The idea of ‘sexy’ is realness. That’s the code the lingerie brands of the next generation are working with. And this means that intolerance is not tolerated. Body policing and fat shaming is prohibited. Stretch marks, scars, cellulite, body hair and all manner of beauty marks are appreciated. There are no rules or age limits, and respect for everyone is mandatory.
To these new players, real women rule and any body type, or boob type, should be seen and celebrated. Many have charts that help you figure out your own shape (are you athletic, a bell shape, an east-west? here's our guide ) and tell you how to shop for your own personal curves.
All this is causing disruption for traditional mass market lingerie brands such as Victoria’s Secret, La Senza and more. They’ve been one-note for years, appealing to a very specific (read: narrow) idea of beauty. And women aren’t buying that ideal any longer. Faced with the new start-up rivals, their market share is plummeting, forcing store closures. L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has seen the company’s shares plunge 13 per cent this year, according to Forbes, and the company is expecting earnings to drop further.
But enough of all that. Read on, as we tell you who to shop.
1. For the perfect skin tone match: TruNude
Your foundation can now match your skin perfectly (Thanks, RiRi). Why shouldn’t your bra? TruNude founder Danai Pointer is all for this. To shop her store, you download an app and upload a selfie or picture showing your shoulder (in daylight, no flash). For best results, stand near a white wall or hold a white sheet of paper in your pic. Pointer and her team will then match fabric to what they see in the picture. The intimates themselves are cool on the skin, made as they are from sustainable bamboo fabric. Each piece is handmade in Los Angeles, for women by women. There’s just a bralette, a T-shirt bra and undies for now, but we sure look forward to seeing more. Bear in mind that right now, there’s no international shipping. But when has that ever stopped us?
2. For the girl who needs the Asian fit: I’m In xx
This Singapore brand is a gem. The fit is tailored to the smaller frame with the cups a bit closer together, and band sizes set to wrap around you without gaping. The non-slip Wireless bras, which can be rolled up (yes, girl, ROLLED UP) and packed into a suitcase are super-comfy and come in different designs, from basic to sexy push-up styles. Everything is affordable, at around $39.90 each.
3. For the woman with the half cup… And More: ThirdLove
Being a half-anything is a terrible thing. Half-awake, half-aware, half-asleep… Stuck between worlds, none of these is good. But being a half-bra size now rocks! That’s because ThirdLove has nailed it on this front. There are 78 sizes which include sizes 30 to 48 bands (sizes 30 to 48!). Half sizes for cups come in a dizzying array of styles, including wireless designs. Use the Fit Finder, which says size doesn’t matter, but the shape of your boobs is crucial. The guide and its illustrated shape “dictionary” helps you out tremendously in choosing your style because you could be an East West (nipples point in different directions) or an Athletic (wider, more muscular breasts with less tissue. Whatever shape you are, own it. That shape, by the way, can change up to six times in your life, depending on factors such as age, or whether you’re breastfeeding.
4. For the girl who wants to rule the World: Lively
Founder Michelle Cordeiro Grant, the daughter of Indian immigrants and former Victoria’s Secret high flyer, asked herself this when starting Lively: What could happen with the world if women actually lived to their full potential versus living in the safe zone? Thus, one of Lively’s taglines is “Today bras and undies, tomorrow the world”. This translates into uber-functional intimates for everyone from smaller ladies to busty babes. The no-wire range is a life saver, with long-lined options to strapless pieces in this range. No international shipping here yet, so order when you’re abroad.
5. For the girl who thought she had it all: Perk By Kate Custom
Kate Low, founder of Perk By Kate, needs little introduction. Women have been wearing her comfort-driven bralettes since 2012, and she’s been the champion for smaller girls, making bras that enhance even the littlest of chests (that said, a new fuller cup range has recently been released). We’re here to remind you that Low also offers custom designs. You can riff off an existing design (there are some 120 to choose from), choosing a new lace or fabric for the design, changing it from a T-back to a cross back, or switching up the hardware (rose gold or gun metal clasps and hooks, anyone?). Low can be present to consult with, measuring you for a precise fit and noting whether you like less or more coverage, whether you need cups that are closer or wider apart, and even if you like to wear your bras looser or tighter. The most exciting part is where she walks you through her fabrics and exceptional laces, sourced from Vietnam, China and Latvia, and coming in shades from lavender to forest green and burgundy. Come to Low armed with a “capsule collection” of tops and dresses from your closet, and have her advise you on the best styles that work with your clothes. Prices start at $79, and a custom order takes two to three months to complete.
6. For the busty babe and the everyday warrior: True & Co.
Founded by data geek Michelle Lam, the brand uses a proprietary 16-question quiz that has you understanding your boob shape (and size) better. It covers whether your straps dig in, or where it might hurt where the band presses into your skin. And when it comes to the actual goods, this is lingerie made for the real woman, since the company has mined the data of some 6 million women to come up with its line, and uses growing feedback to continue improving it. Its best-selling styles fall under the True Body range, which are wire-free and which cater to even 42DDD and F sizes. Reviews say that the support and comfort is to die for, with many opting for True Body styles for everyday use at work and at play.