Buying lingerie in Canada can be a daunting experience for most people, but even more frustrating when you are plus-sized. And while a number of companies have popped up in recent years it isn’t always the greatest experience, a frustration that can be exacerbated when buying lingerie online in Canada here’s a history of plus size lingerie in America, and a picture of how far we have come and how far we still need to go.
The advent of plus-size modeling and lingerie saw its first media peak in 1905 with the founder of Lane Bryant, Lena Bryant who opened up what is believed to be the first exclusively plus-sized retailer, with sizes that ran up to 38 busts. I know what you’re thinking, not very diverse right?
Truth is, as unimpressive as the sizing range was at the time it was unheard of and bordered on taboo. That being said, Lane Bryant was no body positive brand like their current ads would have you believe. They were established to meet the demand for maternity wear and expanded to focus on slenderizing “stout” women. Branding continued this way up until the mid-’80s with the introduction of a more body-positive message and magazines that were willing to feature plus-size modeling. But even this was a short-lived feat, in 1997, the introduction of Mode an exclusively plus-size magazine brought to light a large but unrepresented market by featuring plus-sized models and the stylist and designers who dressed them. Mode may have been a short-lived hero, closing down in 2001, but its effect was long-lasting.
By the late 2000s Lane Bryant had rebranded as a plus-sized retailer that prioritized body positivity and embraced the “real woman.” Equally introducing a lingerie line. In 2008, a new wave of body positive movement was heralded, and designers were once again put on blast for their lack of inclusion. By 2009 the world was introduced to “Full Figured Fashion Week”, the first exclusive plus-sized fashion week. And as so plus-size modeling and design was set. Companies such as Torrid, Catherine’s and Lane Bryant were highlighted as plus size alternatives to the very stringent Victoria Secret catalog.
However, most of their designs lean towards more efficient and basic lingerie wear, hardly anything that would be characterized as sexy. In fact, in 2019 Fenty Beauty, was called out for its design differences between its smaller and plus sizes for its valentine’s day line. A phenomenon that is popular among many brands that cater to a wide range of sizes. This could be as a result of the popular view that full-figured women may deserve lingerie but are not necessarily considered “sexual” beings. Fenty has since adjusted its styling catalog.
Another Critique brand faced was in their choice of models highlighted. While models used were plus-sized, they also tended to fit the same narrative of the acceptable figure, with rounder breast and smaller waist. A critique that was issued to Lane Bryant. SavageX Fenty being the first mainstream lingerie ad to highlight a wide and diverse range of models has also pushed for competing industries to do the same.