In May 1998, I stepped inside a Victoria’s Secret for the first — and last — time. A naive and shy teenager, I wasn’t interested in the bras and lingerie, which seemed like artifacts from a universe far more glamorous than my own. I scarcely dared look at them as I walked by; after all, at a size 18 there was no way they’d fit me anyway.
No, I was there for a job. In the era where malls still reigned in retail, like many teenagers I wanted to work at a mall store. And like them, I blanketed Valley Hills Mall with applications, popping into one store after another to fill out the pre-Internet-era paper applications.
Vicky’s was the first apparel store I encountered in that day’s swath of applications, and it’s the only one I remember. This being the south, the employees did nothing so crass as ridicule my chubby body out loud, but they made themselves clear nonetheless. The raised eyebrows, the scornful looks and the curt “We’re not hiring right now” made it clear that the universe of sparkle and glamour wasn’t open to people like me.
(That winter, I did find a Christmas-break job at the mall’s pretzel place, where I loved twisting the dough around and went home every night with my hands on fire from the raw bleach used in the cleaning buckets. But that’s another story.)
I never went back. Not with friends, as author Amanda Richards does, casually drifting to the perfumes while her compatriots dashed for the dressing rooms. Not alone to buy accessories or lotion. I rejected Victoria as thoroughly as she’d rejected me.
Fat women aren’t the only people the chain has rejected, of course. A friend tells me that VS’ bras don’t fit body shapes typical of Asian and Eastern European women. The quality of the apparel has apparently gone way downhill in recent years. But those straight-size women frustrated with fit and quality still had other options. I had nothing.
source: Victoria’s Secret
Now, reports are in that Victoria is in trouble.
“According to a recent report from Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands Inc, sales dropped one percent in the five weeks leading up to July 7, a continuation of a steady decline that the brand has seen since 2016, when it announced the decision to stop selling swimwear and apparel to focus on lingerie and beauty. In 2017, WWD reported that Victoria’s Secret’s comparable sales declined every single month.
In February 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that retail sales dropped six percent the previous December, in what is normally a high-volume time of year. In May 2018, Business Insider reported that sales continued to decline for both the Victoria’s Secret and PINK brands.”
I’m sure that devotees of the brand will be devastated if the stores go under. For my part, I won’t dance on the chain’s grave, but I might indulge in a few mean-girl glances.
Beautiful bras are still out of my grasp (at a 44I, my options are extraordinarily limited and all ugly), but nearly a decade later I discovered online lingerie stores, and suddenly my horizons opened again. At that time, most online lingerie stores that carried plus sizes were kind of…skeevy. Less Victoria’s Secret in the mall and more one of those highway-exit sex shops with the blacked-out windows.
Since then, our options have improved drastically. There are even a few brick-and-mortar stores who cater to us now. People who wear clothing above a size 26/28 still have incredibly few options, but the market is slowly evolving.
People of all sizes and genders deserve access to the glamorous universe to which Victoria’s Secret has served as a pop-culture gatekeeper all these years. Here are 16 stores, brick-and-mortar and online, where people in large bodies of all genders can find lingerie, bras and underwear.
People who live in the types of bodies that VS prefers to serve might be pleasantly surprised, too.
(All sizing below is American sizing.)
source: Curvy Girl Lingerie
1. Curvy Girl Lingerie
Curvy Girl is my favorite lingerie store in the world, for two reasons: they carry up to size 28/30, and the owner Chrystal is unapologetically fat positive. That means there’s no body shaming in their materials or promotions, and the blog is full of rare, amazing practical advice on sex for fat bodies (and sex toy reviews like my own review of the Womanizer Plus). Chrystal also actively advocates for manufacturers to expand their size ranges, heading to trade shows every year to talk directly with the manufacturers’ reps about the wide-open opportunities to capture the market for plus-size lingerie.
source: Hips & Curves
2. Hips & Curves
Hips and Curves was the first appealing plus-size lingerie site I ever encountered, and it remains one of my favorites. The site isn’t as flashy-glamorous as Victoria’s Secret, but in its quiet elegance it treats large bodies as worthy of respect and eschews the tawdriness of the sex-shop-esque sites. I highly recommend Hips & Curves for hosiery, bustiers and costumes.
source: Tomboy X
3. Tomboy X
Non-binary and Gender nonconforming people deserve to have underwear options too, and Tomboy X delivers up to a 4X (about a size 26/28). This new-ish LGBT-affirming company is dedicated to offering sustainably-made, eco-friendly undies that are also pretty darn cute. Their 9″ boxer briefs are the only ones I’ve tried that don’t give me a massive wedgie, and the 4X fits my 58″ waist. I wear them under jeans to prevent chafing, but they’d be hella sexy for a person-next-door boudoir session, too.
source: Impish Lee
4. Impish Lee
I’m so proud of Impish Lee I could burst. The online store received a ton of press when they launched due to their “plus-size line,” which only extended to an 18/20 and ticked me off considerably because I have Opinions about brands getting adulation for apparel that doesn’t actually cater to most plus sizes.
Since then, though, they’ve made good on their promises to provide lingerie to all. The site carries bras and lingerie up to a 44J and 59″ waist, and you can easily order a completely custom piece to your measurements as well right through the site. The designs are original and refreshing, and they’ve pulled in some actual plus-size folks as models (primarily Corissa Enneking of Fat Girl Flow).
Here’s a review of Impish Lee’s new summer collection over at The Curvy Fashionista.
source: Bear Skn
5. Bear Skn
I’m married to a fellow who wears the high end of plus size (or rather, big and tall) himself, and his experience in finding underwear is way, way harder than it should be. We femme folks have a much easier time of it these days, because at least we have options. Masculine undie options are (way too) slowly increasing, though, and Bear Skn is standing above the crowd at the moment with cute, butter-soft boxers and briefs up to 6X (about a 60″ waist). I found that these boxers gave my cis female wide hips a wedgie, but they work perfectly on my cis male hubby.
These pieces are somewhat delicate, so definitely hand wash and air dry them, and don’t go sitting on concrete in your bare Bear Skns. With proper care they last quite a while, though, and the Bear Skn folks have been fantastic about replacing a couple of pairs that wore out way too soon.
Ahh, Lane Bryant’s younger sister, the mall’s newer standby for plus-size clothing. Torrid has its issues — a yearning to cater to smaller and smaller women, failing to stock their largest sizes in-store — but for trendy plus-size clothing you can actually try on in person, they can’t be beaten. Torrid was one of the first to start offering sexy plus-size bralettes, and they’ve been carrying smoking-hot lingerie forever. I recommend shopping their website for a better selection.
source: Her Room
7. Her Room
One of the largest bra shops online, Her Room carries a vast bra selection and is one of the best bets for hard-to-find sizes like mine. Their search allows you to find up to a 58″ band and N cup. I’m a little skeptical of their universal sizing, which didn’t seem to work at my bra size, but I appreciate that it exists.
source: Sweet Amaranth
8. Bawdy Love
I’ve got a little crush on Candace and Gwynedh, the Seattle-based creators of Bawdy Love Clothing, for their sheer level of genius in designing searingly-hot harnesses that are not only custom sized, but flexible enough to accommodate changes in weight and body size.
source: Lane Bryant
9. Lane Bryant
This brick-and-mortar chain is the fat woman’s Old Reliable. Frumpiness levels vary over time, and the quality usually doesn’t match the pricing, but the stores are easily accessible — in almost every mall, and some stand-alone locations — and carry a wide range of sizes. Their new bralette line is worth a look, even for large busts, and they’ve started carrying the strappy-back panties that until a few years ago were limited to straight sizes.
source: Simply Be
10. Simply Be
When Simply Be says “intimates,” they generally mean plus-size bras and panties rather than lingerie, but their selection of the former is nothing to sneeze at. This is also a great place to get a comfy robe up to size 30.
Yandy lacks the dignity of Hips & Curves and the personal touch of Curvy Girl, but for smaller plus sizes and straight sizes, Yandy is a gold mine of sultry lingerie and dresses.
source: Lacey Jayde
12. Lacey Jayde
Lacey Jayde is a fairly new discovery for me, so I can’t yet review them from personal experience. The site offers fare similar to Yandy, but with a focus on plus-size lingerie up to a 28/30, making this a good place to check first.
source: Adore Me
13. Adore Me
Offering sizes up to 46G, Adore Me is a nice new option for unique bras and panties.* When I searched for the closest equivalent to my size, a 44DD, over 100 options came up. The company also offers a monthly plus-size lingerie box of the “pay for what you keep and send the rest back” variety, a nice option for those of us sized out of mainstream versions of these curated boxes.
source: Plush Cat Style
14. Plush Cat Style
A true indie classic, Satu Vuorenmaa’s Plush Cat Style offers handmade plus-size lingerie and apparel modeled on people at the high end of plus size for a realistic view. Her string bikini tops would make excellent lingerie-style bras, too.
I wouldn’t have thought of the generally-frumpy chain Catherines as a source for hot plus-size lingerie, but occasionally these folks have a major breakout in the sexy department. I haven’t been in their brick-and-mortar stores in years, but I bought a smoking hot silver crushed-velvet babydoll and robe from their website last year, and it looks like they’ve gotten in on bralettes recently too. Worth an occasional look.
source: Sock Dreams
16. Sock Dreams
It may seem strange to include a socks-only shop in an underwear roundup, but socks count as undies too, and Sock Dreams is the place to go for them. Not only does this Portland, OR-based store carry a huge range of plus-size socks online, they test them on actual large bodies and then report in detail on the fit. If you’re able to take your own body measurements, you’ll be able to see exactly which items will fit you — no more guessing and then not being able to return ill-fitting items. (They’re even carrying the wonderful We Love Colors plus-size tights these days.)
Is there another store that should be on this list? Where do you find your cute plus-size undies and lingerie? Let me know in the comments!
Special thanks to Sarah Thompson of Resilient Fat Goddess, who pointed out a number of places in this article that could have been more inclusive and gave me the opportunity to fix them with her guidance. Thank you so much!
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