It all goes back to Rubens. You remember — Peter Paul Rubens. He was that Flemish/Baroque painter dude (from the 17th century, for all of you wannabe historians out there), who regularly paid homage to hourglass-figured chicks by giving ‘em immortality via, now legendary, paintings such as The Three Graces (magnificently depicting a trio of full-figured lassies having a little pow-wow—au naturale), Venus at the Mirror, The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (which pretty much speaks for its racy self ), and The Triumph of the Virtue. Indeed, “Rubenesque” ultimately became a term to describe relatively bigger women—with plenty o’ curves! A term which we use to this day.
Fast-forward a few centuries later…
Women of every size want to look and feel good about themselves, the average size of women has grown from a size 8/9 in the 1950s to 12/14 now, so plus-size defines many more people than ever before. -Kat Hudson, Komar
Enter luscious “blonde bombshell” actresses the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren, and Jayne Mansfield in the 1950s; then bigger-boned blondies like Anna Nicole Smith in the 1990s; and, now, all-out plus-size porn stars such as Kelly Shibari and April Flores in the 2010’s. In other words, as time has marched on, the slim ‘n’ sleek Madison Avenue look has become less confined, more flexible, stretching itself in all directions.
“Socially, it’s become more acceptable to be a plus size,” says Crystal Garcia, lingerie buyer for Colorado-based distributor Eldorado, “and women are appreciating their bodies much more because mainstream is focusing on the fact that not every woman is a petite size. Each women needs to embrace themselves and celebrate who they are. Women’s plus size is now in very high demand.”
Kat Hudson, sales rep for Baltimore-based distributor, Komar, concurs with Garcia.
“Women of every size want to look and feel good about themselves,” notes Hudson. “The average size of women has grown from a size 8/9 in the 1950s to 12/14 now, so plus-size defines many more people than ever before. Since shows like ‘Sex and The City’, most women no longer see their sexuality as a source of shame. The newest example of this is the show ‘Girls’ with its voluptuous star Lena Dunham walking around nude in many episodes. Her character is sexual, curvy, unabashed about all of it, and she has a string of lovers. Many heavier women identify with her and enjoy her sexual freedom.”
Consequently, with the ‘coming’ of the modern plus-size woman has similarly come the rise of plus-size material for them to wear, as well as accessories for the ladies to play with, all via business entities (distributors, retailers, entrepreneurs) successfully moving/selling wares like plus-size lingerie and accessories (as in toys) not only across the nation, but—as with the international LoveHoney.com—the world over.
Big is in. And in big demand!
“And companies that ignore this fact,” adds Hudson, “do so at their peril and lose money.”
Lingerie category manager Gemma Pestel, of UK-headquartered online retailer LoveHoney.com, sees the larger acceptance of plus-size woman as absolutely causing designers and manufacturers of erotic apparel to specifically cater clothing lines to big and beautiful women.
“Rather than scaling up styles as has been the norm in the past,” cites Pestel, “lingerie manufacturers have started adapting underwear specifically for curvier shapes, introducing wider shoulder straps, more supportive bra cups, and deeper hook-and-eye clasps. These changes mean that rather than simply buying a larger version of a petite item, plus-size women can now enjoy lingerie designed for a curvy figure, which means that ultimately they’re happier and feel sexier.”
So, getting down to cases, what exactly are some of the more popular lingerie items out there for plus-size women? Well, just like good old Rubens, Kyle Tutino of Honey’s Place agrees that a picture speaks far more than 1,000 words.
“Seven Til Midnight & Fantasy Lingerie are our best-selling plus-size lingerie,” says Tutino. “Both of these brands feature plus-size models on their packaging, which allows the customer to picture themselves wearing the garment. Furthermore, we’ve seen an increase in the sale of plus-size panties, from ruffle lace boyshorts to crotchless panties.”
Kat Hudson of Komar agrees with Tutino, adding that the key is not only style but comfortability, wearability. “Fantasy Lingerie has a very hot line of baby doll and G-string sets that are sure to bring out a bigger girl’s inner sex goddess. The pieces are designed to look good on a many different shapes.”
Glenn P. Le Boeuf, director of operations for Michigan-based distributor Nalpac Ltd., adds another designer to the list of going-like-hotcakes erotic apparel for larger gals. “Our best selling plus-size lingerie at the moment comes from Rene Rofe. Their best-selling styles are mainly bodystockings and hosiery. Feedback from consumers has been that Rene Rofe tends to be more ‘true to size’ than other brands.”
Representing East Coast-based distributor Williams Trading Co., Charlotte Lopez (District Manager of the Love Stuff & More chain of retail stores in New Jersey and Maryland) observes that Curve Lingerie is one their greatest successes in the lingerie market as a whole. “Curve has designed a lingerie line specifically for plus-sized women,” she states. “The greatest win with their design is the size range, starting with a 1x- 2x AND 3x-4x, making the fit much more comfortable and accurate, rather than the typical Queen size, which is just a one size fits all, only slightly bigger.”
And from a completely different, but no less vital angle, is that of the home party planning industry; in particular, the Home Pleasure Party Planning Association (HPPPA) based in Southern California. Initially a communication channel among pleasure party company owners, the HPPPA has grown to also include manufacturers of adult novelty products and services. In turn, the HPPPA not only provides timely information to the home party segment of the industry about the new offerings from manufacturers, but similarly supplies the latter with pertinent info about the purchasing patters of home party planners.
HPPPA’s CEO, Tamara Payton Bell, notes that Shirley of Hollywood is definitely one of the more hip producers of plus-size lingerie.
“Shirley of Hollywood created a line specifically for plus-size women called Intimates Attitudes. They created beautiful pieces in sizes 1X - 6X that look like the smaller ladies line and made them feel just as sexy.”
And what about accessories and toys for bigger-sized maidens?
Some of the more in-demand items handled by many distributors include lines by Sportsheets, which have upgraded their Doggy Style strap to have longer straps and a wider band to fit a larger waist size. The plus-size harnesses are still erotically designed but have been enlarged to fit all plus-size women and still remain sexy looking.
And in their Fetish Fantasy Series, Fetish Fantasy Gold, and Fetish Fantasy Lingerie lines, Pipedream Products have items catering to the full-figured woman, including remote control vibrating panties, corsets, strap-on harnesses, and lingerie pieces.
“They also created a plus-size blow up doll in their Pipedream Extreme Dollz line,” adds HPPPA’s Bell, “for those men who love to handle a big girl.”
Komar’s Hudson adds that Tantus is a good example of a company that listens to its customers. “Not only are their toys beautiful to look at, they are designed for a variety of bodies.”
But with the plus-size craze reaching new heights, should much — if not all — of the credit be given to bigger-sized mainstream and porn celebs? Are they the only entities moving the sales of plus-size lingerie and products forward and up?
“I can certainly say that we — the party plan industry — and retail storeowners are absolutely a driving force,” says HPPPA’s Payton Bell, “because we cater to the simple housewife, the corporate executive, and everyone in between. We look at each woman the same and introduce products that will bring out their sexy side, while making them feel good at the same time. Education of not only the product but about them is also a driving force. We, as party planners, discuss healthy eating, exercise, and taking care of oneself. We’re the sex educators, life coaches, and overall confidence builders when it comes to selling our products.”
Okay, so once you have the sexy lingerie that’s the perfect fit for the plus-size gal, and you have all of the proper trimmings, what the secret for actually get the public at large to drink from the well? More specifically, how do you make plus-size shoppers feel comfortable spending their money in lingerie/novelty stores?
Kyle Tutino of Honey’s Place deftly observes that some stores have plus-size products tucked away in the back of their establishments, in turn, literally forcing plus-size customers to walk to the rear of the joint, passing up all the “missy sizes” on their way and, subsequently “failing to make them feel special or equally as important” as your average (or average-sized) customer.
“You need to have a section of plus-size lingerie towards the front of your store,” insists Tutino. “Also, display a variety of styles and colors, and cross merchandise with tasteful accessories & feminine items.”
Helle Panzieri, sales director of East Coast-based Baci Lingerie, fully agrees with Tutino’s assessment.
“Sell the fantasy,” Panzieri flat out declares, “and integrate all size options together. Rather than focusing on size, lead customers through the fantasy of transforming their experience with something as simple as a costume or lingerie. Create an inclusive experience by allowing customers to shop first by style instead of size. Retailers can simply offer lingerie or costumes arranged by design without segregating the sizes. When Baci set out to expand their collection’s sizing options, the decision was made to utilize the same designs and materials for the plus-size garments.
“Also,” adds Panzieri, “use plus-size imagery to show off the merchandise. Many of Baci’s plus size styles have stunning photography with beautiful models wearing the garments.”
From the unique international on-line perspective, LoveHoney.com aims to let it all—honestly but in a helpful fashion—hang out for the benefit and comfort level of the full-figured cyber shopper.
“We aim to show plus-size images for plus-size products whenever they’re available,” says LoveHoney’s Gemma Pestel,” and we also make sure we have the correct sizing information made very clear. Additionally, we try to make the customer aware of our 77,000-plus reviews and community forum so they can gather impartial advice before they buy, while also making sure people know about our great returns policy: If it doesn’t fit, just send it back!”
In the end, it all comes down to one thing, and Baci’s Helle Panzieri nicely puts it in a nutshell—an oversized one, perhaps, but a nutshell all the same.
“Every customer, regardless of size, is in your store to improve their sensual experiences.”