The Sexy Feminist Lingerie List

I’ve written before about how the right underthings can make a woman feel confident, sexy and invincible. But it’s also important for us to purchase our lingerie from the right places. A hot pink bra with black lace panties have a way of losing their feminist power if they’re acquired from a company that puts commercialism above all else—including, apparently, the common sense to not be blatantly racist in its campaigns.

Victoria’s Secret’s latest collection called Sexy Little Geisha was quickly pulled from its inventory after immediate, widespread backlash. And for good reason. The “cat woman” image of Asian women basically reduces them to sexual fetish objects (and, sadly, this stereotype is still quite prevalent in popular culture). Dear VS: Women don’t want to be angles, sexy school girls or wear bras with diamonds on them or thongs with chain metal g-strings. They just want underwear that works.

In our forthcoming book, Sexy Feminism, the editors of this website discuss in length the empowering nature of women’s clothing and lingerie. The next time you’re due for a new bra or want to spice up your sex life with a hot new underthing, shop consciously. Here are some brands that get our stamp of approval:

Betsey Johnson. She’s about the coolest lady in fashion,  period. Unapologetic for her sexy-ragamuffin style, BJ has become a fetish brand and a female businesswoman to admire. Her bras, quite simply, get the job done. With underwire that encases the whole breast (none of that tissue-stabbing demi-shaped nonsense), fabrics that conceal and protect, and adorable details, it’s clear these items are crafted as impeccably as Betsey Johnson couture.

Stella McCartney. She’s the daughter of music royalty but has become an empire of her own. Stella founded her brand on principles that protect the earth, and all of its inhabitants—from animals to garment workers. These ideals extend to her swoon-worthy lingerie collection.

Prada. Yup, that Prada. Founder Miuccia Prada is perhaps the biggest name in fashion, and a 60s-era feminist who talks about the issues. She said recently, “I always say sexy dressing is fantastic if it’s a choice … If you want to go out naked, I like it. But if you do it because you want to get a rich husband, no, I hate it.” Her lingerie collections mirror the brand’s understated elegance and perfect tailoring. Shopping this brand is, of course, for those with some change to spare, but if you’re a fierce fashionista who’s going to spend it anyway, do it here.

Bella Materna. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need sexy underwear too, and this U.S.-manufactured brand delivers on style and comfort. With details such as layers of sculpted lace, seamless cups and support without underwire, non-mommies will want these bras too.

Gillian O’Malley. Totally cute. Totally wearable. Totally cheap. If you like to hoard lingerie—or at least coordinate it with every outfit—this Target brand’s $5 underwear and $14 bras foster gluttonous consumption. Any time you shop at Target, proceeds from sales help fund public schools, a feminist cause that needs us all.

What are some of your favorite feminist lingerie brands?


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Author: Heather Wood Rudulph

Heather Wood Rudúlph is the co-founder of SexyFeminist.com and recently FeministMommy.com. She's a seasoned editor and writer, most recently for The Huffington Post, AOL, DAYSPA magazine and Movies.com. She’s written and edited stories about entertainment, beauty, healthcare, fashion, travel, teens, spirituality, women's rights, civil rights and environmental practices. Her work has also appeared in Seventeen, Elle, Details.com and The Los Angeles Daily News. She teaches nonfiction writing for Gotham Writers Workshop and is co-author of the book, SEXY FEMINISM, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March, 2013. She has a journalism degree with a sociology minor from Syracuse University and lives in California with her husband and son.
About Heather Wood Rudulph

Heather Wood Rudúlph is the co-founder of SexyFeminist.com and recently FeministMommy.com. She's a seasoned editor and writer, most recently for The Huffington Post, AOL, DAYSPA magazine and Movies.com. She’s written and edited stories about entertainment, beauty, healthcare, fashion, travel, teens, spirituality, women's rights, civil rights and environmental practices. Her work has also appeared in Seventeen, Elle, Details.com and The Los Angeles Daily News. She teaches nonfiction writing for Gotham Writers Workshop and is co-author of the book, SEXY FEMINISM, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March, 2013. She has a journalism degree with a sociology minor from Syracuse University and lives in California with her husband and son.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I stopped giving my money over to Victoria’s Secret when they decided to stop carrying many of their bras in anything over a C-cup. And if I could find my size I would have to pay more for the same style bra because of the extra fabric! I am a D-Cup maybe a DD depending on how much ice cream I take in. We are not talking end of the alphabet tata’s. Some of their models have had cup sizes larger than a C. Can I get a Tyra Banks?! I am not familiar with the lingerie from the designers listed, do they embrace all breasts or do they subscribe to the VS ways as well?

    • The Sexy Feminist says:

      Totally, Elizabeth. Most women in the U.S. have a size larger than a C. And to your point, the body image ideal places like Victoria’s Secret (and porn) promote looks something like 32-E, which approximately 1% of women have naturally. Thanks for reading!

  2. KKZ says:

    I share Elizabeth’s frustration – finding cute lingerie if you’re larger in the chest is a big pain. Even some brands that do go that large, their bras obviously aren’t really designed for the large-chested woman’s comfort, they just use more fabric. Looking at what Betsy Johnson offers in my size, I can see a few designs that even at my size, I’d be spilling out of because of the cut of the neckline.

    Also, these are all just bras. Never mind trying to find a corset, or a teddy, or some other piece of lingerie for a large bust. I went to Cacique (Lane Bryant) to find lingerie for my honeymoon and even there the selection was depressing – if anything, they have the opposite problem from most, in that most of their fashions are available in sizes that are too big.

    And don’t even get me started on sports bras.

    I’m saving up for a reduction because I’m just sick of dealing with them and the problems they cause – the shopping nightmares, rolling over on them in my sleep, having to wear a bra ALL.THE.TIME., having to forgo exercises like Zumba and running because it just plain hurts to bounce around so much, the constant bra strap dents in my shoulders…seriously, I don’t see any benefit in having breasts this size. They gotsta go.

    • The Sexy Feminist says:

      Marisa, may sound crazy, but check out Milkalicious sports bras: http://www.milkalicious.com/category_s/40.htm They’re for pregnant and nursing moms, but I swear, the most comfortable/supportive bras I’ve ever worn. I ordered a smaller size of the sleep bra after I had my baby and it serves as one of my favorite (low impact) workout bras. Zella is also a terrific brand and Nordstrom online carries tons of sizes: http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/zella-bras?origin=leftnav I have done a lot of research in boob maintenance. Good luck with yours! – Heather

      • KKZ says:

        Not crazy – I appreciate the recommendation! Not sure I’d be comfortable in a nursing bra – I’m not a mom so there is something otherworldly about maternity wear to me.

        The Zella ones, well what you do know, holy crap, they’re actually cute AND not crazy expensive! I’d still have to find an in-person store to try them on, though. Bra cuts and styles differ so much from brand to brand that this is one thing I just won’t buy online.

  3. KKZ says:

    And wait, now I’m confused. Right next to the paragraph where you describe VS’s faults and racism, there is an image from the Stella McCartney collection, which you praise…and those photos look very VS-esque – demure, coy women with not-quite-average body proportions wearing frilly things (not just “underwear that works”). Not trying to fault-find, but seems a little contradictory.

    • The Sexy Feminist says:

      I find those Stella photos to be quite lovely, actually. They’re sexy, yes, but also classy (and not racist like the VS ones). The models are skinny, yes, but we do not criticize a slender physique for existing on women, just the over-use of it as the only beauty ideal.

      • KKZ says:

        Fair points. I guess that saying VS (and p0rn) overpromotes a specific beauty ideal, and then linking to sites where I see that same body ideal as the only one represented, struck a nerve. Even the bra lines that do go up to the D, DD+ size and actually function well for those sizes, you’re not seeing the 38DD’s being modeled. When I have the Betsey Johnson site show me only the styles available in 36DD, the 5 models on that page are, by my best guess, B-C, with visible ribs. Maybe I’m being another entitled Gen-Y’er, but it would be nice to see a 36DD bra modeled by a 36DD model, even if that’s not “on-brand” for the designer.
        And while I’m at it, I’ll also bitch that I don’t see enough redheaded models out there either. ;) (being a bit cheeky with that one. Redheads really are the minority so it’s not a huge surprise.)

  4. Britt says:

    First of all, I heart Gillian O’Malley. Second of all, as a small-chested lady, I must say I love the Victoria’s Secret. They actually manage to make me feel sexy even though I’m barely a B. But WTF is up with the creepy geisha-named lingerie? Bad form, VS, bad form. Thanks for this article!

  5. This is obscene! Feminism is not about lingerie and looking sexy. In fact, the lingerie industry is involved in a major cover-up that’s killing women.

    I am a medical anthropologist and breast cancer researcher and co-author of the book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Our research and a 1991 Harvard study found that bra wearers have more than double the rate of breast cancer as bra-free women. There has been NO other research into this issue to confirm or disprove this link — To much money in the lingerie and breast cancer detection and treatment industries. But you don’t need to wait for the cover-up to end. You can prove it for yourself.

    Take off your bra for a week or two and breast pain and cysts will disappear. Take off your bra forever and you will be doing the best thing to prevent breast cancer.

    Sexy is you and your attitude, not what kind of breast binding you use.

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