria’s Secret show is built on fantasy. But the idea of what fantasy is, or can be, has changed drastically since those early catwalk shows, and a lot of that has to do with social media. Platforms like Instagram have given the under-represented a voice, shifting the way we perceive beauty - like body shape and skin colour - and is even helping change the conversation of gender and what it means to be a woman. We don’t want to see the same white, skinny model parading on the catwalk anymore. We want to see ourselves.
This perhaps explains the decline in Victoria’s Secret sales in recent years, and why brands like Fenty blew other fashion week shows out of the water. The idea that bigger body shapes will damage a brand’s image is horrendously outdated, and even if brands don’t want to admit it, guess what, people - diversity sells.
Social media has allowed everyone to have a voice, allowing the most under-represented bodies have air-time.
Here’s the thing: while the VS show has worked in the past, it has yet to catch up with the consumer.
Whether you want to see plus-size or transgender models modelling in your favourite lingerie, the sales figures speak for themselves - there’s proof that the more diverse a brand is, the more women flaunt their natural bodies online, the more brands have to sit up and listen. After all, without women, there are no sales - and what we’re seeing are women flocking to brands who make them feel good. We cheer when we see women in campaigns with bodies or skin colour like us. We want brands that EMPOWER us, not the types that leave us feeling inadequate, or the feeling of needing to change.
Having said that, there’s no denying that the VS Angels aren’t beautiful or don’t work hard for their bodies. They clearly do. But throwing in the odd model with a squishy tummy or cellulite, who works equally as hard in the gym (like Ashley Graham), won’t hurt the brand’s image, either. In fact, I think it would reignite a spark within customers that found Victoria’s Secret so aspirational to begin with - just with a little more realness.
So, while Victoria’s Secret may not have got the body-positive memo this year (hello - it’s 2018!), there are plenty of other brands who have. Here are a list of some of my top women-friendly brands worth stocking your knicker drawer up with.
Described as “supportive but not restrictive”, I love Negative bras and the imagery they use. I own a few of their bras which look, and fit, better than most bras I’ve ever worn.
For those of us who have periods once a month, Thinx are a great brand that provide period-proof underwear, as well as teaching young people about reproductive rights. The underwear can hold between ½ to 2 tampons worth of blood, making it a great eco-friendly alternative to sanitary towels. Dear Kate is another brand worth checking out if you’re into this kind-of thing.
Designed with millenials in mind, Figs imagery is just beautiful - unretouched and minimalist, with lingerie you don’t mind parading on the ‘gram.
Although I’d say it’s aimed with teenagers in mind, I own numerous Aerie bras that feel comfortable and cute, and there are TONS of styles to choose from. I’m all about brands that start the body positive conversation at a young age, and Aerie’s imagery is so diverse and positive that it’s impossible not to smile at it.
ThirdLove offer half sizes in their bras, which is pretty unheard of in the lingerie world, and start from a AA all the way to a H cup. They do a great assortment of nude bras for every skin colour, too.
For those of us with bigger boobs (lucky you), Lane Bryant have some great padded/non-padded bras that provide support, while also making you feel pretty underneath.
I first discovered Lonely Lingerie a couple of years ago, right around the time body-positivity became mainstream. I know they’re well-known in the BoPo world nowadays, but their pieces are definitely designed for real women in mind, in wearable styles.