When I was in my early teens, the intimates sections of most plus-size specialty shops were limited to oversized cotton nighties, neutral bras and a small selection of briefs (which I refuse to refer to as “granny panties,” as they are my preferred style). Finding a well-fitting and stylish bra was quite a task, if not a chore. So for years, when it came time to refresh my underwear drawer, my approach was to get in and get out ASAP.
Not any more: The whole game has changed, thanks to women like Ashley Graham, a model who designed her own lingerie collection for Addition Elle (which debuted on the runways of New York Fashion Week last year). Now, plus-size women like myself can head to our favourite department stores, specialty shops or log onto our favourite sites to choose beautiful pieces, from matching bra-and-panty sets and chic nighties to lacey body suits.
Now listen: I know Valentine’s Day is approaching, but for me, lingerie has nothing to do with impressing a partner. If I’m putting on a lacy bodysuit or a cute matching bra and undies set, it’s to make ME feel good (while dancing to “Drunk in Love” in front of the hallway mirror). After two decades of learning to embrace my curves, I’ve realized that a huge part of self-acceptance involves taking risks and trying on things I thought I wasn’t allowed to wear. Because as it turns out, bikinis, body-hugging dresses, crop tops, and even lingerie have the power to make women (of any size) feel comfortable, empowered and sexy.
If you’re in the market for some new lingerie but aren’t sure where to start, try focusing on complementing your favourite body parts. I feel pretty sexy showing off my thighs and cute booty, so I love fitted boy shorts and cheekier cuts of undies with lacey detailing on the back. You can also look for inspiration online. I suggest checking out some body-positive bloggers, like Chanté B of Everything Curvy & Chic, Corissa Enneking of fatgirlflow.com and Gabi Gregg of gabifresh.com. It’s never a bad idea to print out a photo or two to bring to the store for inspiration. Or, if you’re shopping for a new bra or shapewear to go under a particular top or dress, make sure you either wear that item or bring it with you to get an idea of how it will look underneath.
My most invaluable piece of advice? When in doubt, ask for assistance. Sales assistants are there to help you, even if that just means explaining the difference between full-coverage and demi-fit. You may want to ask for a bra fitting, which are usually free, so you know which cup size and band size to look for (I usually do this in every store to make sure I get the best fit from each brand). Sometimes, it’s just about getting a second perspective. I’m not suggesting you spin around the fitting room area in your skivvies, but it might help to ask friendly sales people for their thoughts if you’re unsure of the fit. (If the idea of showing a stranger makes you blush, take a sly selfie in the mirror and send it to your BFF for her opinion.) If you’ve been shopping for a while to no avail, and the process is starting to bum you out, call it a day and start fresh another time. Because when you’re stressed, sweaty and irritable, facing fluorescent lights and wonky mirrors is the worst.
Hesitation is understandable when it comes to finding the right lingerie for yourself: Nothing has the power to make us feel as vulnerable as when we’re slipping into next-to-nothing. But maybe there’s something to be said for vulnerability, says body-positive writer Marie Southard Ospina. “I don’t just mean when you’re wearing it in front of someone in the bedroom. Even walking around the house alone, dressed in a satiny slip or lace underthings can feel scary, because we often fear our bodies in their most natural states.” Yet, something about being in that state can be empowering. “Showing off the more vulnerable aspects of our personalities can result in newfound strength,” says Ospina. Personally, I couldn’t agree more.
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