It Took Me 33 Years to Appreciate My Plus-Size Body in Lingerie
I'm standing in front of my mirror wearing nothing but lingerie. I'm 33 years old and a size 22. My body is a collection of characteristics — fat, stretch marks, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation — I've spent my entire life picking apart, trying to negotiate. No one else is in the room; this lingerie is just for me — it's my size, my preferred style, my own personal version of sexy. I pick up my phone, take a selfie, and post it on social media. Plenty of people will call me brave for deigning to take a photo like this in a body like mine. Some might tell me to cover it up. One or two might tell me to kill myself; this is social media, after all.
In my mind though, they're all just lucky to see it.
The world should be so lucky to see all plus-size women in various states of undress. In fact, that notion is exactly what inspired this photoshoot: a plus-size Valentine's Day lingerie observance of all things big, soft, and really fucking hot. There are a few good bras and panties to purchase, too — and when I say good, I mean really, really good.
The models in these photos have different body types — and both of them certainly don't look like me standing in front of the mirror in my apartment — but all of us exist in bodies that deserve the same sexy accoutrements as our straight-size counterparts. We also all deserve the moment of sheer pride and satisfaction that comes when we get naked, look in the mirror and say, "Fuck yes."
It might sound arrogant — and I don't doubt that some people would rather not see me half-nude as they scroll through their Instagram feeds. My younger brother comes to mind — sorry, Brian. However, perhaps I can make a case for my own inflated ego by explaining how hard-won it is.
For decades, I did whatever I could to cover my body, to conceal its many perceived flaws, simply because other people told me I should. I couldn't wear revealing lingerie, let alone be fully naked, in front of a romantic partner until my late 20s. My body felt like something to be ashamed of, something that only I should have to deal with the horror of seeing in its truest form. I've always loved lingerie as a concept — what's not to love about delicate black lace and ultra-feminine trimmings? However, for me, lingerie always felt like an adornment, the kind of elegant and ostentatious garment you put on to decorate your body. It served no purpose for someone who felt like her body wasn't worth liking, let alone showing off.
Preen by Thornton Bregazzi top, $160 (Originally $320). Gabi Fresh x Playful Promises underwear (shop similar here).
Of course, part of it was an inventory problem. Even if I'd arrived at the idea that my tits were "good" enough to ensconce in Chantilly lace, until recently, there was very little of it available in my size — 44DD, by the way. Most plus-size women are intimately familiar with the fact that for years, the majority of bras and underwear sold in larger sizes were about utility: thick straps, full coverage cups, high octane spandex to keep everything sucked in as much as humanly possible. I grew up in the Midwest in the '90s and early 2000s, in close proximity to at least five malls. I never, ever bought anything at Victoria's Secret — but you can bet I spent a lot of time crying in the Sears dressing room, unable to emotionally cope with the fact that the bra I was getting at 17 was almost identical to the one that I saw in my grandmother's bathroom.
In the last few years, the plus-size lingerie market has grown, giving women like me accessible options that extend beyond Victoria's Secret (a brand that, despite being the number one lingerie retailer in the country, refuses to make plus sizes). New brands and collections are popping up constantly.
Playful Promises, a London-based lingerie brand, carries over 78 bra sizes, ranging from 32A to 44H. They've also collaborated with plus-size fashion blogger and influencer Gabi Gregg on several collections, including pieces that are perfect for Valentine's Day. Plus-size retailer ELOQUII recently launched a collaboration with lingerie brand Cosabella, offering a collection of 16 pieces in sizes XL-5X.
In 2018, contemporary plus-size brand Universal Standard launched their Foundation collection, which includes more lowkey lounge and sleepwear in sizes 00-40. Designer Chromat offers a selection of what they describe as "bodywear" in sizes XS-4X — think of it as lingerie for your most fashion-forward self. Mass market retailers like Torrid, Simply Be, Addition Elle and Lane Bryant continue to churn out plus-size exclusive options at accessible price points. Rihanna's wildly popular Savage x Fenty lingerie offers plus-sizes as well.
There is still plenty of room for growth, particularly with brands that claim to be size inclusive but offer a limited range of larger sizes. Aerie, for example, is oft-praised for offering lingerie for "real women," but their bra sizes only extend to 40DD. CurvyKate offers bras up to 46G, but a cursory glance at the site only shows two options in that size. Some brands expand cup sizes but not band sizes, leaving out an entire population of plus-size women who don't necessarily have big boobs. Options are out there, the range of which can only improve as more and more brands acknowledge the fact that plus-size women have money to spend.
Savage x Fenty bra (shop similar here). Tiffany necklace.
Maybe the plus-size lingerie you're looking for — the kind in your size, your preferred style, your own version of sexy — is available right now. Maybe you're still waiting. Either way, for Valentine's Day, you can, at the very least, take off a bit of clothing, stand in front of the mirror, and begin to change your own mind. None of us should experience a moment of self-conscious hesitation or anxiety when it's time to disrobe. On Valentine's Day and any other day, we should treat our naked or lingerie-clad bodies as exactly what they are: a gift.
Photographs by Molly Matalon. Styling by Laurel Pantin. Models:Tash, Diana Sanz (Muse). Makeup by Jaleesa Jaikaran/Management + Artists using NARS Cosmetics. Hair by Nai'vasha/The Wall Group. Art direction and production by Emily Shornick.